Proverb – USA

“Strap before you tap.”

Benjamin learned this proverb while he was in the U.S. Navy from his captain out at sea. Usually, the boat would be out at sea for about six months straight, with only a three to eight days in between every couple of weeks at port. Docking was a valued time off the ship, where many of the men could find female company they had been lacking on board. Right before the ship is about to port into a foreign country, the captain would deliver port briefs, which were basic rules and regulations. Benjamin said, “He would tell us the ‘do’s and don’ts’. Like ‘don’ts’ would be, ‘don’t piss off the locals, don’t act like an idiot and get drunk and get arrested. ‘Do’s’ would be like go have a good time. Join tours and enjoy yourself.” The captain would also reiterate the phrase, “strap before you tap,” during these briefs. As sort of a ritual to reinforce the message, the sailors on watch would have a big basket of condoms right before people exited the ship.

Benjamin said that the proverb means exactly what it sounds like. “Wear your condoms before doing anything stupid.” He believes the proverb to actually be a very good recommendation. He said that in foreign countries, especially places like Australia, following this simple piece of advice could save a lot of future headaches. “As you can imagine, STD’s aren’t too treatable when you’re on an aircraft carrier,” he said. It also keeps the medical departments from getting too busy. Due to the limited medical abilities on board, sexually transmitted diseases are difficult to treat.

The proverb simply means to put on a condom before having sex. It is a short quip warning the sailors of the dangers of having sexual relations in familiar territory with unfamiliar people. It is generally understood fact amongst the crew that most sailors heading to shore will be engaging in sexual activities, so the captain makes a preemptive attack on the trend, since he knows it will happen, and issues a warning to prevent possible health problems in the future.

The phrase is a direct reflection of the stereotypical idea that carnal desires take over men when they have not been in contact with the opposite sex for a long period of time. Although the proverb may not be applicable to everyone, it is targeted towards the sailors who will be prone to falling under this stereotype. Especially in the military, the captain uses this proverb probably to make fun of this accepted idea, as well as to warn the sailors.

I think that this proverb can probably be applied to everyone, not just to the Navy. It is solid advice for all men who participate in loose sexual relationships. However, it takes on special significance when told to those affiliated with the military. Because the military is mostly made up of men, the proverb targets that specific gender audience. Although it can also apply to women in the general meaning, it does not work directly. Women can’t “strap” a condom before having sex. The advice would be more about having safe sex.

Especially because the military breeds aggression and capitalizes on masculinity, the exact words used are very appropriate. The proverb draws on the understanding of slang in the group. “Strap” is equivalent to putting on a condom, while “tap” means to have sex. These words are a more vulgar way of warning men. By rhyming, the captain makes the advice easier to remember, and as a result, more likely to be spread.