Much ado about nothing?

Man says ‘family planning’ aisles at drug stores are homophobic, demands they be renamed

Jamie Lawson is an openly gay anthropologist focused on sex and sexuality at the University of Bristol. He recently swung by his local drug store to pick up, among other things, condoms and lube.

He located the items in their usual spot: the “family planning” aisle. Evidently, as he was trying to decide between ribbed or smooth, he had an epiphany.

Lawson quickly tweeted:

Unfit and excluding? What?

“I am a gay man; the sex I have is non-reproductive by definition,” Lawson tell Mic, adding that buying condoms and lube in the family planning section makes him feel “self-conscious in a way that heterosexual people [aren’t].”


Mic points out:

Condoms can, of course, be used for family planning — the intentional taking of steps to control the number of children you will have and when you will have them. Condoms are also a handy barrier to sexually transmitted infections; lube serves little contraceptive purpose, other than making sex more pleasurable. Classifying both items — along with the vibrators and small toys that increasingly occupy those same shelves — as “family planning” tools seems both categorically incorrect and an attempt to euphemize what they are actually used for: sex.

The drug store responded to Lawson’s tweet by explaining exactly why it uses the words “family planning”:

But Lawson was not satisfied with that response.

In a followup blog post, he wrote:

Here’s the thing: There are various reasons why a person might have sex, among them things like “having fun”, “earning a living”, “a strong desire to have an orgasm”. Sometimes, people might have sex specifically because they want to make a baby, but more often than not, that is not why people have sex.

Therefore, he believes, the sign should be changed to something more accurate so as not to come across as homophobic.

“Because let me tell you,” he wrote, “there are quite a few of us for whom sex has nothing to do with reproduction at all.”

Speaking again to Mic, Lawson says he thinks terms like “sexual well-being” would be a better phrase for drug stores to use because, he says, it “captures everything.”

“If you make little, small changes like this, to start to introduce the word sexual into public discourse,” he explains, “to introduce the idea that sex might be something other than reproductive or something other than sinful or disease-ridden, that would be really good, to gently introduce the idea that sex might be fun into public discourse.”

What do you think? Does Lawson have a point or is he making much ado about nothing?

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  • Brody

    Sure, because “Deadly STD Prevention Aisle” has such a friendly ring to it.

    • 1898

      well he’s not wrong

      i’ve seen the “family planning” sign in walmart and always laughed it off because duh it’s walmart. i expect that sort of silliness from them

      in other drugstores i’ve seen that section labeled as “sexual wellness” which seems more accurate and perfectly fine/inoffensive

      the drugstore’s response to him is lame. “It has always been felt that using the word ‘sexual’ could cause offence or embarrassment to some customers.” really? if a customer is so fragile that they would feel “offended” or “embarrassed” by a sign with the word sexual in it, surely they would be too self-conscious to be shopping for condoms and lube in public. come on. does the husband say to the wife “sweetheart can we do some family planning tonight? it is my birthday after all…”

  • KaiserVonScheiss

    Sounds like another loon who just wants an excuse to be upset about something. Sorry, but for about 90% of the population, it would constitute family planning.

    This really is the most first world of first world problems.

    • Juanjo

      In other words Jamie is just like you – another loon who just wants an excuse to be upset about something. Just saying.

  • ChrisK

    It depends. Places like Target or CVS they don’t call it the family planning Isle. Just putting everything together which makes sense. Sometimes the condoms are locked up somewhere not even related to anything.

  • ChrisK

    Sex is biologically for Reproduction. A store putting all the baby making products in the “family planning” isle makes sense. Go to a sex shop if you feel discriminated.

    • drewthemoviefan

      “Sex is biologically for Reproduction.” I’m not saying whether or not I agree with the guy in the article, but your statement is flat out wrong. Men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women are not having sex for reproduction.

    • Xzamilloh


      He said “Sex is biologically for reproduction. What is so hard to understand about that?

    • Juanjo

      The biological purpose of sexual activity is reproduction. The fact that virtually all humans also use it as a form of recreation is just another aspect. ChrisK is accurate in his statement

  • Brian-E

    While this isn’t something for human rights organisations to get worked up about, and there are far more serious travesties being perpertrated than this one, I do think Jamie Lawson has a point. It is annoying to be treated as if your own particular use for condoms is unmentionable, as if you are some sort of illicit customer over whom a veil should be drawn.

  • PinkoOfTheGange

    we will get right on that right after we convince the disenfranchised white boys that their path has been trod and it didn’t turn out well for anyone…care to help on something that really matters first?

  • Danny595

    There are probably several thousand people in universities and colleges across the US, UK and Canada teaching “queer” studies and “gender and sexuality” studies and the like. And if you tallied up all of their achievements and accomplishments for LGB people and gay rights, it would equal zero. They are a complete waste of space.

  • Xzamilloh

    If you feel marginalized by a sign in a drug store, congratulations on being so far removed from having actual problems, you have to find something to be angry about.

  • DCguy

    So Graham Gremore has written another article. His to types. One, an article about “Straight Men” who happen to have gay sex…but of course are STRAIGHT.

    And the other, anything that makes lgbts look bad.

  • Ummmm Yeah

    Who else immediately thought millennial?

    • Brian

      He got his Ph.D. 10 years ago. Seems slightly too old to be a millennial.

      Why must everything be about millennials? I read your comment and I immediately think of the ridiculousness of the “Millennials Aren’t Buying Enough Diamonds” investigation that blamed the downfall of gem industries on young people. You sound foolish.

    • Ummmm Yeah

      Because millenials are vapid little twits that come up with stuff so stupid only they or the worst of any other generation will defend it.

    • Heywood Jablowme

      If you click on the link, he seems to have a crush on James Van Der Beek. That kind of dates him.

      @Brian: Millennials are ruining GOLF too! Good for them.

  • surreal33

    Mr Lawson, the real issue that should concern is why so many gay men think they pop-a-pill (Prep) therefore, no need for condoms.

  • Paco

    “Intimate Health Products”


    Not that I really have an issue with “Family Planning”. I practice family planning every time I have sex with another man.

    • Heywood Jablowme

      Yeah! “Intimate Health Products” is just right.

      And more accurate than “Family Planning” which is really more like “Family AVOIDING”! (But at least you aren’t getting those guys pregnant, good for you!)

    • Paco

      LOL! Maybe if the aisle was more truthfully called “Family Avoidance” there would be fewer unwanted pregnancies.

      And yeah… happy to enjoy the perks of gay sex (no babies) when there is an oops moment with the protection.

  • Jack Meoff

    Social justice warrior with to much time on his hands.

  • Heywood Jablowme

    There are a lot of gay hookup profiles where the guy wants someone to “breed” them. (Eww, yet another reason to hate barebacking.)

    Maybe the homophobic drugstores with “family planning” aisles have propagandized these guys, since apparently they think they can get pregnant from a guy f*cking them up the butt?

  • Brian

    I’d like to see this guy’s attention shift to sex education. Many schools only teach sex as it relates to straight sex (if they teach it at all!), and that leaves LGBT kids behind. That’s a “family planning” focus that has actual consequences.

  • Jaxton

    The word ‘sexual’ is more accurate than ‘family planning’. Family planning can be done without contraception. Lawson has a point.

  • Chris

    My guess is that putting condoms in a section called “family planning” is probably a misnomer because they’re used more frequently for STI prevention. It might be time to update the labeling.

  • amj86

    Choose your battles, people.

  • 1EqualityUSA

    That is where condoms should be. Near the raincoats.

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