Vintage Scan #3: Contraceptive Ad Raises Questions

Look at the back pages of magazines like LIFE, The Saturday Evening Post,
etc. in the early seventies and you'll find a lot of contraceptive ads offering the buyer complete privacy and great values. I have a couple questions on this...

1. Was it that embarrassing to buy a condom in 1974 that you felt the need to order them from a magazine?


2. Were seventies dudes getting so much action back then that they needed to buy in bulk at a discount?

Just wondering.


  1. I hate to admit it, but I've always been embarrassed to buy condoms anyway. I guess I always figured the guy at the store knew my mom. lol I know, I know. I sound like a real loser. :-)

  2. I never bought any until 1980 but as I recall, until not long before that you had to ASK for them. They were ONLY carried at drugstores and then never, ever displayed! Thus the amusing scene in (I think it's) AMAZON WOMEN ON THE MOON where the boy with the hot date goes to buy condoms from the friendly neighborhood druggist and gets a "How's your mom?" Subsequently he becomes their one millionth customer and has his picture taken, etc.

    Head Shops started carrying them a little more openly, then they were comtroversially advertised on TV,and now, these days, they're next to the beef jerky and lottery tickets at the gas station counter or in the "travel essentials" section at the airport CNBC store. Things change.

  3. These days when you have sex shops as big as the Home Depot, worrying about buying a rubber seems kind of quaint.

    Booksteve, excellent comment. That's interesting that they never would dare display a condom at a drugstore. Like you said, times have changed... it won't be long till they're given away free inside cereal boxes.

  4. I get emails just like this all the time!

  5. Until the Supreme Court ruled it was not illegal to send condoms through the mail, birth control was banned by the USPS. The ads are from the period when it had only recently been ruled that it was legal to mail them.

    Despite the Supreme Court's ruling re condoms via mail, local municipalities could still put restrictions on condom sales. One either bought 'em at one's local drugstore (where the recognition/embarrassment factor was always high) or went to a gas station since they were often sold in coin operated dispenser in the restroom.

    Mail order condoms were a boon to a great many eager but nervous young men.

  6. I think it all stems from buying sex objects as a whole back then...the old stereotype of seedy sex parlors located in Times Square frequented by fellas in brown trenchcoats.

  7. buzz- Wow. Didn't even think about the legality of it. I wonder if anyone actually served time for buying mail order rubbers. How embarrassing.

    jbfunky - And yet post war men's action magazines were as racey and sexualized as you could imagine, and were considered okay enough to sit plainly on display in the drugstore magazine rack. Go figure.

  8. Hah! I didn't know about the gas station men's rooms back in the day as I always made it a point to avoid gas station mens' rooms!

    As for JB's comment about buying sexually oriented products, I visited the local Hustler store a couple years back to buy a gift and it was full of a mixed bag of customers--mostly businessmen and women and just out of their teens boys (and me). There was actually a line to pay and as I waited the lady clerk routinely demonstrated battery usage to the woman ahead of me purchasing a "personal device" and neither they nor anyone else giggled or turned red. It was accepted that we are all sexual beings.In there it just didn't matter. Out here, sometimes it still does.

  9. AnonymousMay 04, 2009

    Oh yes, I remember what it used to be like having to ask for them. Easier to steal them from your room mate! Kind of depended on the type of drug store you went to. Better to find a younger male druggist to ask, than an older woman in my opinion. I think we all can be thankful whether we use them or not, that you can readily get what you need today. Even in motel vending machines. Usually next to the Gardettos.

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  11. Gil, I hope you do not get pissed if I sort of do not respond to the topic (though I have always meant to see this one) but I needed to vent or cry. Man, my Uranium site got hacked by some net psycho. The password and home page is changed. I am going to try to get the site restored to a few days ago by my hosting service but I do not know what good that will do if he has the password and I do not. I asked them to change the password as well. I will assume he is all inside my account now doing whatever he wants. it is a fucked up deal. we work our asses off for no pay or even acknowledgment most of the time and now for kicks some freak takes over my labor of love for what reason.

    I wonder if this is all worth the crap I have had to go through the last year. I do not know anything about hacking and what may happen. My host provider stores data for a week at a time but I am totally paranoid and pissed off now and you were the only guy I could think of who might understand since you know about some of my issues in the past.

    If the site gets back up I am not sure what to do to protect myself. Maybe do like the guys at Lost Highways and turn off all comments or something. I have no clue. I wanted a sense of community, not a sense of being stalked.

    Uncool is all I can say.

  12. Holy shit. What kind of asshole does this?

    I can understand your disgust. But in my humble opinion, I would press on because

    1. You said it's been a lot of work. But it's been a labor of love - a hobby of sorts. Because some dickhead smashes your model trains shouldn't mean you give up the model train hobby, if you get my meaning.

    2. It doesn't sound like everything is toast. You only lost a week or so right?

    3. I'm no hacker either, so I don't get how it happened; however, I don't see how having comments to your posts opens the door to a hacker. If so, ditch the comments. Your site is more like a magazine (a la Famous Monsters of Filmland), not really a forum type blog like some others. Some blogs just post "How 'bout that episode of Idol?" and 3,000 people comment. Yours is really like articles/content based and will not be hurt too bad by comment removal.

    So, my advice is to hang in there. Keep playing with your "model trains" and see where this cheap and fun little hobby leads - despite setbacks caused by dickheads.

  13. Gil

    Thanks man. My provider restored all settings to 4 days ago. No data lost. I upgraded to a newer more secure version of WP and changed all passwords and lost five years of my life. I may drop the comments deal and put an email address at the end of each post. I do not get many comments anyway. you and Keith and Tal and Chick, the same guys from the first month, I have helped a couple people find some old movies and music so I want a connection.

    I am okay now. I am letting the hostages go unharmed. Thanks as always. this was actually meant for the Jessica post.

    See ya


  14. Gilligan - 19th century censor Anthony Comstock bragged he had driven over a dozen people to suicide by hounding them for sending scandalous material (such as marriage manuals and books on birth control) through the mail.