So your fantasy couple is finally going to consummate their relationship! Hooray for them!
If the decision to have sex is a conscious, in-advance one, rather than a spur-of-the-moment twist near the end of an episode — and especially if it's going to be the character's first time (or first time in a while) — the characters will often prepare. This means birth control.
The acquiring of said birth control is where this trope comes into play. For some reason, buying condoms or getting on the pill is made a torturous experience that explains why most sex on TV is hasty, unplanned and thoughtless. The pharmacist will give a character a hard time about buying his condoms, or an unrealistically insensitive clinic worker will make going on the pill the most embarrassing thing possible. Even worse is if a parent or parent figure finds out, and instead of berating the character, supports their responsibility... often with humiliating advice and anecdotes. In comedies, this will be milked for all its worth.
Note that, should you ever be so lucky in real life, buying contraceptives is almost never like that these days. You buy them off the shelf, and the person at the counter won't even glance twice at your purchases. (Unless, of course, you're buying onlycondoms, six feet of garden hose, Vaseline, maraschino cherries, and a rubber ducky.) Between this and changing views on sexuality, this trope has largely became a Discredited Trope. However, not that long ago, it was normal for condoms to be behind the counter, so you had to ask for 'em. This was something of a rite of passage.
Of course, being able to get condoms doesn't necessarily mean they will always work.
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Summer of '42 has one of the better examples of this, justified in that the movie takes place in The Forties and the guy trying to obtain the rubbers is 15 years old.
The teen sex comedy Trojan War has a plot driven entirely by this trope.
The teen sex comedy School Spirit begins with the central character running a Trojan Gauntlet that ends with him dying in a car crash and coming back as a ghost.
A hilarious sequence in the film All I Wanna Do involves the characters physically grappling with a can of contraceptive foam.
A sequence in Amazon Women on the Moon features a youth trying to buy a package of condoms. After hitting some of the usual aspects of this trope (embarrassment because the pharmacist is a family friend, etc.), the trope is spoofed when the youth is surprised by the president of the condom company coming out of hiding and informing him that he is the condom company's one millionth customer. This "wins" him the privilege of being the condom company's public mascot for a year, at the cost of entirely spoiling his planned evening of passion.
When Seth Green's desperate character finally convinces a girl to sleep with him in Can't Hardly Wait, he immediately rushes upstairs to limber up, put on more deodorant, try on condoms, etc. When his (female) ex-best friend walks in on him, the bathroom door jams and they are stuck inside for almost the rest of the movie.
In Carry On Camping, one character complains about the difficulty of asking for pamphlets for a nudist colony. He likens it to going into a chemist to buy some "you know whats" and finding a pretty girl behind the counter and instead coming out with a tube of toothpaste. His mate then replies "I wondered why your medicine cabinet was full of toothpaste".
Inverted in an old joke: A man went into a job interview and his eye winked through the whole process. The interviewer said "Look, you are well qualified, but I'm afraid that facial tic will throw off clients." The man replied - "Funny you mention that, because all I have to do is take aspirin and the winking goes away - watch" and the man began dumping out his pockets looking for aspirin. In most of his pockets, however, were condoms. Finally, once a pile of condom packages of every sort piled up on the desk the man found two aspirin, took them, and the wink totally stopped. "Well, that worked," the interviewer admitted, but why do you have all the condoms? We don't want our clients to think you're a womanizer!" "It's quite simple sir," the guy said, "have you ever walked into a drugstore, winking like crazy, and asked for aspirin?"
A man walks up to the pharmacist and whispers that he needs condoms. The pharmcist asks him what size, and when he doesn't know, gives him a board with increasingly larger holes in it, and tells him to follow in the back. The pharmacist then tells his assistant "Get me a box of extra small- no, small- no, medium cond- a box of paper towels!"
A variation where the guy goes into the fitting room alone. Five minutes later, the guy comes back and asks "Forget the condoms. How much for the board?"
The title character on Felicity was humiliated repeatedly over the course of an entire episode over her decision to have sex with love interest Noel, including one Planned Parenthood employee's condom usage demonstration with a hilarious red plastic penis.
On Dawson's Creek, Dawson Leery needlessly experienced this due to the incorrect assumption that condoms are still kept behind the counter in pharmacies and asking the pharmacist to give him some.
Averted on Scrubs when J.D and Kim's offscreen inability to obtain a condom resulted in the pregnancy storyline that drove the sixth season.
In an episode of That '70s Show, Eric goes to the pharmacy to pick up some photos while his girlfriend's father is there to pick up her prescription, which he believes to be cough syrup. When the pharmacist tells him it's birth control, Eric bolts out of the store.
For an unfunny example, in the pilot of Mad Men, the gynecologist prescribing Peggy her birth control pills thoughtlessly humiliated her throughout her exam.
On Friends, Monica and Rachel once had a long, hilarious scene fighting over the last condom in the bathroom while Ross and Richard awkwardly waited together outside for the two to come to an agreement.
In the Degrassi Junior High episode "The Best Laid Plans", Wheels runs the Trojan Gauntlet while trying to buy condoms for a night with Stephanie. After various humiliations, he manages to buy some from a pharmacist who turns out to be Stephanie's mother, which gives the game away when he arrives at her door.
On The Golden Girls, the girls attempt to discreetly buy condoms, to be subjected to a loud price check everyone in the store hears.
Fortunately, the embarassment leads to a crowning speech of awesome.
Inverted in a Sex and the City where it's Miranda needing to go off birth control (due to breaking up with Steve) that causes embarrassment at her gynecologist.
There's an hilarious scene in the dark comedy G.B.H. where labor leader Mike Murray, eager to make love to the beautiful blonde waiting in his hotel room, tries to find a packet of condoms in the middle of a Doctor Who convention. Unfortunately the hotel's vending machine is empty thanks to a large influx of firemen the previous night. Mike has to borrow some from the hotel's owner who's in his office with several conventioneers, including one dressed as a Dalek.
Mike: Where do you keep your Durex? I need to be armed!
Dalek: DUREX, THE BIGGEST THREAT, EXTERMINATE THEM ALL! EXTERMINATE! EXTERMINATE! EX-(hotel owner hits Dalek on the dome) OW!
Hotel owner: Well I've got two in my wallet...
Hotel Owner: I don't work social hours, you know!
Everybody Loves Raymond devotes a Halloween episode to this one. In deference to the relatively family-friendly nature of the show, the condoms are referred to as "the stuff". So Ray buys "the stuff" to prove to Debra that he can be responsible. Brightly colored ones, to be specific. Unfortunately, before Ray gets to use them, Frank sees them in the bag on the kitchen counter and, thinking they're colorful candy, gives them to the trick-or-treaters.
Seinfeld's episode "The Sponge" sees Elaine's preferred method pulled off the market leaving her desperate to find whatever sponges remain in New York. This, of course, leads to the catchphrase "Spongeworthy." This gets a callback in the final episode when the pharmacist is called to testify against her and her need for birth control is made to make her sound like a loose woman rather than one taking responsibility for her reproductive health.
In an episode of Head of the Class, as nerdy Arvid prepared for his date with the school bike, he ventured to the drugstore to purchase condoms. Of course, he was thoroughly embarrassed and thwarted at every turn. He finally prepared to leave the store when a completely random woman—who'd apparently figured out the reason for his nervousness—called him out, telling him "don't you DARE leave here without those condoms!" and proceeded to buy them for him, lecturing him on safe sex and responsibility.
A small example in Chuck. Chuck convinces Sarah to run away, so that they can find his father. They stop at a motel and get a room with one bed. After sleeping in the same bed, they wake up, and jump at one another. Just as it seems that their UST will be finally resolved... Chuck decides to play it safe and runs to the bathroom to put on the condom he keeps in his wallet. Only to find an IOU note from Morgan who has taken it. He runs outside to find a condom vending machine and gets caught by Casey, who was following them.
The song "House of Fun" by Madness is made of this trope. The lyrics concern a sixteen year old attempting to buy his first condoms with... little success.
Steven Merchant explained how he was too embarrassed to buy condoms from a 17 year old checkout girl during The Ricky Gervais Show.
There have been a few well-publicized incidents of pharmacists refusing to dispense contraceptives on religious or moral grounds, with an attendant controversy over the rights of the pharmacist versus those of the customer.
Back in The Fifties, this was Truth in Television. Condoms were sold as a behind the counter item; you had to actually go up to the pharmacy counter and ask for them. (Not like today, where you just grab the kind you want off the shelf and go pay for them.) (And heaven help a woman who attempted to buy them, even if she was married.)
Still Truth in Television at times; condoms tend to grow legs — due to a combination of, among other things, being costly for their size, the embarrassment factor, and their resale value — and some places keep them behind the counter or within a locked case for that reason.
Go back even further and it was illegal for the pharmacist to sell them to unmarried people. So you would have to prove you were married.
There was an alternative to running the standard Gauntlet back in the 50s: Condoms could also be purchased unobtrusively at barbershops. Thanks to Society Marches On, this has rendered the polite barber's inquiry about providing the customer with "something for the weekend" mystifying to modern audiences.
Also in small towns and other close-knit communities. Teenagers have reported fearing that if they are spotted buying condoms at the local store that it won't be long before word gets back to their parents.
Tech Marches On and more or less renders this trope irrelevant: nowadays, every large pharmacist has an online store.
Of course, if you're in a hurry, you might not want to order online and wait for delivery.
And if you're in that much of a hurry, that just opens up a whole other can of worms.
Department stores (Fred Meyer, Target, etc.) with shelved condoms and self-checkout counters justify all human technological achievement to this point.
Check the men's restroom at a gas station ('least in parts of the US), coin-op vending machines, in various colors, textures and sometimes flavors. Now the trick is finding enough quarters.
They have also been spotted in women's rooms at US gas stations.
They're not uncommon in college dormitories, either, for fairly obvious reasons.
In South Africa, due to the aforementioned Five-Finger Discount often applied to condoms, they're usually kept behind the counter at petrol stations. However, there is no stigma or awkwardness attached to buying them; it sends the clear message that you are going to have sex, and is kind of a badge of honor to most men in SA.
The More You Know: If you are really worried about doing this, don't wait until you actually need condoms. Get off the computer, go to the nearest store and buy a pack. If you're really worried, go to a store across town you don't usually frequent. You will see it's not that big a deal after you've done it once.
Some cashiers report a distinct difference in people buying condoms. Girls are usually very cool, guys are usually nervous. The theory is when guys buy condoms they only HOPE they will have sex. Women KNOW they will be having it.