Wednesday 1 February 1995

Condom minion: Meet the female of the species — Femidom

It had come to this: Femidom — the female condom.

"Let's try it," I ventured.

"Sure," my partner said.

But she made me pay for it at the cashier.

Which meant I had to also buy a toothbrush and a box of band-aids just so the whole world wouldn't assume I was at the pharmacy specifically to shop for prophylactics.

The three-pack came with an instruction leaflet which caused my partner to make faces.

"It's so complicated," she whined.

I suggested that it was no more complicated than inserting a diaphragm or a sponge — both of which she had never used before. (And neither had I, for that matter, but I had heard.)

"It's like a tampon," I tried again.

"No, it's not. You're not a woman. How would you know?"

Well, excuse me.

She came out of the bathroom walking like she had something up her — you know.

"My God, it's so huge."

She was referring to the Femidom. "It feels funny."

"You'll get used to it," I reassured her, hopefully but unconvincingly. Who was I trying to kid? I have been using the male condom for years and I never got used to it.

I didn't see my first condom until I became a medic in the navy during national service, distributing the little Pandora's boxes to the seamen to contain their semen. Thousands of "love gloves" were rationed to ships going to Thailand, Taiwan and other exotic playgrounds.

My curiosity was piqued such that I tried one on during a session of onanism just to find out what it felt like.

It hurt.

I couldn't imagine how anyone could still be interested in coitus after the trauma of simply putting a rubber on. And despite claims of "ultra-sensitivity" on the packaging, all I was sensitive to was latex — very. very tight latex.

It wasn't until my first serious girlfriend when I started actually wearing a prophylactic during intercourse. Even then, it was more a contraceptive measure than anything else; my fear of knocking her up was greater than my fear of some dehumanizing STD.

It still hurt.

But condomed sex wasn't all that enjoyable for her either. So we soon became devotees of the rhythm method. Nevertheless, a Durex came in handy on occasions we lost our rhythm.

Removing and disposing a used condom is a rather unappetizing affair as well. It's the kind of thing that could turn you off sex for life.

Or at least the next 10 minutes

That's why I was so thrilled to read about the female condom. Finally, science came up with something useful. Now the shoe would be on the other foot. Or in some other part of the anatomy.

But I was sceptical. Femidom seemed nothing more than a glorified diaphragm. The female condom rubric is apt because that's what it looks like — a female version of the rubber but with rings on both ends, so making a balloon out of it would be tricky.

Those semi-rigid rings do tend to get in the way.

My partner was complaining about those very rings. "I can feel the smaller ring stretching me on the inside and I'm afraid the outer ring might fall in."

"Do you want to take it out?" I asked.

"No, it's OK. Let's try it."

Famous last words.

Moments later...

"Stop! Stop!" she cried. "It's killing me! I have to take it out!"

She hurried to the bathroom.

I could guess what she was going through. All I felt was latex - very, very loose latex.

It hurt.

She came out of the bathroom looking utterly relieved, and held up the crumply, slimy, guilty object for me to see - the kind of sight that could turn you off sex for the rest of your life.

Or at least the next 10 minutes.

"It's OK," I said. "We'll try it again another time."

Sure, she said.

I still have two unused female condoms if anybody wants them.

- Published in Man Life & Style, February 1995

UPDATE: Whatever happened to the Femidom?