Men of the world: Ever told a woman you couldn’t use a condom because it would make you lose your erection? Then it’s time to start formulating another excuse, as new research shows rubbers aren’t to blame for wilting wieners.
A study of nearly 500 heterosexual men aged 18-24 found that those who cited condoms as a barrier to an erection were more likely to be suffering from general erectile dysfunction whether they used a condom or not. Of those surveyed, 38 percent said condoms had no effect on their performance, while almost the same number reported problems either during application or sex itself.
“Condom-associated erection problems have been a very under-researched topic,” explained Dr. Cynthia Graham, co-author of the study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. “Increasing evidence suggests, however, that they may influence whether condoms are used correctly or from start to finish of sex.”
For 24-year-old James, the findings have come as something of a surprise. “I had fancied a nice girl for a little while and we ended up in bed [one] night,” he recalls of an ill-fated occasion. “A mixture of too much alcohol, some nerves, and then my attempt to put on a condom all meant my downstairs went to sleep.”
“It was all very tragic,” he says. “A condom is definitely the path to a floppy penis because it removes all the sensitivity and feeling, and then during sex it feels much less pleasurable, so you’re more at prone to going floppy again. They’re a struggle to put on, especially after a few drinks, and then usually end up inside out, so have to be reapplied by which time either you’ve gone floppy or it’s just horrendously awkward and the moment is lost.
“The awkwardness is where the girl is kind of lying there, waiting for you to get it on, and you feel a pressure or self-consciousness.”
The lack of research into the broader issues which could impact penile function means that little of the link between one’s psychological state and future performance has been uncovered, but as the paper suggests, “men who first experience loss of erection when they use condoms might worry about [difficulty] experiencing erections more generally and hence be more vulnerable [to erectile problems].” Referencing prior studies on its physiological causes, the researchers note that around 16 percent of American men under 40 reported intermittent issues maintaining an erection, while another showed that performance difficulties only usually lasted for the first minute of sexual activity.
The researchers found that more than a third of participants had never been taught how to use a condom correctly, which could be a major factor in young men believing that using one will affect them in the bedroom. It’s troubling that so many men are lacking basic knowledge when it comes to condom application, calling into question the efficacy—or even existence of—sexual education in schools.
Without adequate grounding in how to practice safe sex, the risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases remains that much higher—a consequence that could easily be allayed by putting sexual health provisions in place in more than the 21 states that currently mandate it. Some 37 states reportedly allow for medically inaccurate sex education, according to the Guttmacher Institute, while just 18 require teachers to provide their students with information about contraception.
With damning statistics like these, it’s no wonder bogus—and downright risky—myths about sexual performance have been allowed to proliferate.