I have been aware of female condoms since I became sexually active at a very young age, but only started experimenting with them with long-term intimate partners.
In principle the idea is great: give people with vagina more control over their sexual health and safer sex options, without having to rely on their partners’ willingness, knowledge, and ability to use a condom. This concept is especially powerful for sex workers, who with the female condom don’t have to necessarily rely on their clients for protection.
Here is the thing though (Cons of using a female condom):
Safer sex options like condoms need to be both safe and accessible, meaning that it shouldn’t be rocket science not just to figure how to use them, but also and especially how to use them effectively.
It took me a few times and a bit of trial and error to figure out to insert properly the female condom (which is basically a large version of a regular condom to be inserted inside the vagina – the circular base then rests over the sides of the vaginal opening, which as far as I know adds a bit of extra protection than the regular condom, as it adds an extra barrier to the area of contact).
It also took me enough intimacy and confidence with my partners to decide to go there and feel safe enough to explore this method.
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Every time I have used a female condom, it involved me and my partner stopping from what we were doing, talking about whether we were in the mood to use it (or try to use it) the female condom, then taking it out and trying to apply it with a lot of patience, only to then resume where we left off. A couple of times I just had to throw it away and gave up because it just wouldn’t go in properly, and once it nearly went all inside while I was having penetrative penis-vagina sex.
Oops! I’d like to point out that I am not a newbie at putting stuff in my vagina, as I have been using menstrual cups for over 10 years. I am also comfortable with putting my fingers inside my vagina and can identify my cervix. I am also a regular user of both the Caya cup (diaphragm) and the FemCup (cervical cup). So I wouldn’t necessarily attribute my failed attempts (at trying the female condom) to lack of knowledge of my genitalia or my experience with it.
The other part of it is that the female condom is not all aesthetically pleasing. Normally I wouldn’t care much about this stuff, but you really gotta feel safe and comfortable around your partner to use it, in my opinion. I wouldn’t pull out a female condom for a one night stand with someone I barely know, as I am not in for snarky comments on how “it looks like I have a plastic bag hanging out of my vagina”.
Oh, and it is more expensive than the regular condom.
Now to the pros
A lot of people with penises have said that – once they get the hang of it – they prefer the female condom because they can hardly feel it’s presence, and they don’t have to wear a condom from their side. This increases the perception of pleasure. It’s also great in case you might like to have some penetrative sex and then want to give oral to your partner in between.
While that is not safe regarding Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) prevention, of course, it is great for people who look for alternatives for such options. It’s not great the other way around if your partner is trying to give you oral and you are wearing a female condom, because it’s a bit weird as the clit and labia are exposed but the rest is kind of covered by it.
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I haven’t noticed much difference in how a female condom feels inside and the comfort while using it, and in switching positions, though gravity makes it a bit more comfortable (at least for me) with me on my back. A female condom does not affect pleasure if you apply it correctly.
Overall, I’d say that it may not be as effective as a safer sex tool for occasional sex (or at least it hasn’t been a go-to option for me), but it can be a great option to increase intimacy and explore each other’s bodies when with a partner. It is a nice non-hormonal birth control option as well. If you take it as something new and fun to try together, you might even like it. 😉
Do watch how to insert a female condom:
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About the author:
Pronouns she/her. Identifies as queer and has been practicing ethical non-monogamy for a few years now. Has worked as a harm reduction, consent, and sexual violence prevention educator, and has engaged in sex work in the form of web-camming. She is sex positive, body positive and committed to anti-oppression.
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