The female condom isn’t exactly the modern woman’s go-to contraception. Its unpopularity may come down to the fact that using one is like inserting an oversized sausage casing.
Dr. Mache Seibel, an obstetric gynecologist based in Massachusetts, says the unwieldy design is problematic.
“It’s sort of like trying to fit a raincoat in the vagina and perineal area,” he explains. “You have to sort of ball it up and shove it in.”
Dr. Seibel and condom designer Leon Kassman hope to smooth out that design kink with their new creation, the Femex Female Air-Infused condom. Made of “slippery” polyurethane, Femex is a fitted condom that looks a lot like a male condom. The big difference, however, lies in air-infused tubules, which line the condom wall and, once filled with air, keep the condom in place comfortably. The design also aims to make insertion smoother, by using an “ insertion wand,” which is akin to a tampon applicator. Plus, you can wear it for up to eight hours before sex, so you don’t have to awkwardly fumble with it in the heat of the moment.
The condom also comes with a whimsical sleight-of-hand. Kassman says that it will make its way onto the male anatomy during intercourse “in such a manner that when he withdraws he has it on him.” During initial testing, the designers were surprised to hear that women experienced increased stimulation thanks to the nifty little tubules.
“The tubules expand by as much as a quarter of an inch and cause a kind of friendly friction (it doesn’t hurt anybody or abrade) on the Grafenberg spot and the clitoris,” explains Kassman.
Seibel and Kassman’s innovative concept has sparked interest from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which awarded them a Phase I grant of $100,000 to help bring it to market. If all goes to plan, the condom should be ready by spring 2015.