In the early 1900s, Lasse Hessel created what would change the contraceptive industry for women: the ‘Femidom’, also known as the female condom or internal condom. Unlike a male condom, the Femidom is internal. There are two ends: the smaller end has a ring that needs to be squeezed and inserted into the vagina, while the larger end has an opening for the penis to enter and a ring to keep it in place. I looked into how exactly a female condom should be used as well as the pros and cons of using one, so you can make the right (and safe) decision.
A female condom works through what is called a ‘barrier method’, meaning that it not only prevents pregnancy but sexually transmitted infections (STIs) too as it stops any genital-to-genital contact. If used correctly, the female condom has a 95 per cent success rate in preventing pregnancy and STIs. You can also insert it up to 8 hours before having sex.
While the Femidom is primarily a gamechanger for women in the bedroom, it’s not very well known. The first reason for its unrecognised qualities is that you can’t find it in many places. Although in the UK, you can get female condoms from some sexual health clinics and GPs; you can’t buy them in mainstream shops such as Boots.
The same can be said about finding them in vending machines—unlike ‘regular’ condoms, female condoms aren’t widely available in vending machines in public toilets. Pasante is the only established brand to sell female condoms online. Worldwide sales of female condoms are quite low, with only 12 million female condoms being distributed in developing countries in 2005, contrasting with over 6 billion male condoms being circulated that same year.
The second problem with female condoms is how expensive they are compared to other forms of contraception. It is discouraging to buy something if alternatives are cheaper and publicly accessible. Pasante sells the contraceptive for either £5.99 for a pack of three or £29.99 for a pack of 30—so roughly £1 each.
For male condoms from the same brand, a regular pack of 12 costs £5.95—meaning one condom costs approximately only 50p. If fewer people decide to buy female condoms because of the clear price difference, then it is understandable that companies will either not manufacture them or not produce as much. Looking at it the other way around results in the same answer; if not enough people buy female condoms, companies have to sell them for a higher price in order to make a profit.
The real question is: is there another reason that can explain the Femidom’s lack of popularity? Like all contraception, the female condom displays some negatives that can’t be ignored. Similarly to the male condom, the female version can tear, and there are chances that the condom might get pushed aside during intercourse. On top of that, many couples have also experienced the female condom making ‘noises’—not the best during intimate moments, but something that can be solved with a bit of extra lube.
Let’s also go into the details, it does take much practice to ‘master’ the female condom. Many people have been put off it by founding it quite challenging to insert. In a year, 21 out of 100 women risk getting pregnant if misusing it, but as they say, practice does make perfect.
The main issue, when it comes to the Femidom, is the lack of knowledge surrounding it. One of the most important positives of the female condom is that it is a contraceptive that leaves woman control. It is the only barrier method where women have the power and last say over their sexual health.
Having something like that will hopefully one day give women more options on how they want to protect themselves from both STIs and pregnancy, because right now and without this, our options stay limited. Some women might not want to take the pill while others simply don’t like the feeling of male condoms.
Not only does the Femidom give women the choice and responsibility when it comes to their protection, but it can also benefit men as it alleviates the ‘pressure’ of wearing a male condom. Some even say that it may enhance more pleasure than the alternative, however, this seems to depend on the person. We do still have a long way to go before seeing the female condom on the same shelves as the male alternative or the birth control pill.
We are only beginning to witness the rise of the female condom, which is slowly starting to pop up in some places of the internet—in a few accurate YouTube tutorials as well as some articles about its benefits. But we should be doing so much more in order to make the Femidom more mainstream, and we should start doing so by opening up the conversation surrounding it.
Starting a conversation will not only make people aware of the possibility it represents, but it might push more women (and men) to try it out with a partner. And the more people try it, the more it will increase the demand for the contraceptive, making companies produce more product and sell it for a lower price due to more demand; which will then make the female condom a stable in the local shops.
But before we can start a conversation, we have to teach ourselves, and others, about the female condom. Sexual health clinics are always open to educating the public about anything from contraceptives to maintaining your sexual health. There are so many online sites such as the NHS and Clue that provide a full in-depth breakdown of what the female condom is, its advantages and disadvantages, how to use it and so forth.
The more we talk about the female condom and teach the public, the more mainstream it will become and maybe Hassel’s invention will not go into vain. I don’t know about you, but I quite like the idea of having full control over my body and the way I protect it.