1. London is known for its vibrant and diverse street art — but apparently, there’s a slight graffiti penis problem.
2. So a 28-year-old art director decided to put a positive, educational spin on the penises by “protecting” them with spray-painted condoms.
“I walk around the city a lot and catch the tube every morning, and I started to notice a lot of vandalism with penises,” the art director (who wishes to remain anonymous) told BuzzFeed Health.
“It infuriated me because a lot of them were at school bus stops where kids gather, and it just shouldn’t be the norm to just have your wang out, especially unprotected — I just thought it sent the wrong message,” he said.
So he began to take pictures of the penises he found and kept track of their locations in a notebook, noting that the city wasn’t removing any of them.
3. “One night I did some research on STI rates and then the idea just came to me to make stencils of a condom and a link where people can get free condoms — then I just went out and did it,” he said.
4. Wherever he finds a penis, he adds protection.
“I find them on public buildings, boarded-up windows, bridges, bus stops, everywhere — I keep it all in a list of the penises and their locations so I know which ones I haven’t gotten to yet,” he said. He likes to use bright colors like pink and red, which are better at catching the eyes of people passing by.
Of course, what he is doing is also vandalism and illegal — but he said there have been no problems so far. “I’ve had a couple of close calls, but I’ve been very strategic about it so I don’t get caught by the police,” he said.
5. Next to the condom is a “Stay Protected” slogan and a link to shine.nhs.uk, where people can get free condoms and STI testing through National Health Service (NHS) clinics in London.
SHINE is a contraceptive and sexual health service for young people in Newham, a borough in East London. They offer free, confidential services including contraception, condoms, STI screening, pregnancy testing, sex and relationship education, and more.
They run six sexual health clinics in East London. Anyone under the age of 24 (including minors under 16) can walk-in with no appointment, but they serve all ages. Although SHINE clinics are only located in the Newham borough, anyone can visit the clinics.
6. According to the most recent data, in 2015 there were 435,000 new STI cases in the UK, most of them among people under age 25.
According to a report from Public Health England, the most commonly diagnosed STI was chlamydia, but the STIs with the largest proportional increases from 2014 were syphilis and gonorrhea, especially among men who have sex with men (MSM). Public Health England reported that “high levels of condomless sex probably account for most of this rise.”
STIs can be spread through oral, anal, and vaginal sex — and sometimes just through skin-to-skin genital contact or sharing sex toys. Most of the time, STIs are symptomless, which is why regular testing is important. Ideally, you should start getting tested after your first sexual encounter and then get tested in the future between partners, after a potential exposure, and obviously if you have any symptoms.
7. “Instead of just having senseless vandalism, we can inform people about an important issue [STIs] and give them a laugh at the same time,” he said.
“If there’s going to be cocks scattered everywhere that nobody wants to see, we might as well have people learn something from the cocks,” he said.
As for the artist, the condom graffiti is just a side project and he works alone, donating his time and money to make his vision happen. “I had a pretty rough background, so now I just try to do positive things and help out when I can,” he said.
8. Since late April, he has added 17 condoms to graffiti penises around London and recently created an Instagram account, Project City Cocks, to document his work.
Since the spray paint for the condoms is permanent, it’s also technically vandalism and illegal. But so far, he says he’s received a lot of support on Instagram and from other street artists.
“Since I started the Instagram I’ve had so many people direct-message me with new locations where there are graffiti penises that need protection,” he said.
9. “I just hope that this has some positive impact and that it could get more people to use condoms and eventually help lower the STI rates,” he said.
“If there’s a negative response to the condoms, I’ll obviously stop and second guess what I’m doing but so far I’ve only had positive reactions,” he said.