Condom Use and Erection Problems

One of the mysteries of male sexuality is why putting a condom on so often leads to the loss of a man’s erection.

This happens so often that it deserves to be explained, and some scientific researchers at the Kinsey Institute for sex at Indiana University have indeed looked at the question.

What Cynthia Graham, an associate research fellow, has discovered is that it’s a combination of factors that lead to the loss of erection.

There is the anxiety of sex with a new partner, anxiety about the condom itself (either that it won’t fit, that it’s too tight, or that it will come off, or that it simply will fail in its function) and then there’s also men’s inability to put a condom on correctly.

All of this sounds rather astonishing, since the condom is one of the oldestĀ  methods of birth control, but it turns out that men are willing to risk unprotected sex rather than suffer the indignity of losing their erection when they unroll the condom.

Indeed, men even take condoms off before sex is over, and elect not to use them in new sexual encounters simply because they know they are not going to have a reliable erection when they do use a condom.

Obviously this puts both men and their partners at risk of unprotected sex and consequent infection. The research was conducted among 278 men who had attended a sexual infection clinic in the United States. All the men had used a condom for sex at three times in the 12 weeks preceding their appointment at the clinic. The men answered questions on whether or not they had experienced any loss of erection, the number of sexual partners they had had, how often they had had unprotected sex, and any problems they had with condom breakage or use.

This included issues with the feel of the condom, the condom slipping off during use, and how the condom fitted the penis during sex. Men were also rated for their confidence in applying the condom to the erection in the first place.

Cynthia Graham and her colleagues discovered that at as many as 37% of men had one event of erection loss when they were putting the condom on or during sex in the previous 12 weeks.

Those men who reported losing their erection had in fact also had more unprotected sex than those with no loss of erection — an astonishing 10.6 times more unprotected sex in fact!

Equally astonishing, 40% of the men who lost their erection while using a condom said that they had removed the condom before sex was over.

This is clearly a major issue for sexual health. And the extraordinary thing is that this happens even in the face of the well-known risk of unprotected sex.

Even men who had multiple partners were likely to have problems with loss of erection and lack of condom use, increasing their risk even further.

The issue is fairly major: for one thing, a lot of men are not aware that it is usual to lose your erection during sex. This happens all the time, it’s not in any way unusual for an erection which develops at the beginning of sex to come and go several times. Presumably also, these men don’t know that lots of erection when putting a condom on is also completely normal.

However, this isn’t just an issue about sex education (more specifically, about how to put a condom on); it’s also education about the risks involved in not using condom in the first place, and education about male sexuality – in particular, what expectations around one’s own erectile capacity during intercourse and sexual encounters are realistic.