7-Eleven: Capitalizing on Chlamydia

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Kristen Walter op ed

Photo: Tobias Fredø / Kampanje.com
Are 7-Eleven’s ads a cheap shot or the start of a needed conversation about sexual health?

Kristen Walter
Flekkefjord, Norway

The 7-Eleven chlamydia advertisement that went viral this summer appears to diverge from the Norwegian business as usual. This is a cheap shot played by 7-Eleven to increase their sales while it acts as a wake-up call for both Norwegians and visitors to remember protection.

The commercial (or strange public service announcement) by 7-Eleven calls out Norwegians for their chlamydia crisis. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttlwj-mf40c). The punch of the text claims that, “Norway has one of the highest rates of chlamydia in Europe. Visiting from abroad? Protect yourself against the locals! Get your condoms at 7-Eleven.” The text is backdropped by beautiful Norwegian scenery, a source of pride for Norwegians and what many tourists seek to see. Ultimately, this ad points out a very serious issue that certainly needs to be addressed. But, because it serves to increase profit for 7-Eleven specifically, and at the expense of almost dehumanizing an entire country of people, I find that it lacks in compassion.

My first impression of the ad came from a photo shared on Facebook groups. Initially, I thought the image was a joke or a pushback against Norwegian hookup culture. It definitely wasn’t the usual Norwegian ad and seemed damaging to the image of Norway that the Norwegian state tries to project outward. There was enough shock value in the ad that I actually questioned whether the image was even real.

Interestingly enough, the image was real. This ad wasn’t just posted in this private group and was not part of some chlamydia awareness campaign coming from the Norwegian Directorate of Health. Rather, it was an advertisement to purchase condoms at the 7-Eleven that recently went viral.

I didn’t understand why it was such an issue, because condoms are free at many locations, including the post office at university, which also carries free mail-in chlamydia tests for students. I want to emphasize how easily accessible protection is and how easily accessible it is to take care of your sexual health in Norway.

There was plenty of talk addressing Norwegian hookup culture when I began my studies here in Norway. Condoms were passed out, everyone spoke openly about hookup culture, consent, and where chlamydia testing could be done free of charge. However, this ad reveals that the view that every new sexual partner comes with a list of potential STIs from previous partners and that safe sex is more than just preventing an unplanned pregnancy appears to be in decline. And I don’t see this as only a Norwegian issue.

Chlamydia is very easy to treat when caught early. So, what is the issue? Is it that there are too many Norwegians coming in for treatment? Or that Norwegians are not actively engaged with the management of their sexual health? Have our youth not been taught how to call and schedule appointments for these types of doctors? Or is this, in fact, an anti-travel PSA to warn tourists eager to visit this beautiful “land of fjords, mountains, the midnight sun, and chlamydia?”

The ad to “get your condoms at 7-Eleven” seems subtle to the point of forgettable in contrast to the forward nature of the declaration, “protect yourself against the locals.” Though I understand that the condom business is seeking to make money and so is 7-Eleven, it seems like this chlamydia crisis should be a public health safety issue and not an opportunity to make a few kroner. If it takes damaging the way Norwegians feel about themselves and their fellow countrymen to take charge of their sexual health, then fine… awkwardly honest, but fine. But to make money for 7-Eleven by seemingly mocking a serious health issue seems like a cheap shot.

At the end of the day, now the chlamydia crisis is known. Go take charge of your health, Norway. Whether you’re offended by this ad or not, we need to start caring about our sexual health at least as much as we care about making our cars ready for an EU inspection. Males and females, get checked! We need to encourage check ups! Also, you don’t have to go buy condoms at 7-Eleven. They are literally free to you at many locations, both in Norway and the U.S. It’s more fun when you know what’s up down there.

Further resources:

“STD ad goes viral,” The Norwegian American / The Local: www.norwegianamerican.com/news/std-ad-goes-viral

“Norway and Seven Eleven,” Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. YouTube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtlqszlsyCk

Kristen Walter, originally from Troy, Ohio, moved to Norway in October 2016 and is studying for a master’s degree in Ås, Norway. She is also a vegan activist, artist, and a self-proclaimed chef in her own kitchen.

This article originally appeared in the August 24, 2018, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

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