10 Ways To Stay Erect When Using A Condom

woman and man embracing in bed while the woman opens a condom packet

There are few sex problems more unfair than when you’re just about to have sex with someone you really like, only to lose your erection just as you try to put a condom on.

I think it’s the speed that “oh yeah, here we go!” suddenly changes into “oh shit, where did it go?” that makes it such a frustrating experience.

It’s happened to me many times, but I’ve now developed a solid arsenal of ways to deal with it, which you’ll find below. My advice would be to experiment with different ideas, but also combine them to see what works best for you.

1. Don’t try to put the condom on until you have the best possible erection

In my experience, there are two types of erection. There’s the 50 – 75% strength “okay I think I’m ready, let’s give it a go” erection. This type is just a mirage in the desert that’s best ignored, no matter how thirsty for sex you are.

And then there’s the 100% bulging, throbbing, hard as a rock “look at the veins on that thing!” version.

If you have a problem with condoms ruining your stiffy, be patient and wait until you’re 100% solid before reaching for an erection-slaying condom.

Joking aside, along with tip number two in this list, this method is probably the most important one for me personally.

So keep at the foreplay stage for as long as it takes to get so hard, that even if you lose 10 – 20% of your erection while fumbling with the condom, you’ll still be good to go. Many people complain that men are tight with foreplay anyway, so you’ll probably be doing your sex life a favor by having more of it.

And if there are only very specific things that give you that 100% erection, be honest with your partner about what you need (within reason of course).

2. Let gravity work its magic

man standing

In my experience, gravity can help get the blood pumping. And I’m not talking about the Sanda Bullock and George Clooney movie, though that might help if you have a fetish for spacesuits.

If you lie on your back and try to get the condom on, I find it’s much more difficult to maintain your erection for the duration of the awkward unwrapping and unrolling process.

Instead, stand up, plant your feet firmly on the ground and then put the condom on. Gravity will send extra blood from your big head to your little head, helping keep him hard.

I’ve also found that standing up just kind of makes you feel bigger and harder mentally, which in my mind translates to a harder erection.

It’s also a good moment to inject some comedy into the situation, reducing the stress for both of you. I think sometimes we have this fantasy that we should be super smooth in putting the condom on while somehow undoing a bra with one hand and whispering the perfect dirty talk all at the same time.

The reality tends to be that you just roll over onto your back for a minute and awkwardly put the condom on while your partner pretends not to notice how silly it looks. So you may as well just get up and get the job done however you can, which for me is stood up.

3. Don’t stress!

This is probably the advice I’ve known the longest, but failed to do on many occasions.

Stress, anxiety, worry, tension, insecurity – whatever you want to call it, it’s something you need to tackle.

Dealing with stress is a massive topic – people write entire books on it. But there are a few points that might help in this specific situation:

  • Don’t worry if you get hard initially, but then go soft when the condom moment arrives. Relax, accept that sex isn’t always a smooth process, and go back to foreplay or whatever else turns you both on. Then try again a bit later.
  • Don’t allow yourself to worry that the same thing will happen each time. Be positive, tell yourself every time is a fresh start.
  • Breathe deeply and slowly as you’re approaching condom time. It will help keep the blood flowing around your body.
  • Don’t get angry and rip off the condom, throw it against the wall, and slump onto the bed in a sulk (yeah, I’ve done that). Stay calm, stay cool, tell your partner it just happens sometimes and turn your attention to them for a while to take the pressure off you. Put your tongue to work instead.
  • In the longer term, try to see it as a positive challenge rather than a failure or weakness. Life is full of challenges to face up to and overcome, and this is no exception.

4. Do some condom testing

There are countless types of condoms, with a wide range of sizes, thickness, flavors, ribbed designs and even extras like desensitizing gel inside.

If you know you’re sensitive to condoms, it’s a good idea to do some trial and error. Buy some different brands and find one which fits well, feels good, and isn’t so tight that it restricts your blood flow. Condoms come in different sizes, so it’s important not to get one that’s too small for you.

And don’t just accept freebies or whatever cheap novelty condoms the local store has in stock. Use the highest quality condoms you can find that work well for you.

But if the best ones for you are some lesser-known cheap ones, then stock up so you have plenty of condoms you know work well for you.

photo of a man pulling a condom out of his back trouser pocket

5. Get your partner to put the condom on for you

One minute you’re passionately kissing and enjoying each others’ bodies. The next you’re on your own trying to pass the condom test. It can feel like an abrupt transition from pleasure to a super tense moment.

So why not ask your partner to put the condom on for you? It might feel sexier that way, and takes the pressure off of you to get the job done.

Personally, I think this works well sometimes and not so well other times.

If your partner isn’t very good at putting condoms on, they might accidentally dig their nails into your skin or take so long, your penis goes to sleep. If this is the case, you perhaps need to show them how to put it on well.

It might be that they are too slow and awkward and that you can put it on much quicker, reducing the time frame between starting to lose your erection and penetration. If you think your partner will be up for it, ask them to try to put it on in a sexy way rather than pausing for some slow clinical unrolling.

My feeling is that this is one to experiment with and make your own mind up about.

woman on top of a man in bed, holding a condom in her hand

6. Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Penis Performance

“Now, where did I put that condom?” is a question you want to avoid having to ask yourself.

If you have to get out of bed and frantically rummage through your drawers, wallet or bathroom cabinet, you can be pretty sure the race against time just turned Olympic.

So make sure you know exactly where the condoms are, and that they are within easy reach of wherever you’re about to have sex.

The six Ps: Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Penis Performance. Yeah, I just made that up, but it makes sense to me.

7. Prime your partner

Following on with the concept of preparation, it’s also good to make sure your partner is primed and ready.

Once you’ve got the condom on, the best way to keep your erection, or get it back to 100%, is to be having sex, not more foreplay. So before you put it on, make sure your partner is fully turned on with manual or oral sex.

If they aren’t particularly open or naturally lubricated, either work on them a bit more or have some lubricant at the ready too. And once you’ve got the condom on, stay on top at first to get that gravity working for you some more.

8. Laughter is the best medicine

Light-hearted and fun sex is sometimes the best sex. Bringing some humor into the bedroom helps keep awkwardness, embarrassment and insecurity out of it.

If you go floppy, so what? Laugh about it, stay cool and don’t make a big stressful drama out of it.

Take ownership of the problem, talk, and joke about it. And above all make sure your partner doesn’t lie there silently thinking she’s not hot enough to turn you on.

Laughter can also help you relax, both physically and mentally, which in turn might increase the chance of you getting your iron man erection.

9. Stay away from desensitizing products

If you suffer from premature ejaculation, one of the main ways to deal with it is to use a desensitizing spray or condom. These are notorious for causing erection problems though, due to the obvious loss of sensitivity.

So if you do have problems keeping an erection when you use a condom, I would avoid using anything containing Lidocaine, Benzocaine or Prilocaine.

If you do want to use these products to help with your sexual stamina, try to use the smallest possible amount.

It’s also worth mentioning at this point that other things can lead to a loss of sensitivity and erection problems. For example, too much alcohol, heavy food, some medications and recreational drugs.

10. Does your penis only go soft with condoms?

It’s also important to look at the bigger picture. Do you only have erection problems when you try to use a condom?

Or do you regularly have problems getting or maintaining an erection when masturbating, receiving manual or oral sex, or in the middle of sex?

If this is the case, it’s probably a good idea to learn more about erectile dysfunction. It can be useful to speak to a doctor about it if you feel it’s a serious problem, as there can be many different physical causes they can rule out.

You might also like to read

For more information about erection problems, you might like to read my review of viagra, and also a long article I wrote about erection issues when you’re with a new partner.

Your views

Does the sight of a condom disintegrate your erection? Do you have any tips for putting them on, or just feel like ranting about your own experience?

Let me know in the comments below!


  1. Hey, great article!
    I am 20, and the first time I tried having sex with my girlfriend was 2 years ago, I wanted to try it, but at the same time I didn’t know what to expect so I started overthinking it and when the moment arrived I lost it. And the nightmares began, I panicked that time and now, every time we try to have sex I have flashbacks of that moment, during foreplay I just lay and beg my guy to get hard enough for penetration. This is getting into my head, I know, that the issue is inside of my head, because without anxiety I can get really hard erections. But I never knew how to deal with it, I know I shouldn’t think about it, we get into foreplay, and when I feel it’s hard I reach for the condom put that thing on and then seconds before penetration I beg God for it to stay hard and guess what happens, it just trolls me and gets soft. My girlfriend started thinking she doesn’t turn me on but that really isn’t the case. Oh yes, we actually had some good sex, but it happened only when I was drunk. I gave up that hard I started looking for some random medicine online, find that thing “Ginseng Panax” waiting for it to arrive in 2 days. I never wanted to use Viagra because I wanted to have sex naturally, that’s like having cheats in some online games. Jesus I don’t even know what to think right now at this point, I’ve given up, my girlfriend wants to help me so much somehow but I just can’t find my mind, it’s too strong. I know the source of the issue, but during sex I just overthink it instead of focusing on having pleasure, this is a nightmare.

    • Hey Luke
      Sorry to hear you’re struggling with this issue. It sounds like you have a good idea that you’ve gotten yourself into the vicious circle of worrying about it. Getting out of that circle is the tricky part. I personally wouldn’t say viagra is like cheating in games. For one, there are no rules and no winners or losers, so who cares? However, I do understand the desire to stay away from strong meds and deal with the issue naturally if possible. Have you considered saying to your gf that you’d like to try some sex without penetration to see how that plays out? So set a night when you can relax and enjoy foreplay, oral, some massage or whatever, without worrying about the end goal of penetrative sex? Sometimes taking away the main stressor can have a positive effect. Then you can relearn what it feels like to be totally relaxed in her company sexually. And with time, try again for sex once you’ve had a few pleasant and relaxing sessions without the panic about getting an erection.
      Give that a go if she’s up for it.

  2. Was married for a few years, got divorced and just got back into the dating scene when it first happened (or didn’t happen… ?). Found this article shortly afterward and tried out your tips. I already suffer from extreme lack of sensitivity on my Jon, which is only exacerbated with the addition of a condom (never used to wear one while married), and I think the biggest thing for me was the condom testing you mentioned, just tried a few until I found one that gave me the most satisfaction, with the least dulling of my sensitivity. Also, not sure if it’s mental or not, but the gravity tip might have some significant merit as well. Thanks for the helpful post Ethan!

    • Hi Jack
      That’s great to hear! Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment and say what worked for you – I really appreciate it, and I’m sure other readers will too.
      Personally, I’m pretty sure the gravity trick makes a huge difference. I sometimes turn it into a comedy act with my current partner – standing there proudly putting it on while laughing just makes me relaxed mentally and the blood flow does the rest!

  3. Hey Ethan, cheers for the ideas bud. I get the same issue and it does my head in. Makes you look like a fool, so I often prefer not to use a jonny. But with a new chick, I want to be able to use one if I’m not sure how clean she is. So damned if I do and damned if I don’t. I’ll give your ideas a shot though. Ta!

  4. Hey, I’ve been going natural with the same girl for a while now. However I recently tried using a condom and found it just doesn’t have the same feel and I tend to go soft a lot faster, I feel like it’s the material or whatever, maybe extra thin ones will help but does anyone have any other advice?

    • Hi there
      Unfortunately, condoms will never feel as good as natural. Some extra thin ones are pretty good though, for sure. And it’s fun to experiment with ribbed ones too, as they can improve both of your pleasure.

  5. Really great article, thank you. For me, normal condoms help, so I was thinking to try one of these benzocaine ones. It’s good to know the possible problems and that there are more options.

  6. If there ARE indeed people with mental issues that can be overcome, regarding condoms, then that’s fine, but I am disappointed in the assumption on 90% of the websites that talk about condom related impotence that this is all there is to it. I have ran experiments with a perfect erection, perfect frame of mind, hard pornography and alone with myself, yet I still lose my erection within a minute or so of it going on. There is no anxiety or expectation of failure. This problem needs to be seriously addressed and researched, and is the reason for the sockingly high continual rise in the rates of sexual disease. The device does not seem compatible with everyone and it is crippling peoples lives. If a ‘cock ring’ creates harder erections, and the ring of a condom should perhaps work in the same way, then we should have the complete opposite physical reaction but we don’t. It’s like lacing up a foot tight inside a shoe and then expecting it to feel just as sensitive and functional. The female condom may have to be the replacing trend in society for those that male condoms don’t work with, and yet we sometimes see the same reverse complaints from the women: “it was uncomfortable. Didn’t feel right/nice”. How surprising. It also can’t be attractive to look down at your partners beautiful vagina and instead see a white saggy sheath hanging out. There is no sex life for people with condom related erection problems – and this flows on to social and emotional problems and ruins lives.

    • Hi Dj
      I can understand your frustration, believe me I can! You’re right about the weird way cock rings help keep erections but the tight ring of the condom base doesn’t seem to imitate it. Have you tried all the techniques in the article I mentioned? In particular have you tried using a larger sized condom, so you don’t get that squeezing effect so much?
      By the way, when women use a female condom, it doesn’t result in a saggy sheath hanging out in my experience!

      • OMG when I used the female condom it was like an elephant trunk! I had it installed correctly but I am fairly petite…it was just too much condom! We laughed but after the 3rd try, we went back to the drawing board.

        Still having trouble with my partner staying hard with a condom but we’re having fun practicing!

  7. I’m almost crying at this point. I’m 28 and this happens to me all my sexual life, more than 10 years now. I don’t date anymore, having just occasional hookups and this happens almost every single time. Perfect foreplay, BJ, I’m rock hard all the time, but when it goes in with condom on – DONE. LOST IT. FEEL NOTHING.
    I’m yet to find someone who would agree to help me practice and overcome this. It wasn’t like that with my exes, when I had regular sex, but now with random partners – this is the only thing I get. I lost so many good ongoing partners because of that. I am constantly anxious about it and when I’m going to have sex I already know this will happen. It’s really depressing.
    I remember times when I happen not to lose it, mostly when I was high f, or when I had it without condoms. OMG. THAT WAS SO GOOD. I was rock hard, aggressive and enjoyed it for a long rough session with a happy partner.
    It’s sad.

    • Hi Max
      I totally understand! It’s not a nice feeling at all when it happens time and time again.
      If you had no problems with ex-girlfriends, and when you were high, I’m wondering if it’s a case of needing to relax, and feel relaxed and at ease with the person. Maybe the casual hookup thing is the problem in that case – try dating someone instead of going for hookups, so that you feel more relaxed with them when it comes to sex. And maybe the ideas in the article will help, hookup or not. Give them a go and see if they work out for you. But I do think you need to find a way to overcome the psychological aspect that seems very apparent. Some positive affirmations that it’s ok if you don’t have sex – you can do other stuff to satisfy her which waiting for your erection issue to naturally resolve. Take your time, do some deep breathing, try to relax etc.
      Hope that helps

  8. Great article
    I’m 17 and new to sex so the pressure is what gets me, although i perform fine without the condom. I don’t know, i guess it’s the way that the intimacy sort of stops suddenly.

    • Hi Shane
      Thanks! It’s always nice to know people like an article:-)
      Yes, the pressure is what gets most guys! The break in intimacy and pressure to ‘pass the condom test’ can be a bit stressful. But if you remember the ideas in the article, you should find something that works.

  9. This is indeed by far the BEST article about this subject. Just look at the bright side of it, it’s actually not even a problem really. If it happens, it happens. Smile it away and try some new things to make it better. And if it still doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world. Be happy to be alive and that you can experience this kind of things. Just keep breathing and smiling. Great article.

    • Hi Ruben
      Thanks! It’s always encouraging to hear an article is appreciated. Thanks also for sharing your positive thoughts on the topic. I think that’s a great way to see most sexual problems really – just stay positive, do something else that’s still pleasurable, and try again later.

  10. This is the best article I have read about using condoms when you have this issue. Thank you, very much appreciated.

  11. Thanks for this fantastic article! I have this exact problem, and have done for years. It’s annoying because I want to be able to use condoms sometimes, but 8 times out of 10 I lose my erection and it takes ages to get it back again which ruins the moment. Your tips sound like they might help so I’m going to try them out with my gf. Thanks again

    • Hi James
      You’re welcome, and I’m glad you found the article useful. I know exactly what you mean – as a guy, condoms are the best way we can ensure we’re doing our part where contraception is concerned, protecting both ourselves and our partner. So it’s not great if we stop using condoms because we can’t actually use them properly. I hope the tips work for you!

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