Common Question Series: “I Can’t Stay Hard With Condoms”

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As a sex researcher, I get asked questions about sex all the time. I've documented them and will share the answers with you in this common question series.

Condoms

Photo: peachy92

Condoms come in an endless variety of shapes and sizes.

As a sex researcher, I get a lot of questions from friends, students, and random people I meet at cocktail parties. A lot of questions. Well, I’ve decided to compile a list of these questions and talk about them here on Kinsey Confidential. Because if friends, students, and randoms are all asking about it – you’ve likely wondered too!

Today’s question pick

I often have friends and students asking about condoms. Surprisingly, I don’t hear too many complaints from my hetero female friends and students about condoms. The women tend to not mind the feeling of a condom; some of them actually express liking the fact that condoms prevent them from having any sort of “mess” to clean up afterward.

But the men, well, they are who have made this a common question: condom complaints are common among men. These complaints are varied (and have been documented in the literature and can be read about here). The most common question I hear with regard to condom use is about how to keep an erection when a condom enters the sexual equation. So, here are some suggestions:

Try using the condom during masturbation

I know, it might sound weird, but not only does this allow your penis to become familiar with the sensation that a condom provides, but it also allows for a quick clean up method without having a hamper full of socks or a garbage full of tissues!

Experiment with buying different types of condoms

There are a huge variety of condoms on the market today. Have you seen condom sections lately? The options are there, yet many men stick to the same brand or style that they are accustomed to, for whatever reason. Well, that might be part of the problem. Penises are not all shaped the same, and there are some great condoms on the market today that acknowledge that. It is worth the bit of extra money you will spend looking for the perfect fit to be able to have consistently safe and pleasurable sex in the future. I think the most innovative design on the market right now is the Trojan Ecstasy condom. It is lubricated on the inside and the outside and has a “comfort shape” that is loose at the end for a more natural feeling. That isn’t the only one on the market though…so shop around and find one that feels the best for you.

Restructure your association with condoms

A condom is an object. The way you view that object can impact the way your perform when the object is brought into the sexual situation. Understanding that you can restructure the cognitive associations you have with condoms is an important first step to taking control of the situation. When we are kids, condoms are actually a pretty scary object – filled with feelings of anxiety, curiosity, and the unknown. This association can be long-lasting. Try to see the condom as associated with pleasure (which will happen through masturbating with the condom) rather than disease. Also, with the advancements in the condom industry, condoms are sometimes enhancers of sexual pleasure by offering stimulating lubrication (warm, tingle, cool…take your pick). Cognitively restructuring your relationship with condoms to be positive rather than anxiety provoking will naturally improve your sexual experience.

Hopefully by masturbating with the condom, trying different types of condoms to find the perfect fit, and engaging in a little cognitive restructuring…you’ll be well on your way to maintaining that erection to make sex safe while keeping it pleasurable.

Kristen Mark, PhD, MPH

completed her PhD in Health Behavior and her MPH in Biostatistics, both at Indiana University. Kristen is an Assistant Professor in Health Promotion at University of Kentucky. Kristen's research focuses on sexual pleasure, sexuality in long term relationships, sexual function, and women's sexuality.
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