- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

CHICAGO — Orange, red, blue, black — they’re just thin, rubbery bracelets that come in a rainbow of colors, but they’re causing quite a stir.

First made popular by Madonna and other pop stars in the 1980s, “jelly bracelets” are making a comeback with teens and some grade-school kids. But this time, there’s a twist: In some parts of the country, they are called “sex bracelets” — with various colors supposedly representing promises to perform sex acts in a game called “Snap.”

As the story goes, break someone’s orange bracelet (or purple, in some cases) and you get a kiss. Red, blue, black — each supposedly signifies a different sex act.

“They’ve been selling like crazy,” says Andy Ball, a clerk at the Alley, an edgy clothing and accessories store in Chicago. He says he learned about their secret meaning from a group of teens who came into the store about a month ago.

Still, it’s unclear whether young people are really following through with the sex acts. And some experts think most youth are hearing about the game from recent news reports, not each other.

Snopes.com, a Web site dedicated to exposing urban legends, has deemed the validity of sex bracelets “undetermined.”

“Every now and then, I get a note from kids who say it is true,” says Barbara Mikkelson, Snopes.com co-founder. “But I get a heck of a lot of e-mails from kids who are outraged that adults think they would do this. To them, [the bracelets] are just a fashion statement.”

Regardless, a few schools in states such as Illinois, Ohio and Florida have banned the bracelets.

“It’s about the disruption of the school day,” says Joann Hipsher, principal at one of the schools — Malabar Middle School in Mansfield, Ohio. She says students were spending too much time “worrying about who had them, who had been snapping them.”

Elizabeth Cooke, a fourth-grade teacher in Baltimore County, says she was surprised when a fifth-grader told her that the bracelets had “secret meanings — one being, if someone broke one it meant you have to have sex.”

“He told me that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to wear them anymore because they were stupid,” says Miss Cooke, whose school allows the bracelets as a fashion item, as long as they cause no distractions.

“In my opinion,” she adds, “he shouldn’t even be thinking about sex at all.”

But in other parts of the country, teens say no one they know calls them “sex bracelets.”

“It’s kind of outrageous and ridiculous. I think the media is making an issue out of nothing,” says Kelly Egarian, a 17-year-old from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., who serves as a consultant for Teenage Research Unlimited, a suburban Chicago firm that tracks youth trends.

In fact, when the staff at Teenage Research asked its 300-some young consultants nationwide about sex bracelets, they found nothing concrete.

“They knew of a friend who had a friend who had a friend who knew about this,” says Michael Wood, the company’s vice president. “But no one could point a finger to anyone who was actually doing this.”

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