Do Condoms Make Men Lose Their Erections?

It's a stiff debate.

I’m always surprised how often men tell me they don't use a condom because they think it makes them lose their erection.

At the same time it's scary that so many women don't insist their partners use one, especially in a new relationship. Some women who are on the pill mistakenly believe they don't need to use a condom, but it's not just about preventing an accidental pregnancy. The danger -- especially these days -- is the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.

Some men believe a condom is a barrier to their pleasure, but if a condom is used properly such concerns are unwarranted.

For men who are not used to a condom, especially young men, it's a good idea to start by incorporating a condom into the way you masturbate. When lubricated correctly, internally and externally, a condom can enhance the masturbation experience. It's also important to make sure you have the right size of condom, so try some out until you find the right fit. Buy some different samples to give you practice on how to put it on quickly and correctly.

It's important to have the right fit. Practice makes perfect when putting it on quickly and correctly. (Image: Getty Images)

Sexual stimulation feels quite different with a condom on, compared to not wearing one, and you may find it helps to get used to this sensation, turning it into a very pleasurable experience, rather than a barrier.

The main problem around losing an erection for many men is the anxiety triggered by putting a condom on. During the excitement of having sex -- especially with a new partner -- it's easy to get distracted and lose arousal. When this happens it can be helpful for the partner to put the condom on. The trick is the man should keep doing things that keep him aroused, for example kissing and touching his partner.

Another helpful hint is longer foreplay, which can help both partners become more aroused and sustain the erection. The most important thing is to communicate with your partner, telling him or her that losing your erection is due to anxiety and not because you aren't attracted enough to them.

The YEAH (Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS) online Red Aware campaign was involved some years ago in producing this lovely instruction video for young people on how to use a condom, which is also helpful for older people re-entering the dating scene, who have never used a condom before.

Australia has a big STI problem right now, a staggering amount of young teenagers, boys and girls, testing positive for chlamydia. This bacterial infection does not always show obvious symptoms but it can cause serious permanent damage to a woman's reproductive system, which can cause infertility.

These days, oral sex between teenagers has become the most popular sexual activity, the main reason is the fact they believe oral sex is not real sex. But it's not only men who dislike condoms, many women don't want to use them either.

In 2013 the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation offered $100,000 in initial funding and up to $1 million for anyone who could develop the ‘next generation condom’. This condom should significantly preserve and enhance pleasure to improve uptake and regular use, all over the world.

This challenge was taken up by biomedical engineer Dr Robert Gorkin and a team of researchers at the University of Wollongong and Swinburne University in Melbourne called Project Geldom. They created a new type of condom made from hydrogel material, a substance similar to contact lenses, which makes a condom feel more lifelike.

Hydrogels have mechanical properties similar to rubber -- they can stretch to over 1000 times their initial size. They will provide superior protection with the potential for improved feel and sensation. In 2016 the Building Better Futures for Health Challenge invited entrepreneurs from across Australia to submit ideas that could make a significant difference to people health. Project Geldom won the People’s Choice award.

All their work has paid off -- Health Minister Brad Hazzard announced this week seven winners of the 2018 NSW Medical Devices Fund (MDF). The fund invested $9.85 million in the development and commercialization of medical devices and technologies that have the potential to revolutionize healthcare.

Wollongong based Eudaemon Technologies, co-founder Dr Gorkin and his researchers have won a whopping $1 million grant to further develop and market the next-generation, non-allergenic condom. They will take its product to human trials, STI-free couples in Australia, America and Africa will be paid to have sex with their condoms.

Researchers hope to make the 'next generation condom' something men and women want to use, not have to use. (Image: Getty Images)

Dr Gorkin said, ”Women are a key demographic for us, it’s not just about making sex feel better for men but it’s important for women as well. We have surveyed hundreds of people and it’s the feel of the condom that’s a big issue, the smell and the taste. Most people say we 'have to use a condom' not we 'want to'."

The team hopes to have the product on the market within two years. Something to look forward to!

This post first appeared in August 2018.