I thought I’d stumbled upon the solution for condom-hating gay men who nonetheless prefer protected sex, when a barebacking friend of mine mentioned the female condom.
I was ecstatic — until I saw a female condom.
It looks a bit like a mini tube-shaped Glad bag with a rubberish ring at the end.
I suddenly had second thoughts.
The female condom is designed to be inserted into a woman’s vagina with the ring covering her cervix so she can have intercourse with a man who is not himself wearing a condom.
Quite wide in diameter and relatively shallow in depth, its manufacturers seem to have the notion that all men have short, fat dicks. This is problematic if you have a penis of above-average length because you could push the condom up inside the person during sex, leaving you both exposed.
Still, I thought some experimentation might be in order. All in the name of valuable safer sex research, of course.
The application for gay men is that you insert a female condom into the bottom’s anus to provide a protective barrier. With normal condoms, a man feels sensation through the condom while wearing it on his penis. Using a female condom, a man experiences pleasure while thrusting against the condom with his penis uncovered.
Theoretically, I thought this might simulate the bareback experience of the insertive partner not wearing a condom at all, while still being safe.
But the reality is I couldn’t just ask some random dude in the dark room (I mean the book club) to shove this strange device no one has ever heard of up his ass and let me screw him raw.
Eventually I stumbled on a willing research participant, but he would agree to the experiment only on the condition that I swore I would absolutely never disclose any personal information that could lead anyone on the planet to identify him.
People often deny knowing me, so I accepted his terms and will refer to this volunteer stunt bottom only by the discreet moniker of My Bitch, or MB for short.
To further protect the guilty, I should clarify for any nosy neighbours that MB is not the strikingly handsome, six-foot-two muscled man you have seen leaving my apartment numerous times.
When me and My Bitch finally got down to business, we opened the female condom package and had no clue what to do with it. We could have read the instructions, but since no one ever has sex with me with the lights on, I thought a real-world experiment would be better.
First MB tried to bundle it up and force it in. No luck. We soon realized that the male anus is tighter than most vaginas, making its insertion a challenge.
We tried using a dildo to push the female condom up MB’s ass, but it came back out when we withdrew the dildo.
I put it over my penis and tried to insert it. Failure.
Finally, MB just bunched it up and shoved with his fingers. Success.
The rest of the encounter was rather ordinary until the point of ejaculation. Nothing particularly remarkable about how it felt on my end.
But after I came and withdrew, the condom remained inside MB and the ejaculate immediately squeezed out, contacting exposed skin.
Next time, we again had difficulty, but MB had become more adept and managed to push it up after only a bit of awkwardness. The problem was that it did not unroll smoothly inside him, creating a fold that my penis rubbed against. This hurt, and redness and chafing were later apparent. My dick was sore for a day after.
By our third attempt, MB was a pro at putting it in. But after only a minute, the thing came out during intercourse.
It would have been difficult and unhygienic to reinsert it after it had been inside him, so I just gave up and threw it on the floor. I grabbed some traditional giftwrap and carried on.
Our last try was worrisome.
Things were fine until I began feeling some dry friction. After I lubed up and went to put my penis back in, it kept slipping off the exposed portion of the female condom that hangs outside the body.
MB held the condom open and guided me back in. After a quick burst of hard and fast thrusting, things didn’t feel right. I no longer felt the sensation of rubbing up against the condom.
We stopped to check on things. My movements had caused the condom to somehow be pushed deep inside him. This had left us both exposed.
No one wants this, particularly if it had gone unnoticed and things had continued for any length of time, or worse, to the point of ejaculation.
It seems our experiences were not unusual.
Jody Jollimore is the program director with the Health Initiative for Men in Vancouver. He says a little bit of knowledge and experience can help reduce problems.
But he acknowledges that the traditional instructions provided with the female condom are not much use to gay guys. “The package gives instructions for how to use them on a female; use for anal sex with men is not included,” he says.
Still, he has some suggestions. The ring inside the condom designed to sit on the cervix could be removed for anal sex, he says.
“It is just in the way and can cause all sorts of problems, from difficulty inserting it, to wrinkles that cause friction, and even the likelihood the condom will end up deep inside you,” he explains. “With the ring removed, it is a lot easier to insert by putting it on the erect penis and placing it inside the receptive partner.”
Insertion can take place ahead of time, he notes, whether you prefer to use your fingers or a sex toy in the privacy of your own space. You can even do it well in advance of sex and just leave it there . . . like while you are at the opera with your date.
So what about that leakage problem?
Elmer Bagares, of the Hassle Free Clinic in Toronto, says this issue can be a real concern.
“Female condoms can safely prevent the spread of many sexually transmitted infections,” he tells me. “But they are only effective when there is a barrier blocking skin-to-skin contact or exposure to bodily fluids.”
Which means any time you’re exposed to such fluid, or have direct contact with the genitals, you face the potential risk of HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, herpes and warts.
He says the best way to deal with this is to grab the condom and pull it out at the same time as you withdraw your penis, immediately after ejaculation, and to be quick and careful about it.
MB and I decided one more try would be appropriate — crazy as it sounds, maybe following the instructions might improve things.
We removed the ring, and (after MB stopped playing with it) I easily inserted the condom with my erect penis. But it didn’t stay in. It moved in and out with me.
It behaved like nothing more than a giant, loose and baggy ordinary condom that hung off me like the skin from my weight loss. I have enough issues; I didn’t need this making me feel small.
Soon it wrinkled up and hurt. Then it just came out altogether. The experiment was over.
Me and My Bitch discussed our findings. From the perspective of both the top and the bottom, the female condom was essentially a failure.
Even when it worked it didn’t feel any better to me and often felt worse. It was difficult and awkward to use and sometimes left us unprotected, even when we had experience with it.
Both the experts I consulted clearly acknowledge this reality but feel that for some people it remains an option.
My product review offers zero stars for the female condom for use in anal sex with men.
But MB gets five stars for his outstanding contribution to scientific research.