When I was a kid, the local pop radio station had a nightly phone in sex chat show. Most nights, I would secretly listen as folks called in with their questions and dilemmas, and the hosts would attempt to give them some answers while also trying to amuse the audience. Knowing what I know now I’m actually a little appalled by the whole thing. There was a lot of sex negativity, judgment and many declarations of what was "normal". It was here that I first learned about the female condom.
The Birth Control I Never Thought I'd Use
I never had to be sold on condoms. I was born in 1979 and I grew up in a world of Ryan White, the Aids Quilt and Left Eye rocking a condom on her glasses. Safe sex has always been commonplace and condoms have always been compulsory. But female condoms, now those were unique and, I learned from that super-helpful radio call-in show, distinctly not normal.
This Is How Rumors Get Started
I only heard the show talk about the product that was, at that time, called Reality once and what I remember them saying between screeches of laughter, gasps of shock and periodic outbursts of "ohmigod" was "They, like, hang out of your body", "they make a swishy sound" and "You have to push them up into your body"
None of this sounded appealing.
As time went on I noticed that whenever safer sex options were discussed, "regular" condoms got all the press and female condoms were mentioned in passing as if to say "and these are also something that exist." I never got the impression that they were something I should really consider. Even as recently as July a piece ran on a popular website about female condoms. The message? They're icky."
I’ll tell you this: I had bought into the hype. Female condoms sounded weird and complicated and I figured we already had condoms so this discussion was really unnecessary.
And Then I Changed My Mind
I entered a new relationship and, as it turns out, my partner is a huge fan of female condoms. He was surprised that, for all my sex geekery, I had never tried them and one day showed up at my house bearing a box of what are now known as FC2 female condoms.
Yeah, I love them.
Oh my goodness, so many reasons!
What’s So Great About Female Condoms?
Have you ever gotten all excited just to see your partner’s erection wilt at the sight of a condom? It's a common and frustrating problem. Female condoms to the rescue. That’s right; no more penis panic!
Sex educators love lube. There's no cheaper, easier way to keep things gliding pleasurably along for a long time. With male condoms, men are left with a measly drop or two of lube in the tip. With FC2, you can really lube up the inside (literally pour a little lube into the condom before inserting it). What’s more, you can each choose your own lube! My partner likes silicone, I prefer a hybrid, so it's silicone inside the FC2, hybrid outside. Lube for everyone. It's a beautiful thing. (Learn more about lube in The Ins and Outs of Sexual Lubricant.)
You may know I have strong feelings about period sex. Or having it, that is. But still it’s nice to keep the mess factor down, no? Because of the rigid top ring on a female condom, any blood stays above the condom and out of the way until you take it out. So easy!
I’ve heard people say otherwise but I’m going on record as saying that I barely feel these. I have way more sensation with them than with traditional condoms.
It's nice to be in charge. Rather than playing the "you should put a condom on now" game, I get to say "I’m suiting up and now game on!"
Busting the Myths About Female Condoms
Now that I've learned to love female condoms, I do want to respond directly to the things I heard growing up:
"They hang out of your body"
This is true and, yeah, it’s a little weird at first. Then again, I’ll bet the first person who ever saw a penis covered in latex didn’t think "That totally looks natural." You'll get over it.
"They make swishy sounds"
I have also heard the sound described as "crinkly." This used to be true of female condoms, but it hasn't been a problem for years. The previous version was made of polyurethane which was, in addition to being kind of noisy, expensive. The FC2 is made from nitrile, which is soft, quiet, sensitive and less expensive.
"You have to push them up into your body"
Yes, yes you do. You do have to touch your own vagina to use this product. If that thought makes you uncomfortable maybe you should rethink having sex. (Male condoms are as easy to put on as you might think - at least if you want to do it right. Find out more in 9 Things You Didn't Know About Putting On a Condom.)
Changing Minds Is Hard to Do
The thing is, female condoms have gotten a bum rap for years. But take it from me, this prophylaxis is way underrated. Many years ago, I got the impression that female condoms were a bit of a joke. But you know what's really funny? The fact that more women haven't given them a try.
JoEllen is a writer, speaker, researcher and mental health advocate whose work explores the impact of depression on sex and relationships. Since 2012 she has written about sex, mental health, and how none of us are broken on her award-winning site The Redhead Bedhead.
JoEllen's book The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression & The Conversation We Aren’t Having is now available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.