February 21, 2007

Q&A: Condoms, Erections And My Partner’s Physical Appearance

A male reader asks about erectile difficulty when using condoms with certain partners but not others and techniques to help the situation

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Question: When I use a condom during sex with a female i’m attracted to, my erections are fine, but I have problems maintaining my erection when I am using a condom with a female that has an ‘okay’ appearance (good enough for sex). I don’t like how a condom feels during sex and I can fully perform sex with any girl unprotected, but I don’t want to have unprotected sex with different partners. Should I try using different condoms to see if that helps?

First, it is fantastic that you want to use condoms with your various partners – not only for the sake of your health, but for the sake of your partners’ health too. Part of being a sexually responsible adult is looking out for yourself and others, and correct and consistent condom use is important to many men and women.

Although condom use cannot protect against all sexually transmissible infections (STI), it can greatly reduce the risk of transmitting chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV (for more information on how – exactly – to use condoms, check out www.plannedparenthood.org).

“Good Enough For Sex”

Second, let’s address this issue of a woman’s appearance being ‘good enough for sex’ because it’s sure to ignite a range of responses from readers – responses that likely include agreement, laughter, hurt and anger.

The reality, of course, is that bodies of all shapes, sizes, ages, skin tones, abilities and disabilities, heights, thicknesses, and degrees of hairiness are ‘good enough for sex’ and attractive to somebody.

I think you probably meant something more along the lines of the fact that there are simply women who you find more attractive than others, and that – like most people – you need to feel a certain level of sexual excitement in order to become sexually aroused and to be sexual with that person.

Sexual Attractiveness: Sensitive Issue

It’s an important point because attractiveness can be a sensitive issue (nearly everyone wonders if they are ‘attractive enough’ to other people) and everyone’s idea of attractiveness varies.

A woman or man that one person finds attractive may be seen as unattractive by another person because he or she seems too skinny, fat, tall or short or because there is something they don’t like about that person’s hair, teeth, breath, smell, voice or mannerisms.

Sexual attractiveness is relevant to sexual functioning because there are both physical and psychological components to sexual arousal. A man can get an erection, for example, through physical stimulation and perhaps a bit of psychological arousal or excitement (in your case, perhaps she or you touches your penis, and you feel her attractiveness is ‘good enough’ for you). But in order to maintain your erection, you may need more than just a bit of psychological arousal – you may need to feel very attracted to your partner.

Sexual Arousal and Casual Encounters

This may be more important for you in casual encounters because if you don’t know a woman very well, it’s hard to be emotionally excited by her, whereas men and women in relationships often find that their relationship and feelings of love or liking for their partner can add an extra layer of psychological excitement or attraction.

You may find that it is easier to maintain your erection if you find a more regular partner that excites you both physically and emotionally.

If you prefer casual partners for now, you may find that focusing on psychologically exciting things such as an arousing part of your partner’s body, or even a sexual fantasy that you often have and enjoy thinking about (people’s fantasies and mental images during sex vary considerably – some folks think about their partner, others think about celebrities or porn stars, others even think about past partners).

Though you didn’t mention alcohol, it can have a damaging effect on erections (as can cigarette smoking over time).

Trying Different Condoms

Trying different condoms may indeed be useful – Inspiral condoms, for example, offer extra room at the head of the penis which may allow for more sensation. Condoms made of thinner latex may provide more sensation, and some men prefer condoms made of polyurethane as they facilitate warmer sensations during sex.

For a wide range of condom choices, check out condomania.com, drugstore.com, or your local drug store or super store for options.

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