The female condom is a condom-esque device inserted into the vagina to protect against STIs and unwanted pregnancy. These devices have probably got the worst reputation out of all birth control options, but sometimes it might be the best option for you, so don’t dismiss it until you’ve actually tried it.
The device has an outer section with a soft ring, and a long (17cm) inner section that has a firm ring at the end that keeps one end of the device deep inside the vagina where it can’t be easily dislodged.
The worst start of all time
These devices have come a long way since they got laughed off the market in the early 80s, and if you think about it without laughing about banging a sandwich bag, and how unappealing that might be, these devices actually offer some really interesting potential for birth control.
Why we should try it more than once and support innovation
- Women can exert control over physical methods of contraception, ensuring their proper usage.
- Hormonal contraception certainly does not suit everyone.
- Most of them are all latex-free.
- They might end up being more comfortable, and with more options than the male condom offers due to logistics – imagine the bells and whistles, vibrating rings, attachments, and sensations you could have!
- It could add more sensitivity for men – male condoms tend to squash the penis into a tight little bag that stilts some of the sensation. This version could allow the penis to move freely, improving the experience for both parties.
- The female condom can be put in prior to an experience, so you can simply get on with it when the mood strikes, without having to stop and put a condom on.
The current flaws
- People have no idea how to use them.
- There is a very, very negative perception of these “sandwich bags”.
- They are kind of ugly (but so are regular condoms).
- Everyone was mean about them when they got released, and this hasn’t gone away.
- You can’t just put one in your back pocket.
- You have to prepare for your sexual experience.
- They make really funny noises sometimes.
The reviews – especially from men – have actually been really good, but the key seems to be a bit of practice getting it inserted correctly. This is more of a commitment than regular condoms, but some men have reported – when the device is in correctly and lubed up with extra lube – that these are much more enjoyable than female condoms.
Women, once used to the device and getting it in correctly, have also reported that they can’t even really feel it during sex and that it is preferable to a male condom.
A quick look on Amazon’s reviews yielded the following mixed responses:
– Ruth Vincenton said: ‘I couldn’t even feel it during sex – it felt like we were having sex without a condom. The nitrile material warms to your skin, thus it feels more natural than latex. The outer ring can stimulate a woman’s clitoris, an added perk for women. My boyfriend commented that there is much more sensation for a man when using a female condom than when using a male condom.’
on said: ‘I love the idea of this, it’s really empowering and effective in that it covers enough area to guard the vagina against possible STI’s. I wish like male condoms they had different widths/lengths to try out as we are not all built the same way.’
on said: ‘Just ok’
– Sam Rockafellow said: ‘My lovers appreciate this convenience two fold!’
– Paul said: ‘I would give it 5 stars because these work so much better than traditional condoms because they allow the penis to move within the condom.’
slutgarden said: ‘I actually prefer this over regular condoms. It feels a lot better, and my boyfriend definitely agrees.
– Tiny Danielle said: ‘Love these!!! A must for any sexually liberated woman who wants to remain in charge of her own sexual health decisions. They take some practice to properly insert, but remember so did tampons! …. once you get the hang of it, you’re set!’
And there are a lot more, so see for yourself. People like them, find them to offer better sensations than male condoms, particularly for men.
Brands and styles
FC2 Female Condom
These female condoms fit into the vagina like a diaphragm might with a firm ring at the top so it stays in place. They cover the vulva as well, which offers extra protection from skin-to-skin contact that can spread infections. It is made from synthetic nitrile which conducts heat quickly, making it warm and nice, instead of plasticy and cold. This is probably the most common female condom.
It now has sleek new packaging and they have changed the way they make the device so it is cheaper, but better. (Keep in mind this device is becoming popular for countries with high STI, HIV and unwanted pregnancy rates and is becoming an innovative part of aid packages.) This is the only female condom available in the United States.
Reddy Female Condom (VA W.o.W. Feminine Condom)
Made by Medtech Products, the pouch opens up to a round triangular opening that has a sponge to keep it secure inside the vagina. This female condom is available in South Africa, Brazil and India, and has a CEO mark meaning it meets European Union consumer health requirements. It is under review by the WHO and United Nations for aid.
The Woman’s Condom
This device was created by PATH, made of polyurethane partially encased in a capsule for easy insertion. The capsule dissolves quickly, releasing the pouch, which is then held in place by foam pads. This device has received approval from several countries, including South Africa, Europe and China. It is under review by the WHO and United Nations for aid.
Natural Sensation Female Condom
This Columbian product is made from polyethylene resin – stronger and thinner than latex, and can be used with any type of lube.
Silk Parasol Female Condom
This is a biodegradable latex device, and is still in clinical trials, not yet having gained approval anywhere yet.
The Phoenurse Female Condom
The Phoenurse is a dumbbell-shaped polyurethane pouch, inserted using a special tool, manufactured by Tianjin Condombao Medical Polyurethane Tech. Co. Ltd, approved for sale in Europe, and available for sale in Brazil, Sri Lanka, China, Kenya and Mexico.
Cupid’s Female Condom
This is made from latex, and manufactured in India (Cupid Ltd). It is available in Europe, and the WHO pre-qualified it in 2012. Clinical trials are being completed, with the device seeking FDA approval.
Origami Female Condom
This device is molded silicone, non-allergenic but not yet for sale. Clinical trials are being undertaken presently in the United States in collaboration with the Women’s Global Health Imperative at RTI.
See a photo of a woman with one in (art)
Artist Giles Revell did a series of photographs for a story published in Mosaic on the female condom. See one ‘on’ in these pretty black and white photos. It may be the only art ever on the female condom.