6 Reasons To Use Female Condoms That You Never Realized

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When you hear the word “condom,” most people picture a latex sheath that rolls down over the head of the penis. That’s a “male condom” or, more accurately, an “external condom.” But did you know there’s another kind of condom? It’s commonly called a “female condom” and it goes inside a vagina or anus, instead of on the outside of a penis. And while it’s best known as a “female condom,” I'm going to go with “internal condom” from here on out because, a) it’s more accurate and b) it’s gender neutral. (As you’ll see, internal condoms can be used on any body, with any gender.)

Unfortunately, internal condoms don’t have a great rep. First of all, they’re not as common as external condoms, so the process for using them can be a little… Baffling. (Most of us saw that condom go on a banana in sex ed — but no one demonstrated how to insert a female condom.) The original design is a bit clunky for some people, with a material that’s been described as a “trash bag” by reviewers. However, recent advances in internal condom technology — including a new material that warms with the body and removal of one of the rings — have been approved in five countries and in Europe. Hopefully they’ll be hitting our shelves soon, too!

Before I get into reasons why you would want to use an internal condom, let’s talk about how you even use an internal condom. Because it goes inside the body, an internal condom can be used in either a vagina or an anus. Planned Parenthood recommends trying out a few different positions — standing with a foot on a chair, squatting, or lying down — to see what works best for your body. If you’re putting it in your vagina, you’re going to squeeze the inner ring together and push it in, similar to a tampon. You want to make sure it’s pushed all the way up to your cervix, in order to provide protection from pregnancy. Once it’s securely in place — and you’ve made sure it’s not twisted — pull out your finger and let the outer ring hang approximately an inch outside your vagina. If you’re having anal sex, follow the same insertion plan but skip the step that involves the cervix.

Got all that? It sounds trickier than it is, but you might need to try a couple of times before you nail it. Here six reasons you might want to use an internal condom for protection against STIs and pregnancy.

1You Have A Latex Allergy

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People with latex allergies have a hard time finding good solutions for STI protection, because most external condoms are made from latex. But you’re in luck! Because the internal condom is made from nitrile, which is not only not latex but also heats up nicely with the body.

“I think the best perk is that they are hypoallergenic,” holistic sexologist and sexuality educator Lisa Hochberger tells Bustle. “So for people who are allergic to latex, the internal condom is great.”

2You Want A Little Extra Stimulation

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Proponents of the internal condom point out that the external part — the part that covers the vulva — can actually provide a little more stimulation for people with vaginas. That’s because it has a ring on the outside, which can rub up against the clitoris and all that sensitive tissue around the vulva. (There's even a design with tiny, embedded vibrators around the external ring.) For folks who need a little extra stimulation, that friction could be the thing that puts them over the edge.

3You Have A Skin-To-Skin STI

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That same part of the condom that covers the vulva (or the area around the anus) not only provides some extra stimulation, but also provides some protection for skin-to-skin contact. That means you have increased protection from STIs like herpes, which are transmitted via contact with skin.

4You Like Anal Sex

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Some people find that external condoms either break or slip during anal sex, due to the fact that there’s often more friction and other stressors. Internal condoms, however, aren’t stretched tight like external condoms, making them less likely to break during anal intercourse.

One note: There aren’t that many studies yet on using internal condoms for anal intercourse, so it’s harder to say exactly how effective they are.

5You Don’t Like Interrupting Foreplay

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Unlike external condoms, which can’t be put on until the penis is erect, internal condoms can be inserted before foreplay even gets started, similar to a diaphragm. Fans of internal condoms say that not having to interrupt the flow of things is a big “check” in the “pro” side of internal condoms.

6Your Partner Doesn’t Fit In External Condoms

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Some people with penises find external condoms uncomfortable — or find that they don’t fit altogether. For those folks, an internal condom can be a great solution.

“If you are having sex with a man, they have the benefit of not wearing a snug condom that some men find uncomfortable,” Hochberger says. “Therefore, it can increase pleasure”

So, yeah, internal condoms have their downsides. But so does every other type of birth control. It’s up to each person to decide what method works best for their body and their sex life. Internal condoms are just another option — and isn’t it great to have a choice?