Beforeplay: "Normalizing" the Conversation Around Sexual Health

November 22 2013, 1:30 PM

"Beforeplay" certainly doesn't sound as sexy as "foreplay." Which is OK because it's meant to be a conversation starter—with a little dash of humor (something, it's safe to say, most people don't want with their foreplay). 

Launched in 2012, beforeplay.org and the associated media campaign (see sample ads above and below) is a statewide initiative by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The goal: reduce the number of unintended (unwanted or mistimed) pregnancies in the state. Currently, close to half off all pregnancies in Colorado are unintended. Beforeplay.org is designed to educate the public—that means men and women—about safe sex, contraception, and pregnancy; ensure people have access to (and are aware of) services; and—the part that's often missing from sex ed classes—give people the tools to have necessary (and meaningful) conversations, whether one-half of a young couple wants to talk to her partner about getting tested, or a husband doesn't know how to tell his wife he's not ready to have kids. Check out these conversation starters for inspiration.

Though these are issues faced by people at various ages and stages, the "Just Talk about It" campaign is specifically aimed at 18 to 29 year olds. Why? That "half of all unintended pregnancies" statistic jumps to 60 to 65 percent for 18 to 24 year olds. So Greta Klingler, family planning supervisor for the CDPHE set about organizing focus groups to determine the best way to address the issue. Over and over, she was told that the campaign needed to be funny. Young adults didn't want to be told what to do. Rather, they wanted reliable information and guidance. That support extends from sex and birth control to STDs, pregnancy planning, and more. 

"We know that [unintended pregnancies] are tied to so many other poor health outcomes," Klingler says. "Unintended pregnancies tend to mean women get into prenatal care later, their children have a lower birth weight and are at higher risk for learning disabilities, domestic abuse, and neglect. And it jeapordizes [the mother's] financial stability, relationship stability, and educational attainment." 

So far, Klingler says she's received positive responses. In the last six months, they added a sexuality tab to the website, with a focus on healthy relationships. We give them props for placing an emphasis on taking politics out of the bedroom. (The campaign is purposefully apolitical.) "It just puts up another barrier," Klingler says. "Negative speak makes it harder for women to get the health services they need."

Next up is a focus on healthy relationships—what they are, what they look like—and more information aimed directly at the LGBQT community. "Sexuality is part of your emotional and physical well-being," Klingler says. So it's time we all started treating it with as much focus and importance as we (hopefully) do the rest of our health. 

The ads were created by Boulder design agency Vermilion, which also crafted digital marketing and TV spots for the campaign.  

Follow associate editor Daliah Singer on Twitter at @daliahsinger