Never considered using a “female condom”? You may be surprised to learn that they can be yet another option for guys when having anal sex. Glenn de Swardt tells us more.

Most of us can relate to thinking “Damn that I have to keep using condoms!” in spite of our knowing that consistent condom use and reducing our number of sexual partners remain our best defence against STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) and HIV.

Traditional condoms can interrupt the natural flow of a spontaneous act, are blamed by some for erectile dysfunction, and tops complain that condoms reduce sensation.

On September 12  the first Global Female Condom Day was marked. Though a highly effective alternative to traditional male condoms for responsible sex, few sexually active South Africans are aware of or use female condoms. Global Female Condom Day aims to increase the number of women and men around the world who know about, use, and advocate for access to female condoms.

The term “female condom” is somewhat of a misnomer for gay and bi men who may not want to be associated with female sex in any way. A more appropriate term might be “receptive condom”, in that the product is equally suitable for both vaginal and anal sex.  Yes, what we refer to as female condoms are definitely a very viable and effective alternate to traditional male condoms for man-on-man play, and have several benefits over male condoms for anal sex.

For example, there’s no need to interrupt the play while the top fumbles for a condom, removes it from the packaging and rolls it onto his erection – a female condom can be inserted into the bottom’s rectum well in advance so that everything is ready and prepared for anal penetration without any interruption in the play.  

Using female condoms, as opposed to traditional male condoms, offers different benefits for tops and bottoms in male-to-male anal sex.

For tops this relates to ease of use as well as enhanced penile sensation.  During sex, a penis encased in a male condom moves as a somewhat fixed ‘unit’ resulting in less variable contact between the skin of the penis and the textured surface of the rectum. For uncut tops, a male condom also limits movement of the foreskin. A female condom, in contrast, doesn’t encase or restrict the penis in any way and different parts of the penis are thus exposed to different textures and sensations. In brief, his dick has greater flexibility in terms of movement and associated sensations. A top can also use any form of lubricant inside a female condom – this doesn’t need to be water-based, as with latex male condoms. A top can withdraw his penis, with the female condom remaining inside his partner’s rectum, and can resume penetration when he wants to.

“It may sound quite technical and complex but once you’ve got the hang of it you’ll know that female condoms are easy and fun to use…”

Significantly, using traditional male condoms is dependent on the top maintaining a high degree of penile erection. You cannot roll a male condom onto a somewhat flaccid penis, but a female condom in place in the bottom’s rectum is not dependent on the quality of the top’s erection for penetration to occur. Because it doesn’t fit tightly around or restrict his penis in any way, a female condom is less likely to cause erectile dysfunction.

The benefits of using female condoms are somewhat different for the bottom partner during anal sex. Many bottom guys have an element of anxiety related to being clean ‘down there’, and fear not-so-sexy traces of faeces on the condom when the top withdraws after penetration. And as we all know, anxiety makes it difficult for the bottom to relax and really get into the play.

The good news is that the female condom is designed to remain in place in the rectum after the top has withdrawn, and the bottom needn’t worry about being embarrassed by an unclean condom emerging; he can remove the condom later, in private. A female condom can remain inside the rectum for several hours. The bottom also doesn’t need to be concerned about a traditional latex male condom breaking during vigorous thrusting by the top – female condoms are much tougher.

So how do you use a female condom? First-off, the packaging doesn’t look particularly sexy because female condoms are substantially larger than male condoms but don’t let that bother you. As with any other condom, check the condom’s expiry date and remove it from the packaging. Engage in the usual foreplay and ensure that the bottom’s ass is well lubed.

There are two ways of inserting a female condom for anal sex. Firstly, the bottom can insert it into his own rectum, either manually of with a toy such as a dildo. Alternatively, and possibly the more effective method, is for the top to insert the condom into the bottom’s rectum. Here’s how:

You may want to remove the loose inner plastic ring from the condom (the ring that holds the condom in place inside the vagina but many guys prefer not to use it for anal sex; it can make a handy cock ring or simply toss it away). When you’re ready for penetration the top pulls the condom over his erect penis, as if it was a sock, and then inserts it into the bottom with his dick. The fixed outer plastic ring will remain outside the bottom’s ass, preventing the condom from disappearing inside. The bottom’s body temperature, the lube and the stroking penis will soften and mould the condom to the rectal lining quite quickly.

If the top should withdraw and resume penetration he must be mindful to penetrate the centre of the condom and not slide into the rectum alongside it, which would defeat the purpose of using the condom. A top can ejaculate repeatedly into the condom during a session, provided of course that it’s the same top! If a second top were to penetrate the same condom he’d be exposed to significant risks of STI infection from the initial top. When the game’s over, the bottom simply twists the external plastic ring to trap the semen inside and gently pulls the condom out.

It may sound quite technical and complex but once you’ve got the hang of it (possibly not the right term here) you’ll definitely know that female condoms are easy and fun to use. And a final benefit: they’re also perfect for guys who’re allergic to latex.

Female condoms are generally available for free at public health clinics, and are available at all Health4Men sites subject to availability by the Department of Health. If you haven’t played with a female condom yet do get hold of one, try it, explore and have fun.

By Glenn de Swardt

Glenn is the Programme Manager of Health4Men, a project of Anova Health Institute, providing free sexual healthcare, including free ARV treatment to gay and bisexual men through their clinics in Woodstock, Khayelitsha, Bellville, Yeoville, Chiawelo and Zola. Additional Health4Men sites are being planned for Limpopo, Mpumalanga and North West provinces,  in addition to more sites in Gauteng and the Western Cape. For more info visit www.health4men.co.za.

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