Jelly Bracelets and Their Meaning

Jelly bracelets or gel bracelets are inexpensive, thin rubber bracelets available in a variety of colors, often worn linked together. Jelly bracelets first became popular in the 1980’s when stars such as Madonna wore them. In the late 1990’s jelly bracelets enjoyed a renewed popularity that continues today.

Though many teens wear jelly bracelets as inexpensive fashion accessories, some teens and pre-adolescents, including elementary school students, know jelly bracelets as sex bracelets. Sex bracelets are a coded form of communication among teens and young people where wearing different colored jelly bracelets indicate what sexual acts the teen is supposedly willing to perform. Some of the most common jelly bracelet color codes are:

  • Yellow – hugging
  • Purple – kissing
  • Red – lap dance
  • Blue – oral sex
  • Black – intercourse

In a variation of sex bracelets, there is a game called snap, in which if a boy can snap a jelly bracelet off a girl’s wrist – not easy to do, since jelly bracelets are hard to break – the girl is supposed to do whatever the color of the jelly bracelet promises. This is not the first example of such secret codes or games; the tabs from soda cans and the rings from milk or juice cartons have also been used in similar ways.

In late 2003, the media picked up and distributed the teen sex bracelet story, prompting investigations into jelly bracelets. News sources and the Internet rumor investigation site found that many teens do know about the sex bracelet code, though in some regions teens had heard of it only through the media. According to the teens surveyed, some do follow through on hugging and kissing or french kissing as promised by the jelly bracelets they wear, but very few will have sex with someone simply because of a jelly bracelet. Others refuse to wear jelly bracelets because they are disgusted by the idea of the sex bracelets, and some teens wear jelly bracelets, but scoff at others who think they will have sex because of them.

Several schools across the nation have banned jelly bracelets. The reason they give for this is not the fear that students may be having sex because of them, but the concern that they are disruptive and expose children to sexuality prematurely, since some students as young as third grade are able to discuss jelly bracelets and the acts they represent. Most experts agree that this is too young for children to be fixated on sexuality, or to be sophisticated about sexual acts. Exposure to these ideas at a young age can desensitize children and cheapen later intimate relations.

If you are the parent of a teen or child who wears jelly bracelets, you need not automatically assume that he or she knows the sex bracelet code or would follow through with it, but take this opportunity to have an age-appropriate conversation about sex with your child. Express to him or her your views on when, where, and with whom you believe sex is appropriate. Though teens, and sometimes children, learn about sex from their peers, the education they get from their parents is a powerful and important part of having a healthy and accurate understanding of sexuality. Also, talk with your child about the jelly bracelets and what kinds of clothing and accessories you consider appropriate, and why.

Note: Jelly Bracelets should be distinguished from the wide, rubber LIVESTRONG wristbands used by Lance Armstrong’s organization and other cancer research and awareness groups as fundraiser items. They are also color-coded, but the colors represent the kind of cancer for which they are raising money, i.e. pink for breast cancer. These have been counterfeited by for-profit companies as fad accessory items with various sayings, which detracts from the fundraising purpose of the wristbands, but they do not appear to have taken on alternative meanings.

Jelly Bracelets and Their Meaning Sources:

  1., “Sex Bracelets,” December 15, 2003 [online]
  2., “Students ‘sex bracelets’ an urban legend?” December 12, 2003 [online]
  3., “‘Sex Bracelets’ Cause for Parental Concern,” November 9, 2003 [online]
  4. LIVESTRONG Lance Armstrong Foundation [online]
  5. Wikipedia, “LIVESTRONG Wristbands” [online]