When JoEllen Notte was set to get down and dirty with a hot new conquest, the guy surprised her with his protection of choice.

“I know this is going to sound a little weird because I’m recommending something you have to wear, but will you give it a try?” he said.

The forward-thinking Romeo was brandishing a pack of female condoms — loose-fitting tubes with flexible rings at each end — sold in the US at about $1.90 a pop under the brand name FC2.

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Never one to turn down the opportunity to try something new, writer Notte gave it a whirl. Now, three years on, the FC2 is by far her preferred method of birth control, and she’s been recommending it to friends and everyone who reads her sex blog, the Redhead Bedhead.

“The female condom has had a bad rap, but once you know how to use it correctly, it’s a really superior product in terms of safety and pleasure,” says Notte, 37, a singleton from Portland, Ore. “When it’s in place, I can’t even tell it’s there.”

While women like Notte say they enjoy the control the female condom gives them, there’s another reason the contraceptive is currently enjoying the spotlight: panic over the Zika virus.

The FC2 is distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in so-called “Zika prevention kits” in the District of Columbia and parts of Puerto Rico, and will reach Florida within the month. And, for the first time in history, 100,000 are being dispensed to athletes at the upcoming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, alongside a record 350,000 regular men’s condoms.

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