Guest blog post by: Cassandra Corrado, Feminist Sex Ed
Finding the right condom for you can feel a bit like a Goldilocks situation except with way more than three choices. One might be too narrow, another too wide; one doesn't have enough lube—you get the point.
You’ve probably come across a complaint or two about condoms. As a sex educator, I know that I certainly have.
Sometimes, those complaints get written off as people just trying to get out of using a condom because they don't care about their partner. That's certainly the case sometimes, but not all the time. There are plenty of totally valid reasons why people might not be comfortable in the condoms that they're wearing; we're just not talking about those reasons as much
I polled my Instagram followers to learn what condom-related complaints they’ve encountered (and the complaints they have themselves). I’m sharing some of the most common responses here, along with the possible reasons for them and, crucially, what you can do about it!
“The base of it rolls up and hurts me.”
If you're correctly wearing a condom, it should be unrolled entirely without any extra material bunching up at the bottom. Condoms can be worn for either birth control or to prevent sexually transmitted infections. However, if you've unrolled the condom completely down the shaft and there still is some rolled-up material at the base, that means the condom itself is too long.
A "standard size" is usually about 7.25 to 7.8 inches long, even though the average erect penis is about 5 inches long. That's a lot of extra material! That excess rolls up at the base, creating an intensely tight feeling, which can even lead to a loss of erection.
The solution: Opt for a shorter length with myONE® Perfect Fit Condoms (you can find your condom size here).
“They don’t make my size.”
This complaint usually comes from folks who say that the condoms they buy in the store are too small for them. But really, the condoms available in grocery stores and pharmacies only fit about 12% of people with penises—both because the condoms are too small and too big.
You (probably) wouldn't give up on clothing entirely if you could only find sizes medium and large in stores. That's how many folks find themselves when they can't find a condom that fits well. Whether your condom is too long or too short, too tight or too loose, it's possible to find one that works better—you may need to search online instead of in-store for the best selection.
The solution: Figure out your condom size to try to find a better fit. If you still can’t find a condom that fits well, try an internal condom—they’re incredibly flexible and fit many different sizes of genitals.
“Using condoms makes my genitals hurt or itch.”
Okay, this one is a pretty big deal. Many of the people who responded to my Instagram survey said that using condoms made their genitals itch, burn, swell up, or feel raw or chafed. If any of that is happening, it's most likely because you have a latex allergy. If you feel raw or chafed after genital contact but not itchy, it could mean that you need to add more lube to the outside of the condom, too.
No matter the reason, you don’t need to be in pain!
The solution: Consult with a physician before using condoms, if you or your partner(s) are allergic to latex or the lubricant on condoms. There are non-latex and non-lubricated condoms available on the market to help resolve those challenges. And always make sure to use plenty of extra lube that works for your body, even if the condom is pre-lubed. Lubricant adds comfort, helps reduce friction, and prevents the condom from breaking during use.
“They’re so lubricated, they slip off.”
The majority of condoms come pre-lubricated with a silicone lubricant. That helps them go on more easily and feel more comfortable during use. Most people probably need to add an extra drop of lubricant inside the condom and a little extra on the outside, as well.
That extra bit of lube helps increase sensation and can reduce the chance of breakage. But if your condom is slipping off just from the lubrication that came in the packet, it’s probably actually a sizing issue, not a lube issue. Remember how we said that store-bought condoms only fit about 12% of people with penises? Yeah.
There’s no shame in needing a slimmer fit condom. It’s important to know your body and what it needs.
The solution: Explore some slimmer-fit options and see if that reduces the slippage.
“They squeeze my foreskin too hard.”
Real talk, most external condoms are designed for circumcised folks. That can leave many uncircumcised people feeling a little confused when trying to put a condom on for the first time. It feels too tight or doesn't easily move over the foreskin.
Wearing overly tight condoms can be painful, but the solution isn't to grab an XL extra large condom. That one may end up being too long for your shaft or too loose for your girth. Instead, try out options that are designed with extra headroom.
Sometimes these are called "dome-fit" condoms or "pleasure-tip" condoms. What you're looking for is something with a pouch for your foreskin, which will let it move around a little more comfortably and keep it from getting pinched.
The solution: Try out a condom recommended for uncircumcised penises instead.
“You can’t feel anything with them on.”
Out of the 200 responses I received in my 24-hour Instagram survey, the most common complaint shared was some variation of "you can't feel anything when you use them." That sentiment was expressed by people who wore condoms themselves and by their partners.
We've already talked about how wearing a condom that is too small can restrict blood flow and reduce sensation. But you might experience a sensation reduction even if your condom does fit well.
Suppose you stand outside naked on a breezy day. In that case, you're going to feel different than if you stood outside while wearing your favorite ugly sweater. You won't feel the breeze as much because the sweater keeps you warm and snug. It's the same deal with condoms. It's going to feel different than being naked because you're not naked. And that's okay! Set that as a reasonable expectation for yourself.
While using barrier methods may slightly reduce sensation, they can also increase comfort and a sense of safety.
Luckily, there are also other options that can help you get both physical and emotional comfort. Thinner condoms are just as effective as standard condoms, but can greatly increase sensation. So can trying non-latex materials. And of course, make sure you’re wearing the right size.
The solution: Try out a condom designed for increased sensitivity, adjust the size you’re wearing, or try out a non-latex option.
If you’re new to condoms or still trying to figure out which one is the best for you, check out the myONE condoms program. MyONE's Size Specialists (yep, a real title) will help you find the size and shape that’s best for you!