You don’t often find red velvet cupcakes and contraceptives on the same table, but at the Napoleon Bistro on March 7, The Red Pump Project proved that sweets and safe sex talk make a perfect pairing.
Cupcakes and Condoms is “a sweet afternoon of desserts and girl talk about sexual health,” said DC ambassador and event organizer Brittani Menina. “A lot of African American women, once diagnosed (with HIV), are not going for treatment or care.”
The Red Pump Project hopes to reduce stigma and promote education so women affected by HIV and AIDS can seek the help they need.
Cupcakes and Condoms, unlike other Red Pump events, is a woman-only forum to encourage frank discussion about the questions and challenges women face regarding sexual health. The panel, which featured four health advocates and HIV researchers, addressed a range of topics from HIV transmission misconceptions to masturbation in a lively exchange.
“With everything else, we protect our kids,” sexual health researcher Candace Sibley pointed out. “They don’t ride a bike without a helmet. But when it comes to sex, they’re bombarded.”
“Girls think, ‘[HIV is] all around me, so at some point, I’ll get it,” added Jennifer Sinkfield, an HIV researcher at Children’s National Medical Center. She believes this desensitization may lead young women to be lax about safe sex because they don’t trust condoms to protect them.
A Cupcakes and Condoms attendee, also named Jennifer, was gratified to learn how to broach “The Talk” with her three daughters, who range in age from 5 to 16. “I want to have information to give to her so she doesn’t get an STI or HIV,” she said.
Cupcakes and Condoms attendees also got the chance to explore a lesser-known safe sex option. This happens to be Brittani’s favorite part of the afternoon.
“Most people don’t know how to use [female condoms],” she said with a sly smile. “You get a lot of faces.”
You get a lot of laughter, too, as it turns out. After demonstrator Bria Hamlet unfurled the condom, she produced a plastic vulva model to a chorus of cheers. After answering crowd questions (no, the condom won’t slip out; yes, it’s just as sturdy as the male version), she passed samples around so women could practice applying them on their hands.
It’s a racier version of a common sleepover trope, and many women were laughing as they poked the latex into place. With the scheduled events concluded, guests broke off into groups to talk or sought out panelists for additional questions.
Missed the festivities? The Red Pump Project now has ambassadors fundraising and leading events in five cities. March 10th is National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day, and the organization urges people to #RocktheRedPump with feisty red footwear and conversation with partners about how to keep things sexy and safe.
About the Author: Jessica Sillers is a Washington, DC-based writer. She has volunteered as a teacher's assistant in Faridabad, India, and on a farm in Ireland. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org