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Q: My husband went to Walgreens to pick up some condoms. He said he saw VCF there, which he hasn’t seen in a long time. I went to the website because I’ve actually never heard of this film. Nowhere did it have it’s efficacy against pregnancy. It did however say “no birth control is 100% accurate” lol. We’re married and fine if it happens that I get pregnant..and it seems it might be better since we don’t have to stop to put on a condom. Thoughts?
A: For those who do not know, VCF is Vaginal Contraceptive Film. It is a small, thin, transluscent square that a woman inserts inside of her vagina. After about 15 minutes the sheet melts and coats the cervix with spermicide. It’s kind of like those mint strips you put in your mouth to freshen your breath, but for your vag to keep you from getting pregnant. It is not effective against STIs, and may actually increase your risk, which I will get into later.
The efficacy rates for pregnancy prevention are about 74% for normal use, 94% for perfect use. When paired with condoms the efficacy rate gets up to about 97%. When I say normal use vs. perfect use what I mean is that people screw shit up and don’t always do it right. In general, the more often you use something the better you get at it. So that 74% tends to be for the first year that you use a new method and your efficacy goes up from there. When I say 94% for perfect use that means how effective it is if you use it the correct way every time
You say that it sounds like it might be better because you won’t have to stop to put on a condom. However, you still have to stop to put in the VCF and then wait 15 minutes to make sure it is effective. So unless you plan ahead you will still be stopping and possibly stopping and waiting. And you may not want to plan ahead in this case unless you’re absolutely positive that you’ll be having sex later and this is why …
VCF is made from Nonoxynol-9 which is a spermicide. It is a very effective spermicide as it immobilizes sperm on contact. However, in such a delicate ecosystem as the vagina you might imagine that there could be some issues. If you use Nonoxynol-9 sparingly there shouldn’t be much of an issue if you’re in a monogamous disease-free relationship unless you are prone to infection. However, the more often you use it the more your vagina is exposed to this harsh chemical. And the more it is exposed to it the more likely you are to actually get vaginal lesions. For people who are not in monogamous disease-free relationships, this means an increased likelihood of contracting an STI especially HIV and HPV.
Like I said, it’s relatively safe if you’re not using it often, which is why you shouldn’t use it unless you are 99.9% sure that you’re about to get it on.
But there’s also the issue of oral sex. Say you and your partner have been having a grand old time fucking away and you just feel this need to have his cock in your mouth. Well now his cock is probably covered in spermicide and will taste not so good and will quite possibly numb your mouth a bit. Or maybe he’s been finger fucking you and rubbing your clit and then he just has to taste you … same thing. Genitals don’t taste so good with nonoxynol-9 all over them and they’ll also make your lips go numb and possibly your tongue.
This is precisely why I said 15 minutes of waiting. Sure you can makeout and feel each other up, but finger fucking and oral sex may make things less pleasant.
So VCF is decent at preventing pregnancy, especially when combined with other birth control methods, but it should be used sparingly and you may not want to put your mouths anywhere near anything that’s been put in your vagina. It’s a great options for some, and not so great for others.
Here is a how-to video provided from the makers of a VCF:
I was recently asked to weigh in on a debate happening on the message boards I hang out on. I’m the resident sexpert so there are times when I am definitely in need. The topic was Ass to Mouth (ATM) which specifically means when a guy fucks someone in the ass and then that person gives him a blowjob. They were specifically talking about seeing it in porn. I’ve never seen it in porn myself, but I think that’s because I tend to watch feminist/indie/queer porn.
This is what I wrote:
First of all, no one’s dick should be going in anyone’s ass without a condom. Even if you are both disease free and monogamous the guy can get some pretty nasty infections from barebacking. We’re talking urinary, bladder, and kidney infections here. So always wear a condom for ass sex please.
And if you’re wearing a condom for ass sex then ATM should never make a difference because you can just pull the condom off or switch condoms to blow him. Simple as pie.
If for some reason you decide to not follow my earlier advice and decide that a burning feeling while you piss might be a fun thing to try, then I would highly recommend that you do not stick your dick in anyone’s mouth after it’s been in an ass. You can get e-coli or hepatitis. Hell you can just get e-coli from rimming so what do you think it’s like if you’re basically licking 6 inches inside of someone’s ass?
Please have more respect for your sexual partners as well as sex workers. Sex workers are people too and the more you promote their safety (ie no ATM, safer sex practices, autonomy, etc.) the longer they’ll work and the happier they’ll be. I personally think it’s way hotter to watch pornstars who like fucking and enjoy every second of it instead of ones who are coerced into practices that are unsafe.
I understand that accidents happen and sometimes you’re in the moment and forget what you’re doing. But once you realize it, please stop and go wash up real quick before you keep going. It’s better to be happy, healthy, and safe.
One of the main arguments I often hear against porn performers practicing safer sex is that porn is supposed to be a fantasy and condoms ruin that fantasy. Can you see why this might be a bit of an issue in getting people to protect themselves against unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)?
I mean not only are the porn performers themselves being put at risk for contracting STIs, but this notion is helping to perpetuate the idea that really sexy sex is unprotected. The same goes for erotica, romance novels, romantic comedies, sitcoms, etc. Out culture has created a narrative in which sex only feels good and looks sexy if no one is protected. We’re all suffering from this narrative, but sex workers are probably suffering the most.
I understand that in your fantasy world you won’t want to think about pregnancy or diseases. I get that, I really do. However, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to just think of safer sex items as sexy in themselves? Why does a condom or a glove have to make you think about HIV or HPV? Why can’t it be just like another sex toy? Or just something that is equated with sex. Why don’t we see unprotected sex and think these things? Wouldn’t that be a bit more accurate anyway? A condom, a dental dam, or a glove could all easily help us focus on the action because we know we don’t have to worry about the health of our fantasy players. They are a-ok and going to have super hot sex with absolutely nothing to worry about. Where as if we don’t see those things we instead worry for our sexy idols and that worry gets in the way of our ability to become aroused and get off. What would that do for the rates of unwanted pregnancies and STIs in general and for the health of sex workers specifically?
And why do safer sex supplies get such a bad wrap anyway? I’ve had people scrunch up their nose and say, “but that’s not exactly sexy” when I talk about using gloves (in butts no less – where poop is! Because poop on your bare hand is definitely way sexier than gloves). How are gloves not sexy? They can help to transform your hand into a sex toy.
As a paper pusher I always have paper cuts on my hands. And you know what can be really distracting from sexy time? Acidic vaginal juices stinging the hell out of those cuts. Or maybe you have a hangnail or a nail that chipped too close to the skin and you don’t want to cut it off just yet. Gloves! Or maybe you have calluses on your hands and your partner just enjoys a smoother, less frictiony ride. And you don’t have to wear those white gloves that your doctor wears – unless you have a medical fetish and that gets you all kinds of hot – there are other colors. There are black, blue (non latex), and purple (non-latex). Ooh I even found red! Although, they’re vinyl so they won’t fit quite so well.
Then there’s always the argument that you have to stop the action to get the safer sex supplies and put them on/put them to work. I call bullshit. First of all, if you’re planning on playing you should have them within reach. Secondly, make it part of the fun, part of the anticipation. If my wife can get up to go wash a dildo in the middle of us having sex you can take the time to put on a glove or a condom. And that’s just part of the fun. Putting it on means that it’s go time. Plus, if it’s a condom, it can always be put on with your partner’s mouth.
In reference to one of my status updates on facebook one of my friends asked what it meant to be sex positive. Another friend linked the original friend to the wikipedia page about it, which in my opinion isn’t great. So I figured I would give my own definition of what it means to be sex positive.
I think a lot of people have slightly different variations on the meaning, but the shortest summation I can come up with for my own definition is: Sex is good and healthy when done safely and consensually.
That seems really simple, but unfortunately Western society is very sex negative. Sex is only really acceptable in the confines of a heterosexual marriage where the goal is procreation. In fact, in U.S. society, nothing should ever be done for the sole fact that it feels good.
For example, masturbation in a sex negative society is pretty far down on the hierarchy of sex acts because it is only done to please oneself. And when we try to convince others that masturbation is good and healthy we often find ourselves talking in terms of what it can do for your health. Oh, you’ll reduce the likelihood of prostate cancer, you’ll help relax menstrual cramps, you’ll lower your risk for incontinence in your old age, it will improve your mood, etc. What about: it feels good? Masturbate because it feels good!
But if you really want to easily show just how sex negative we are let’s look at what is acceptable to let children see. In this society we seem to prefer to have our kids watch someone being physically abused than to see a naked man or woman, let alone see naked people enjoying their own or other peoples’ bodies. Which would you think would be more damaging for your kid to walk in on: someone being brutally murdered or a loving couple having sex? I would personally prefer a child to walk in on the loving couple. This obviously can’t be true though of a lot of people who have no problems with their kids watching network TV, but when a breast is accidentally flashed they go berzerk. Because kids have never seen a breast before that’s for sure.
And the response usually of sex negative folks when confronted with the idea of sex positivity is usually one of morals, but also one of concern for unwanted pregnancy and STIs.
The morals I already covered. Mine are obviously different since I think that sex is good and violence is bad. But the issue of unwanted pregnancy and STIs is when sex positive and sex negative folks seem to talk past each other instead of engaging in an actual discussion.
Sex negative folks seem to have the opinion that unwanted pregnancy and STIs are there to deter people from having sex. It is god’s way of punishing the wicked. They blame sex positive people for teen pregnancy and rampant rates of STIs. And not only are we talking past each other here, we’re using different terminology. For sex negative folks we’re promiscuous, not sex positive. Even though, in reality sex positivity has no real effect on how many sex partners a person has or does not have. And we reject the word promiscuous because of it’s negative connotations.
Sex positive folks realize that while pleasure is good, it comes with it’s fair share of risks. Everything worth doing in life comes with risks. But sex positive people also emphasize using protection. We don’t see STIs and unplanned pregnancies as a punishment from god, but more as a consequence to being irresponsible and in general just something that can happen when you take risks. When you drive a car you wear your seatbelt. You can still get into an accident and you could still die, but your risks go down exponentially. And for most Americans, driving or riding in cars is worth the risk.
I, as a sex positive person, do not care how many people you have sex with or what kind of sex you have with those people. I care that you are having safe sex with people who actively participate in the sex and that you’re enjoying yourselves.
I advocate for comprehensive sex education because I feel that people need to know all the facts before engaging in sexual activity. Sex negative people, on the other hand, tend to lean more towards abstinence only education because if you tell the kids about sex they’re going to want to do it. I think that is ridiculous. Kids are going to learn about sex from the wrong places (and gain a lot of misinformation) and they are going to have sex anyways. It is necessary to give them the tools to decide when to have sex and how to do it safely and pleasurably.
Now I’ve been pretty black and white here. The truth is that everything is a spectrum. It’s doubtful that most people are completely sex negative or completely sex positive. They are somewhere in the middle. But it’s a bit easier to kind of lay out the different beliefs in opposition to each other to give you more of an idea of the differences between the two.
In all the discussions about STI’s (Sexually Transmitted Infections) you always hear the same old stuff about the same old infections. Sure, every so often a new one gets thrown into the mix, but then you hear about that one along with the rest of them all the time. Herpes, HIV, HPV/genital warts, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Crabs, and Hepatitis all get their moment in the sun. You hear about them in sex ed, read about them in books and in the media, and hear about them in day to day conversation. But there are other STIs that you do not hear about and may not even know anything about.
One such STI is Molluscum contagiosum (MC). Surprising you don’t hear about it considering how contagious it is (did you not get that from the second part of its name?). MC is a viral infection spread through skin to skin contact or via shared items like towels. It’s most prevalent in the immunodeficient (like HIV+, transplant patients, the elderly, etc.), children – which lets face it, their immune systems kind of suck too-, and sexually active adults.
MC forms lesions on the skin which often look like pimples or ingrown hairs to the untrained eye. They are shiny red or skin-colored bumps with a little dimple in the center filled with a waxy white substance which actually contains the virus. I’ll leave it up to you to do the Google image search. The bumps often itch, which is how the virus spreads. Scratch scratch scratch and the white stuff gets all spread around to make more bumps. Even worse, now that shaving your genitals is all the rage. One day you think you just have an ingrown hair and the next you have itchy bumps all over your genitals. And if you shave other places with that same razor, you probably just spread them there as well.
MC is no fun! But the good news is that its relatively easy to treat. First, get yourself to a doctor to make sure that is what you have. Then the most common treatments are usually burning the lesions with acid or freezing them with liquid nitrogen. Some doctors will just scrape the white stuff out. If you don’t have a lot of bumps you can try your luck with cleaning the area thoroughly, scraping out the white stuff, and then cleaning the area and your hands/implements used for scratching. If you have a weak immune system though I would recommend against this.
The other option is to just let the virus run its course. This can take up to 2 years. But seriously, who the heck wants to do that? You could infect all kinds of people and that shit itches.
The great news is that once the lesions are gone, the virus is gone. It does not hide in your body like herpes or HPV. However, just because you had it once, does not mean you can’t catch it again. If your partner still has it you could pass it back and forth to each other for eternity – and condoms aren’t going to do any good. So make sure everyone gets treated and you wash all of your towels, clothes, and sheets. And give yourself a couple weeks after the disappearance of the lesions to declare yourself MC free.
How can you protect yourself against MC? Well, really its not all that easy. If your partner has it, or someone else in your household has it (and you share towels) there is a very good chance that you will also get it. You can decrease your risks by using condoms (the female condom is actually the best for this as it covers the vulva), dental dams, and gloves. And of course, if you see something abnormal on your or your partners’ bodies then do not have sex.
The fabulous and talented Midori wrote a great article for Carnal Nation entitled ‘How Herpes Saved My Life’. She talks about how contracting herpes led her to safer sex. She gives the usual downtrodden dirty slut story a spin into a wonderful sex-positive message and normalizes STIs. Its a seriously nice change. Because we’ve all heard the statistics about how many people have STIs and yet we still associate them with only dirty sneaky evil folks. How is that possible?
One thing to keep in mind though is that Midori does tell a very rosey tale and that won’t be everyone’s experience. So far she’s had a couple of comments that have addressed that. I think it is important to note that there are many people living with STIs who have a harder time finding a mate. But I think its also nice to see someone who tells a story about how she doesn’t give a crap about the people who turn her down.