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Putting sexy into contraception

Putting sexy into contraception
Making birth control sexy works better than using scare tactics, says family planning organisation DKT International. Today Love Matters launches a partnership with DKT. So just what makes the company tick?

Earlier this year we talked to DKT's executive vice president Chris Purdy. “Condoms don’t promote sex,” he told us. “It’s as if umbrellas promote rain.”

“It’s ironic that the private sector has been using sex to sell everything – from hotels to clothing and shampoo – while we have medicalisation and desexualisation of family planning,” Chris Purdy says.

“Girls don’t talk like, ‘Hey how was your reproductive health last night’ – they go like, ‘How was sex’,” he points out.

US-based DKT International works in 18 countries on three continents, providing no fewer than 22 million couples with products and services.

Secret to success

The non-profit organisation’s social marketing programs sold over 108 million condoms throughout India in 2010, plus millions of birth control pills and tens of thousands of IUDs. What’s more, they upped their sales by 77 percent on the year before. So what’s their secret to success?

“We’ve never used the fear of HIV, STDs or unplanned pregnancy as a tool,” Chris Purdy says. “We are sex positive. We give positive imagery to sex. Scary pictures can have a quick spike in behavioural change but not in the long term to a culture of family planning where people feel comfortable about the issues and product.

Understanding emotions

You have to be open and honest about sexuality to talk to consumers about these issues, says Chris Purdy. At DKT they believe that family planning isn’t just about putting an IUD in, it’s about understanding the emotions behind it and the rights of the woman. It’s a total package.

DKT sold millions of contraceptives also by making them affordable and easily available from small shops on the side of the road, pharmacies, supermarkets, clinics, midwives and doctors. Seventy percent of the consumers are in places where a very low income is the norm.

The remaining 30 percent is taken up by the international donor community, like the British, Dutch and German governments or global foundations, who believe in DKT’s work.


But what actually counts as affordable when it comes to birth control? DKT reckons a couple should pay no more than 0.25 percent of their income per person for a year’s supply for contraceptives – 100 condoms or 13-14 cycles of oral contraceptives. “And we’ve always tried to combine very high quality with an affordable price,” Chris Purdy adds.

In India, DKT sell Zaroor and XXX Condoms. Zaroor condoms sell at around two rupees (three eurocents) each, while XXX condoms come at a pricier eight rupees (twelve eurocents) a shot. A pack of nine XXX’s each have a different flavour and come with sex tips.


TV ads for XXX were initially banned as too raunchy. Eventually the total ban was lifted but the ads could only be aired after 10.00pm because the authorities objected to “promoting oral sex”.

“But condoms don’t promote sex – it’s as if umbrellas promote rain,” Chris Purdy says. “Young people don’t start having sex because condoms are available, but because they want to!”

Do you think people are more likely to jump into bed with each other if they can easily get hold of birth control? Leave a comment here or join the discussion on Facebook.