‘UVM Condom Kid’ brings peer-to-peer sex education to campus

Willow Scherwinski, Culture Staff Writer

Despite the misconnection that has ensued from the global pandemic, people are still driven by their primal behavior. 

First-year Elene Karlberg recognized this during her time in the dorms this year and decided it was an issue she wanted to stir positive change around. Thus, she created the Instagram account @UVMcondoms and dubbed herself “UVM Condom Kid.”

Karlberg wants to take this social issue and give it a social community, she said. The account consists of information ranging from product reviews to easy to understand facts about sexual health.

Freshman Elene Karlberg, known as UVM Condom Kid, poses surrounded by over 100 Trojan condoms March 31. (Mary McLellan)

“I started the Instagram to start a conversation about safe sex, sexuality and just some other stuff that I feel has been stigmatized,” Karlberg said. “I just make it a little bit more talked about and comfortable.”

After stumbling upon an Instagram advertisement for Trojan brand condoms, Karlberg became aware of a campaign called the Condom Collective, a youth-led, grassroots movement whose goal is to provide condoms to college students.

Karlberg filled out an extensive application detailing why she was passionate about the issue and wanted to be a campus partner. 

Karlberg was then approved to work with Advocates for Youth, an organization that works with teens and young adults experiencing sexual health issues and Trojan’s collaborator for the Condom Collective. 

Amongst the myriad of problems our world faces nowadays, sexual health rarely gets the recognition and resources it desperately requires, Karlberg said. 

According to HealthyPeople.gov, an estimated 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted diseases, are diagnosed each year in the United States—almost half of them among young people aged 15 to 24. 

“A lot of students didn’t have very comprehensive sex-ed in high school. COVID has changed things a little but everyone’s here is still living in this party and sex atmosphere,” Karlberg said. 

In addition to the information, taste tests, product reviews, and condom art that the account shares, the UVM Condom Kid provides free condoms for anyone who is in need. In the early stages of the account, Karlberg came into the possession of 500 free condoms. 

First-year Kayla Prouty follows the UVM Condom Kid account and is one of its earliest supporters. She sees value in the accessibility of this information and its ability to help shape healthy relationships, she said.  

“I think this is the age where people get to know each other more and move into more committed relationships. So having good sexual health is important when you are building relationships like that,” Prouty said. 

The content that UVM Condom Kids posts has a comedic air to it. Karlberg hopes that this will help take away the discomfort that is typically associated with this topic. 

For first-year Harley McLean, the comedy that is incorporated into the UVM Condom Kid account is what drew her in. 

“At first glance, it’s kind of a jokey thing but I really like that she very clearly is also being educational with it and putting out good information about it,” McLean said. 

Each post’s caption is wrapped up with a comical phrase that emphsizes the account’s message of safe sex. 

“The best one that I have seen so far is ‘Before you slide between her thighs, condomize,’” McLean said. 

A recent addition to the page is a link to a Google that resides in the bio. Here, anyone can anonymously submit questions or concerns that they may not feel comfortable asking the UVM Condom Kid directly. 

Karlberg hopes that the form will help build a more interactive community and make conversation more accessible to her followers, she said.  This new aspect of the account has been received well by followers. 

“I really like the idea of a Google form. I think it emphasizes that the page is a judgment free space and makes asking and answering questions more comfortable,” McLean said. 

With the account gaining popularity and evolving, Karlberg has recognized a growth that she had not anticipated, she said. The account’s main demographic are people who she does not typically surround herself with in her personal life. 

“I had to figure out like how to interact with people I don’t usually interact with because a lot of my friends are gay or bi and not straight, so it’s like, how do I talk to straight men? It’s been interesting to learn and adapt to,” Karlberg said. 

UVM Condom Kid will continue posting helpful information about sexual health for her followers and supplying the campus with free condoms for as long as she can.