Pity the poor Bikini Condom. Launched in the early 1990's, it was overshadowed by its more popular cousin, the female condom. Both were part of the contraceptive group the FDA gave the perfectly hideous label "vaginal pouches." ("Hon, I need some quarters for the meter. Can you check your vaginal pouch?")
And when you're playing second fiddle to the female condom--a device most Americans have never actually seen, let alone used--let's just say you're not gonna be sitting at the popular table. Not that there is a popular table for contraceptives. Or if there is, I was, sadly, not invited to sit there.
Bikini Condoms look "like a g-string panty with a condom pouch" wrote an unnamed author in a 1991 issue of Contraceptive Technology, a magazine which I get only for the crossword puzzle.
The condom "is automatically introduced into the vagina with coitus," the writer continues, masterfully making a sentence about sex totally void of eroticism. The odd language continues to the last sentence: "They are so novel they appeal to people with an 'open mind.'" "Open mind" is inexplicably in quotes, signifying, to my mind, that the author is not only "unfamiliar with human writing conventions," perhaps fearful of these unsettling hippies with their "open minds," and probably rarely has "coitus."
So why aren't we all sportin' vaginal pouches this very second? I mean, they empowered women and junk, right? Well, offhand, I can venture several guesses.
1. The term "vaginal pouch" could be entirely to blame.
2. Its look and feel and pretty much everything about it. "Manufactured all in one piece from thin, cream-colored latex," according to the Powerhouse Museum in Australia, "It consists of a belt, which fits around the hips, attached to a pouch-like tube." In summation, it combines a pouch-like tube (oh yeah), a belt reminiscent of grandma's old-timey maxi pads, and cream-colored latex, which we all know is the very sexiest latex color.
3. It is thicker than a regular condom, for those who like their sensation reduced as much as possible.
4. The whole clothing-as-contraceptive idea. (However, other clothing/contraceptive combos such as pleated khakis, holiday sweaters and men's jeans shorts, are still in widespread use.)
5. Reusability. It can be reused 5 to 10 times. I'm as green as the next girl,** but even I would be hesitant to drag out some raggedy-ass cream-colored condom for the 9th time.
6. General confusion/inherent paradox: "Bikini" = sexy. "Condom" = not that sexy, but sex-related, at least. And yet, "bikini condom" = so not sexy.
* (if you'd like to read more about "vaginal pouches"--and who the hell wouldn't?--see also: Female Condom, Where Art Thou?, How to Behave in the Presence of a Female Condom and Someone Who Actually Used The Female Condom.)
** I have been known to force only-marginally-interested children to behold my compost pile, which in several states is legally considered eco-terrorism.