Gel bracelets or jelly bracelets are an inexpensive type of wristband similar to a large diameter O-ring. They come in a variety of colors, and dozens 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 embossed messages demonstrating the wearer's support of a cause or charitable organization.
"Awareness bracelets" gained in popularity in the 2004 when the Lance Armstrong Foundation introduced its trademark yellow Livestrong wristband to raise support for cancer research. By early 2005, silicone wristbands became popular with many charities, such as Make Poverty History and the BBC's Beat Bullying campaign. Other wristbands include wristbands for breast cancer (pink), diabetes (various colors), epilepsy (half blue, half red), Hurricane Katrina (ocean blue mixed with white), Wriststrong (red), and AIDS (red, made only in Africa). In general, the color of the band describes its cause, and the colors are often the same as the colors of awareness ribbons.
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, girls who wore the jewelry implied they were willing to engage in various acts with whomever 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 Gainesville, Florida's Alachua Elementary School 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 might have been, generating further concern, or even something of a moral panic.
Different versions associate different colors with sex acts (similar to the real-life handkerchief code), for instance, purple may be associated with kissing, red with lapdancing and black with intercourse. Some versions claim 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 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.
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