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The FDA has approved a new version of the female condom, known awesomely as “FC2.” The new female condom will sell for about 30 percent less than its predecessor, the “FC1.” But is cost really the deciding factor in female condom use?
The new FC2 is cheaper to manufacture than the FC1 because it’s made out of “a different material—-a synthetic rubber called nitrile.” Still, the main roadblock to female condom use is cultural, not economic.
The female condom is the only barrier method that is proven effective in preventing sexually transmitted diseases—-and is completely controlled by the female. Despite the empowerment factor, the device is unpopular in the United States, where “it is more expensive than the male condom, makes noise during sex, and sometimes causes discomfort,” HIV/AIDS resource The Body reports. I’ve never heard of a woman using one, much less seen one in the nitrile flesh.
But the female condom has been hailed as a prophylactic savior for women living in countries where HIV rates are high and male condom use is low. In cultures where refusing a rubber is a matter of course, it’s a lot easier for a woman to place a barrier in her own body than to force a man to apply one as a condition of sex.
But female condom use abroad also depends on attitudes at home. Despite the reluctance to male condom use in many countries, the U.S. shipped 486 million condoms abroad in 2006. According to the India Post, “only 1.6 percent of U.S. international condom shipments” are female condoms, and the devices “account for only 0.2 percent of the world’s total condom supply.”
A worldwide acceptance of the female condom will involve more than a price-slash. First, U.S. leaders (listen up, Barack Obama) will have to make female condom shipments a priority. Then, men with aversions to condoms of all kinds will have to learn to accept the method, too. AIDS activist Noerine Kaleeba told The Body in 1998 that “this gadget is difficult to use without the cooperation of men,” as it’s easily removed with a bit of force, or thwarted by “misrouting” the penis to go “under the pouch instead of in it.”