Jelly Bracelets and Their Meaning
Gel bracelets, or jelly bracelets are a type of wristband often made from Silicone. Gel bracelets are topological tori usually of rectangular or circular cross-section. They come in a variety of colors, are as inexpensive as $0.07, and several can be worn on each arm. They have been popular in waves throughout the Western world and elsewhere since the 1980s.
Charity awareness wristbands
The silicone wristband first became popular in 2004 with the Livestrong yellow band which was set up by American cyclist Lance Armstrong to raise awareness of cancer.
“Awareness bracelets” wristbands, carry debossed messages demonstrating the wearer’s support of a cause or charitable organization.
A larger, 1″ wide variety became more popular in 2007, with musical groups selling the items to young concert fans. Both the wider and thinner bands are cheap to custom manufacture and as a result have become a popular fundraising tool in America and beyond.
The price of these wristbands varies depending on the particular campaign, but are often $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.