Gel bracelets, or jelly bracelets, are an inexpensive type of wristband. They come in a variety of colors, and several can be worn on each arm. They have been popular in waves throughout the Western world and elsewhere since the 1980s. One style of these wristbands, known as "awareness bracelets", carry debossed messages demonstrating the wearer's support of a cause or charitable organization.
Charity awareness wristbands
The average price of the wristbands can be $1 or £1 and usually the majority of the money goes towards the charity involved. They are seen by young people as trendier than traditional charity pins which may explain their increase in popularity.
Urban legend of sex bracelets
During a resurgence in popularity in 2003, gel bracelets became the subject of a widespread urban legend linking them to a supposed sex game explaining their popularity among young teenagers: they were subsequently dubbed "sex bracelets". According to rumors, people who wore the jewelry implied they were willing to engage in various acts with whoever pulled them from their wrists; the acts ranged from hugging and kissing to sexual intercourse, and were determined by the bracelet's color.
In October 2003, the rumors were prominent enough in Alachua Elementary School in Gainesville, Florida that the principal banned the bracelets to avert disruption and inappropriate comments about them. They were subsequently banned in other schools around Florida and elsewhere. The effectors of these early bans did not insinuate that the rumors were true; however, some later media reports suggested that they may have been, generating something of a moral panic. The supposed meanings of the colours of the bands were reported in the British press in 2005.
A very similar set of stories surfaced (or re-surfaced) in the British media in 2009, in which the bracelets were allegedly nicknamed shag bands. Similar stories circulated widely in Brazil during the 2009–2010 summer, where the bracelets were referred to as pulseiras do sexo. In March 2010, a 13-year-old girl in Brazil was raped by three teenage boys after one of them snatched the bracelet she was wearing. The police stated that the crime was motivated by the use of sex bracelets.
Different versions associate different colors with sex acts (similar to the handkerchief code). For example, purple might be associated with kissing, red with lapdancing, and black with intercourse. Some versions said the involved action occurs at parties held for the purpose, making them similar to contemporary rumors of "rainbow parties", a gathering at which groups of girls wearing varying shades of lipstick supposedly take turns fellating their classmates, leaving an array of colors on their penises. Other tales of teenage sex parties have circulated at various times. Folklorist Barbara Mikkelson of snopes.com associates the "sex bracelet" stories with similar ones of the past. In the 1970s, pulltabs from aluminum cans and labels from beer bottles were supposedly considered "sex coupons" and obligated any girl presented with one to sleep with the bearer; by the 1990s the rumors shifted to include an assortment of plastic items, including some worn as bracelets. According to Mikkelson, there is likely little truth behind the stories, and the vast majority of teenagers who contact her site express shock and disappointment that so many have believed them.
At least one particular type of gel bracelet called the MY Single Band was specifically designed to advertise the wearer's relationship status. In a press release, creators, Rina Mardahl and Rob Young, compared their concept to that of wedding rings that show the married status of a wearer, Young saying he "saw hundreds of people each day that could potentially be a suitable partner, yet there was no way of knowing their relationship status." The response to this bracelet was largely critical, with Natasha Burton of Cosmopolitan saying she doubted men would look for such a bracelet, given that she was still approached even while wearing her engagement ring. The staff of Glamour were reportedly uncomfortable with the concept, and Eliana Dockterman of Time magazine compared the concept to wearing one's OkCupid profile on one's t-shirt.
- Awareness ribbon — developed from 1917 through 1986 to symbolize remembrance of service members and other causes
- Lockets and eye miniatures — mementos of loved ones c. 1785
- POW bracelet — from 1970 to 1976, engraved with name of an American serviceman captured or missing during the Vietnam War
- Memorial bracelet — later appearance of bracelets for service members
- Mikkelson, Barbara (2003). "Sex Bracelets". snopes.com. Retrieved December 22, 2005.
- "What are wristbands about?" (February 01, 2005). news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved December 2, 2006.
- Walker, Rob (2004-08-29). "Yellow Fever". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-01-18.
- "charity wristband trend".
- Aguilar, Alexa & Bell, Kaitlin (November 18, 2003). "Rumors Link Bracelets to Sex Game." St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- "Student 'sex bracelets' an urban legend?". CNN (CHICAGO, Illinois). December 12, 2003. Archived from the original on December 20, 2003. Retrieved February 10, 2006.
- James, Douane D. (October 18, 2003). "Principal puts ban on 'sex bracelets'". The Gainesville Sun. Archived from the original on Mar 7, 2007. Retrieved September 30, 2006.
- For example, see: "'Sex Bracelets' Cause Parental Concern". NBC Philadelphia. RALEIGH, N.C.: NBC10.com. November 20, 2003. Archived from the original on Feb 11, 2008. Retrieved September 30, 2006.
- Pook, Sally (March 25, 2005). "Blair joins wristband celebrities who make charity cool". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Stretch, Euan (25 Sep 2009). "Fury over 'sex' bracelets sold to school children". Daily Mirror (mirror.co.uk). Retrieved Oct 2009.
- Midgley, Carol (10 Nov 2009). "Would you let your daughter wear a "shag band"?". The Times (London). Retrieved 10 Nov 2009.
- Pearce, Dulcie (29 Sep 2009). "Bracelet which means your child is having SEX". The Sun (London). Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- "'Sex bracelets' generates controversy among parents and educators in São Paulo" (in Portuguese). Retrieved February 2012.
- "After 'sex bracelet' ripped off teen is raped in Londrina" (in Portuguese). Retrieved February 2012.
- Taylor, Victoria (22 August 2013). "Will bracelets for singles revolutionize dating?". Daily News. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Dockterman, Eliana (1 September 2013). "MY Single Band: A Bracelet That Advertises You’re Single". Time. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- "Meeting Other Singles Just Got a Whole Lot Easier!" (Press release). PR Newswire. 20 August 2013. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- De Lacey, Martha (20 August 2013). "Would you wear a wristband to show you're single? New coloured bracelets claim to be the 'future of dating'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Burton, Natasha (20 August 2013). "Would You Wear a Bracelet That Tells Guys You're Single?". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Powell, Hannah Lyons (20 August 2013). "My Single Band: Will you be wearing your heart on your wrist?". Glamour. Retrieved 1 September 2013.