Female condom or internal condom – that is the question?

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Regardless of what we call them, many people still have no idea what we might be talking about when discussing the female or internal condom. I am not talking about a dental dam. The female condom and internal condom are the same thing, they are called different names by different people for a few reasons including ones knowledge of the item and how you can use them.

With the international day of recognition for these condoms known as “Global Female Condom Day” and the condom itself called FC2 (female condom version 2), it is often called the female condom by many health professionals and community members. After all, the FC2 was designed and approved for vaginal use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and World Health Organisation (WHO). FC1 was also branded as “Femidom”; a term known to many young women. However, we need to understand that things have changed since this approval in 2009. The FC2 is no longer just for people who identify as female, or with a vagina. Our community is made up of many people that sit along a long gender spectrum, we have different kinds of sex, and we call our genitalia a variety of different names. The FC2 can now be used by all of us.

For those in our community that do not identify as part of a heteronormative female/male, woman/man identify, the use of “female condom” is not only a massive barrier to prevention, but can be highly offensive. Not all users (or potential users) identify as female, just as many may not identify as having a vagina, but still have a need for access to the FC2.

The Female Health Company who manufacture, market and sell the FC2 have also recently identified the FC2 as safe to use for anal sex, which means that not only is this a prevention method for women and vaginal use (as was the previous approval), but also for anyone engaging in anal sex. The Female Health Company are now marketing the FC2 to “all receptive partners”, which is a fantastic way to identify use by our entire community and their partners, regardless of the way we identify or the sex we are having. Hopefully this change in terminology can break down barriers and increase access to, and use of the internal condom to all sexual beings regardless of gender identity, sex or type of sexual activity.

We recently celebrated the fourth Global Female Condom Day on September 16th, and this really brought home the apprehension of the community to be using the terminology “female”. While it can be difficult to advocate for changes at the higher level, needed to rename Global Female Condom Day or the FC2 branding, we can do our bit and adopt the term “internal” over “female”. We can also advocate the use of internal condoms for all receptive partners, not just those identifying as female or with vaginas.

The FC2 is currently the only approved internal condom in Australia and it is a highly effective prevention against HIV and other STI’s when used correctly. The FC2 is a 16cm nitrile sheath (much like a very big regular condom) that the receptive partner inserts. It has an outer ring and inner ring to help keep the condom in place, as an inch or so will sit externally on the body. The FC2 can be used with water or oil based lubricants, and is latex free.

Other benefits of the FC2 include extra protection against skin to skin STI’s, less interruption during sex as it can be inserted up to a couple of hours prior and it also does not required an erect penis for insertion. Because of the nitrile material used, the condom itself is stronger against breakage. Not only this, but it has also been identified as providing increased pleasure to both parties due to the material used, looser fit and inner and outer rings.

So, while the sands of time may move to slowly for some, they are moving in the right direction. The internal condom has seen an increase in advocate for its access, there are many YouTube clips and websites showing how to use the condom for anal use, and with continued use we can ensure that this effective prevention strategy is welcomed by all of our community.

For more information on the internal condom please contact us on 07 3013 5550.