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Female Condoms – Why So Rare?

August 12, 2008

Female condoms are to male condoms as Grindelwald was to Dumbledore; in other words, a slandered secret. The Daily Women’s Health Policy Report has featured an update on this version of the glass slipper of our day, noting that while many women around the globe prefer it, it just isn’t being sold or used at levels anywhere near that of traditional condoms. So what is a female condom and what is this scandal all about?

The male condom that we all know and love (each other with) is designed to roll down a penis, trap the semen inside of it, and form a barrier against skin-to-skin infections. The female condom, on the other hand, consists of a closed ended tube that inserts into the vagina and is held there by a comfy and flexible plastic ring. The open end of the female condom stays outside the vulva thanks to another ring, and the product is loose and baggy so no stretching is needed. Like the male condom, the female condom also creates a barrier for skin-to-skin infections. The female condom must be lubricated inside for safe and comfortable use (lube is included) and is made of polyurethane instead of latex. Male condoms can be found in polyurethane, too, but they cost more and are made by fewer brands. It also bears noting that female condoms are not intended for anal sex between any genders.

Having tried a female condom, I will tell you that I felt a bit like I had a sandwich bag hanging out of my vagina, and that is not sexy feeling. My partner, though, found it a nice change of pace from wearing a tight condom and he also found it more stimulating. There lays the appeal. The female condom is woman-centric. We can insert it without negotiating with our partners, and the men in our lives may be more willing to accept (or prefer) that form of protection.

In my world this is not a big concern, as I have always taken charge of this area of my health and set the rules. However, this is a hard-earned victory won by my foremothers and it is not universal in my neighborhood or across oceans. A woman-controlled condom that men will accept is an essential tool in the prevention of HIV, pregnancy, and other sexually-related concerns. It’s also nice for those with latex allergies, those who struggle to find a male condom that fits properly, and women with sensitive vaginas who like the reduction in direct friction that comes with female condoms, even though the stimulation level is similar or the same.

So why aren’t we buying, distributing or using it? Some say it is the price, which deters buyers sneaking into the all-night pharmacy. Others claim it is the lack of government support and investment, which results in fewer freebies, less fame, and higher prices. Although the source article didn’t mention it, I’ve also heard it whispered that the powers that be are slow to support a product favored by African women that also puts the power somewhat more into women’s… hands. And then, of course, there is the argument that male condoms are just what we’re use to seeing and feeling. I’d love to hear what you think!

Have you tried a female condom, or are you a regular user?

What do you think of female condoms, and the controversy over their popularity?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. kawanale permalink
    August 12, 2008 4:38 pm

    You said it right there, “I felt a bit like I had a sandwich bag hanging out of my vagina, and that is not sexy feeling. ” Yeah, I know it is more stimulating for the guy, but one still has to put the female condom inside. It is not too unlike putting a tampon in, and frankly there’s no sexy way to put a female condom on like there is with the male condom (i.e., put the condom in your mouth and roll it down on the penis). Also, the cost is a factor, especially if you’re the kind of person that likes to have sex five times a day. So yeah, that’s why I continue to use the male condom. Hopefully there’s researchers out there trying to improve the female condom so it is less expensive and more “sexy” to put in.

  2. archdiva permalink
    August 13, 2008 9:55 am

    I love female condoms! Once I introduced my (male) partner to them, he loved them, too. Yes, they’re a little strange at first, but it’s easy to get used to with a little (very fun) practice.

    Here’s a couple tips: Pull it out of the package before getting naked, add a dab of lube inside it and have it ready on the bedside (or where ever) table. We tend to put them on his erect penis rather than insert them in me — they slide on faster than a male condom since they are so loose. Viola! Faster safer sex! 🙂

  3. August 15, 2008 3:31 pm

    Actually, it is interesting. I put them up on our site not long ago, and I was really amazed at how quickly they sell.

    People *do* use them, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of choices / brands out there.

    Maybe that’s one of the reasons?

  4. Timaree permalink
    September 24, 2008 11:05 am

    i second kawanale- they’re less sexy and can make a lot of noise. the cost difference is also substantial. thanks to archdiva for the application tip!

  5. May 6, 2009 7:24 pm

    Personally I am allergic to latex, which has always been such an annoyance for me, because I have to insure that I pick up the condoms, since the guy tends to tote latex. So I am really glad they make these with polyurethane instead. That bit about the plastic bag made me bowl over in laughter though I have to admit!

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