A city, like any living thing, has some weird urges. It's got a dominance streak a mile wide and sits there huge and damp as the Marquis de Sade. Through the foreplay of contracts, it calls on others to attend to its fetishes for streetlights, roads, and the light bondage of bridges. This is how a city gets into the real crazy stuff, like needing nearly a quarter-million dollars of rubbers.
With "Contract Proposal 60604: Condoms," San Francisco embarks on a resupply of condoms and lubricants for high schools, office buildings and the candy bowls of bars and nightclubs through the end of 2015. The contract estimates a spend of $200,000-$240,000 per year, up from $60,000 in that abstinent year 2008. Tracey Packer, acting director of HIV Prevention at the Department of Public Health, lays it out: "We're trying to blanket the city with condoms."
With a line-item like this, the typical banalities of contract language take on new meaning. Potential (indecent) proposers should carefully study the sections regarding "Good Faith Efforts" as well as the implications of "Failure to Deliver," "Severability," and "Liquidated Damages." The "Tropical Hardwood and Virgin Redwood Ban" means exactly what it says: absolutely no untouched foreign wood.
It's also made clear that the contractor better give the city everything it needs, or else "Department(s) shall provide Purchasing with documentation of unsatisfactory performance of the contract vendor."
And just what sorts of condoms does the city want to slide into the pockets of our chinos? A sampling from the Bid Sheet sounds like a sushi menu: The Kimono Special, the Okamoto Crown Skin-less-Skin (from the High School Custom Kit), the Rough Rider and Tuxedo, the Okamoto Beyond Seven, the LifeStyles "His N Her," and the Snugger. Also witness Assorted Flavors (including mint), something called "Pleasure Pops," and, in a heady display of progressive thought, the Female Condom Starter Kit.
This is not the equipment for a sober Catholic rut; these are headdresses for a carnival of orifices. In the land of government cheese and plain white cans of "beer," whence such variety, such choice? Why does fornication warrant ornamentation?
Packer says decisions about what types of condoms to purchase are made "based on consumer preferences" — by asking participants which colors and flavors are flying out of the nightclubs, mom-and-pop grocery stores, city offices, schools and other businesses that receive shipments from DPH and some 30 other groups in the city. Is the city trying to make sex fun? It's trying to make condom use appealing, she says. "People won't use them if they aren't interesting to them."
So these contracts don't reflect the city's kinks, but those of its little horny parts; that is to say, us.