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The female condom is the most empowering invention ever made for women who finally do not have to depend upon careless male partners.
Forget the female condom, the topic of the male condom itself is a taboo. Men find all kinds of ridiculous reasons to not use one. “I like it natural”, “I am not a baby, I know when to withdraw”, “Relax, nothing will happen!” “But when is your period?” are some of the excuses at the tip of their tongues.
With half (read dangerous) knowledge of the female body, all of them suddenly turn into biology experts!
This immature thought process coupled with the loss of erection at the time of application or even the mere mention of the condom makes a lot of men averse to the idea of safe sex. Of course, everything comes at a cost. And unfortunately, this so-called ‘natural’, intimate, no barrier sex comes at the cost of women’s physical and mental health.
Women who have been conditioned to believe that sex is an activity meant to please men, often protest in the beginning but end up acquiescing to the whims of their partners. While women bear the physical and emotional toll of morning pills and abortions just because their partner was irresponsible, men find unwanted pregnancies a boost to their ego and a direct celebration of their masculinity. We have all heard men feel more proud than regretful of the fact that they got a woman pregnant without even planning to, while she goes through a hellish experience of physical and emotional pain and trauma. Even if there is no pregnancy, why should a woman go through the stress of fearing one! Is it worth it?
Sexual pleasure may be considered ‘mutual’. However, it is indisputable that the consequences of unwanted pregnancy is borne unilaterally by women. In such a skewed set-up, wouldn’t an invention like the female condom be game changing? Should it not be the most empowering invention ever made for women who finally do not have to depend upon reluctant male partners to wear condoms? Shouldn’t both men and women be thrilled at the thought of enjoying uninterrupted, safe sex?
But is that the case? Reality is that people are not even aware that female condoms exist. It is at best a myth, like a unicorn!! But why?
The female condom has to be placed inside the vagina prior to intercourse. The condom can be inserted while sitting, squatting, lying, raising a leg or in any other comfortable position. The smaller ring at the closed end of the condom has to be squeezed and inserted into the vagina as far as it will go, without twisting it. The large ring at the open end of the female condom will cover the area around the vaginal opening – this part will sit outside the body. After the intercourse, the large ring should be twisted and pulled out gently. The female condom should not be used with the male condom. It is meant for a one time usage and must be discarded after use.
Sharing a video here for reference.
The female condom can be worn for few hours. So women can put it on before leaving the house to meet a potential mate. The awkwardness and clumsiness of reaching out for a male condom in the middle of the act can be avoided with a female condom as it is already inside the woman’s body. Therefore, both partners can enjoy an uninterrupted time.
There are only a couple of brands currently available in India which are manufacturing female condoms. The price is approximately Rs 140 for a pack of two condoms which is obviously much costlier than the male condom.
The high price of the condom reminded me of the episode of the 90s sitcom in Elaine starts rating men in terms of being ‘sponge worthy’ and tells her boyfriend she cannot afford to have another round of sex!!
The costing is more due to the construction of the condom as a male condom has just latex whereas a female condom also comes with a ring, and a synthetic rubber or polyurethane. Further, since the awareness is so low, there is not much demand for this product. At the end of the day like any other sellable product, it is a supply and demand game.
Difficulty in insertion, actual or perceived pain during insertion, fear of breakage, risk of slipping inside, incorrect application and reduction in sexual pleasure / intimacy are some of the genuine reservations women have expressed for the usage of female condoms.
Even if the above obstacles can be overcome, one of the main reasons women would not even think of the female condom is – How on earth are they going to convince and negotiate with their partners to let them use it!
The female condom has gained popularity with sex workers in India. These women do not have the luxury of rejecting men for not using condoms. Hence the application of female condoms allows them to do their job without having to worry about catching diseases or getting pregnant. I was watching an interview of a sex worker who explained that one of her clients did express disapproval when he realized that she was using a female condom. However, she convinced him to go about his business , adding that it does not affect him in any way!
I asked a few young men and they did not know much about female condoms. I am not surprised because women are not aware of them either. Unlike male condoms, it is not available at every chemist shop.
I watched another video of two women explaining how to use the female condom on YouTube. Sharing some of the comments from men (my comments in italics):
“Who the hell invented that thing!”
Someone who cares about women’s health for a change!
“With that size, it looks like a garbage bag!”
Well… Guess what it holds! Garbage bag is still better than our uterus!
“That’s an elephant size!”
Hope that inflates your ego to the point of using it!
“You are killing the fun of sex!”
Wait till STDs kill you!
Other than giving women control on having safe sex and not depending on their partner’s drama to use a condom, a female condom may have some other benefits as well. Participants of a study reported that the female condom is more pleasurable as it is more lubricated. Some said it reduces sensation thereby prolonging sex. Some male participants found it less tight than male condoms. Few participants reported that their partner could feel the inner ring and it caused friction and discomfort.
There are suggestions to improve the structure of the product as well as provide variations and flavours. It is a long way to go. Not sure if our generation will get to see it!
The idea behind writing this article is not to convince anyone to use or not use a product. If a couple uses it or tries to use it, but it doesn’t work for them or it doesn’t feel good then they have every right to not continue with it. That is called taking an informed decision.
What bothers me is that there is no awareness for something that is worth trying. This is not like a tampon or a menstrual cup where a woman’s own comfort is the determining factor. This relates to sex and I think more than the fear of physical discomfort, women are hesitant to use this product for fear of upsetting their partners.
Sex is triggered in the mind first. If the mind rejects something instantly, the body will sync accordingly. A healthy mind is a prerequisite for good sex, and it can be nurtured only in a safe environment without any fear of diseases and unwanted pregnancy. That is the least we can ask for as women, in return for all the porn inspired expectations of (not all) men!
At a practical level, the questions are simple – Is it easy to use? Does it feel alright? Will it hurt? Will it slip off? Will I be even able to insert it?
But at the core, the question is much more deep:
Can I really own my sexuality?
Seems to good to be true!
Image source: a still from the film Lipstick On My Burkha
I like to write about the problems that have plagued the Indian society. I feel that the concept of gender equality is still alien , and that has been the focus of my articles and posts. read more...
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