Sex Advice

Dear Dr. Locker: What is a female condom?

Answer from Dr. Locker

"Reality" or "FC: Female Condom" are the brand names of the condom for women. It's designed to line the inside of a woman's vagina to provide a barrier to protect the inside of the vagina so semen cannot get inside the vagina and vaginal secretions do not come in contact with the penis. If a woman uses the female condom, then the man does not have to wear a regular condom.

The condom for women is a loose-fitting plastic (polyurethane) sheath that is about three inches wide and five inches long with two flexible plastic rings at each end. It looks like a wide clear plastic tube. One ring lies inside at the closed end of the sheath and is used as the insertion mechanism and internal anchor. The other ring creates the external edge of this plastic tube and remains outside the vagina after insertion. The female condom is inserted inside a woman's vagina just before she has intercourse. She inserts it as she would insert a diaphragm, and then extends the plastic along the walls of her vagina and out. The plastic actually adheres to the walls of the vagina, so it does not move around too much when the man inserts his penis. The outer ring protects the labia and external vulva, so that the base of the penis is not in contact during intercourse. This provides even more coverage than the regular male condom, helping to prevent the spread of STIs that can occur on the outside of the vulva or on the base of the penis, such as genital warts and herpes.

There are both advantages and disadvantages to using the condom for women. The plastic of the condom for women is stronger and thicker than the latex of the male condom. It reportedly does not decrease a women's sensitivity during sex, since the vagina has very few nerves inside. Also, the plastic is resistant to oils, so the couple can use any type of lubricant, including those with oil like baby oil, hand cream and vaseline (which are strictly off limits with male latex condoms). Because the outer ring of the female condom hangs outside the vagina, some people find that it causes self-consciousness or discomfort. Yet other women find that it gives them extra pleasure, since the outer ring may rub against the clitoris during intercourse. Also, because it is made of plastic, not latex, people who have an allergy to the latex of male condoms can use the female condom instead. The main advantage is that the condom for women gives couples an alternative to using regular condoms.

For info about "male" condoms:

*How do I use a condom?

For info about how to talk about condoms:

*How can I bring up the topic of using condoms with someone I'm dating?


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