September 16, 2013 marks the second annual Global Female Condom Day, a day designed to bring awareness to a safe, effective barrier method of protection against pregnancy and sexual transmission of diseases and infections.
Female condoms have been on the market for many years and, despite efforts from groups like Planned Parenthood and other safe-sex advocates, many people are still iffy about using them. According to Planned Parenthood, when used correctly, female condoms have a 95% pregnancy prevention rate. They're also a great alternative for people with latex allergies. When it comes to protection against STD/Is, people should have as many viable options as possible, right? Why should women rely solely on their partners to provide protection when they can take control of it themselves?
Image: Feminista Jones
It's not the simple. For as long as I have been involved in promoting safe sex practices and for as long as the female condom has been available, I've rarely encountered people who regularly make use of them or would even consider using them. Is it marketing? I see way more advertisements for male condoms than for female condoms, and none of the ones I see for women make them seem as fun or enticing to use as male condoms.
Is it the actual condoms themselves? I admit, I tried using one and became frustrated because I struggled with insertion and once it was in, it just felt...weird. Maybe I did it wrong? I'm not sure, but I know it wasn't very comfortable for me. However, I've spoken with a couple of women who say they had no problem using them, though they only used them once or twice.
Is it access to them? Female condoms are provided for free at many nonprofit agencies and cities often distribute them along with free male condoms. I've seen them in drugstores alongside male condoms. The costs were comparable, maybe slightly higher from what I observed. They're about $4 each compared to condoms that were 3 for $7 (I'm in New York City). Clinics provide them as free options and sexual health education programs have incorporated instruction and advocacy of use into their curricula, so younger people are becoming more aware of them.
Female condoms empower women by allowing us to take control of protecting and ensuring the safety of our bodies. I'm a huge advocate of women carrying their own forms of barrier method protection in the event sexual situations arise and their partners have no protection on them. Better safe than sorry, right? Well here is another option for women everywhere to take the bull by the reigns and try a new way of protecting themselves.
What are your thoughts? Have you tried the female condom? Why or why not? What have been your experiences?