Elusive and uncommon, the female condom is an almost mythical mode of contraception few have heard of and even fewer have used. The typical response to its mention is something like, “You mean a diaphragm?” or merely an expression of faint bemusement. Apparently, despite the female condom’s lack of popularity, some converted women appreciate it because of its potential to stimulate the clitoris during sex. The female condom is also the only woman-initiated method that protects against both unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. At six-and-a-half inches long, it’s designed to hang approximately an inch outside the vagina. Picture a standard condom but bigger, with a second firm ring on the enclosed “reservoir” end.
I decided to find out for myself because, while I hate condoms just as much as, if not more than, the next reckless person, I was curious. More importantly, it offered an excuse to have sex. Maybe it would be a game-changer. Also, I just thought it would be funny because I’m immature. And I was right. Using the female condom is uncomfortably, awkwardly, unattractively funny.
To purchase my pack of female condoms, I went to “adult entertainment store” The Pleasure Chest. (I tried to buy one at Target first, but all they carry is your garden variety of run-of-the-mill male condoms, as well as VCF Contraceptive Films, a dissolving birth control method that not only doesn’t protect against HIV but actually threatens to increase your chances of contracting HIV. Cool!) I picked up the most reputable-looking option: the FC2 Female Condom. It actually happens to be the only FDA-approved female condom. I asked the sales associate if anyone buys these things. “No, not really,” she said. “We have one guy who comes in to buy them sometimes. He said his dick is so big that he can’t use regular condoms.” Again, cool.
The fact that “the penis doesn’t need to be erect to use FC2” is an invaluable bonus. That’s because it’s a boner-killer.
In theory, the female condom sounds modern and sensible. The dick still goes inside it, just once it’s inside the woman—kind of like a condom in reverse. Some say men actually prefer it because it’s not tight on the penis and doesn’t dull sensation. And why should wearing a condom always be the guy’s responsibility? After jamming this deflated, lube-greased balloon inside my body, I can think of a few good reasons. Fortunately, the sex partner I’d enlisted is one with whom I’m comfortable to the point of shamelessness. This proved key—for one can have no shame when wearing a female condom.
Made of nitrile, a synthetic rubber that’s an alternative to latex that’s apparently friendlier to the vagina, they come three in a box for $8.95, which means they’re considerably more expensive than other condoms, and are accompanied by a pamphlet of directions so vast, I wanted to give up before even trying. Among thousands of words and several diagrams, it says you should try the FC2 at least three times because “just like anything new, it may take a little practice but remember practice makes perfect.” Okay. After becoming thoroughly alarmed by the deeply detailed step-by-step guide—which suggests standing with one foot up on a chair, sitting with your knees apart, or squatting down to insert it (all positions that make me feel like my sexiest self)—I realized using it comes down to common sense. Five minutes, a few grimaces, and a long sigh of “What am I doing with my life?” later, I emerged from the bathroom, the slick, soggy object dangling gently between my thighs as intended.
The directions also state that since the condom can be inserted before sex, “you don’t need to interrupt foreplay to put on a condom.” That’s great, except with this involved, the last thing I wanted to do was partake in foreplay. Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but I want to feel sexy when I have sex and the commanding presence of the FC2 ensured I felt decidedly non-erotic. Also, the fact that “the penis doesn’t need to be erect to use FC2” is an invaluable bonus. That’s because it’s a boner-killer, at least aesthetically speaking. According to my sex partner, who would like to remain anonymous (usually the case with people who sleep with me): “It looks weird. It’s not a turn-on. To know your partner is having to shove that up her pussy just makes you soft.” He still managed to get hard, but I was so preoccupied with how uncomfortable it felt, I wasn’t paying much attention.
“It feels good, like a tube of warm Vaseline,” he reported after. “Then you start wondering, ‘Am I actually touching the end of this thing?” Midway-through sex I thought to myself, “This isn’t bad at all. I don’t even feel it!” Sex proceeded as usual. According to him, “Mid-thrust you can’t help but realize neither person knows what’s happening and then you know that it’s gone missing and only for a split-second do you care. Once you’ve confirmed it’s somewhere deep inside her vagina, you realize that such a product is a worthless purchase.” That’s because after darting around the bed groping the sheets and myself muttering, “Where is it? Where is it?” I realized it had been pushed inside me, mashed up into a knot of flimsy ultrathin rubber. I had to use my fingers like tweezers to extract it, which was really a pleasure.
Maybe I didn’t use it correctly. Maybe the sex was too vigorous? Maybe I moved around too much? Maybe I would just ask someone else what they think because I really didn’t want to attempt this all over again. But I didn’t know anyone else who had used one. I still had two left in the packet, and if you can’t share female condoms then what can you share?
Two of my female coworkers were willing to accept a gift that keeps on giving. One was excited. She said it would pose a great opportunity to text her new love interest for a booty call. She sent the text: “I have to write about using a female condom for work. Want to help?” Apparently, she still hasn’t heard from him. The other said since she’s in a serious relationship with a live-in boyfriend, she might as well give it try. That never happened, and I didn’t want to keep asking. If there’s one thing I learned from my own female condom experience, it’s that I don’t want to be a female condom pusher. So, go ahead, try it for yourself if you’re so inclined. And please, think of me when things get awkward.