Getting sexually prepared for Mardi Gras

L Moore | Scene Sex Columnist
(John Fitzhugh | Biloxi Sun Herald | MCT Campus)

(John Fitzhugh | Biloxi Sun Herald | MCT Campus)

As most of you are probably aware, the famed festival of booze, beads and boobs (otherwise known as “Mardi Gras”) is upon us. Although Mardi Gras refers specifically to Fat Tuesday (occurring on Feb. 16 this year), to most revelers and college students, the main attraction is the weekend parade beforehand. This year, the parade will commence on Saturday in St. Louis’ historic Soulard neighborhood. This parade, although smaller in scope than the New Orleans parade, is known throughout the country as the second largest celebration for the holiday, drawing tens of thousands of carousing individuals—weather permitting. With said booze, beads and boobs, however, there is a historic sexual component to this parade. So much so that several organizations have started movements to promote safe sex at this cultural event.

While one source refers to a “green wave” of sexually transmitted infections moving through New Orleans and surrounding colleges after the festival (specifically Tulane University), others simply acknowledge the increase in sexual behavior and hookups following rampant genital flashing and excessive alcohol intake. As it is a festival celebrating revelry and merriment before the conservative Lent period leading up to Easter, the inversion of socially appropriate norms during Mardi Gras makes logical sense.

The Kinsey Institute stands as one of the only sources affirming that the “playful deviance” hovering around Mardi Gras is empirically significant. In the institute’s study published in 2006 in the Journal of Sex Research, it found that 50 percent of male respondents at the 2004 New Orleans Mardi Gras “expected” to have vaginal or oral sex with a new, perhaps unknown partner. Further, 20 percent of these men expected to have a novel anal sex experience, whereas women failed to predict any new vaginal, oral or anal experiences during their revelries. But these men overestimated their possible sexual encounters, while women underestimated. Together, both males and females participated in sexual activity at equal rates at Mardi Gras, with both heterosexual and homosexual partners. Though this cannot be quantified with a percentage, it became clear from the study that Mardi Gras revelers increased their sexual behavior during the festival and were more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors—whether they were prepared for the erotic components of the occasion or not.

Although this study was conducted on a specific population confined to the streets of New Orleans, it has broader implications for worldwide Mardi Gras festivals, whether in St. Louis or all the way in Australia. For example, Family Planning New South Wales, in conjunction with the AIDS Council of New South Wales (Australia’s largest LGBT health and HIV/AIDS organization), has been running a “Prepare for Pleasure” campaign since 2009. The campaign seeks to encourage “hassle-free” pleasurable behaviors during Mardi Gras, distributing 40,000 condoms at various LGBT venues on Sydney’s streets. The festival in Sydney is known throughout the world as the “gay” Mardi Gras.

The history of STIs at St. Louis’ Mardi Gras remains more elusive. St. Louis is one of the nation’s 10 cities most commonly affected by gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis, however, and the significance of Mardi Gras cannot be discounted. Although no statistics are available indicating the number of people who have contracted STIs from encounters at Mardi Gras in St. Louis, hookups are reported to be generally in full swing, along with risky sexual behaviors that come from intoxication and the eroticism surrounding the event. Perhaps in the future, condoms will be distributed throughout Soulard, as in Australia. But for this year, as always, be prepared for the sexually charged climate raging around Ninth Street and the rest of downtown.

  • Finn

    You’re so cute and dogged! “Fatuity.” Ha ha ha ha ha! That’s great! It’s not your education, knowledge, and argument threaten me, but your aggressive masculine charm. You little energizer bunny!

    Come on down to Mardi Gras, baby, and have a good time!

    Oh, and be sure to wear a condom if you end up having sex with somebody.

  • It’s a shame that a Wash U education has apparently taught some that the way to respond to an argument they feel threatened by is with ironic fatuity and a self-contended dearth of knowledge.

  • Finn


    I see now that you have no agenda, that you are only concerned with our common welfare.

    Indeed, let us all carefully contemplate the problems that knee-jerk moderate liberalism has created or contributed to… like the proliferation of sexually transmitted infections after Mardi Gras events.

    Something something putative, something something adjusted proverb, something something general moral problem with consumerism explains specific event’s moral elements, something something….

    Thanks, Ian! We could all learn a lot from you! Great point!


    And, again, the article above nicely points out the need to distribute condoms to prevent the spread of disease.

  • Oh, Finn, but I think it was an excellent way to attack both practices, because I was highlighting (or trying to highlight) what is an internal contradiction in the knee-jerk moderate liberalism that permeates campus. Everywhere, in the food we eat, in what we throw away, in how we get ourselves from place to place, we’re supposed to reject the “consumerist” mentality of indulging our immediate desires while at the same time contributing to putative environmental issues like landfills, greenhouse gasses, etc.

    There is an element of moral truth in the anti-consumerist mentality, I admit; but for some reason, when it comes to sex it’s a free-for-all, and here we’re supposed to indulge every whim and desire, whether motivated by a committed love or by a wheezing, booze-battered prefrontal cortex, and all because latex covereth a multitude of sins. We’re driving, so to speak, sexual SUVs whose MPG is measured in feet per gallon, but it doesn’t matter because sex–because people–are the ultimate consumer item.

    You ever heard of straining gnats and swallowing camels? We’re straining trash and swallowing… Well, we don’t have to get TOO graphic.

    And the point, Finn, is not for anyone to think I am clever or superior or whatever. I could hardly care what people I don’t know think of me–as long as they think about the issues.

  • Finn


    I think your comments reflect poorly on you mainly because you have appended them to an article that itself makes entirely reasonable points about a public health issue. Had you simply wanted to express your disdain for the “landfill” stickers or the people “running their brains out,” I’d not have made any reply. You didn’t do that, though. You brought in those two issues to show how clever and superior you are. Now, I’m not saying you might not be both clever and superior. It’s just that *this* effort does not seem to me a success–it wasn’t the best way to attack those practices you deem as deserving of scorn.

    So… I think you can find better targets. Probably advice I should take, too, eh?


  • Did you have a point?

  • Finn

    Yes, let us all be rational. No nooky for you, and you, and you! And you, you wildly irresponsible animal-like thing, no nooky and no protection for you! Your diseases will be your deserved punishment, as will the diseases contracted by rational spouses and partners later. It is a great chain of purgation. Or so I can say, speaking as a humane human. (Riotous evil laughter ensues.)

    I feel I also need to make a point about my disdain for environmentalists, but I am unsure how to disguise my snotty and feckless critique. Ah, well, such are the costs of my moralizing self-satisfaction.

    Point made yet?

    Everybody have a safe and fun Mardi Gras. Use condoms so you don’t catch nothin’ nasty…

  • Or they could stop rutting their brains out with strangers, like animals. Either way.

  • I am shocked that StudLife would endorse an environmentally unsound practice like mass condom distribution. Maybe if we printed “landfill” on those packages of deadly latex people would more seriously consider investing in a custom-cut pig bladder barrier.

  • Great article.