Have you heard of female condoms? You might also hear them referred to as “internal condoms.” If you’re like me, they may have been given a passing reference in a sex ed class. The problem is, when you’re barely into puberty it’s hard to even imagine what to do with an elephant-trunk shaped tube of polyurethane (now nitrile). Which end is up? How do you get the thing in there? Plus, for the poor teacher stuck with demonstrating this stuff, stretching a condom over a banana must seem so much more manageable.
I also wondered why women would ever need a female condom. I mean, aren’t we just supposed to insist that a dude do the honorable thing and suit up before sex? Sure, that’s important. But so are options, especially since condoms – and every other form of birth control, for that matter – aren’t perfect. Female condoms are one more option to consider – and a better one than you might think. So, in honor of Global Female Condom Day (yes, it’s a thing), here are eight things you may not know about female condoms.
They go in easy(ish)
Think back to the first time you ever used a tampon. Or, heck, the first time you had sex. It took some practice, right? But once you got the hang of it, it was smooth sailing from there. The same goes for the female condom. It isn’t hard to put in, it just takes a few tries to get the hang of it. Get your partner to help; most guys are pretty keen to put anything in there if you ask nicely.
They get the job done
Female condoms have an edge on most other forms of birth control for women: They protect against pregnancy and STIs. Huzzah! Plus, according to a report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), they’re "at least as effective" as male condoms at both. There’s even some evidence that female condoms provide better protection against diseases like genital herpes or syphilis because they provide more coverage. Now that is definitely a good thing. (Check out more options in We Asked An Expert: Which Birth Control Is Best?)
They stimulate the penis
Now here’s where things get interesting. A male condom can be designed to provide extra pleasure for both the wearer and his partner. Some guys like that extra friction, some don’t. The female condom provides another option. According to Sarah Gaudreau, Project Director for the Washington AIDS Partnership Female Condom Initiative, men report that they like the sensation the inner ring (which hangs out near the cervix) of the female condom provides. Plus, the overall experience is much closer to riding bareback. Statistically speaking, many men don’t like condoms. If they like this nifty contraption better, everyone wins.
And the clitoris
Don’t worry, ladies, you won’t be left out here: Some women report that the female condom helps them orgasm. How? Well, the soft, rolled outer ring, which fits outside the body, can stimulate the clitoris during intercourse.
"We tracked 60 women for six months and found that women who use female condoms had a really big increase in sexual pleasure," Gaudreau said. "We had women who were recording having multiple orgasms for the first time in their lives."
Part of the reason female condoms have been in the closet for so long is because before 2005, the product just wasn’t that good. It was crinkly, it was noisy and at a few dollars apiece, it wasn’t exactly a cheap lay. The new, FC2 version was approved by the FDA in 2009. It’s safe, effective and made of super-soft, silent nitrile, which warms to the skin and conforms to the inside of the vagina for a more natural feel. Plus, the price has come down to about $1.50 to $2 per condom. That’s not as cheap as a male condom, but it’s getting closer. (Find out why Kinkly writer The Redhead Bedhead loves the FC2 in The Birth Control I Never Thought I'd Use.)