Sex Ed: On the Subject of Female Condoms

Maybe this is just my shoddy abstinence-only/disaster-prevention crossover sex ed talking, but until February, I had never heard of female condoms.

I literally did not know they existed.

The first person to EVER talk to me about them was an HIV counselor in Kenya. IN KENYA! All those years of health classes and my parents giving me the birds and the bees talk and my school’s health center handing out free condoms and never in my life had condom been used to mean anything other than “piece of latex a guy uses for protection during sex”.

Months later, I’m still pretty disappointed that random counselors in Kenya had to teach me things that someone should have taught me, and should have taught you, years ago.  I think I’ve been clear about how disappointed I am with abstinence-only sex ed in the US, and I definitely don’t want to say that I’m an expert or that you should get your sex ed from me, but I think it’s worth putting it out there that female condoms exist and you should look into them as they are a legitimate contraceptive option.

The female condom accounts for only 1.6% of contraceptives distributed worldwide.  In the global south, in places where women have less say in the use of condoms, female condoms can provide an alternative, and countries like India are trying to promote their usage.  But women are still either reluctant or simply ignorant of the possibility of using this tool, and maybe it’s time to start talking about tools women have, or could have, to take control of their sexual relations.

So first, what IS a female condom?  It’s a 7-inch-long pouch that fits inside the vagina, and it is made of polyurethane (source: American Pregnancy Association).  This means it is an alternative for anyone with a latex allergy.  Like male condoms, it is a barrier method of birth control, and it reduces the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Female condoms do NOT require a prescription, and can be purchased in supermarkets and drugstores the same way male condoms can.  They allow women to share in the responsibility for preventing the transmission of infections, instead of just leaving this up to men, and also therefore increase control.  Downsides? They can cause some irritation or slightly reduce feeling during sex (source: Planned Parenthood).  They have a failure rate of about 21%-~-which is not all that different than that of male condoms.They also don’t come with spermicide.

Realize, you can put spermicide on the outside end.

To learn more about how to actually USE a female condom, you can follow this link or look at this video.

(I’m not going to pretend that I know enough to walk you through this, I just think people should know that this exists and is an option).


This is a part of the missing female-centric sex discourse that we need.  In a country that refuses to grapple with female sexuality, it’s hard enough to get sex ed teachers to talk about birth control or Plan B, let alone female condoms.  But they exist, and they can work, and they can be a good choice for some people.

For more on alternative forms of birth control, please visit Planned Parenthood’s My Method tool.







~ by Randi Saunders on October 3, 2012.

One Response to “Sex Ed: On the Subject of Female Condoms”

  1. Wow, I had no idea these existed either. We seriously need better sex education!

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