PROTECTION
The FC2 is Designed Just for You
By Maranda C. Ward, MPH

Gonna get it on? Gotta put it on!* Or, should I say in? Keep reading, you will get it in a minute.

You may have learned that the only 100% foolproof way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections is by not having sex at all (check our section on abstinence). But, what if you decide to open up the cookie jar? Well, then the next best way to reduce these risks would be to use a latex condom. Yes, that’s right- there are still risks involved but using a condom correctly and consistently will minimize the chances of an unplanned pregnancy. And we know, no one ever plans to get an infection. This is why it is important to get tested regularly (check our section on STDs). But, I digress.

Magnums may seem like the only “golden ticket” to safer sex that youth these days know or talk about. Well, this may have been the case before the new female condom, or female condom 2 (FC2) came on the scene. What’s all the buzz about female condoms? Well, I am glad you asked.

What is the FC2? The FC2 is the remixed and remastered version of the original female condom (Reality Condom) designed with the female body in mind. The Female Health Company made it to fit the contours of the vaginal walls and cervix. It includes a flexible yet removable inner ring that is made of plastic (or polyurethane) that must be squeezed between the index finger and thumb to gently insert inside the vagina up to six hours before sex. The hand sewn outer ring is created to sit on the outside of the vagina during sex for added protection of the labia (outer lips). The FC2 is made of synthetic latex, which is similar to the type of allergy-free gloves used by health care providers.

If you do decide to wear the FC2 hours before sex there are a couple of things to remember. Like the string of a tampon, there is a part of the FC2 that needs to remain on the outside of the vagina. This part is the outer ring. But, unlike a tampon, you will be able to feel that you have it in. If there is ever an issue with comfort, then you can opt to just put it in 30 minutes before the actual sex act. Remember, the FC2 was designed with you in mind so it will warm up and stick in place. This time factor is important.

How effective is the FC2? FC2s are just as effective as male condoms when used correctly. The FC2 must be held in place when it is first inserted. The FC2 should never be used along with a male condom. A new FC2 has to be used every time you have sex.

Where could I get the FC2? You can get FC2s for free from a health care provider, clinic or testing unit. A lot of community agencies and school health centers that offer pregnancy and STI prevention services also make them available for free. But, you can also purchase a box of three for $6.49 at local drug stores such as Walgreens or CVS. They are not sold separately.

Why should females use the FC2? If you are going to have sex, it is important that you are comfortable with taking charge of protecting your health. Using a female condom is the best way to do that. Since the FC2 is something that a female wears, it is a method that does not rely on a male’s approval or motivation to use protection. It may be challenging to convince an older partner or one with really strong views on why they do not like condoms to use one. The FC2 puts you in charge. It's your body so why not protect it? Since you wear the condom, you get to make the right decision to protect you and your partner which will put you both at ease. Also, its use helps to ward off the age-old condom myth of “spoiling the mood” since it can be put in up to six hours before sex even takes place. So, like I said- gonna get it on? Gotta put it…in! Now, you get it, right?

Help us spread the word about the importance of female condoms. Join us in supporting the first ever Global Female Condom Day on September 12, 2012. Complete your advocacy message here.

Maranda Ward is the Co-Founder/Executive Director of Promising Futures, an arts-based youth development platform and pipeline for urban adolescents ages 12-24. Maranda also partners with the Calvary Health Care Inc. Protection = Power and Pleasure FC2 Campaign. She is also a youth based HIV activist, community educator, educational researcher, curriculum developer and thought leader. *Gonna Get it on? Gotta Put it On? is the name of a DC-based youth condom campaign she coined as part of a city-wide HIV youth workgroup.