Q&A: Leaving Space At The Tip Of Condoms

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QUESTION: I’m new to condoms. When I leave space at the tip, is one-half inch enough? I’m worried that if the condom fills up with semen it might back up inside my penis. Any thoughts on this?

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Good for you for seeking out information about a topic that is new to you and incredibly important when it comes to reducing the risk of unintended pregnancy and infection transmission.

Half An Inch

Generally, it is recommended to leave about a half of an inch of space at the top of the condom to “catch” a man’s ejaculate. Condoms move around on a man’s penis during sex – sometimes they become more snug at the head of the penis; other times they become a little more loose. The “half an inch” suggestion is just that – a suggestion – and not an exact science.

Not only does the condom’s movement change the amount of room at the top, but men vary slightly in how much they ejaculate, though usually it is about a teaspoon’s worth. Most men do not report discomfort with ejaculate pooling in the top of the condom. If any of the ejaculate happens to flow back down your urethra, it is not harmful.

Men have a “bladder valve” that opens or shuts off access to your bladder. When a man becomes sexually excited and erect, the valve closes the passageway between the bladder and urethra, which is why men typically don’t pee when they mean to ejaculate.

However, after ejaculation – when you a no longer erect and your body is no longer physically excited (even if you are still feeling excited) – the valve will “open” again to allow access to your bladder. As such, any ejaculate that returns to your body would likely end up in your bladder and then come back out when you go to the bathroom.

Masturbating With A Condom

If you are concerned about this issue, you might consider masturbating with a condom on your penis to see how it feels when you ejaculate. It might not be as bad as you think.

Also consider adding a little water-based or silicon-based lubricant on the outside of the condom (after it is already on your penis) to enhance sensation for you and, during partner sex, comfort for your partner.

Another option, if you are concerned about the ejaculate pooling in the tip of the condom, is to use a condom that has more room around the head of the penis.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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