Author Archives: Lara

About Lara

I am co-founder and contributor at Condom Monologues, specializing in queer approaches that aim to affirm sexuality. My graduate work includes digital storytelling research with feminist organizations at the American University in Cairo. I am in a loving relationship. I prefer traveling over settling. I sneeze whenever I eat dark chocolate.

How Many Times Can You Change A Condom To Latex Free?

Well, if you are Durex Avanti you can be transformed at least three times.

As the world’s most widely distributed condom brand, Durex have a lot of strings to their pleasure bow: offering consumers an abundance of various shapes, textures, lubes and sex accessories to choose from. When it comes to latex free options, however, the company puts the onus on just one condom, yet even this single choice is not without confusion. Durex Avanti, previously the name of their latex-free rubber, is in fact a latex condom. The non-latex option has been recently rebranded Avanti Bare Real Feel™. In fact, this latex-free option has been through a few rebranding rotations. DurexNonLatexArticle

In 2008, it was replaced from being made of polyurethane to synthetic polyisoprene. Polyurethane is a type of soft plastic; polyisoprene is the latest latex-free technology, chemically similar to rubber latex but without the proteins that cause allergic reactions (see our article about the differences). In Europe, the product’s current name is simply, and explicitly, “Latex Free”. The North America version, however, is not so straight forward.

Michael Gesek, from Durex Consumer Relations Canada, explained to Condom Monologues, that when multinational consumer goods company Reckitt Benckiser took over Durex in 2011 they lost supply of the materials to make Avanti Bare and thus it was discontinued in North America. Recently the polyisoprene product was secured again and is renamed Avanti Bare Real Feel. Besides the (longer) new name, nothing is different about this new polyisoprene rubber. It’s now rolling out on store shelves.

However, few consumers know that Durex did not offer latex-free condoms for a period in the midst of company turn over. In fact, Avanti Bare went from being made of polyisoprene to becoming just a standard latex condom. Yet despite this very dramatic product change, Durex kept the name and package similar to the latex free version- as if condom shopping isn’t confusing already!

As expressed by Melissa White, CEO of Lucky Bloke, this move was irresponsible and “a major packaging fail!” In response, Lucky Bloke listed a consumer warning on their site. It’s unclear what Durex’s strategy was for informing the public about this change. One may assume that when Durex lost supply of the polyisoprene condom, they may have sent a notice to selective distributors with the expectation that sellers would inform consumers. To the best of her knowledge, Melissa White does not recall any advanced warning from Durex.

So, please be aware that Durex does offer a latex-free condom now, just make sure not to pick up the former Avanti Bare and read packaging extra carefully!

This article is meant to clear up confusion around Durex’s non-latex options. We include a link to our affiliates at Lucky Bloke which may earn us a small commission.

Why We Should Stop Using Fruits & Veg in SexEd

The banana (or cucumber) penis prop (or toy?) in sex education has got to go. I think it’s an outdated euphemism that helps adults (not young people) feel more comfortable talking about sexuality. Shyfully skirting topics only reinforces the mechanisms of shame around sex and creates an environment in which certain question can’t be addressed, hence perpetuating ignorance. At it’s core, the banana is a symbol of non-pragmatic, fear-based sex education.

Character 'Jonah Takalua' from Summer Heights High getting schooled in sex "practicalities".

Character ‘Jonah Takalua’ from Summer Heights High getting schooled in sex “practicalities”.

Like so many Americans, my sex education in high school was minimal. It was covered only once in the entire four years during a single, out-of-the-blue gym class. Topics were rushed and general. I can’t recall much except, looking back, I realize how heterocentric and cis-genedered sex ed was simply by the way information was presented and what was intentionally absent. How to use a condom, however, is the most vivid lesson I remember.

Us 14 – 15 year old boys and girls were instructed to sit on the basketball court floor and watch our gym teacher (a bleach-blond nutritionist who always wore L.L. Bean fleeces) pull out a single condom and banana from her canvas sports bag. “Now, who will volunteer to help me put this on?” She cheerfully asked us.

Of course, no one raised their hand so she picked the student who was talking under his breath to another student. “Brad, come on up and show the class how to use a condom.”

This was discipline.

Brad stood in front of the class with a grin and demonstrated how to open the condom wrapper. He handed the wrapper the the teacher in exchange for the banana. Then holding the fruit in one hand and the latex in the other, he placed the condom over the top and vigorously tried pulling it down.

“No no no!” blurted the gym teacher. “You’re skipping a very important step. You must make sure not to trap air in the top hat.”

Top hat?

Brad struggled trying to simultaneously pitch the tip and roll the condom down one-handedly. “Here, let me help you.” The teacher reached for the banana’s shaft and said, “You hold the hat while I roll,” and started to inch down the condom.

The awkwardness and humor of it all distracted me from actually understanding how to put on a condom. If anything, it seemed far more complicated because it required more than two hands. How about suggesting to practice by one’s self? To masturbate with a condom? Or discuss ways partners can put condoms on together? Or ways to negotiate condom use? Or the variety of condom options that are out there?

Practical, matter of fact approaches are much more effective at equipping young people to make informed choices.

I think a penis or dildo model should be used instead of these foody phallics. Moreover, a dildo is great for including information about queer safer sex and toy sharing. Condom use does not only apply to penis!

The plastic penis prop by Justin Hancock of Bish Training is a stellar example of condom instructions for the real world.

Penis models are so less awkward.

Penis models are so less awkward.

Watch Bish Training’s condom use here.

How were you taught condom usage? What props were featured in your sex education (if any!)?

STI vs STD: Is it important?

The term “STD” (sexually transmitted disease) is increasingly replaced by “STI” (sexually transmitted infections). Is this change (which started as early as the late 1990s) a matter of political correctness? An effort to reduce stigma affiliated with disease? Or are there real distinctions between infection and disease, hence adopting a more medically accurate term?

The correct answer: all of the above.

In the days before "STDs" there was only "venereal disease", and sex workers were the culprits. Image from the DailyMail.co.uk

In the days before “STDs” there was only “venereal diseases”, and sex workers were the culprits. Image from the DailyMail.co.uk

Medical Jargon

Usage can be confusing because the medical distinctions between infection, illness, disorder and disease often overlap. In general, however, ”infection” is only considered an illness or disease when symptoms occur. Many sexually transmitted bacteria and viruses are contagious without causing symptoms (or may have asymptomatic periods). Just a handful of these include chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes simplex, HPV, hepatitis and HIV.

Most STIs are treatable. Some strands of HPV can be wiped out by the immune system alone (but not always). But some STIs are not curable, like herpes and HIV (as of today). Contrary to popular confusion, it is not correct to differentiate STIs as “curable” and STDs as “incurable”.

The major distinction is that all STDs are caused by infections. However, not all infections develop into illness or disease. Also, a disease is always associated with symptoms; an infection is not so consistent.

Does this mean it’s wrong to use “STD” in the twenty first century? I would argue no. In many instances, STI and STD are used interchangeably and refer to the same thing.

Why I Say “STI”

I think it boils down to semantics and meaning. Some people feel that dropping the word “disease” only reinforces stigma. Why not just face the fear head on? The more we speak of “disease” the more normalized it becomes, right? Well, not necessarily. “STD” eventually replaced the more euphemistic term “venereal disease” by the 1980s, yet stigma firmly remains.

Personally, I prefer the term STI for two reasons. Firstly, “STI” is a broader term thus more inclusive. Secondly, using the term STI helps raise awareness that physical symptoms are not a reliable way to determine your status. A person can be infected with no symptoms and pass on the infection to others without having a disease.

Serious point here: According to the CDC, 1 in 5 people who are living with HIV today in the United States do not know their status (CDC 2013). In fact, people who do not experience symptoms and/or are not tested are the ones most likely to pass on infection to others. There are serious consequences when STIs are left unknown and untreated. It increases the risk of infection for other STIs and disease. In short, ignorance (RE: stigma) of getting tested and assuming you won’t get an STI is the greatest cause of infection.

Resources: Here are just a few smart spaces we recommend to learn more about STIs and prevention, stigma and facts. Visit Planned ParenthoodThe STD Project, the SexEd Library, the NMAC (National Minority AIDS Council), the Guttmacher Institute, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network.

The fabulous sex educator, Andrea Renae (@theandrearenae), recommends the Judgement Free Health Care Providers directory, which is inclusive of LGBT and Queer people, Asexuals, Demisexuals, Polyamorous relationships, sex workers and people living with HIV. There is also the safer sex video Pleasure Rush initiative (NSFW) by GALAEI.

Ask questions on the InformedAboutSex forum.

Specifically for teens and young adults: Scarleteen, GYT (GetYourSelfTested) and Laci Green.

Gwenn’s Condom Research and Personal Use

There’s been a lot of talk in the past 12 months about women’s preferred contraceptive methods. With the coining of the “Pull Out Generation” and the launch of the ACA’s (Affordable Care Act) contraception mandate, much of this talk has been centered around birth control. This is an important discussion that pleases many sex educators: it’s about applying informed choices to people’s lifestyles and relationships, and determining the method that best suits that person’s circumstances.

However, hardly any time in this discussion has attended to those women who use the simple condom as their primary contraception. Even less attention is given to STI testing and prevention. These important topics have been swept aside and treated as a separate issue that seemingly doesn’t apply to long-term sexual relationships.

I spoke with a woman who fits within that cohort of condom-using relationships. Gwenn Barringer is part of the well known sexual health and HIV activist duo, Shawn and Gwenn. Gwenn wrote her Master’s thesis about condom usage in short term and long term relationships among college women.  Now she is a public speaker and vlogger busy busting HIV ignorance. Her approach?  Using her 15+ years sexual relationship with her HIV positive partner, Shawn, to teach others about sexual health.

Over email, we talked about Gwenn’s research findings on the likelihood of condom use in “trusting” relationships. We connected her thesis to her personal life and the contraception strategies that she’s chosen. First, Gwenn lays out the terms of her research and main findings:

Yes, Gwenn found that women in shorter relationships depended on condoms more than women in long term commitments. This wasn’t a big surprise. What was striking was deciphering the meaning of “short” and “long-term”.  Gwenn states, “I found across the literature that a short term relationship was defined as 3 weeks or less, and therefore a long term relationship was defined as more than 3 weeks. This is what I used in my study to define relationship length, so when we are talking about condom use being decreased in long tern relationships, we are talking about a month or so.”

Gwenn continues: “My findings had a lot to do with the vague notion of trust. Women felt like they trusted their partners at the magic 3 week mark. I wish I had more time back then to go further with the trust notion but that was beyond my scope at the time. I do find anecdotally that college women feel that time spent with a partner equates to trust. And while I understand this, I try to encourage STI testing as a trusting experience.”

Gwen makes a key point- notions of trust and sexual health are intrinsically linked. This is a fairly general statement because what “trust” actually means varies from person to person. But all contraceptive methods- all consensual sexual acts -involve degrees of trust. “Pulling out” relies on a partner to be in control of his climax. Condoms are also about partner cooperation and protecting each other.

However, when it comes to public discourse around birth control in long term (heterosexual) commitments, male condoms are often portrayed as unpopular. In fact, some people struggle with getting their partner to use a condom because the other views it as a symbol of distrust in their relationship. Gwenn responds to this contradiction:

“As far as my thoughts on the condom paradox of trust, I do think that is an interesting observation. I feel like it has to do with trust but also has a lot to do with breaking some fantasies that people have about new partners. When you are in a new relationship often times it seems like everything is perfect and magical. Thinking about or discussing a condom inserts the realities of life into that which isn’t always fun.”

We ended the interview by Gwenn reflecting on the prevention regime Shawn and her practice. She is quick to debunk the notion that condoms connote distrust and non-commitment.

“My own relationship has an incredible deal of trust. I don’t think you can really be in a healthy relationship without trust and I certainly don’t think you can be in a serodiscordant relationship without a great deal of trust. That trust for Shawn and I came out of much communication about sex before we ever had sex.”

“Our prevention strategy is condoms each time we have sex. When we first were together, I was also on hormonal birth control but discontinued that (for reasons not related to Shawn’s status or our sex life) about 6 years ago. So we are also using condoms at this point as pregnancy prevention as well. We have discussed the issue of Shawn’s “infectiousness” due to his undetectable viral load and while we haven’t made any major changes to our sex life because of that, we do feel another level of security because we know it would be highly unlikely for him to transmit HIV to me even if there were a break or slip.”

There is no single birth control that suits everyone.  However, condoms remain the only birth control that prevents STI infection. The issue of transmission should not be glossed over when discussing contraceptive methods. Furthermore, the conversation needs to include and represent serodiscordant couples and relationships in which both or one partner carries STIs.

You can read and watch more of Gwenn at her blog and YouTube Channel, Shawn and Gwenn.

Understanding Consent

Follow @Condommonologue and @Radsexpdx

To share this poster, simply copy the HTML embed code below and paste into your blog post, tumblr or anywhere else that uses html:

Let us know how and where you share the poster and we’ll swing by.

This poster is inspired by one of the most progressive pieces on consent yet. “The Consent Post” by Elena Kate exposes the inherent problems of the “No means No” approach and re-frames consent as “Yes means Yes”. What’s more, she goes beyond simple definitions by acknowledging nuances and complexity. It is contrary to what most sex education programs teach (if consent is mentioned at all!); consent is not a single uniform act of permission. Elena writes that consent is an on-going, “cooperative investigation of options, and a careful, considerate selection that is approved and preferred by all parties involved”.

What do you think?

Check out more illustrations by the Condom Monologues collective!

3 Tips for Decoding Condom Size

A guide to understanding how to convert penis size for best condom width.

Knowing condom size is one thing.  Knowing what size best fits is another. Condom shopping is a daunting task no thanks to marketing gimmicks. Even looking past the clutter of overused adjectives like “thinnest” and “most sensitive”, you still need to decode the actual size dimensions (if they are labeled at all!).

Companies typically report the condom width only.  This is determined by laying the condom flat, so it does not match penis circumference.  So how are you sure that this one-dimensional measure will match your three-dimensional penis?

It’s not like you can take a box of condoms to the changing room and try one on before you buy.
HowManyBoxOf3

One blogger has taken on this condom conundrum by collecting numerous studies. “Alex”, the creator of Condom Sizes & Facts, is not an expert, but he has organized findings from various scientific surveys to allow readers come to their own conclusions about condom sizing. We got the opportunity to ask Alex about some of his personal conclusions.

He breaks down three things you need the know about average penis size surveys before you start believing that you are abnormal, and he gives pointers to keep in mind when condom shopping.  Also, he fine tunes the magic number 2.25 from our formula:

Penis girth / 2.25 = approx condom width

We begin with republishing this data from his blog. The table matches penis to condom size. From this data, you may understand why an “average” size man may fit a magnum condom. These numbers are approximate guides from the research on Alex’s blog. Fitting may vary depending on condom elasticity and personal preference. Affiliate links within. 

Penis Girth to Condom Width Chart

Penis Girth
Condom Width
Penis Girth
Condom Width
e.g. Major Brand Condoms
InchesMilimeters
3.70 - 4.131.8594 - 10547-
4.14 - 4.331.85 - 1.97106 - 11047 - 49LifeStyles Snugger Fit, Caution Wear Iron Grip, Durex Enhanced Pleasure
4.34 - 4.531.93 - 1.97111 - 11549 - 51Glyde Slim Fit, LifeStyles 3SUM, RFSU Mamba, Beyond Seven
4.54 - 4.721.97 - 2.09115 - 12050 - 53LifeStyles Ultra Sensitive, Kimono MicroThin, Beyond Seven Studded
4.73 - 4.922.05 - 2.17121 - 12552 - 55LifeStyles SKYN, Trojan BareSkin, Durex Love
4.93 - 5.122.13 - 2.24126 - 13054 - 57Trojan Magnum, LifeStyles KYNG, LifeStyles SKYN Large, RFSU Grande
5.13 - 5.312.20 - 2.36130 - 13557 - 60Glyde Maxi, ONE The Legend, Magnum XL
5.52 - 5.912.36 - 2.52141 - 15060 - 64
> 5.912.72>15069Trojan Naturalamb, FC2 internal condom

View the original table which also explains the research behind these figures. To view more condom size, check out our condom size calculator.

Condom Monologues: First of all, how would you like to be credited?

Alex from Condom Sizes and Facts: That’s a perfect first question. I don’t want to be credited because I am not an expert. Data I have collected are public and I did not produce them. I barely used them to make my opinion and decided to share it.

CM: In your investigation into penis size, you explain that very few studies sponsored by condom companies actually produce sound scientific data. In fact, average penis size may be smaller and more varied than companies have previously reported. Please cite which penis size survey(s) you trust the most and why?

CSF: First I would like to be perfectly clear: penis size is not interesting “per se”, especially length, which is what most people mean when talking about size. You have 3 kinds of studies:

1) self-reported measurements: men report their penile dimensions. The averages are typically 15.6–16.6 cm for length and 12.2–13.6 cm for girth.

Examples: Kinsey study, Internet survey by Richard Edwards, Durex survey.
These studies are of poor interest and rather have readers feel inadequate due to the somewhat high over-estimates.

2) pharmacological measurements: measurements are conducted by researchers , either directly or by men after a proper training. The averages are typically 12.9–14.5 cm for length and 11.9–12.3 cm for girth.

They are of great value, but one needs to get the whole article to judge the quality: some have been performed on men with erectile dysfunctions, some use a very small sample, where representation is heavily questioned, methods of measurements often vary (base, mid-points, under the glans, “bone pressed” or not), or the measurement itself is different (width, circumference, and mode of erection).

The Wessells and the Schneider studies are very good examples.

3) The last kind is a hybrid between a) and b). These are the self-reported studies where:
the sample has been carefully selected (or big enough to cancel the possible bias),
a harmonized measurement method is clearly explained to ensure standard practices and avoid inconsistencies, men are motivated to measure their penis carefully and to report accurate data.

The averages are typically 13–14.2cm for length and 12–12.2 cm for girth.

The Herbernick and TheyFit studies are good examples. Their values reside in the huge samples from which they get the data.

There is no survey I trust the most. Rather, it is the consistency through the various serious surveys which should be trusted.

CM: In order to determine proper condom width, would you recommend dividing penis circumference by 2.25? How do you arrive at this approximation? And what do people need to consider about elasticity?

CSF: Actually, researchers (Gerofi for example) have come to the conclusion that a condom should be stretched about 10 to 20%. This, translated in ratio between penis circumference and condom width gives a 2.2 (10%) to 2.4 (20%) division factor.

2.25 represent a 12.5% condom stretch. And to be perfectly honest, it is only my personal taste, with my preferred condom brand. I really don’t like condoms fitting too snugly, but I do want a minimum grip to ensure safety.

The above values are calculated from an average elasticity, one has to know that it is the consequence of 1) condom thickness and 2) latex recipe.

You may not know these parameters when buying a condom. But be sure they do vary a lot between brands and condom types because companies use different ingredients. For example: TheyFit recommends a 2.37 dividing factor for its condoms.

The most important thing to understand is that you can use these figures as a guidance, but be sure to do your own research and trials. Real experience should always be the deciding factor.

CM: What is the most surprising thing you’ve come across in your penis-condom size research?

CSF: Two things: Condom latex recipes change drastically and thus vary condom elasticity.

Second, like many men, I discovered late that the fitting problems I was experiencing were not “normal” (not just something I had to put up with) nor a consequence of an inadequate technique. I was truly surprised the first time I changed my condom size and discovered what a good fit could mean: no more anxiety, all gone in one breath!

Have comments? Questions? Still not sure what condoms will fit? Leave a note below or message us on FB or Twitter.

We Now Have a Condom Calculator!

That’s right. The overcrowded matrix of condom dimesions has been hacked and neatly reorganized by our techy team. Located in the top menu of our Home page under “Condom “Sizes”. This nifty tool allows you to custom search size, material, flavors, brands, etc., across 100 hundred condoms all in one place.  It’s an upgrade from our archaic condom size charts in which you need to scrool lists and lists of products. The calculator does the searching for you and helps you pinpoint your preferences. Give it and try and let us know what you think! Updates and improvements are never ending. Go to the Condom Size Calculator.  CMRuler-803px-withtext

 

12 Reasons to Love Female Condoms

Today is the day to celebrate possibly one of the most important inventions since humans started having sex!

Global Female Condom Day (#GFCD) is taking place in over 50 countries across the world to raise awareness and tackle misconceptions about this safer sex option. This is crucial because it is the only protection of its kind that puts power in the hands of the receptive partner and prevents against both STIs and pregnancy.

Learn how to participate in this day of action by going to http://www.nationalfccoalition.org/gfcd

Use this as your facebook cover page for the day. Learn more about how to participate by going to www.nationalfccoalition.org/gfcd

In North America, most cities will celebrate through community outreach and other educational activities. The makers of FC2 (the Female Health Company) have launched a text messaging program to help locate female condoms in the local area. People can text FC2condom to 877877 to find the nearest location to buy female condoms.

Some cities are also launching film screenings of the winners of the international “Female Condoms Are…” Festival. You can view these short films on PATH’s YouTube channel. Or you can vote for a fan favorite here.

Why is there #GFCD?

Despite being around for two decades, the female condom (aka “internal condom”) continues to live in the margins. It is rarely taught about in public school sex education and is not as readily available at local grocery stores like its male counterpart. Access and demand are two major challenges. In our email interview with Sarah Gaudreau, Project Director of the Washington AIDS Partnership’s Female Condom Initiative, she explains that the higher cost of the female condom won’t go down until there is a greater demand or a competitor. In this regard, there may be a competitor very soon if the FDA approves the Origami condom (undergoing human trials now).

As for access, many health organizations and grassroot activists are pressuring local pharmacies, community clinics and health departments to carry female condoms. This action is desperately needed because currently only select Walgreens have committed to stocking female condoms nationwide, but even then not all stores carry them.

FC2-packshot1

You can buy FC2 in packs of 3 online and from select Walgreens stores. Our personal review of FC2 coming soon!

Still, making condoms more accessible isn’t enough. In order to confront fears and apprehensions that accompany any new technology, there has to be information sharing and more conversations surrounding female condoms. Increasing demand means talking with potential partners and friends about female condoms- how and when they get used, and how to use them in ways that enhance sexual experience. This is why distribution initiatives like the Washington AIDS Partnership in collaboration with the Health Department, and generously funded by the MAC AIDS Fund, aimed to get the conversation going by handing out condoms in social places like barber shops, beauty salons, clothing stores and liquor stores. Learn more about the initiative from this NPR interview.

To commemorate this day of awareness, we wanted to help tackle these fears and misconceptions by highlighting all of the amazing and important advantages that the female condom offers. We’ve come up with 12. Feel free to add more in the comment section below.

1) It can be inserted hours before sex! No erection needed.

The design on an internal condom opens the door to a whole new world of safe sex. No interruptive “wait, let’s find a condom” moment. No fumbling to stretch one over the penis in an attempt at foreplay. And, perhaps most importantly, the receptive partner can be preemptive and put one on without negotiating protection in the first place.

gif man and women

2) Negotiation power is altered.

The receptive partner can take control of their safety independently.

A number of health organizations in North America and abroad have been working to increase access to female condoms for sex workers and communities with high HIV infection rates, where use of traditional roll-on condom is low despite abundent availablilty.

Yaaaaah

3) Increases female sexual pleasure.

Contrary to many first impressions, this device can actually enable sexual pleasure rather than dull it. In our interview, Sarah Gaudreau highlights a yet unpublished study from Washington D.C. that found women were more likely to orgasm with a female condom than with a male condom. Some women even reported multiple orgasms.” transfer body heat immediately. Also, the outer ring is this soft rolled material that fits over the outer lips and rubs the clitoris, which can function as an added

female pleasure

4) Helps you know your body better.

Some women have compared their first experience with the female condom to learning how to use a tampon. Greater awareness of one’s body is intrinsic to personal agency. The female condom can help women be in control and responsible for their pregnancy and STI prevention.

dancing friend

5) May be used for anal sex (but it is not FDA approved for this use).

No condom (male or female) currently available on the market has actually been tested for protective anal sex (in fact, only until this year has the first FDA testing for protective anal sex ever taken place). Despite the fact that the Female Health Company does not advocate using FC2 for anal sex because it is not FDA approved for such use, there are still men, women and transgender folks who do use it for these needs.

i'm so happy i deserve this

6) May be used for oral sex.

Protective cunnilingus is another benefit that the female condom offers but of which it has not been officially tested for. Gaudreau explained in our interview that some prefer using the FC2 for oral sex. “The outer ring helps keep the female condom in place and this allows hands-free operation. With a dental dam, you have to hold it in place.” Furthermore the FC2 has no flavor or lingering latex after taste, so some prefer it to male condoms or dental dams.

oral sex

7) One size fits all.

The female condom forms to the internal walls of the body, not the penis. This means that the size of the condom (and penis) is irrelevant, so that knocks off a list of popular excuses not to wear a roll-on condom. As Gaudreau explains, female condoms can be a better alternative for some men.

“The size of a man’s penis has no impact on the FC2 [female condom]. The FC2 is larger because as it warms to body temperature, it lines the vaginal walls which in turn provides a very natural feeling. We hear from many men that it feels like they are not using any protection at all which they like. I guess if a man can’t find a male condom that fits, the FC2 is a great option as it fits the woman’s body and not the man’s.”

dancing couple

8) Effective dual protection against pregnancy and STI transmission.

This is an obvious advantage, but we had to emphasize just how effective condoms are at prevention. With consistent and correct use, the female condom is 95% effective at preventing pregnancy and transmission of many STIs. This makes it one of the top most effective methods of birth control and STI protection.

Furthermore, because the outer ring covers some of the labia and perineal region it can be more effective than male condoms at preventing skin to skin transmission of STIs such as genital warts, HPV and herpes.

sucessful encounter with a man

9) It’s non-hormonal with no side effects.

A recent article in NYMag discusses a curious decrease in hormonal birth control preferences among the Millennial generation. More and more young women are ditching the Pill and favor methods that don’t effect periods, cause weight gain or depression.

The female condom comes with no hormonal side effects. Also, it doesn’t require an appointment with a clinic or a prescription. You can easily buy female condoms online. In the United States, select Walgreens supplying FC2. They are also available at local HIV/AIDS organizations and family planning clinics, like Planned Parenthood. If your local pharamacy or clinic doesn’t carry them, ask them to!  Here are sometalking points (pdf) to help you initiate the conversation.

excited on bed

10) It’s hypo-allergenic.

The FC2, the only internal condom currently available in North America, is made of nitrile polymer, a material similar to latex in softness and strength, but better because it does not have that funky latex scent or latex allergens. Furthermore, it transfers body heat more efficiently which heightens sensitivity and feels more natural.

monsters inc

11) Water-based, oil-based & silicon. FC2 is compatible with all lubes!

Lubricant is an important companion and it’s even better when you have variety of choice. Unlike latex condoms, the FC2 is compatible with all your favorite lubes including oil-based ones.

freshprince

12) It’s another option.

The more choices available to you the easier it is to pick and choose what is the best safer sex method for yourself in different circumstances throughout your life. Gaudreau states,

“It’s important to note that people (women and men) want more choices. Female condoms are not going to replace male condoms and that’s okay. But having more options is good. Studies have shown that having both male and female condoms as an option increases protected sex and that’s always great!”

i'm so excited

Everything You Need to Know

To learn more about female condoms, including how to use them and where to buy them go to the National FC Coalition. Click for information about Global Female Condom Day and activities near you, as well as many simple and innovative ideas for how you may participate in #GFCD. Send out a tweet, vote for an awareness video, contact your local pharmacy about supplying female condoms.

Gifs credit to gifsee.com

Kickstart Slut: A Documentary Film

The grassroots-funded documentary film, Slut, all began with middle school diary entries shared on Tumblr.

I had teachers not only laugh when I was called a “slut” or a “whore”, but also had teachers join in. I also had a teacher hit on me because of my “title.” The worst experience was when a kid would grope me every day in class, and my teacher would yell at me for yelling at him or smacking him. The teacher who hit on me has been since fired, but the rest are still teaching there. – Anonymous, The UnSlut Project (cross-posted with permission).

As we’ve discussed elsewhere, intersections of sexual education and storytelling can be powerful. Story opens the imagination. It draws connections between people and deepens understanding of ourselves and each other. The UnSlut Project shows that story can unsilence the ill-effects that certain tropes and attitudes have on us all.

The “slut” experience shared above is one of hundreds by girls and women submitted to the UnSlut Project. This collaborative space of story sharing and support (see their community advice page) all started by co-founder Emily Lindin posting on Tumblr her very personal diary entries of being sexually bullied as the middle school skank. The response has been enormous and now hundreds of girls and women have voiced their own experiences of sexual bullying that, in some cases, have led to isolation, depression, cutting, and suicide attempts. Read the stories for yourself.

 

Image from their Kickstarter Campaign

Image from their Kickstarter Campaign

There are many entries like the one above that testify to the extent to which slut-shaming permeates our school systems and communities. It is not simply lack of sex education in public schools (although this is a very important aspect to consider in debates about what constitutes “comprehensive” sex ed). Teachers, counselors, parents, and peers are all implicated.

It leads to a few important questions: Who in North America hasn’t been exposed to slut shame? How much does the “skanky” stereotype influence the way we censor and manage our own desires and sexuality? How are our schools (and sex education curricula) complacent and, in many cases, actively supporting sexist values and behaviors?

These are questions that Slut: A Documentary Film will explore. Emily Lindin and Jessica Caimi want to convey to a wider public how normalized sexual bullying is in our schools, communities and media, and what we can all do to eradicate it. They’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the filmmaking. During the next 11 days (as of writing) people are having an ongoing discussion about the film production and what voices should be featured in Slut.

Consider supporting this cause to raise public awareness. Maybe you have an experience with slut shaming to share, as well.

http://www.unslutproject.com/

http://www.unslutproject.com/

Youth-Made Announcements The Public Must Watch

The three videos presented here are like no other sexual health messages shared on prime time TV. They were made by HIV-positive youth from the Young Adult Program (YAP) at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals’ Spencer Cox Center for Health. This video initiative, designed and facilitated by the consultancy group Connected Health Solutions Inc., has turned top-down approaches of traditional PSAs on its head.

Just “wear a condom every time”

For those of you who can’t remember, public service announcements (PSAs) from the late 80’s to ‘90s predominantly involved high profile personalities like Magic Johnson and Whoopie Goldberg telling you to “wear a condom every time”. Here’s young Whoopie (nostalgia!).


Babies with Hiv and Aids 1990s by NoHivNoAids

Some of these messages were groundbreaking for the time. Others were not so effective. In our interview with the founders of the HIV Disclosure Project, we discuss how early HIV awareness campaigns were based on fear, pushing condoms as the only option to avoid death. These messages were vague. They obscured real-life information about the different degrees of risks and how to manage those risks with options suited for the individual or relationship. You certainly didn’t see Growing Pains’ Kirk Cameron speaking about “fluid-bonded” couples, or how oral sex is risky for some STIs while less risky for others. Consequently, 30 years into the HIV pandemic, STI stigma and misconceptions about transmission are still perpetuated today.

But there is hope. The Young Adult Program (YAP) at St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals’ Spencer Cox Center for Health in partnership with Connected Health Solutions, Inc. (CHS), have changed mainstream top-down approaches of PSAs. They’ve cultivated a safe and critically reflective space for youth to produce their own public health messages. Upon contacting the project for an interview, however, I learned that their collaboration has been forced to stop due to loss of funding and state budget cuts.

#SpreadTheWordNotTheVirus

Depressing as this is, some of the youth who made the videos below are in the process of organizing an Indiegogo campaign to help continue the program. And not without celebrity pizazz and support from DJ Caroline D’Amore (whose mother died from AIDS-related causes). Watch this space for updates: SpreadTheWordNotTheVirus. And follow CHS facebook page.

YAP and CHS behind the scenes film production of "It's Not Just a Guy Issue" PSA.

YAP and CHS behind the scenes film production of “It’s Not Just a Guy Issue”

A New Era of PSAs

CHS has been working with at-risk youth from YAP for a couple of years. What’s novel about their work is in the production process. They collectively produce online PSAs that address issues relevant to the participants. Kenny Shults, president of CHS, explained in an email that over a period of a few month, participants would run through a series of group exercises all geared towards thinking critically about a social issue (such as HIV stigma) and develop an effective script. “We then spend about a month working together to complete all of the pre-production activities such as casting, props, locations, etc. and fine tuning the script. Then everyone shows up to the shoot (1 day per PSA) to make a movie. It is an incredibly fun, interactive, educational, and inspiring process,” Kenny explains.

What results is a number of original and thought-provoking messages. The PSAs presented here were made by HIV positive young adults from YAP. The first video conveys the message that people living with HIV can give birth to and raise healthy children, have a healthy family and lead fulfilling lives. Kenny highlights this video in particular, stating:

…a number of the youth who made the “Happily Ever After” campaign are now taking their meds after making this piece. One young woman says: “Every time I take my pill in the morning I picture Emma’s face” (Emma is the name of the actress in that PSA). We couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

This is precisely the point. The significance of the workshops is not the glossy quality of the final product; rather, it is the process which matters most. Making a short film by and for the very population it represents, and finding a collective voice together cultivates a transformative power from within. Participants complete the PSA with a critical, self-reflective understanding of the issue and the social structures and institutions that influence such an issue. In effect, the participants’ attitudes have positively shifted.

The second PSA, “One Condition”, tackles HIV stigma by asking the audience “What would you do?” in the situation of HIV disclosure. It’s an important PSA because not nearly enough people understand that HIV is a manageable disease. Advancements in treatment mean that risks of transmission have changed dramatically, and so too must people’s attitudes and fears.

For more about the workshop process and theories that underpins their approach, read the company’s statement and Kenny Shult’s article at The Good Man Project.

What do you think of these PSAs? Do you feel they successfully address a lack in public discourse about living with HIV? What messages would you like to see more of?

An effective condom message

I end with this last video about the importance of safer sex. Unlike the PSAs of the 1990s, this video addresses real obstacles (like embarrassment of buying condoms) and conveys real choices. It offers an alternative ending to another video about condom use and brings light to the forgotten option of female condoms. We follow a guy throughout the day as he prepares for a date, yet at each point that a condom presents itself he is too embarrassed or uncomfortable to pick one up. When the moment comes he is unprepared. Lucky for him, condom use isn’t just a guy’s responsibility.

To view more videos campaigns made with CHS by teens, LGBTQ folk, high school bullies and more, check out the My Media Life playlist by CHS.