This letter is in response to your criticism of the female condom in your reply to “Frisbee of Love.” As the manufacturer and distributor of the Reality female condom, we would like to point out the many benefits of the female condom that you must have overlooked, given your comments. The female condom is the first and only woman-controlled contraceptive barrier method that also provides protection from STDs, including HIV/AIDS. Approximately 40 to 60 percent of men and women who try it continue to use it, and most find the female condom more pleasurable to use than the male condom. The device is less constricting and can be inserted several hours before intercourse, allowing a degree of spontaneity that the male condom cannot provide. Also, a female condom is made out of a thin heat-sensitive material called polyurethane. Polyurethane is 40 percent stronger than latex and does not irritate people with latex allergies.
For samples and information, please call 800-274-6601 or visit our Web site at www.femalehealth.com.
–Mary Ann Leeper, PhD, President, the Female Health Company
My comment regarding your firm’s fine contraceptive product–“yuck”–was a personal aesthetic judgment, and there is, as the saying goes, no accounting for taste. I attempted to informally verify your stats on customer satisfaction–40 to 60 percent like ’em fine–but of the 40 to 60 sexually active straight folks in my office and a cafe around the corner, not one had even tried them! So I have only my own experience to fall back on.
When the female condom first became available, my then-boyfriend and I gave ’em a whirl. While our “woman-controlled” condom worked just fine–no STDs were transmitted during the act, and no one got pregnant–it wasn’t particularly pretty.
The female condom is basically a plastic bag with one hard plastic ring at the bottom of the bag (to anchor it in the vaginal canal) and a slightly larger, more flexible ring at the top. You work the bag into your partner’s orifice–removing the inner ring for anal sex–and leave the flared base on the outside. Once the plastic bag was hanging out of my boyfriend’s ass, his ass was about as appealing as an ass with a plastic bag hanging out of it. Then I took my dick and fucked the plastic bag. The female-condom premise simply left me cold. A dick with a condom on it still looks like a dick. An orifice with a plastic bag hanging out of it looks like a–well, like an ass with a plastic blah blah blah. With male condoms, at least your dick is moving in and out of the orifice, not in and out of a bag.
I did not appreciate your dismissive comment about female condoms (“yuck”). It is not every day that we get a new contraceptive option, let alone one that is safe and relatively inexpensive. The female condom feels about the same to me as a male condom, and both male partners I’ve tried the female condom with for vaginal sex said it felt better than a male condom. Many stores don’t carry the female condom, and many people haven’t heard of it. Since lots of good options should ideally be what contraception is all about, I don’t think you should be damning the female condom’s future with a single word.
I doubt it is within my poor power to damn the female condom, or keep it off store shelves, with a single word–even as toxic a word as “yuck.” And while you may think female condoms are a good contraceptive option, not many folks seem to agree with you: female condoms haven’t exactly been flying off the shelves at condom emporiums.
The charming and delightful Hillary, who works at Condomania in New York City, told me her store sells about a thousand male condoms in an average week. And female condoms? “If we sell five of those, that’s a good week.” What’s the prob? “We used to carry them in boxes, $12 for a box of three,” Hillary told me, “but people didn’t want to spend that much, so now we sell them singly at four bucks a pop,” hardly “inexpensive” relative to other forms of birth control.
Hillary doesn’t recommend female condoms to her customers. “Compared to regular condoms, female condoms are not very easy to use. Maybe women who’ve used diaphragms have an easier time with them, but most of the women I know who’ve tried them did not like them.” Condomania is located at 351 Bleeker Street in the West Village; you can phone in your condom orders by calling 212-691-9442 or 800-926-6366. And like everybody else and their goddamn dog, Condomania has its very own Web site: surf in at www.condomania.com.
I would like to point out a glaring omission in your response to “Frisbee of Love.” In your reply, you completely ignored the issue of STDs and HIV/AIDS. Though the reader stated that both she and her partner tested negative for HIV infection, it is your duty as a sex counselor to advise her to protect herself from STDs.
Furthermore, where do you get off dismissing the female condom with a “yuck”? Your criticism of the female condom is not only unjustified but irresponsible. Currently the male and female condoms are the only effective protection from STDs. I would hate to think people would not use the female condom or another means to protect themselves from STDs and unplanned pregnancy because of your careless remark. As a sex counselor it is your responsibility to advise, not to promulgate your biased, unsubstantiated opinions.
–Fan of the Female Condom
I am not a sex counselor. I am an advice columnist, and “advice,” according to the American Heritage Dictionary, means “opinion about what could or should be done.” So, dope, promulgating my biased, unsubstantiated opinions is my responsibility. Folks ask for advice, I give ’em my opinion, and it’s up to them whether to heed it or stuff it. Don’t like my advice? Don’t ask for it. Think my advice sucks? Get your own damn advice column. Not that anyone would read a column you’d write. The advice you’d have me give, while popular with safe-sex absolutists, is pretty near useless to anyone actually having sex in the real world. It is neither realistic nor necessary to tell people to use latex (or polyurethane) barriers at all times for two good reasons: first, folks don’t want to use barriers if they don’t have to, and second, lots of folks don’t have to.
People in relationships with partners whose health and STD history they’re familiar or comfortable with will sometimes assume a slightly higher level of risk in exchange for less hassle and greater intimacy. And guess what? That’s their right–they’re grown-ups. Grown-ups drive cars, ski, vote, eat sushi, take personality tests at Scientology centers, and do all manner of equally risky, sometimes dangerous things. Frisbee’s an adult making an informed, responsible choice about her sex life who sent me a question about birth control–not STDs–and that’s the question I answered. Frisbee is free to disregard my advice, just as she has obviously opted to disregard the counterproductive STD-prevention white-noise dogma promulgated by morons like you.
Send questions to Savage Love, Chicago Reader, 11 E. Illinois, Chicago 60611.