The story behind BeforePlay.org and its sex-positive meme campaign

Categories: Interviews, Sex

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You may have seen Beforeplay.org's billboards around the city or memes (like the one above) floating around Facebook. Part of an ongoing campaign advocating safe sex and sex positivity, BeforePlay.org is using humor to connect with Coloradans in a way that is accessible and designed to spark a conversation. Formed in 2008 as a public/private partnership between the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and the Colorado Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy, BeforePlay.org has been working to provide the tools and information necessary to make safe-sex education fun, easy to understand and even easier to talk about.

Westword reached out to Greta Klingler, family planning supervisor for the
Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and BeforePlay.org's spokeswomen to learn more about what the organization's mission and how it sets out to accomplish that mission.

See also: Let's talk about sex: Is hip safe-sex discussion making a comeback through memes?

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Westword: What is Beforeplay.org, exactly?

Greta Klinger: Several years ago, there was a group of organizations here in Colorado that were really focused on reducing unintended pregnancy. The reason for that was, of all the births here in Colorado, about half of them end up being unplanned -- meaning, the woman didn't want to be pregnant at all or she got pregnant sooner than she would have liked. It is an issue for us here in public health because we know that those pregnancies and those births are associated with some negative outcomes.

Women who experience unintended pregnancy are less likely to finish school -- whether that's high school, college or anything like that. The children born as a result of these pregnancies is more likely to be low birth weight, not have had good prenatal care and other associated negative health outcomes along the way. So we wanted to address this issue and we were doing a number of things here at the health department -- we actually fund family-planning clinics across the state to provide contraceptive services. We were really focusing on making sure people had access to the most effective methods of birth control, like IUDs and implants if they wanted them without a cost barrier.

As we made all of these efforts, there was something that kept coming up -- and that was that people aren't comfortable and don't want to talk about these issues, whether it is sex, birth control or STD prevention. While doing some data collection and focus-group testing, we heard from young people over and over again that they wanted to have conversations -- with their partners, with their parents, with their health-care providers -- but they didn't know how to bring these topics up and they were embarrassed or uncomfortable. So we wanted to create something that encouraged people to have those conversations and give them the tools to make it a little bit easier. That's kind of where BeforePlay.org started.

We also wanted to make sure that we were really targeting this young adult age of eighteen to mid-twenties, because that's where we actually see the most unintended pregnancies. A lot of times, this group isn't focused on; you see more focus on teen pregnancy issues. We wanted to do something that really spoke to that age group. Whether it is through the clinics or just talking to people out in the community, that's what we were hearing and that's what the data was reflecting.

So as we spoke to people across Colorado in this age group, we heard a couple of things: for one, they wanted a source for information that was reliable and easy to understand. There are a lot of resources out there that can be very clinical and full of medical jargon. Or, people were worried about being sold something -- like, if the information is coming from one of the pharmacuetical companies, are they really just trying to get you to buy their products?


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