By Donald G. McNeil Jr.
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The female condom has never caught on in the United States. But in the third world, where it was introduced in the late 1990s, public health workers hoped it would overthrow the politics of the bedroom, empower women and stop the AIDS epidemic in its tracks.
It did not. Female condoms never really caught on there, either.
Only about 12 million female condoms are delivered each year in poor countries, compared with about 6 billion male condoms. Couples complained that the female version was awkward, unsightly, noisy and slippery — or, as Mitchell Warren, who was one of its earliest champions, now says, “the yuck factor was a problem.” Many women tried it, but in the end, it was adopted mainly by prostitutes.
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Honestly, we had no idea what they were talking about at the beginning of this article. Aren’t condoms for males and females, but they work better if a man wears them? Not the case, it turns out that in addition to cervical caps, Lea’s Shield, the sponge, and diaphragms, there have been female condoms. While the cap, shield, sponge, and diaphragms work in tandem with spermicidal gel as a birth control method, the female condom’s job is to prevent disease and unwanted pregnancy strictly as a barrier. That could be why we confused it with the male condom. The original design of the female condom was like a cervical cap crossed with a male condom, open ring on one end, latex sheathing, and closed-shaped ring on the other end. Not the best design for the female anatomy. We can’t really describe the new design without getting a little queasy, so check out the link below to the times article. And check our Dish from November 14th on why the female condom may be a good thing to look into.