Condoms too small?

Originally Published: December 1, 1994 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: March 18, 2014
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Dear Alice,

I have just started sleeping with my girlfriend and I was a virgin previously. Unfortunately, a slight problem has interfered... I tried to use a condom the first time (a free one from Health Services) and it was too small on me. I only rolled up about 3/4 of the way and was *very* uncomfortable. Is there any specific brand that I could use that would be more comfortable?

— Trying to be safe????

Dear Trying to be safe????,

There are lots of condom brands, sizes, and pleasure-inducing gimmicks out there — it's not always easy to find the best match. When beginning to explore sexual intimacy, roadblocks like yours may arise, but the fact that you're dedicated to practicing safe sex is great. Just remember, though, it may take time and some trial and error for things to go smoothly.

Though most penises do not differ that much in size when erect, some condom brands offer different sizes (both in length and girth), which may fit better. Consider experimenting with different types of condoms to see what works best for you. Just remember, when it comes to a proper fit, the standards for condoms and clothing aren't the same. Even though looser may seem more comfortable, condoms need to fit snuggly so that fluids that could lead to STI transmission or pregnancy aren't able to seep out. Furthermore, though discomfort is certainly not the goal, the better the condom fits, the less chance there is of it sliding off during intercourse. With that being said, an ill fitting condom (whether too loose or too tight) could lead to breakage, slippage, decreased pleasure for one or both partners, or a general disinclination to use protection, all of which should be avoided. For more information about condom sizes, check out Condom sizes...how do I know what fits?.

You also want to be sure that you're using condoms with lubricant on them as they'll be easier to get on. Don't hesitate to apply more water-soluble lube both on the inside and outside of the condom (outside only once it's covering your erect penis). If you're a Columbia student at the Morningside campus, both Medical Services and Alice! Health Promotion have a number of different brands and types of condoms and lubes available. You could also check out the Safer Sex Supplies @ Columbia University interactive map to locate free safer sex supplies in the area. If you live in the dorms, your Resident Adviser (RA) may also have condoms/lube available. You'll really just have to experiment and see which types work best for you. For example, the ribbed condoms are usually tighter. You might want to try new kinds of condoms out beforehand on your erect penis so as not to be caught in an uncomfortable situation with your partner (practice makes perfect, right?) You may also want to ask around and see what brands your friends have been satisfied with.

Though the "condom on the banana" demonstration is familiar to most people, that doesn't necessarily mean everyone knows the correct way to put on a condom. Combining inexperience with the heat of the moment may cause people to put condoms on incorrectly, potentially causing discomfort. Review the Related Q&As below and How to use a condom properly for tips to make sure you're not putting the condom on inside out, for instance, or using a condom that's old or damaged.

Good luck in finding your perfect (condom) match!

Alice