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HC Awareness: The Lonely Female Condom

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Iowa chapter.

They stared at each other all night. The girl was drunk off cranberry vodkas and the guy was milking a solid amount of Miller lights.
At 2 a.m., the bar closed and the girl and guy were coaxed out onto the street by the bouncer.
A lucky few were putting in their last attempts to “seal the deal,” some yelling at each other, others smoking cigarettes together, and an unfortunate few, venomously puking their guts out on the streets; the girl and guy met at the door with fiery eyes of intent.
The conversation slowly escalated from exchanging phone numbers and meeting up for mochas, to visiting each others apartment, to “why don’t you just come over to my apartment now?” It was the guy, of course, who muttered this all too familiar end of the night open invitation, and the girl gladly obliged and uttered a small word of encouragement in his ear.
Luckily, his apartment was only one block from the bar, and all it took was the opening of the door to ignite their passion. Clothes came off faster than a Playboy photo shoot.
And the guy, knowing his obligation as a responsible young man and the promiscuity of some college girls, pulls out a rubber, but the girl interjects, “don’t worry about it, I came prepared for this.”
She pulls out a condom, and not any condom, a FEMALE CONDOM.
Is this a common ending to a late night rendezvous between two college students? Probably not.
According to National College Health Assessment, only 0.6% of college students reported using female condoms.  The percentage using female condoms at the University of Iowa was only marginally higher, with only 0.8% of students reporting using female condoms the last time they had sex.
Just go to the Student Health Center and the utter insignificance of female condoms is magnified. Plastic fish bowels are filled to the brim with male condoms. And digging through the bowel to find a female condom is useless. There are none.
“From my experience, it appears that many students don’t even know they exist” Said UI Health Educator Stephanie Beecher. “We try to provide that knowledge to them through tabling efforts at the University or through various educational programs we host. In my past 2 and half years of experience here, I don’t think I had one student come and pick one up.”
Trisha Schiltz, another Health Educator at University of Iowa Health Services, tried to find a usable female condom. Like an expectant mother whose water just broke, she breathlessly scurried up and down the hallways searching and asking around the University of Iowa Health Service Center for a female condom.  
While waiting patiently, I stared at the dried out female condom sitting on her office desk, used solely for demonstrations. Finally, Ms. Schiltz came back, and she had a female condom in hand.
There was one major problem though, the condom was unusable. It expired in 2003.  
Why is the demand for female condoms so low? Even the Student Health Center seems to find them unimportant, with only two female condoms found within the facility, one for demonstration and the other expired in 2003 – 7 YEARS AGO!
The answer to this question is simple: Girls don’t really want them.
Even mentioning a female condom to a group of liberal-minded, twenty-something aged girls induces looks of discomfort.
“I would never buy a female condom,” said Starbucks barista Megan Plunley, “If you’re not with your boyfriend, you look like a slut buying condoms for yourself.”
Plunley echoes the sentiment subtly expressed by some women, that there is a double standard. Men are allowed to publicly flaunt their promiscuity and purchasing many condoms is, in the words of Martha Stewart, “a good thing.” In particular, having many condoms sprinkled on a man’s desk is a badge of honor.
“I would feel weird buying one,” said UI junior Abbey Moffitt.
Could a college girl get away with laying a bunch of female condoms out on her dresser or stashing them in her purse? Only if she does not mind receiving jaded looks from visitors or snide remarks from anyone looking in her purse. 
Some women doubt these assumptions, and advocate that women should protect themselves and that men would rather engage in sexual activity with a girl that is safe.  
“I don’t think that it is bad at all for a woman to be safe,” said UI junior Kaytie Saethre, “It shows independence and intelligence if a woman can protect herself if she has her own condom.” When asked if she thinks that the perception of women having tons of their own condoms makes them look a bit “loose,” Kaytie responded,“I think a guy would rather have sex with someone that is protected than a girl that doesn’t care about wearing protection”
One woman that would not oppose to another woman that takes charge when it comes to safe sex is Kara Sutra. Kara_Sutra is a pseudonym she uses when dishing out sex advice & hosting her popular YouTube show “Sex Ed 102: All the things you didn’t learn but should have.”  
Kara Sutra covers every topic, from male impotency to…well, female condoms on her internet show. She has YouTube videos on a wide range of topics regarding sexual activity.
Is there a reason to use female condoms? According to Sutra’s videos, there are very legitimate reasons to use them.
In one of the most compelling segments of her video on female condoms, Sutra demonstrates how to use a female condom. And yes! She has used a female condom before.

A female condom has a closed end and an open end, of course, similar to the male counterpart. The female condom takes the shape of a small plastic garbage bag that one might use to throw away gum wrappers and crunched up posted notes. Using your middle finger and thumb to press the closed ring together then guiding the ring into the vagina, making sure to not twist and turn the condom, and finally, using the index finger to push the condom in as far as it will go. An inch of the condom will hang out of the vagina.
“It can be slightly difficult to insert.” Kutra explains, having used one herself, “To be honest, it kind of feels like you have a sandwich baggie hanging out of your vagina.”
So what makes them so different from male condoms that so many females are backing off like they’re plagued with disease? Not as much as one might think, but still some disadvantages that will keep women from buying them.
According to UI Health Educator Stephanie Beecher, male condoms are a little safer than female condoms. Male condoms have a 99% success rate. She explains that female condoms can also be a little noisier, and some complain of irritation, discomfort and difficulty inserting. And just like the male condom, the female condom can tear or break.
Sex guru, Kara Sutra explains, “The typical use of female condoms, which is the average way most people use them, has a failure rate of 21%. This means that 21 people out of every 100 will become pregnant during the first year of use.With perfect use, which is what should be the aim, the percent drops dramatically to 5%.? So 5 out of 100 will become pregnant with perfect use.”
There is also the matter of price. Since its rather difficult to find female condoms around campus, if someone wanted to get one, his or her best bet is to purchase a pack. These packs are quite pricey. Do a standard Google search and one will find that the price of a female condom ranges from 17 to 96 dollars.
However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
In her video, sex guru Kara Sutra, explains that female condoms are not made of latex, but are actually made of polyurethane. This is a good option for people that are allergic to latex and still want to be sexually active.
Another perk is that female condom is that it can be inserted up to 8 hours before intercourse.
“If you’re going on a date or if you’re planning on having sex in a public place then this is a great option” said Kutra, “You can put it in before you go out and you don’t have to stop and worry about ruining the moment.”
Even after explaining the means of using female condoms and the advantages of being able to wear it up to 8 hours before sex, some remained unconvinced of its merits.
“It’s probably like wearing a tampon,” said UI junior Kaytie Saethre
 “I definitely don’t want to wear a tampon when I don’t have to” UI junior Care Cerney responded.


Couple in Bed

Female Condoms 

Emily is a junior at the University of Iowa and is studying Journalism and Pre-Law with a minor in Health Communication. She has been a part of the Her Campus University of Iowa team since it was founded in 2010 and is a member of Ed on Campus. She has grown to love magazine writing and editing and if she somehow can't land her dream job (to be Carrie Bradshaw), she wouldn't mind settling for a job in the magazine industry. If nothing else, she hopes to attend law school somewhere in the Bay Area out West, her favorite place to be. Since the age of 15, Emily spent her summers in California, doing internships and falling in love with San Francisco. Some of her other interests include her 4-month-old longhaired wiener dog Henry, blogging, celebrity gossip, sushi, Private Practice, fro-yo, being a journalism nerd, and anything involving good conversation with good people. Although she's not exactly sure of her plans for the future, she knows journalism will somehow be the driving force in her career.