Femal Condoms – Pro and Cons
Most of the female condoms are noisy, unwieldy and the feel like a
plastic bag. However, the majority of the health campaigns going around the States these days, in Washington, Chicago, Illinois or New York are promoting them to be used against HIV/AIDS.
But, although they have been legally approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since 1993, they are still not very popular.
In 2009 a new version of the female condom appeared and the HIV/AIDS campaigns began promoting it and distributing it in all the major cities, also offering training on how to use it in the local saloons and community centers.
These condoms are a very good solution that protects women from sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. But it is still used by a small number of people.
Even though the product is good, it is still hard to find and more expensive than the male ones.
Alexandra Katehakis, a certified sex therapist and the clinical director of the Center for Healthy Sex in L.A. said that these condoms are irrelevant: “It’s too convoluted. The penis is external. It takes two seconds to put on a male condom. This could take minutes and women have to get into this contortionist act to put the condom on. It’s not practical.”
However, the newest version of the female ones is the FC2, a cheaper, non-latex material version. It looks like a long sheath and has two soft rings and the ends. One of the rings must be pushed into the vagina, just like a tampon. The other one remains outside.
For the demonstration, while at a male model a banana is usually used, at the female model the health workers usually use a vagina model or a hand.
Zoe Lehman, a support services coordinator at the Chicago Women’s AIDS project said that at the time when tampons were introduced people were reticent but women did accept it eventually. She said: “It’s the same deal with female condoms – it’s not complicated at all. People have the idea it’s more complicated to use it because no one has shown them how to use it.”
Also, a very important fact is that the women condom gives women more control in the use of the condom during a sex interaction, so HIV/AIDS advocates say.
Still, the women reactions are varying.
One of the Fort Lauderdale health advocates in Florida, Casandra, tried this female condom a few times and says that she wanted to see how it really is: “It was a little strange to get it up there. In terms of inserting it, it was a little bit weird doing it in front of my partner. After it was in, it was OK.” She still prefers the male one.
Another woman, Lynn, from Detroit, Michigan says that these condoms “move around more” and that they do not have the tightness and the same texture as the male condoms have and that they also have “more of a natural feeling.” She also said that she and her partner prefer them, but only use them on special occasions because of the price.
That’s because a box of female condoms cost $6.49 for three pieces, while a box of man condoms cost $5 for ten pieces.
Another user, Carol Queen from San Francisco, California says “that some male partners like the extra movement they get” while the female uses the condom. But on the other hand, this condom could get twisted. This woman works at a sex toys store, Good Vibrations and she says that the sales on these condoms has increased since 2008.
This year, the Chicago AIDS organizations have started promoting this female condom with the slogan “Put a ring on it”, the famous line from Beyonce’s song.
In Washington there are 460 buses with ads on them for promoting and distributing half-million female condoms. The D.C. health workers used $500 000 from the M.A.C AIDS Fund for this campaign. CVS/pharmacy have also started to sell the female condoms in the D.C. stores since March.
This type of action might also be happening in San Francisco.
Mary Ann Leeper, the senior strategic adviser of the company making them says: “There’s nothing wrong with the male condom. If you use it, fair enough. A lot of people male and female don’t like it and have unprotected sex. What we say is it gives people options and empowers women to initiate a method if he doesn’t use a male condom. It empowers her to take care of herself.”
The female condom increases the rate of the protected sex, according to her.
In a 2003 report it looks like the females that were educated to use the female condom are as protected as those who are educated only to use the male one. But a self-reported study says that the female condoms were a little bit less effective than the normal, male ones.
Christine Mauck, a researcher in the field says that these efforts of promoting them are “a great way to start. It’s focusing efforts in places where the device is really useful and hoping the positive effect will spread out.”11