“A soft, loose-fitting polyurethane sheath with a flexible ring at each end,” smirks a woman in a Nicole Hollander comic strip, “Not a terribly attractive item.” Another woman remarks, “Looks like a raincoat for a slinky.”
The cartoon echoes how many women feel about female condoms – that they’re weird, they look too big, and the idea of part of it hanging out of the vagina sounds really strange. Contrary to what the comic says, the polyurethane sheath is not exactly “loose-fitting”, but it is comfortable.
There are several advantages to the female condom that can outweigh the drawbacks. For one thing, they’re made of polyurethane, which is much stronger than latex. They’re ideal for people who are allergic to normal latex condoms. Second, they allow a woman more power over birth control and protection against STDs, especially if her partner is unwilling to wear a condom himself. Some men even prefer the female condom if they find male condoms too restrictive. Plus, the outer ring (which stays outside the vagina) can serve as clitoral stimulation during sex.
The female condom is relatively easy to put in. It basically consists of a flexible outer ring, which is attached to the opening of the bag-shaped polyurethane wrap (or “sheath”), and another flexible inner ring that’s loose inside the wrap. To insert, leave the inner ring inside the polyurethane, squeeze the ring so it will fit inside the vagina (often a slippery task, since the polyurethane is lubricated), and push it in so that it encompasses the cervix. You won’t feel it anymore, once it’s all the way in. The polyurethane will then mold itself to the walls of the vagina. The outer ring, which is basically the rim of the female condom, stays outside the vagina. During intercourse, the penis enters through the outer ring, and the inner ring stays in place.
It’s really pretty comfy. After a while, you might even forget the inner ring is there. It’s way, way more comfortable than the stiff old diaphragm, and although the diaphragm is used with spermicide, the female condom is easier, less painful, and less risky to take out. All you have to do is twist the outer ring (so nothing spills out) and pull out the inner ring. Like a regular condom, the female condom also must be thrown away after one use, and not be used again.
There are a few drawbacks to the female condom. Many women don’t relish the idea of having to touch themselves “down there” before sex, even though the female condom can be inserted hours before intercourse. Since it has to be put inside the vagina, it may take longer to put on than the male condom. Other people have complained that more lubrication has to be used with the female condom so that it won’t squeak or get sticky during sex.
On the other hand, the female condom is preferable for people who don’t like or can’t use male condoms for one reason or another.