Female Condoms

Science, technology, and life.
March 12 2009 8:54 AM

Female Condoms

Liberals want fewer unintended pregnancies and more empowerment for women. Conservatives want fewer abortions. Everybody wants to reduce HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. We can keep yapping about these things, or we can do something constructive.

William Saletan William Saletan

Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right.

Here's something constructive: female condoms. If you don't know what they are, read about them here , here , and here .


Yesterday, the Female Health Company announced FDA approval of its latest female condom. The company's previous condom was being sold for $2.80 to $4 a pop. The new one, which is made of different material ( nitrile polymer instead of polyurethane) in a more automated process, will cost less. Projections range from 30 percent less to just 60 cents per condom at high volume. If a charity can cover the 60 cents, women can get it free.

With billions of male condoms in circulation, why are female condoms such a big deal? For starters, women are generally more responsible about birth control than men are. Even in the United States, 10 percent of women who end up getting abortions because they neglected contraception say their partners objected to using protection. I haven't checked the data lately, but I assure you that overseas the problem is even bigger. The more we take this decision away from men and give it to women, the more unintended pregnancies we'll prevent. That's the first thing female condoms do. They " put the power of protection in women's hands ," says the Female Health Company. The director of the Center for Health and Gender Equity agrees that these condoms give "women another option in negotiating safer sex with their partners or husbands."

Second, because these condoms are designed around the vagina rather than the penis, they're unaffected by erection status. This is a big deal. Look at the company's " product " page and scroll down to the blue box outlining differences between male and female condoms. Female condoms "can be inserted prior to sexual intercourse, not dependent on erect penis," says one line of the box. Another adds: "Does not need to be removed immediately after ejaculation." Think about all the pregnancies that happen because the guy was in a rush or because the condom wasn't removed till the erection had subsided and the sperm had leaked. The female condom removes these timing problems. You put it on in advance, it's there for the duration, and you don't have to worry about the awkwardness of removing it before the guy goes limp.

In short, we're talking about a technology that compensates for human error .

Technology won't solve the whole problem of unintended pregnancies. That still requires personal and social responsibility in using contraception diligently. But better methods can certainly help us do the right thing.




Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

Republicans Want the Government to Listen to the American Public on Ebola. That’s a Horrible Idea.

The Most Ingenious Teaching Device Ever Invented

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in the New Yorker. It’s Not Good.

Brow Beat

Marvel’s Civil War Is a Far-Right Paranoid Fantasy

It’s also a mess. Can the movies do better?

Watching Netflix in Bed. Hanging Bananas. Is There Anything These Hooks Can’t Solve?

The Procedural Rule That Could Prevent Gay Marriage From Reaching SCOTUS Again

  News & Politics
Oct. 20 2014 8:14 PM You Should Be Optimistic About Ebola Don’t panic. Here are all the signs that the U.S. is containing the disease.
Oct. 20 2014 6:48 PM Apple: Still Enormously Profitable
Oct. 20 2014 3:16 PM The Catholic Church Is Changing, and Celibate Gays Are Leading the Way
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 20 2014 7:15 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 9 A spoiler-filled discussion of "Flatline."
Brow Beat
Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member
Future Tense
Oct. 20 2014 4:59 PM Canadian Town Cancels Outdoor Halloween Because Polar Bears
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Oct. 20 2014 11:46 AM Is Anybody Watching My Do-Gooding? The difference between being a hero and being an altruist.
Sports Nut
Oct. 16 2014 2:03 PM Oh What a Relief It Is How the rise of the bullpen has changed baseball.