Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
The male birth control pill may still be years away, but the female condom could be having its heyday.
While this often ridiculed device flopped when it was launched 20 years ago, it never completely disappeared, and is now popping up in a variety of forms all around the globe.
Back in the day, its formal name was the FC1, although it came to be known as the Femidom, Reality, and a slew of other joke names including plastic bag, windsock, and hot air balloon. And, aside from its look, the FC1 had one rather annoying flaw: Constructed from polyurethane, it produced an unfortunate noise during sex, which obviously made for a ton of funny, awkward, and embarrassing closed-door stories.
But, this didn't stop women, especially those in developing countries, from wanting some form of the female condom out on the market. Enter the FC2, made of non-rustling synthetic latex, which is available in 138 countries and has seen its sales more than double since its launch in 2007.
Most of these sales are to the U.S. aid agency (USAID), the UN, and the ministries of health in Brazil and South Africa, since public health officials endorse anything that give women some sort of an advantage when it comes to "condom negotiation" with men. Other benefits of the female condom include insertion before sex, zero necessity to take it out immediately after sex, better protection for STDs, and even heightened pleasure for both men and women. Plus, survey results find that 86% of women were interested in using them, and 95% would even recommend them to a friend.
Still, despite these advantages, what remains is the clownish look of a female condom. At first glance, many women are bewildered by the contraceptive and are uncomfortable with the thought of using it. This is especially true because, when you open the package, the condoms don't look as neatly contained and rolled as the male versions (even though they're about the same size).
Other up-and-coming forms of the device include: The Woman's Condom, which looks like a tampon and is available in China; The Cupid (vanilla-scented), which is accessible in India, South Africa, and Brazil, and is the only other model besides the FC2 to have been qualified for public-sector purchase; The VA Wow; The Air Condom, which features a pocket of air to aid in insertion; The Panty Condom, which comes with a pair of undies; and finally, the Origami (made of silicon), which is about a year away from launching in the U.S.
The fact that female condoms are still only 0.19% of global condom procurement (and cost about ten times as much as its counterpart) proves that there is a long road ahead before they become widespread. But, it's good to know that serious work is being done to ensure women can take control of their own protection in more ways than one. For now, read more and see some photos of what's out there here. Oh, and don't forget to tell us what you think! (BBC)