Sex and the World Cup

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It’s not often that I read something in the paper and can’t decide whether to laugh or cry. It’s even more unusual for me to ponder the information over a week and still remain undecided. Maybe you can help me out.
On Tuesday June 15 an article appeared in NewsDay citing a 5 fold increase in condom sales in South Korea after the national soccer team won their opening World Cup game against Greece.
Apparently fans enjoying the atmosphere of jubilation and celebration in the streets of Seoul after the 2-0 win proceeded to buy piles and piles of condoms! Now you tell me — should we laugh or should we cry?
This is a family paper, (which, by the way, my parents read!) so I’ll try to keep it tidy.
But it seems the relationship between sex and soccer has long been acknowledged and anticipated. According to the Sport 24 website, on June 3 this year local authorities in Port Elizabeth announced that they were intending to distribute 2,4 million condoms in Nelson Mandela Bay. This was “to ensure ultimate safety at the tournament”.
When Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, they too anticipated an explosion in the sex trade. With legalised prostitution and so-called “mega brothels”, Germany was all set to deal with the mysterious connection between sex and soccer.
But Alas! Various studies commissioned after the event said demand had not spiked at all. A European Union report found there was “no sign whatsoever” of any extra sex workers and that business was even reported to be down in many brothels!(CNN) Well, that was Germany.
Africa seems set to rival them not just in preparation but also in usage. In Nikiwe Bikitsha’s Mail and Guardian column published a week before the tournament started, she reports that the South African government will distribute one billion condoms during this year’s tournament.
Bikitsha calculated that one billion condoms work out to tourists having sex 5 times a day! Now given Bafana Bafana’s sad performance so far (yes alright, they did beat France on Monday, but they’re still out!), I am wondering if those numbers are set to go down , and what on earth the government is going to do with all those extra condoms!
Perhaps their president will come up with some suggestions. The World Cup and the relationship between teams’ performance and number of anticipated copulations notwithstanding, these statistics make me wonder: Is sex the ultimate expression of celebration? Is it not enough to blow vuvuzelas, chant team slogans and sing Waka Waka? Do we really have to go the full blow condom-requiring heavy action?
Well, I guess the signs were always there: humans love to connect, and the closest connection one can have with another is, I suppose, physical contact.
There is definitely evidence to suggest that most people do better with physical contact of some sort.
Touch is one of the five ways the brain receives stimulating information to enable it to develop, maintain and repair itself. They say touch has the first, most direct and powerful effect on the brain’s programming and re-programming activity.
Accordingly, touch is particularly important in working with young children and with adults with brain impairments.
That would explain why they say babies who are touched regularly tend to thrive, and babies who are not, don’t. Introduce a two year old to a tiny baby, and you will see an instant desire for physical contact. I guess when your vocabulary is limited to words denoting food and family; you have to connect in the best way you know how!
But there’s more to these soccer statistics than just the tender tactile stuff. There’s something there about expressions of deep emotion and our desire for physical expression.
Why is it that when an African woman gets really angry she threatens to take off her clothes! It usually doesn’t matter what it is she’s angry about —the warning is always the same, and it’s usually enough to get the victim to tow the line!
I imagine that those of you who have supported, one way or another, the rise in condom usage associated with the World Cup will respond with laughter, and empathy. And those of you who support the HIV prevention lobby, the moral conduct lobby and the wider “lets just be sensible” lobby will be tending towards tears.
Here’s the positive learning from the German experience: it is widely believed their focus on intiatives such as fan parks and public viewing areas for the matches enhanced the family-friendly feel of the event, and contributed enormously to the slump in the sex trade.
This sentiment is echoed by the Zimbabwean experience, as expressed in the June 19 issue of NewsDay: “A fan park is an ideal platform from which to further relations with a local community and engage more family-oriented fan groups while providing a variety of leisure activities beyond football.” So I guess there is something Africa is doing right after all.
l Thembe Sachikonye writes in her personal capacity