Join 3,557 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

Can't stay hard with a condom, help?
May 13, 2014 7:04 AM   Subscribe

I'm a straight male without much sexual experience. I've been seeing a new girl recently and things have gotten sexual. We have good chemistry in and out of bed, are comfortable around each other and attracted to each other's bodies. But I've encountered a problem: when I try to penetrate her with a condom, I can't maintain an erection. Without a condom I don't have this problem, but condomless sex is not a good option. What to do?

Here's what happens. We'll be doing foreplay, I get hard, all well and good. Things heat up, I put on a condom, or she does it for me, still good - up to the moment I try to penetrate her. Then I immediately go soft. This has happened every time we've tried, about four times now. It's also happened to me with the few other women I've been with in the past - not every time, but more often than not. This is one reason why I've never had much of a sex life (I'm in my 30s), along with the fact that I've rarely had a steady partner.

On the other hand, twice now we've been irresponsible and forgotten about the condom, and then I haven't had this problem. Feeling her vagina directly with my penis keeps me aroused enough that I can penetrate. Even then I haven't been fully hard, but hard enough. But it's obviously not a good idea to keep doing this. We're not worried about STDs since we've both been recently tested, but pregnancy would not be a good thing. I've brought up the idea of other means of birth control (pill, female condom/diaphragm) and she said she was open to considering them. This would presumably solve the problem. But, (a) if this happens it might take a little while, and I want to be able to have sex with her in the meantime, and (b) I'd really like to solve this issue generally, since this has been a recurring theme in my sex life.

Organic causes can probably be ruled out since I'm in good shape, healthy, don't smoke, rarely drink and have higher than average testosterone levels. Also, I sometimes masturbate with a condom, to get myself more used to the sensation, and I have no problem getting myself off. I'm thinking this is probably a psychological thing, namely that sex is still a somewhat unfamiliar thing for me (I'd estimate the number of times I've successfully had full PIV sex as between ten and twenty), and I just need to ease into it with time. Which I'm okay with, and she seems to be too. But meanwhile it feels really frustrating, and I also feel like I'm getting into this cycle of anxiety where the memory of past failures makes it harder for me to stay in the moment. Other than giving it time, what can I do about this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Have you tried different varieties of condoms and lubricants?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:13 AM on May 13


You're absolutely correct about past failures leading to current anxieties.

If you're in a committed relationship and there's no medical reason why she cannot be on birth control then you need to have a sit-down discussion with her and get the ball rolling on BC for her. Find out what type she'll be comfortable with and set a road map/timeline, i.e. ask her to schedule an appointment.

After that you'll have some slack time between now and then to do more experimentation. Knowing that there's a concrete end to your struggles with a condom will help, I'd think.

Your problem isn't unusual - don't fret. Happens to us all.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 7:19 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


This happens to me too: being erect but not super hard, which makes it difficult to maintain while getting a condom, putting it on, and penetrating. I'm pretty sure this is a near universal thing.

My suggestion is more foreplay. A little oral usually helps to make things harder. If she doesn't like that, just laying on top of her and grinding your penis on her vulva (aka "dry humping") should provide some stimulation. Since you are not concerned with STDs, you could even penetrate her a few times, then pull out and apply the condom.
posted by I am the Walrus at 7:20 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


you could even penetrate her a few times, then pull out and apply the condom.

Yeah, don't do that without her being on BC. She can absolutely get pregnant this way.
posted by anastasiav at 7:29 AM on May 13 [12 favorites]


If she's ok with it, getting things rolling with birth control generally takes between a week to a month.
posted by Ashlyth at 7:29 AM on May 13


There's no way to say this without sounding like I'm bragging, so I guess it's a good thing that I don't mind bragging...

I had this problem for years, until one day I wound up with a more worldly woman who pointed out that regular condoms were to small for me (something that, due to most of my exposure to male anatomy coming from porn, never would have occurred to me). We switched to larger condoms and the problem disappeared almost immediately.

It may or may not be the answer to your problem, but it certainly couldn't hurt to try.

To this day, I suspect that condom companies engage in "vanity sizing", with smaller-than-average being labeled as Regular, and average labeled as Large.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:32 AM on May 13 [17 favorites]


Start practice masturbating with a condom on. Get used to it alone. Then do the same thing before you enter her.
posted by inturnaround at 7:33 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]


In my experience as a female, losing an erection with a condom pretty common for males, so don't sweat it. I agree about changing condoms brands. Latex is terrible, non-latex, polyisoprene is less terrible. If you're not worried about STDs and are just trying to prevent pregnancy, the natural lamb condoms feel the best to me and my partners, they do smell a little strange. Even with the kind that feel a better, loss of erection can happen. I'm considering trying the female condom, it seems to work better for some people.

Try not to worry about it, talk to your partner about the issue and let her help you come up with inventive solutions. Remember, there's lots of other things that feel good when things just don't work out.

Do not penetrate her a few times without a condom. Bad idea!
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 7:35 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]


Seconding trying some different varieties. Several of the online condom retailers have larger sample packs available (like 2 each of 30 different brands/styles). Set aside an evening and go nuts (this approach might take an edge of the anxiety as well). Specifically if you haven't already try polyurethane condoms. They are much more expensive however they conduct heat significantly better which can make all the difference in the world.
posted by Mitheral at 7:35 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


A couple things to try. 1. Have the lady apply a little additional foreplay after the condom is in place, 2. Use a position, eg woman astride, where achieving the union is her responsibility, not yours.

Also, quit masturbating with a condom.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:36 AM on May 13


Also, not all condoms are the same. There's a great deal of variation in thickness and sensation. Put a single drop of lube (maybe warming lube) in the tip of the condom. Also consider trying polyurethane condoms. They are somewhat more prone to breaking, but they transmit more heat than latex.
posted by plinth at 7:36 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


Are you putting a drop of lube in the tip of the condom before you put it on? This tip should make things a bit happier for you.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:47 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]


Both of you go out and buy a huge selection of assorted condoms in various textures, sizes, materials and flavours. Spend a fun night or 5 trying out all the combos and all the fun way's you can put them on together. This will not only tie in the feeling of a condom with fun sexy feelings its main purpose is to help you find a condom that feels good when on and errrr in.

Also don't be in such a rush to go from condom on to having sex, you've just had to concentrate on something other than sex, give your penis/little brain a second to get back in the game, a bit of additional foreplay never hurt anyone.
posted by wwax at 7:57 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


It's entirely possible that this is primarily a psychological issue. However, have you considered a penis ring? I recommend a simple, soft silicone model like this one. They're inexpensive, easy to clean, unobtrusive, and may keep you erect long enough after penetration to work through your anxiety.
posted by Sockenpuppe at 8:01 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


If it's psychological, you could try sort of a guided meditation within yourself-- I know someone who said they couldn't have sex with condoms because they wanted to "feel the energy connecting"--- if you feel like the condom is blocking the energetic connection, that is something you can work on changing your thinking on, you can have a powerful energetic connection and feel like you're really exploring and connecting within someone, while wearing a condom. Practice feeling the connection and feeling that you really are in there. Saying she's open to considering hormonal birth control or IUD does not sound like a done deal- these options can be more or less difficult for various women for more reasons than just medical, and she sounds less than enthusiastic or certain. Consider how hard it is for you to work through your psychological issue about using condoms? Plenty of women have a hard time with the effects of hormonal BC or the IUD and innately don't want to deal with that. She could continue saying "open to considering" for a long while but if she actually ahs some strong reservations you won't get any closer to using them, nor should you because she has every right to not want to, it's her body.

KEEP USING THE CONDOMS and if you have to break up if you're just finding yourself tempted and the forces of nature are taking over or whatever. Decide in your head, no sex without birth control, it's off the table until you find a solution.

Another meditative activity you could use is imagining the conversation with a future child where you explain to them that your orgasm was more important to you than planning their birth in a situation where you and a partner where prepared and wanting to provide them with a stable family. Is that a conversation you want to have some day? Because she has every right to birth a child if you impregnate her and you are potentially signing a child up for a very complicated and painful situation between their parents and in their family system and support structure. I know it's very hard to think of that during sexy time but remember you're making choices here. The forces of nature are strong but they don't own you.
posted by xarnop at 8:04 AM on May 13


anastasiav: "you could even penetrate her a few times, then pull out and apply the condom.

Yeah, don't do that without her being on BC. She can absolutely get pregnant this way
"

It's highly unlikely, according to science
posted by I am the Walrus at 8:11 AM on May 13 [6 favorites]


2nd to Parasite's comment- try using magnums or something similar.

If a condom is too snug, it'll squeeze the mojo out of your wing-wang and put a no-go on the bing-bang.
posted by stinkfoot at 8:22 AM on May 13 [5 favorites]


I'm a woman so I don't have experience with this from your perspective but I listen to Savage Love like it's my job and I am confident that he would say this problem is psychological.

The most important sex organ for both genders is between our ears. Keep trying for p-in-v sex if you want but if it doesn't work out, that doesn't mean the fun is over. You can go down on her, she can go down on you, etc. It's a lot of pressure to put on your boner if you think that the night is over if you lose my erection when you put the condom on so stop thinking that way. Once you know, from experience, that you can have fun whether you try condom p-in-v sex or not, that's a lot less pressure on you, making it more likely that you will get an erection that will last for p-in-v sex.

I also like the idea of getting a lot of different kinds of condoms and having fun. Re: this -

If you're in a committed relationship and there's no medical reason why she cannot be on birth control then you need to have a sit-down discussion with her and get the ball rolling on BC for her. Find out what type she'll be comfortable with and set a road map/timeline, i.e. ask her to schedule an appointment.

My husband and I have been together for 10+ years. I got an IUD less than 3 years ago so for maybe 70% of the time that my husband and I have been together, sexy times meant condoms because I did not want to go on birth control. Previous boyfriends wore condoms. Pregnancy prevention is on both partners and the side effects of condoms compared to the side effects of birth control made condoms my choice since I became sexually active 14 years ago. You can ask her but she is well within her rights to say no.
posted by kat518 at 8:31 AM on May 13 [5 favorites]


In addition to looking for different sizes, I'd also try looking at different varieties of condom; there are some that are designed for a bit of extra stimulation for men or "extra sensation" or have various different agents in them for effect. Maybe you can make it a bit of an adventure to buy and try them. And don't be shy about lube on either side of the condom, just make sure it's all condom-safe lube.
posted by graymouser at 8:32 AM on May 13


My husband and I have been together for 10+ years. I got an IUD less than 3 years ago so for maybe 70% of the time that my husband and I have been together, sexy times meant condoms because I did not want to go on birth control. Previous boyfriends wore condoms.

That's great for you, but Anon is suffering from condom-related ED. The situations are not the same.

You can ask her but she is well within her rights to say no.

If she says no, Anon, you should be prepared to break up because a sex-less relationship where one partner is unwilling to compromise is doomed to frustration and ultimately, failure.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 8:43 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


ED is a medical condition. If Anon believes he has a medical condition, he should see a doctor. Bonus - if it is a medical condition that he treats, he probably won't have to worry about it with partners in the future. If he convinces this girl to get on BC, they split and he starts experiencing this problem with a new partner who isn't on BC, he is back to square one.
posted by kat518 at 8:48 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


The very first thing a doctor will tell you is to stop masturbating. That's an unwelcome prescription, for sure, and difficult to follow, but, yeah, stop masturbating.
posted by pupsocket at 8:53 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


The first thing I'd try is a little lube inside the condom. That helps.
posted by klangklangston at 9:25 AM on May 13


"If she says no, Anon, you should be prepared to break up because a sex-less relationship where one partner is unwilling to compromise is doomed to frustration and ultimately, failure."

Given the side effects of hormonal birth control for a lot of women, that's a douchebag answer. Not wanting hormonal birth control doesn't mean that they'll be doomed to a sexless relationship and framing it as her unwillingness to compromise is both selfish and oblivious (hence douchebag).
posted by klangklangston at 9:27 AM on May 13 [41 favorites]


When you're erect or semi-erect, press your thumb down on the upper side of your penis at the base, close to where it attaches to your body. This blocks one of the main blood-draining veins, keeping you hard and also helping with the aim as you make your entrance. If the friction isn't enough to sustain an erection once you're inside, try condoms with a bit of texture. Even though they're marketed that way, the ribs aren't just for her pleasure.
posted by Herr Zebrurka at 9:41 AM on May 13


Birth control is both partners' responsibility. So why not a vasectomy? Takes care of the birth control issue and need for condoms.
posted by sazanka at 9:53 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]


Given the side effects of hormonal birth control for a lot of women, that's a douchebag answer.

Given that she's already stated that she's open to the idea and that Anon has already made an effort with condoms, there's no reason to classify the logical next step as "douchebag" behavior.

Time for her to step up to her end of the birth control issue, Anon. It's both partner's responsibility, not just yours.
posted by Setec Astronomy at 10:04 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Even if she goes on birth control and you stop using condoms, you might still lose your erection sometimes. I think the best thing you could do if/when that happens, if you and your partner are both still in the mood, is say something like, OH MY GOD, you are SO hot, can I [sex act that will make her happy]? Instead of having a sad about your penis, you can show her that you're confident, make her happy and remind yourself what a great partner you are.

If she says no, Anon, you should be prepared to break up because a sex-less relationship where one partner is unwilling to compromise is doomed to frustration and ultimately, failure.

It is not possible for one person to compromise. Two people each say they will do something in a compromise, like, if you talk to your doctor about birth control, I'll talk to my doctor about my ED. Not, if you go on the pill, I won't dump you. That's not a compromise, that's a hostage situation. And I don't negotiate with terrorists.

Given that she's already stated that she's open to the idea and that Anon has already made an effort with condoms, there's no reason to classify the logical next step as "douchebag" behavior.

The thing is, assuming that she is capable of getting pregnant, her body is working the way it is supposed to work. There is nothing wrong with her. If he is physically incapable of having sex, his body is not working the way it is supposed to work and that's a reason to see a doctor.
posted by kat518 at 10:12 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


[Stop arguing about birth control and just answer the ED question please.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:28 AM on May 13 [4 favorites]


Definitely try different condoms, try lube inside the condom, try larger condoms -- but also, talk to your doctor. I know more than one man for whom penis problems were the first sign of heart problems -- and treating the heart problems fixed the penis problems.
posted by KathrynT at 10:30 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


The great thing about this new relationship is that you two are so comfortable with each other. Working on this sort of issue is what builds intimacy and trust. Try the big condoms, slow down and maybe watch some porn that features condoms. If you haven't had many relationships in the past, it could be that you haven't let your guard down like this before. You don't have to prove anything, just enjoy each other. Live in the moment.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:22 AM on May 13 [3 favorites]


bonobothegreat has a great approach.

I am old lady, and I hate condoms. I feel it is unfair to make the whole issue of condoms a male issue, and a problem of trust and lubrication.

We all had to get used to condoms because of AIDS, but in my view, what we really needed to get used to was trust and safety. You really, really have to be reliable and trustworthy if you want to have sex without protection. You can see this as a bad thing, and in many cases it probably is. But in other cases, it can lead to very fulfilling, strong relationships.
posted by mumimor at 12:07 PM on May 13


Pro tip: if you want to try a bunch of different kinds of condoms, they are sold in variety packs online with all sorts of different brands.

As others have suggested, starting PIV without a condom and then putting one on and getting back to it could be a helpful way to get more comfortable with this. If you have control over your orgasms, it is pretty darn safe for birth control purposes assuming you have peed since the last time you came.
posted by metasarah at 1:44 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Seems like everyone covered everything I was going to say, but I'll restate as someone who once had a huge problem with this. YMMV but I've yet to know anybody who says the following is bad/not good advice.

1. Lube in the condom. Good lube. I would advise Sliquid, I think the stuff that gives a slight warm tingle is about the best for this as it -almost- but not quite gets a feel like you're dealing with person fluids and warmth and that you don't have your penis stuck in a small stretchy plastic sack, it's really good quality with super-safe ingredients, water based, long lasting etc. etc.

2. Size up and/or try different brands. Trojan standard? Uncomfortable as hell. Kimono or the slightly larger trojans? Juuuust right. Hit a planned parenthood, ask for a baggie of condoms, find what works.

3. Seriously, performance anxiety. Dial things back, don't worry about full on sex. It'll happen when it happens. Putting pressure on the little guy is just makin' him scared. Psychology is pretty key.

4. Most importantly: Stop masturbating! Period! Yes, it's a physical activity but it is one that builds up weird psychological effects as well, especially if you're always watching porn.

Ideally, dial back any masturbating to only when you're having really really bad invasive-sex-thoughts and you don't see sexytime in your future. I'm not talking the "I want to have sex with everything that moves," crazy, because ideally that's where you want to be at. I'm talking crazy in that you have a hard time focusing on the task at hand should an even mildly attractive person come by and your hormones are screaming "SEX NOW!"

Masturbating with a condom, especially if you're pretty practiced with it, is pretty awesome compared to masturbating without one. There's way more stimulation and you have all this control over how it feels. Don't do it because you're essentially conditioning your body/mind for way more physically intense stimulation and building up all kinds of weird brain habits related to how much you can control and precisely meet your own needs. You are used to eating two whole bags of Jacked Doritos on a regular basis and your alternative is like a perfectly crafted three course meal... but only after getting injected with some Novocain.
Not only have you spoiled your appetite but your palate is way too overstimulated to even notice what taste is filtering through. Porn is the cheeze whiz of this analogy.

Seriously though, I bet you a shiny new nickle that if you stop masturbating for several days you're gonna find that besides the fact your penis will feel a bit more sensitive and you're super driven to get some sex done right the hell now, condom or not, but your boners will be surprisingly resilient, such that your little buddy may feel like an immediate encore performance, even in an unlubricated uncomfortable condom. Not only will that help your own ego and smash your performance anxiety in the face, it will flatter the hell out of your partner.

5. Doctor/Therapist.
posted by ThrowbackDave at 1:47 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


seconding the cock ring suggestion. you can even get fun ones with clitoral/perineal stimulators and/or vibration for Not Very Much Money, which could be great if your lady enjoys that. there's plenty of decent, cheapo single-use rings out there if you're not sure you want to drop, like, a dozen dollars, though.

try a bunch of different condoms, too—most good adult shops (online and otherwise) carry sample packs in my experience. you might find a thinner condom helpful—Kimono brand is excellent, and i think Crown is just as good (and often significantly cheaper). i think Durex Bare is the next best thing if you're limited to a regular-drug-store selection, though.

"stop masturbating" is key advice as well. also, talk to her about this if you haven't, and be honest. i think a good partner will be understanding and want to help you find a solution.
posted by tealsocks at 2:43 PM on May 13


Yeah, don't do that without her being on BC. She can absolutely get pregnant this way"

It's highly unlikely, according to science


My highly unlikely is ten months old, and this is precisely how he was conceived. Bear that in mind that it's still a possibility.
posted by Jilder at 5:34 AM on May 14 [3 favorites]


Yeah, using a condom that is too small and psyching yourself out is probably what's going on. You don't have a medical reason for it since you're functioning fine up until then. It's a common problem for dudes of a certain age that they need to figure out.

Talk about it with her (it's no big deal, and she knows what's going on clearly) and go buy some different brands to experiment. It's like a sexual taste test. Fun! Take her with you and giggle together the entire time in the condom aisle.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:10 AM on May 14


In addition to all of the above, room temperature condoms can be chilly, try warming it to body temperature before putting it on (typically the partner on the bottom either lies on it or holds it between their thighs during foreplay--this is with the wrapper still on, just in case that's not obvious).

And yes, this is a super common thing in my experience. If you spend time making sure that she's having her needs met in general then I wouldn't be worried about immediately getting the boot over this.
posted by anaelith at 7:00 AM on May 17


« Older I am reasonably competent at p...   |  We have an excessive interest ... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments