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For World AIDS Day, How to Use a Condom

Monday Nov 27, 2017

Stephen Snyder MD

Using a condom isn't as simple as you'd think. A surprising number of men can't seem to keep an erection while putting one on.

This can lead to a lot of embarrassment. Sometimes a man might just give up and decide not to use a condom at all. Many men in my office tell me condom trouble has led to unsafe sex.

As a sex therapist, I've spent years teaching men better ways to use condoms. But until now you've had to live close enough to my office in New York City to get this information.

No more. Today I'm posting everything you need right here online. If you know any men with condom anxiety, I'm hoping you'll forward this article to them. To use a condom the right way, all you have to know is how to recognize how aroused you are, and how to avoid two very big mistakes.

Putting Arousal on the Scale

Imagine if sexual excitement ranged from 0 to 100, where 100 is as excited as a human being could possibly get. What's the most excited you've ever been? 60? 80? Imagine that scale in your mind.

Most men assume that they're fully aroused once they get hard. But for an average healthy young man, it only takes about a 20 to get an erection.

Here's the thing though: To confidently put on a condom, it's best if you're more turned on than that. At least a 40, if possible. How do you know when you're at an arousal level of 40?

You have to tune in to your emotions. At a 40 your erection might look exactly the same, but you're in a more erotic state of mind. You're more pleasure-oriented -- and less obsessed with doing a good job.

You've experienced this sometimes during sex, right? By the time you're at a 40, you've lost some IQ points. You're into the moment, and it's all you really care about.

Got it? Good. Now, let's discuss the two big condom mistakes you'll need to avoid.

Mistake #1: Hurrying to Put the Condom On

The first mistake most men make is trying to put on the condom right away when they first get hard -- when they're only at a 20.

Why is this a problem? Because if you start putting on a condom when you're at a 20, it's going to be very easy to slip down to an arousal level of 15 and lose your erection before you finally get the thing on.

Putting on a condom is a procedure with a definite goal in mind. Your erotic mind doesn't much like procedures. And the only goal it understands is to be turned on and happy. It's kind of dumb and innocent that way. Putting on a condom the minute you get hard is a sure way to lose an erection.

It's much better to wait to put the condom on until you're at a solid 40 -- when your IQ has taken a real dive, and it's difficult to think of anything but sex. Then even if you lose some points in the process, you've got many more to spare before you'd drop below 20 and lose any hardness.

Mistake #2: Hurrying to Penetrate

Now here's the second problem: Most guys hurry to penetrate once they get the condom on, even though they may have lost a bunch of arousal points in the process of getting it on right.

Instead, you want to make sure you're still well above a 20 before you do any penetration. If you're anywhere near a 20 again, it's pretty easy to slip down to a 15 during penetration and lose your erection.

Anything in the world can drop you from a 20 to a 15 while attempting penetration: A momentary worry about something random. A little trouble penetrating because your partner isn't lubricated enough or relaxed enough, or because it took a moment or two to get the geometry correct.

Remember what we said about your erotic mind not liking procedures or goals. Even though penetration is a lot sexier goal than putting on a condom, you might still lose some points during the process.

Here's a better strategy: After you get the condom on, don't try to penetrate right away. Instead, hit "rewind" and go back to whatever you were doing that got you to a 40 in the first place.

Once you get back up to a 40 again, you're really ready for penetration. You've got the condom already on, and you're sitting on a 20 point lead. Now's the time to go for it!

Bottom line: Don't put the condom on when you first get hard. Instead, wait until you're fully excited. Then once it's on, don't rush things. Wait until you're fully excited again before doing any kind of penetration.

Make sense? Good. Now go have fun, and be safe!

Dr Snyder's new book, "Love Worth Making: How to Have Ridiculously Great Sex in a Long-Lasting Relationship", launches Feb 13 from St Martin's Press.


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