Single Guy’s Lament: What Became Of The Female Condom?

female condom

(Anka Grzywacz, Wikimedia Commons)

By David C. Holzman
Guest contributor

David C. Holzman writes from Lexington, Mass., on science, medicine, energy, environment, and cars. He is Journal Highlights editor for the American Society for Microbiology and won a Plain Language Award last year from the National Institutes of Health. This essay began as a response to a CommonHealth post on why people have unsafe sex, and turned into much more.

Caution genes run in my family. My parents put seat belts in the ’57 Chevy in 1960, eight years before they became mandatory. In July, 1975, I bought Bell bicycle helmet serial number 7022. My cycling ensemble also includes one of those lime green jerseys that’s visible from the International Space Station.

And I was asking sex partners about Sexually Transmitted Diseases beginning in the early 1980s, when herpes — not HIV — was the main subject of such conversations. This despite the fact that the first time I did, the woman refused to discuss it, saying I could go to bed with her when I was ready to trust her. Condoms? Of course.

Journalist David C. Holzman

Now, in 2012, I still wouldn’t dream of leaving my seatbelt unbuckled, or biking without my helmet and jersey. I’ve never stopped asking new sex partners about STDs. But recent news reports have suggested that among the middle aged, rates of sexually transmitted diseases are rising while condom use is falling, and I have to confess:

At 59, I’ve worn condoms probably fewer than five times since the millennium, despite having been single for six of those years, during which time I’ve averaged one or two new partners a year, and despite the admonitions of my wonderful primary care doctor. The reason is simple: in my 20s and 30s, sex with a condom felt like getting massaged over a shirt. Now it feels like a massage through a winter overcoat.

I did don a condom last fall, when a new partner made a big deal of it. As a precaution, I took half a Viagra beforehand. (I don’t normally need the pharmaceutical pump; it was left over from earlier, when an antidepressant that I have long since discontinued had turned a Corvette into a Yugo.)

Despite my precaution, our effort to couple resulted in a deflationary event. I couldn’t feel a thing. Actually, I take that back. I did feel the condom squeezing me like a latex boa constrictor, then a softening like a leak in a bicycle tire. And then I felt lost. With that thing on, I would have needed a GPS to find my way in.

I’d like to note here that I take good care of my body. My diet is Michael Pollan-approved, my body mass index is 20, and I run more than 1,000 miles a year. But studies have shown that penile sensitivity declines steadily after the teens and 20s, so that by the 40s and 50s, men require more intense stimulation, says Culley C. Carson, III, Rhodes Distinguished Professor of Urology at the University of North Carolina. “And condoms add to the disability, if you will.”

female condom

Female condom (Wikimedia Commons)

I knew that there was an alternative — at least, there had been once. In 1993, I dated a woman who worked on reproductive issues at the National Institutes of Health. We initially used male condoms, but she soon introduced me to something called a female condom, which we used from then on. Then made of polyurethane, it fit inside the vagina, clinging snugly to the walls, held there by an inner and an outer ring. The sensation wasn’t quite as wonderful as using nothing, but for me, the sense of touch was like 20-20 vision rather than the somatosensory blurring that condoms induce. I marveled at the wonder of this device.

Nonetheless, for nearly the next two decades, I never even heard the phrase, “female condom,” nor did I read it, in the mainstream media or any health news outlet. It made few headlines at the major international AIDS conference this week.

Just prior to the date of the deflationary event, knowing that my hydraulics were not what they’d once been, I called a few drug stores to ask if they had female condoms. No one had heard of them.

New HIV diagnoses in people over 50 had doubled from 2000 to 2009.

Soon after, I began seeing news reports with titles like “Seniors’ sex lives are up — and so are STD cases,” and “Condom Use Lowest…Among Adults Over 40?”

In case you missed all that, there were two major sources. One was an editorial last winter in the Student British Medical Journal, written by Rachel von Simson, a medical student at King’s College London, and Ranjababu Kulasegaram, a consultant genitourinary physician at St. Thomas’ Hospital London. The two investigators found that in the UK, new HIV diagnoses in people over 50 had doubled from 2000 to 2009.

How much of that jump comes from unprotected sex? Not clear. They did not break it down by method of transmission, and von Simson says there are no data on condom use in older adults in the UK: “No one was interested in measuring rates until we already had a problem, making past comparison impossible, and still no one has got around to a large study.”

Data showing that condom use falls off with age comes from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, conducted by the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University. Condom use among men plummets from 79.1 percent of males ages 14-17, down to 13.7 percent of 45-60 year olds, and just 5.1 percent of men over 60.

But the drop-off in condom use with age does not necessarily point to rampant risk-taking among older Americans. “The most common reasons for lack of condom use,” Michael Reece, co-director of the Indiana University’s Center for Sexual Health Promotion, wrote me in an email, are:

* in a monogamous relationship
* trying to get pregnant
* not worried about pregnancy (not planning to get pregnant but also not a big deal if it happens)
* using other forms of contraception.”

Nonetheless, while the risk of most STDs is real for my peers, it is probably far smaller than the risk for younger Americans. In the United States, unlike the UK, the rate of new HIV infections was stable from 2006 through 2009 among all ages and populations except for young African-American men who have sex with men, says Nikki Mayes, a spokesperson for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Additionally, I do want to remind you that rates [of STDs generally] continue to be disproportionate among youth,” says Mayes, noting that the rate of new chlamydia infections was two orders of magnitude lower among 45-54 year olds than among 20-24 year olds: 36 cases per 100,000 people in the older group compared to 2,270 cases in the younger group.

Why female condoms haven’t caught on is a mystery to me. Women seem to love them as much as I do.

To assess your own risk of unprotected sex, it is important to note that these demographics are broadly sliced, and individual risks vary. There are discrete populations where STDs are much higher than average, and others where they are lower. For example, the CDC estimates that new cases of HIV among American women range from 2.9 per 100,000 among non-Hispanic white women to 56 per 100,000 among African American women.

For perspective, the annual death rate from car accidents in the United States is 12.9 per 100,000, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation (and lowest in Massachusetts among all states, at 5.6 per 100,000). In my subjective judgment, which is of course influenced by my own demographics, that risk is low. I can’t think of anyone I know, or have had any close connection with, who has died or been seriously injured in a car accident since the 1980s.

But that doesn’t compare directly to the risk of STDs. Since the risk of becoming infected with an STD is additive — you have to add up the risks of catching each of the different STDs — that risk can be much greater than that of death or serious injury by car crash. And the consequences of sexually transmitted infections vary greatly depending on the specific STD, from relatively inconsequential, to a world of trouble, to early death.

Anyway, why female condoms haven’t caught on is a mystery to me. Women seem to love them as much as I do. One user, 56-year-old Darence Wilson, who works at The Women’s Collective, a Washington, DC non-profit that provides HIV care management, prevention services, and policy and advocacy, calls it “the best thing since sliced bread.” (I am not making that up.) “I feel more like I’m not using anything,” she says, noting that in contrast, the male condom feels like the latex that it is.

All nine users who left reviews at a Walgreen’s pharmacy website — mostly women — gave the female condom five stars. “I really like them!” says MediaGal, from Waterbury, CT. “I put it in before dinner, and once in bed, my partner didn’t even notice it.” (The female condom can be inserted eight hours before sex.)

“This product exceeded my expecations (sic),” says Deb, of Pontiac, MI. “It is great to be in control of my protection.”

Mary Brewster, program coordinator for the Pediatric AIDS Chicago Prevention Initiative, says that her favorite aspect of the female condom is that lovers can remain in an intimate embrace after male orgasm. The female condom holds itself in place with its rings, unlike the male condom, which has slipped off many a post-coital penis, releasing sperm for a potential rendezvous with the egg. With the female condom, “It isn’t like, oh, my goodness, we’re using a [male] condom, you better remove yourself immediately after,” says Brewster. “It leads to more intimacy.”

Another advantage, the manufacturer notes, is that the female condom covers most of the external genitalia, making transmission of various viruses much less likely than with a male condom, which leaves plenty of opportunity for contact between male and female reproductive epithelium. (Unlike most of your skin, the areas around the genitalia are not impervious to viruses.)

For those with latex allergies, there’s more good news: the modern female condom, the FC2, is made of nitrile. An additional perk: The female condom can be used for anal sex.

Brewster, who promotes the female condom to clients, says that inserting it does take some getting used to. “We always tell clients that within three tries, you have it,” she says, adding that that was true in her case.

Every dollar spent on the the female condom program saved $20 in future health care costs.

At $38.95 for a 15-pack on Amazon, some consider the female condom expensive, certainly compared to male condoms that tend to run about 50 cents each. But in the bigger picture, it has proven cost-effective for preventing HIV infection, according to researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Their study involved the “DC Females Condom Program,” in which half a million female condoms were distributed, along with education, to women in Washington DC neighborhoods with high rates of HIV. The Washington, DC Department of Public Health ran the program with support from various community groups. Every dollar spent on the program saved $20 in future health care costs, according to the study, which was just published this month in the journal AIDS and Behavior.

So why didn’t the female condom take off long ago? The polyurethane of the original female condom, which was not replaced until 2008, was harder than the male condom, says Brewster, and “they were kind of noisy, and got a bad rap.” (The noise was a faint crackling sound to which my brain quickly acclimated.)

Brewster also says that the word, “female” in the name of the condom turns off some men (not me!). Additionally, some women “don’t want to touch themselves down there,” she says, adding that it is taboo in some cultures. “In my work as a prevention counselor and HIV tester, I actually ran into this quite often, where women would be put off by the female condom because it required them to touch themselves.”

From my interactions with the Female Health Company, which makes the FC2, I suspect that marketing is not their forte and that they may be short-handed. I’ve phoned them on a handful of occasions, and I’ve usually had to leave a recorded message, which generally gets answered a couple of days later.

Mary Ann Leeper, senior strategic advisor and former president and COO of the Female Health Company, says that most of the interest, effort, and sales of female condoms has been abroad, in countries where big donors have taken an interest.

Meanwhile, the Female Health Company has had established FC2 marketing programs in New York, Houston, and San Francisco, where it is available through CVS stores, Walgreen’s and Planned Parenthood, and new programs are under way in another five jurisdictions. Boston, alas, is not among them. But female condoms can also be obtained on Amazon, for around $1.25 to $4 per unit, not including shipping.

If I were the Gates or the Clinton Foundation, I’d hire a really good public relations firm to get the word out. But I’m not, so I wrote this article.

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  • A Better Option

    in sub-Saharan Africa, when male peers promoted use of the female/unisex condom, they advised men to put the condom on themselves and then insert. as a Zambian man, who complained about the lack of sensation using a latex condom along with the fact that he has veto power over it, said to me: “where i come from, lions hunt and get on top. what have you got for us?” he loved the “female” condom.
    objections based on the claim that male misogyny is being promoted miss a major point: where men have the power to dictate the terms of the encounter, their enthusiasm for the female/unisex condom compared to not using a latex male condom confers vast benefits on otherwise unprotected women and their vertically infected children. many other secular factors are too slowly but surely improving women’s prospects. objecting to male peer promotion of the unisex condom, given its potential for harm reduction to women and children, thus represents the tyranny of political correctness masquerading as enlightened advocacy.

  • http://profiles.google.com/joanlprice Joan Price

    Thank you for your candor here. I winced when I read “At 59, I’ve worn condoms probably fewer than five times since the millennium, despite having been single for six of those years…” and then had to acknowledge that your reasons were realistic for our age group. I love your solution. I’m linking to your post from my Naked at Our Age Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/JoanPriceAuthor. I hope you’ll “like” it.

    Joan Price

    Author of Naked at
    Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex
    and Better Than I Ever Expected: Straight Talk about Sex After Sixty.

    Join us — we’re
    talking about ageless sexuality at http://www.NakedAtOurAge.com.

  • Oct14

    Did I just hear Magna suggest that the condom is something “the man just has to do”? I know it was offered almost jokingly but that’s the fact; it just is. So not only is the male sex organ less sensitive but we also have to put it into a balloon, be the last to get off sinking ships, be the last to get out of burning buildings and the last to be traded out of terrorist and bank robbery situations. I guess that explains the difference in pay… it’s a surcharge.

    • Dojustice

      Oh, my. Really? Women do the vast majority of birth control in long-term relationships in our society, taking pills that increase their risk of stroke and other health problems, and even to the point of having major abdominal surgery to have their tubes tied when their male partner could just have a snip-snip office procedure. In addition, women are more likely to contract an STI from a man than a man is from a women, and women bear more of the consequences when birth control is not used or fails. And just what are you saying the “male sex organ less sensitive” than? Since studies show that a non-majority percentage of women actually attain orgasm from vaginal intercourse alone, that means we’re mostly participating for your pleasure, when we could get off just as well or better without vaginal intercourse. Perhaps you should just get it however you can and stop whining. I encourage all women to decline sex with men sharing your attitude.

  • Sara

    David Holzman is a terrific writer. Thank you, Commonhealth, for his witty, informative, honest piece

  • wee wee wah wah

    please. we have to put enough things in our vaginas. tampons. your penis. can’t guys just practice keeping it up while wearing a condom at home so we don’t have to listen to their endless whining about their parts? it’s bad enough that i can’t turn on the tv without seeing an ad for erectile dysfunction. i’m so tired of hearing about penis problems.

    • SacJP

      You think ‘practicing keeping it up’ while effectively keeping a rubber balloon wrapped around our penises is the answer? How about you vile witches stop letting people slice off healthy parts of your sons’ functional genitals, including the most sensitive parts, and shut your fat ugly mouths huh? You mothers have failed your sons horribly, generation after generation, so if you have to listen to some ED commercials then you can just do so and shut up. YOU aren’t the ones who have been cheated out of being whole intact human beings for your entire lives and it’s YOUR JOB to protect your infant sons from this cruelty. Keeping your mouths shut and doing what it takes to deal with the fallout of your collective failure is the least you can do.

  • Eve

    If the female condom covers most of the exterior genitalia how does oral sex on the woman happen? Maybe this is why they are so unpopular! Same reason oral sex on a man wearing a condom is repulsive even though it is the safer way.

  • Guest 2

    Impressed by the writing of this article?  Sure, how ego-centric it is.  His first experience with a female condom in 1993 was satisfactory for him.  No mention of how his partner felt about it. 
    A study shows they are cost effective against future healthcare costs.  How is this supposed to impact the cost to women who purchase them?  His male brain quickly acclimates to the crackling sound – gee, not sure his partner would say the same.  I do enjoy the prolonged ‘embrace’ myself, but loss of the woman’s sensation over what would be pleasure sensitive areas beyond the vagina where it covers “most of the external genitalia’, while not a concern of the author’s, might be of interest to his partners.  And oh yes, let’s blame the repressed women’s reluctance to touch herself.  And how great that the woman can put it in hours before intimacy and her lucky partner “didn’t even notice it”.
    The only comment in this article I can appreciate is that the female condom does put a woman in control of her own protection, so that if she does choose to engage with a man with whom she has limited expectations, she can do so safely.

    Christopher, it may not have been your partner’s mistake that she did not like it.  but very interesting info about circumcision being detrimental to male sensation.  

    • Lelouch vi Britannia

      Did you just entirely skip over the section dealing with female pleasure?

  • James

    I appreciate the writer’s courage in writing about his issues with sexual safety as he ages.  He certainly spoke for me.  I provide sexual health counseling to men of all ages who sometimes have difficulty maintaining erections with male condoms, and the problem is particularly prevalent among older men.  Most of these guys have no real problem with erectile dysfunction until they put on latex.  For many men, gay or straight, sexual intercourse is the main event.  If so, they’re more likely to have unprotected sex if the loss of their erection means no sex.  Men who have difficulty with condoms are not necessarily irresponsible; they struggle with the safety issues as much as anyone.  As a sexually active man in my 60s who uses female condoms with male partners, I can vouch for their sensitivity and versatility.  The new model has no seam and fits comfortably; the old model had a seam which sometimes irritated the vagina or rectum.  One additional benefit for non-latex products is that they’re often heat-conductive and transfer body heat from one partner to another. Latex does not.  I don’t know if the new nitrile female condoms have this property, but they feel great for both partners.  Thanks for this timely article.

  • Michelle

    The outer ring of the female condom hanging out of the vagina feels awkward, not sexy at all. Flap flap flap. Failure rate much higher than male condom. Yes, it’s great to have options but men to take responsibility. 

  • Robin Reads

    I have always resented the female condom. It seemed to me it was another way for men to avoid taking an responsibility for birth control. I also think it looks “gross and ugly”. I have never had trouble finding it in drug stores, I buy them for the birth control unit in my health class. I agree it is not advertised much anymore, but when it came out, it was promoted as a way to use protection when the guy would not put on a condom. I had never heard the sensitivity issue before. If I were single and dating I would expect the man to use a condom. As I teach my female students to say; if he complains he won’t feel it as much with a condom, tell him he won’t feel it at all without one.

    • SacJP

      Then I’d turn around and leave.

      • CRtaz

        Hahaha, what a hypocrite. You realize you just refered to yourself as a bad catch, right? Because you’re a man refusing to use a male condom.

        • SacJP

          Umm, no, I never said I wouldn’t ever wear one, if it’s the best option under a particular set of circumstances. I would not however waste my time on a women who considered pregnancy and STD protection to be ‘[my] problem’ and who refused to even consider alternative methods that are better from the man’s perspective… Your vagina’s aren’t made of gold and if you want to treat men like their sexual wants and needs are secondary you can do that all the way until you’re either old and lonely or end up with a spineless loser of a man which you deserve.

  • Amybell700

    One thing this article doesn’t seem to focus on is the effectiveness at preventing pregnancy.  With perfect use of a male or female condom, the female condom has a little over double the failure rate (5% vs 2%).  Although the “typical use” figures are closer together (21% vs 18%), it seems like this could be an important factor in why female condoms are less often used.

  • Eli_Leo

    While I understand the author’s predisposition/misconception that places Penis In Vagina intimacy as the utmost sought after experience of sexual intimacy, he disregards the many other available methods of sexual intimacy beyond PIV intercourse. If a man finds that immersion into a woman’s vagina is, for him, the ultimate experience of intercourse/physical intimacy, it seems to me obvious that he ought to be the one to take said precautions against unwanted pregnancy/STIs. It is, after all, the importance of his penis’ sensation that comes across as of the utmost importance in this conversation. Personally I find a nice oral experience and penetration of things that are not penises, for example fingers, to be equally satisfying. The pressure for women to use female condoms because their male partner feels the need to penetrate and ejaculate into a vagina is absurd. It’s your problem, fella. The ladies have long since figured out ways to satisfy ourselves, and to communicate with our partners other ways to be mutually gratified, without an emphasis on the fantastic male genitalia.

    • Woid

      I find it amusing that you initially write as though you are male and chastise the author for being too PIV centric. You even go to the extreme of claiming personal experience with penetrating “other things” as equally satisfying. However, by the end of your diatribe, your “mask” falls away when you reveal that “ladies have long since figured out ways to satisfy ourselves.” I have NO problems believing you likely are one of the preeminent experts in female self-pleasuring. However, I am certain that it derives not from personal choice but from a complete lack of willing male partners given the snarky attitude in your post, the thinly veiled misandry, and your general failure to understand the point of the original article. You sir….err, ma’am are in serious need of a clue. Cheers!

      • Kayla Ancrum

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHA “misandry” HAHAHHAHAHAHA

        • SacJP

          You think the word misandry in and of itself is funny? Or you just don’t think this post contains any anti-male attitudes? Or are you one of those people who think that there can’t be both misogyny and misandry in the same universe? In either case your post makes you look like a small minded feminazi crackpot.

    • SacJP

      Yes and men choosing to use a condom, to prevent an unwanted pregnancy for the woman, is ‘just absurd’ too huh? After all its her body her problem right? Why should we care if you get pregnant, or even if it feels good at all to you, since its ‘your problem’. We can all just go home to our empty rooms and pleasure ourselves with inanimate objects like you! I can’t imagine why you’d have to rely on self pleasure! With your clearly winning personality and all… /s

  • Leah

    Interesting article.  I find it amusing that he had not mentioned his age range, his use of STD instead of the more accurate term STI would still have dated him.

    • Carey Goldberg

      Dear Leah — I take responsibility for that as the (not young) editor! David had used both in the piece and for consistency’s sake — and because I thought it was an abbreviation more familiar to the public — I changed them all to STDs. I stand corrected and will use the more contemporary term from now on — thank you!

      • SacJP

        I think STDs are the better term. It includes infections, infestations, and any other sexually communicable disease states.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/VZ3F3MGJPOYQZWOUSFAQKRQL34 Lisa

    I have seen the packet and information for men who have sex with men. For guys they have to remove the inner ring or it gets in the way. For women with a post-operative history (Transsexual) I’m not sure if the inner ring needs to be removed as well. It would be nice if that information got put out in the public because many women born TS aren’t associated with Transgender or the LGBT.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/VZ3F3MGJPOYQZWOUSFAQKRQL34 Lisa

      I’d also like to add that I was born Transsexual and I refuse to see any doctor that would use the word Transgender on me. I think it is a violation of my rights and I resent being associated with the LGBT or referred back to a listed birth sex I never identified as. I see Transgender as violating my female identity and legal female status. If I was any other heterosexual woman the LGBT would have been called out for it a long time ago and for claiming me as a member. That is why I said the information for the female condomn needs to be made public for women like me.

      • SacJP

        Now that’s funny… Pretending that being post op makes you biologically female (it doesn’t.) At best its a surgical approximation. A transexual woman doesn’t have the same anatomy, hormones, or genetics a biological woman has. A transsexual woman is still, fundamentally, biologically a man. Now I get that the brain developed in a female pattern but many men have this same anomalous neuroanatomy. Neither slicing and dicing your genitals nor taking hormones nor calling yourself a woman changes the distinct biological reality of your not truly female status. The world isn’t going to ‘just pretend’ it’s the same thing. We are already being sufficiently accommodating by allowing the post-op pseudo-vagina / inverted penis having person to legally pass as ‘female’. Don’t push it or else you’re just going to alienate people into reverting to calling you a man.

  • Brimstone

    Very well written piece.  Reminded me of being in Nice a few years back and running into some college girls returning from a stint in Africa distributing and educating local women about FC’s. African men are reluctant to use male condoms.

    I had the special pleasure of being given a personal demonstration by one of the girls.

    It was quite nice in Nice that night. Thanks.

    • duckydiva

      How “nice” for you, Brimstone.  Now go forth and do your part to prevent pregnancy:  1. Suck it up and wear a rubber.  2. PULL OUT!  3. Get yourself neutered.   
      We bear the babies, whether we want to or not.  All you do is have your fun.  Get a grip!  Get a life!  Beat off and leave us alone!

      • SacJP

        Yeah. We’ll do that. Now go get old and ugly by yourselves and we’ll do the same… Oh, and we’ll keep all our money thanks.

  • romp

    Impressed by the writing of the article, how the topic is
    fully addressed, and how it is so well covered.  Admire that this quality of writing is being put out,
    despite the probability that the significance would pass over, and create a
    reaction from the lower common denominator (drgiao).  Remarkable is how the writing is done in a first person
    point of view, and yet without being cheesy. Well done.  Oh yes, and I found the topic to be of
    interest as well, of course.

  • Christopher

    I agree with the author in general about the deplorable lack of promotion of the female condom. I have had a slightly different experience, however. I like the female condom very much compared to the male condom, but the one partner with whom I have used the female condom said that she didn’t like it at all. Perhaps she had inserted it incorrectly?

    Free female condoms were actually given out at the International AIDS conference. There were bins full of them. I only took one because I didn’t want to be greedy.

    Many other circumcised men have also noticed that their penises are becoming much less sensitive as they age. It’s only natural that when the 5 most sensitive parts of the penis are removed, and the foreskin can no longer protect the glans from abrasion and keratinization, that the penis will become much less sensitive over the years. It’s especially unfortunate that men don’t even realize that the reduction in sensation is caused by circumcision. They think it’s natural…Hopefully we’ll stamp out routine infant circumcision one day.

    • Donald McLeod

      Christopher, I don’t agree with your last paragraph. “It’s only natural”? C’mon Christopher, documentation please. I suspect you’re deliberately trying to pass off your opinion as fact. Provide the data.

      • Christopher

        Unfortunately, due to lack of funding, the damage of circumcision has been inadequately studied. My statement was based on the available data, and from the precautionary principle. Here is what we know:

        In 2007 a study, headed by Sorrells, was published in the British Journal of Urology International. In the study, a Semmes-Weinstein monofilament touch-test  was used to evaluate the penile sensitivity of adult men. The study found that the 5 most sensitive parts of the natural penis were missing in the circumcised group. The most sensitive remaining part was the scar. The glans was also found to be less sensitive in the circumcised group, by 10.9% (age adjusted).
        There are also two more studies of relevance, which Google will be happy to locate for you. One found that circumcised men take longer to reach orgasm, another found that circumcised men engage in much more varied and “creative” sexual practices.Granted, none of this definitively proves causation, but it does point a rather damning finger at male genital cutting, and the precautionary principle commands that when it comes to something as serious and irreversible as cutting off a part of someone’s penis, we can’t assume that there will be no damage.

  • Ali

    I was at the AIDS conference this past week, and was actually pleased to see a big push for female condoms. The “Condomize Zone” smack in the middle of the conference area was handing them out for free, and there were oral sessions (http://pag.aids2012.org/session.aspx?s=149, http://pag.aids2012.org/session.aspx?s=328) and literally hundreds of poster presentations regarding the female condom. They are catching on in certain populations, but you’re right: they are more expensive, more cumbersome, and probably take more getting used to than the male condoms we can so easily find for free somewhere.

  • Guest

    Great article. In Western Massachusetts, Tapestry Health also distributes them. Many college health centers also stock them, but students seem to be less interested in them for some of the reasons you listed above, i.e. they feel self-conscious about touching themselves or think they are “weird”.