5 Common Misconceptions About Condoms

by Rachel Sanoff
Originally Published: 
Various condom packages and underwear on a bed

Did you know that February 14 was also National Condom Day? When talking about condoms, it is important to address the many misconceptions about condoms, like that someone's penis can be too big for all prophylactics or that common household products can be makeshift condoms. Myths about condoms have very real world effects, as incorrect assumptions lead people to use condoms ineffectively or forego condoms altogether. Studies have shown a direct link between misunderstandings about condoms and unprotected sex and the 2015 SKYN Condoms Millennial Sex Survey found that level of education directly impacts whether or not someone is more likely to use a condom.

I spoke with Dr. Emily Morse, a sex expert and host of the podcast "Sex With Emily", about some of these misconceptions. While our conversation focused on reasons that people choose not to use condoms, we also discussed common mistakes that people make in the storage and application of condoms, causing them to be less effective.

Have you ever kept a stash of condoms in your car's glove compartment just in case you ever needed one unexpectedly? Bad idea. There is too much heat in the compartment that can break down the condom. Similarly, keeping a condom in your wallet or pocket, as convenient as it may seem, can damage the condom through friction. Don't open a condom packet with your teeth; you risk biting and ripping the condom. Don't unroll a condom before putting it on, and throw away a condom if you rolled it down the wrong way (there is a risk of semen or pre-cum already collecting at the tip). Never reuse a condom and never wear two condoms at once.

But aside from myths about how to store them, there are plenty of myths and misconceptions around condom usage that we need to talk about, because you should never be made to feel bad for insisting on a condom.

1. You Can't Be "Too Big"

In this video for the #NoExcuses campaign, Morse successfully stuffs multiple cucumbers into a condom without causing breakage. Condoms come in numerous sizes, lengths, and widths so that someone can't be "too big" for a condom. Remember the dope 17-year old Swedish singer, Zara Larsson, who Instagrammed a photo of a condom on her leg to prove that all men claiming they are too big can "take a seat"? The National Health Services states that condoms stretch "up to 18 inches round". Now, it is possible to be too big or too small for certain condoms, and wearing the wrong size can make the prophylactic less effective. Check out this sizing chart by LifeStyles for help finding your perfect condom.

2. Putting On A Condom Doesn't Have To Kill Your Vibe

Another common complaint about condoms is that stopping to put one on ruins the mood because it takes too long to do. In more videos for the #NoExcuses campaign, Morse successfully rolls condoms onto three squashes in 10 seconds and manages to get one on a banana while blindfolded and wearing an oven mitt. Morse says you can also reduce time by making sure the condoms are nearby when engaging in sexual activity. She recommends keeping them next to your bed or in your top drawer. Morse also suggests practicing to roll on condoms on your own, whether on a banana or your own penis. The more you practice, the faster you can do it.

The bottom line though, says Morse, is that "condoms don't ruin the mood. Not having protection ruins the mood." Contracting an STI ruins the mood. Additionally, Morse recommends turning the act of putting on a condom into visual foreplay. "I think that you could put the condom on in different positions. Take the 69 position. He can be pleasuring you and you can put the condom on him." She also suggests combining oral sex with the act of putting on a condom. These are just a couple ways to incorporate condoms into sexual activity, rather than viewing their application as a "break" from sexual activity. It's all about the attitude!

3. Don't Assume That All Condoms Take Away Pleasure

I'm pretty sure that all of us have been told by our peers or even those older than us that condoms are the worst in terms of physical feeling. Now, it is very true, for example, that some women find it more difficult to orgasm when their partner is wearing a condom. However, it is also true that not all condoms are created equal and some are better than others. Morse stresses that it may take trying a few different brands and styles of condoms before discovering the best type and fit for you and your partner. "Yes, sex can be more sensitive without condoms, but you have to play around with different kinds. I think that condoms are like trying on clothes or cosmetics. You need to try and see what feels right to you. What might dull someone else's experience might be better for you."

Regardless of the type of condom used, Morse explains that lube can really help. In addition to applying lube outside of the condom, Morse suggests adding a few drops of lube to the inside of the condom "can really enhance pleasure" for all parties. Just make sure to use a water-based lube, not an oil-based lube (water-based is safer for the condom).

A lot of people's aversions to condoms leading to desensitization are psychological, Morse says. They had one bad experience or have been told that condoms make sex bad, and so they are now in their heads and focused on feeling the condom whenever one is used.

4. Don't Try DIY Condoms

"Being safe is really about an education," Morse says. And without comprehensive sexual education, people are left thinking that they can create makeshift condoms out of household objects — take a young woman who, at 17, asked her boyfriend to wrap his penis in Saran wrap when she realized they both were sans condom. Never do anything like that. Ever. Morse continues, "You do not want to go DIY with sexual health and protection. Plastic bags or any other household material are not going to replace condoms."

And there are countless reasons why. Says Morse, "Condoms are made for a specific purpose. They are tested for maximum effectiveness. It's not healthy to put anything inside of you that isn't sanitary," like a balloon, a chip bag, a sheet of plastic wrap, etc. "Condoms have to be snug and made of the right materials. You cannot improvise. You'll have to leave the house to get a condom or just not have sex."

5. "These Are Not Your Grandfather's Condoms"

"Every penis is going to experience a different sensation. You have to really try different condoms and different styles, textures, lengths, and widths," says Morse. Thankfully, "These are not your grandfather's condoms," and technology and research has provided us with a lot of different options.

For starters, Morse recommends the SKYN Elite, which is 20 percent thinner than the original SKYN condoms. There are also ribbed condoms and condoms like Everlast Intense, which contain a special lubricant to help delay ejaculation.

Any polyisoprene condom (which is great for someone with a latex allergy) generally feels more natural. There are also animal membrane condoms (did you know that all condoms used to be made from animal intestines in eras gone by?!). The most popular animal skin condoms these days are lambskin condoms by companies like Naturalamb. Obviously, this is not ideal for the sexually-active vegans and vegetarians among us. IMPORTANT: Animal skin condoms prevent pregnancy, but they do not prevent STIs. Sperm cannot get through microscopic holes in the condom, but viruses can. Brands like Beyond Seven, Crown, and Kimono are known for their "ultra-thin" condoms, which can increase pleasure and feel more like skin-to-skin contact.

Some condoms are also specialized to provide extra pleasure "for her" or "for him." The Pleasure Plus condom, Cosmopolitan writes, "comes with a flared tiny pouch-like top with internal ribbing, creating extra friction as his member goes in and out." Likewise, Trojan condoms For Her Pleasure have an "'enlarged head (causing heat-induced friction)' and ribbed shaft to hopefully awaken the g-spot."

Deciding what's best for you and your partner can even be fun. "Think of condoms like sex toys – you look forward to trying new and different ones with your partner, says Morse. "Trying them all can be a fun experiment... go online and order them together. Communicating together enhances connections and intimacy."

Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our video on sex positions for small penises:

Images: Andrew Zaeh/Bustle; Giphy (4)

This article was originally published on