If You Can't Get Hard, Don't Assume Condoms Are To Blame

A new study suggests that men may have to think of a new excuse.
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Academic studies can be fascinating... and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you.

The Background
It's hard to pinpoint exactly how many young men suffer from occasional erectile dysfunction, but estimates range from 16 to 30 percent. One thing that kills a man's mojo, according to studies (and a handful of guys on the Internet), is condoms. But condoms are pretty important: Among singles, they're used in one in three acts of sexual intercourse. Understanding how they affect erections can help couples navigate those awkward pre-coitus conversations so that they're able to make informed decisions and prevent unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.

A new study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine explores how condoms affect men's erections and provides a useful perspective for those aforementioned couples.

The Setup
Researchers surveyed 479 heterosexual men between the ages of 18 and 24 who had used a condom during sex within the last 90 days. In order to oversample men with condom-associated erection problems, the researchers solicited participants using flyers that read "Do condoms interfere with your erections?" and "Do condoms interfere with your arousal?"

For the actual survey, the men were first asked how often they had erectile problems in the last 90 days when they were not using condoms. They were specifically asked to explain at which point they lost their erections during the hook up -- before putting it in or after (but before they reached orgasm). Then, the men were asked about their erectile problems in the last 90 days when they were using condoms. The guys reported how often they lost or started to lose erections while putting the condom on before vaginal intercourse, and then how often they lost or started to lose erections while wearing a condom during intercourse.

The Findings
Of the 479 men surveyed, about 62 percent had condom-associated erectile problems before penetration, after penetration or during both instances. After analyzing the results, the researchers discovered an interesting finding: The young men who reported condom-associated erectile problems were more likely to report trouble getting hard even when no condom was used. In general, guys who had trouble staying hard using condoms were significantly more likely to be classified as having mild to moderate erectile dysfunction than the ones who weren't affected by using rubbers.

The Takeaway
Since men in the study tended to lose erections condom or no condom, these findings suggest that condoms may not necessarily be to blame. Previous research has linked emotions, like worry and distraction, with erectile dysfunction. The researchers write that it's possible that men who lose erections after using a condom might become worried about losing them in general and thus become more vulnerable to losing erections without condoms.

But this isn't just a matter of emotions: Erectile problems have been linked to inconsistent and incomplete condom use, which puts people at risk for STIs and unwanted pregnancy. According to the researchers, education can be crucial for guys who may need to properly learn how to use a condom (37 percent of the men sampled said they'd never been taught how to use a condom correctly). The researchers also suggest it could also be a matter of arousal -- these men may simply need more time to get it up or need certain things to stay stimulated. Either way, if a man is having difficulties, they recommend he consult a health practitioner.

Moral of the story for women? If a guy says he can't stay hard when he wears a condom, it's probably a good idea to be frank about your concerns surrounding safe sex. And hey, it might be a good opportunity to talk about what you both need to keep things exciting in bed, too.

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