The scene: A condo community in Florida, early evening. Sated following a pre-gloaming meal, a visiting child sits on the worn couch watching TV, his young son in his lap and his snowbird parents flanking him on either side. As the buzziest show in Boca breaks for commercial, they exchange field notes ("wow, The Mentalist is really good at solving crimes! It's like he has superpowers of mentalism!"), three generations united in cultural consumption.
They chatter idly through one ad, then another. And then, suddenly, an eerie hush descends upon the room. Onto the screen comes a pair of retirees clad in their finest cabana-wear, pantomiming an activity usually associated with randy college kids. Then comes another pair and another position, and another. The room swells with the beats and blips of the accompanying club music as the images accelerate, before they break to let the end-spot admonition, "Use a condom," breathe. Grandma and grandpa exchange a knowing glance across the couch; the visiting child silently assigns an extra $12,500 to the family psychiatric budget.
If SaferSex4Seniors.org has anything to say about it, such scenes will start playing out - hopefully minus the Victorian-era mortification - in homes across the country. Welcome to "Safe Sex For Seniors," a PSA that headlines a campaign designed to spur awareness of the increasing rates of STD infection among the 55-and-up set. Somebody decided that the quickest way to generate buzz for the newly assembled group (described in a press release as "an independent collective of professional sexuality educators, researchers, authors, trainers, counselors and therapists") was to wear its shock value on its sleeve. Hence the boinking-and-beyond, Kama Sutra-themed spot, in which Nana and Pop-Pop let their freak flags fly.
Inevitably, some folks aren't going to have any idea what to make of this thing, other than to rev up the scare quotes. Within hours, it will go viral, which means that dippy reports on local newscasts ("…and now, a megaturbocontroversial new PSA that has some people crying foul!"), and the heightened awareness that comes with them, should follow within a fortnight. It's already been suggested, based on the clip's YouTube tag of "comedy" and the group's underfollowed Twitter feed, that the whole thing is a hoax.
Me, I admire the brashness. "Safe Sex For Seniors" is the rare PSA-ish arrival underlined by genuinely progressive thinking, even as it omits same-sex couplings from its purview. While the spot plays both ways - especially given the stats about spiking STD infection rates in Florida - it strikes me less as a warning than as a celebration. Judging by their body language, the folks in the clip don't seem to be worrying about their sciatica. They're enjoying each other – because really, why wouldn't they? As it has been explained to me, that's what couples do. Separately, it sucks that we're still conditioned to think something like this will provoke an "ewwww!" response.
You might not want to come across "Safe Sex For Seniors" in the presence of your parents or grandparents, because the ad isn't tweaked for varying levels of generational comfort with such material. But you ought to hope that it reaches them and their peers, because it sounds a call worth hearing - that a healthy and health-conscious sex life is affirming, empowering and, above all, fun - and does so with verve and wit. "Sex isn't scary, but unsafe sex sure can be" is a message for all ages and orientations; that a group targeting seniors is the one to deliver it shouldn't alter its impact.