We are living in a 90’s safe sex Benetton poster.

I distinctly remember an ad that cool women at my college had on their dorm room walls: eight women and men of varying skin tones spooning in a bed. And they were contentedly naked and calm. Seemingly asleep.

On the end was the focus of the ad: the woman holding a condom.

The message of the ad: “if you sleep with this person, you’re also sleeping with all of the other people this person has slept with.”

An STD ripple effect was illustrated in this sexy PSA.

I saw the poster in the rooms of women who were edgy enough to demonstrate a sex-positive attitude but moreover had the artistic taste to hang the poster celebrating sex and beautiful bodies and fashion photography. They were cultured, intelligent and worldly.

(Of note: two of the guys were spooning and two of the girls were spooning. So no dudes would’ve hung the poster. That’d be gay. I jest, of course. But not really. It was the 90’s.)

The friends I had who displayed this poster were cultured and worldly. The picture was very Bruce Weber-esque and declared “contact is good, but you need to be smart. Oh, and also: I’m smart and cultured because I display black and white photography on my wall. Oh and also I’m progressive cuz there are two guys and two girls together in the picture. So.”

My version of the 90's safe sex Benetton poster
Since I couldn’t find the actual poster, I had to draw the 90’s safe sex Benetton poster. You’re welcome.

I’ve searched throughout the intrawebs to take an illegal screen shot of this poster to show here but for the life of me I can’t find it. So I drew the sexy stick figures for this post. You’re welcome. Drawing is one of my least favorite activities.

Believe me, when you search “safe sex ad vintage poster 90’s” you see just how far we’ve come in terms of objectification.

And yet probably not.


Getting to my point: in COVID-19 times, I feel like I’m living in this ad. Sadly, all of us aren’t even hugging – let along having sex!

Instead, we’re just wondering, “am I exposed to the virus not by my neighbor, but by my neighbor’s kid who has a roommate in Cleveland who recently took a road-trip to see her family in Lexington where they had a family reunion of a couple dozen and remained outside in a park but beers flowed and everyone took their masks off by the end of the night?”

Have I just inadvertently gotten too close to someone from Lexington while I’m sequestered in Lyme? That’s crazy.

During COVID-19, we are absolutely living in an artsy 90’s safe sex Benetton poster.

Except it’s the unlivable version where we can’t all take our clothes off and snuggle in a bed together, boy to girl to boy to girl to boy to boy to girl to boy to girl to girl to boy.

This is unlivable.

I mean – we have to live it and fight it and get over it. *(It = COVID-19).

But ohmigod when we have a vaccine, I desperately hope we re-set the clock and become an American culture that no longer merely shakes hands. I hope we start doing a French kiss when we meet strangers so we can just touch and hug and feel human contact, again. (And by “French kiss”, I meant “la bise”, not open-mouthed tonguing. But hell, after all this quarantine keeping germs to ourselves, why not have some open-mouthed tonguing in the streets with strangers? Would it be weird to re-enact the famous WWII sailor kissing the nurse in Times Square? – except with everyone everywhere coming out of quarantine and romantically kissing?…assuming it’s done with mutual consent. Obvi. Because we’ve evolved…even from the 90’s.

We Americans were already too uptight about touching. Our puritanical roots keep us walled off. We don’t brush against each other or sit closely like Europeans. We have always left more space standing in line than most other cultures. We love our wide open spaces. But I can’t wait to brush shoulders in the streets and shake hands with strangers and hug my best friends, again.

Humans are meant to touch.

Like a Benetton ad.

Bring on the germs from Lexington to Lyme. I wanna hug you.

And you and you and the person you last hugged and the person that person last hugged.

Bring on the 90’s safe sex Benetton poster.