Promoting safe sex is definitely a worthy cause, but it is often a hard topic to broach with people. First of all, you need to make the conversation casual and fun rather than treating it too seriously, but the hardest thing is often informing the public without them awkwardly avoiding it or ignoring it entirely, due to their own embarrassment or prudish values.
So how do you tackle the subject? Well, this restaurant in Thailand is doing so by mixing the message with delicious food. Cabbages & Condoms is a restaurant chain seeking to promote safe sex, with six of them dotted around the country. The Bangkok location is the best-known, located near one of the city's man business districts in Sukhumvit, an area known for fine dining, shopping and other entertainment.
It's fair to say that this is a unique restaurant experience to have, as once you pass the lantern-lit entrance into the cosy eatery, you'll find a definite running theme: condoms.
Buying condoms is rarely a comfortable experience, even if there are countless people doing it. The restaurant strives to normalize the purchase of contraception, effectively making it as mundane an act as buying cabbages. Condoms can be found all around you - with condom displays on the walls and even mannequins dressed up in them. Tables have various colors of condoms under the glass tabletops, and lampshades made from condoms hang overhead.
The inside has soft lighting and an ambient atmosphere, with an outdoor courtyard where fairy lights hang from the canopy of trees. The food itself is rated highly, with an extensive menu with the classic favorites such as Pad Thai, red duck curry and spring rolls, as well as other dishes such as a whole chicken bathed in honey. There are plenty of vegetarian options too, with salads and meat-free meals in strong supply.
Not forgetting the theme, the wall displays a large poster, identifying which sexual acts require a condom and which don't. And once your bill arrives, it comes with a free condom rather than an after dinner mint. After your meal, you can head to the adjacent shop, which is full of hand-crafted condom-themed trinkets.
The chain is part of an initiative created by the country's Population and Community Development Association (PDA), which was founded as a non-governmental organisation in 1974. The PDA focuses on promoting family planning, especially in communities where there are a lack of services or provisions. Through direct engagement with locals in its early years, they trained people in rural villages and small neighborhoods to promote safe sex information.
Its impact has been massive; the population growth rate has reduced from 3.3 percent in the mid 70s to 0.6 percent in 2005, and the average number of children per family has dropped from seven to two. Cabbages & Condoms is its best known project, and is still running successfully to this day. This no doubt comes down to how it executes a serious message in a light-hearted way.
The food in the restaurant is fresh and locally-sourced where possible, and all the profits from the restaurant go to support the PDA. They have even recently expanded internationally, opening stores in the UK. These locations, in Bicester and Cheltenham, offer up pamphlets on safe sex after the meal, as well as the aforementioned condom displays.
You never know, one of these days there could be a Cabbages & Condoms restaurant opening near you.