What you Need to Know About the Female Condom.

About Last Night

Q: Male condoms have been available for decades. Now, there is a female condom, but it is hard to find places that sell it. I've never seen them in pharmacies. Would you explain their advantages, and disadvantages, and why they are not readily available, please? I know that they are expensive.

A: The female condom is a pouch made of polyurethane or latex that fits into the vagina as a barrier method of contraception and safer sex protection. An internal ring fits over the cervix, and an external ring fits over the labia. Used correctly, it is as effective as the male condom, and, used in conjunction with a good quality personal lubricant, does not compromise a man's pleasure.

The female condom has been available for years. Your question draws attention to a scandalous situation that impacts on women's sexual health. The female condom has been available for years, and we used to sell both the Femidom and Glyde flavoured dental dams (for use in oral sex), when I ran the shop Bliss for Women.

The reason these products are hard to find lies in the murky world of multinational commerce. As you know, male condoms can be found in supermarkets. The companies who manufacture them are very wealthy. They invest heavily in package design, and a range of styles – extra strong, super thin, flavoured, ribbed, and even glow-in-the-dark. Picking some up on the way to a date is a no-brainer.

Female condoms, and dental dams, are made by smaller, independent companies with limited budgets for marketing and development. The smaller scale of these companies also results in their products being expensive. The big-name condom companies do not make female condoms or dams. Their priority is not community health; it is protecting their market share. Many retail chains are pressured to sign exclusivity contracts, so selling other sexual health products could result in a penalty. 

Woman holding a female condom.

Woman holding a female condom.


I knew an independent supplier of a natural lubricant for women who struggled for years to find outlets willing to stock the product, even though it was endorsed by the Anti Cancer Council. Where it was sold, her point of sale and marketing materials were regularly sabotaged by sales reps from the multinationals. One of the current wholesalers of female condoms and dams told me they mainly supply sex shops, and brothels, neither of which are congenial to female customers.

At a sexology conference last October a paper was delivered about sexually transmitted diseases and methods of protection. I asked if clingwrap could be used as a barrier during oral sex and was told, in no uncertain terms, that it is not safe because it is porous, but, in the same session, it was agreed that nobody really knew where the public could purchase dams. The AIDS Council will readily hand out free male condoms, but not female condoms and dental dams.

No contraceptive, or safer-sex device, is 100 per cent effective, and failures are often associated with misuse and human error. Research has shown that the female condom is most reliable when the wearer becomes used to fitting it. It is a little more fiddly to fit than a male condom, but it does have some advantages.

It can be inserted before sex play begins, avoiding the awkward interruption of accessing a condom at the heights of passion. This is particularly useful for men who have trouble maintaining an erection. It can also be left in after ejaculation, which allows the couple to stay in the pleasure zone. Also, accidents can happen when a distracted man fails to handle the condom properly when withdrawing.

However, the female condom is not something you would keep in your purse in case you pick up, and you would be unlikely to use one on a first date. They are quite big, and can make a rustling noise when in use. On the other hand, they cover the labia which can offer extra protection from skin-to-skin infections such as herpes.

About Last Night Blogs are written by Maureen Mathews, published by Fairfax media and kindly shared on Bliss for Women. If you wish to ask Maureen a question you can email her through hello@blissforwomen.com.au using About Last Nightin the subject of the email.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this document should be read as general in nature and is only to provide an overview of the subject matter covered. Please read product packaging carefully and follow all instructions.

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