Yesterday I went to a brown bag session put on by CHANGE (Center for Health and Gender Equity) about condoms and correct condom use.  Something we all know (or at least think we know), right?  Part of the presentation was done by a representative from MetroTeenAIDS, an organization here in DC that works to fight the AIDS epidemic by educating teenagers and adults about sexual health, proper condom use, getting tested, and other ways to protect themselves and their partners.  Check out this video on YouTube by one of their peer educators to make sure you know all the steps to safely put on a condom.

Female Condom 2However, this presentation was being made to a bunch of women who work in the sexual health arena.  Several of us had been health educators ourselves – so this information wasn’t new.  It wasn’t until they brought out the new female condom (FC2) that things began to intrigue us. Many questions started to come up.  First of all, what is it, and how does it work?  It’s a “strong, thin, and flexible nitrile sheath 6.5 inches in length” that the woman inserts inside of herself prior to sex.  It lines the vagina and can also be termed as a “receptive condom”.  Check out the official website for more information about it and watch this animated video to see how it’s used.

Kind of a different idea, right?  A lot of women aren’t initially comfortable with the idea of inserting something inside themselves, and many are skeptical about whether this will catch on.  But there was a lot of skepticism about the tampon when it first came out – who would have thought that women would want to put a cotton plug in their vagina?  Obviously the skeptics missed the mark on that one.  The NuvaRing requires vaginal insertion as well, and has become very popular in the last few years as an easy, comfortable, and safe method of birth control. And the female condom is catching on around the world as the only female-initiated form of protection that provides protection against both pregnancy and STIs, including HIV.

Many organizations have come up with catchy campaign slogans like the Chicago Female Condom Campaign’s “put a ring on it!” to make the FC2 familiar and sexy to women around the country and world.

Some of the plusses of the FC2:

  • As aforementioned, it’s female-initiated.  Women can take control and make the step to protect themselves.
  • It can be put in up to 8 hours before sex, which can increase spontaneity.  No more of those “stop stop stop! Get a condom!” moments.  Although the FC2 doesn’t have to be put in ahead of time – you can put it in immediately before intercourse, just like you do with a male condom.
  • The FC2 is non-latex, so is a great alternative for people who are allergic to latex, and it can be used with any type of lubricant, as opposed to latex condoms, which can only be used with water-based lubricants (oil-based lubricants cause latex condoms to break).
  • It is more durable than the standard male condom, so the risk of breakage is much lower.
  • The outer ring not only serves to keep the FC2 in place during intercourse, but it also provides additional protection (because it covers part of the surface area of the vulva, it helps protect from skin-born infections like Herpes), and it provides additional stimulation to the clitoris!
  • No more noise! The older female condom received many complaints of noise during intercourse. The new design does not cause this problem.
  • FC2 is widely available – it can be found at many CVS stores on the shelf right next to male condoms, online, or at many health clinics like Planned Parenthood.
  • The price of the FC2 is much lower than that of the original female condom, which has increased availability around the world.  The retail price is now fairly comparable to that of male condoms – CVS sells a 3 pack for $6.49.  Not all CVS stores carry them though, so you can also order them online at Undercover Condoms or on Amazon, and check the Planned Parenthood or other health clinic nearest to you.

Try it out, put a ring on it!