Can’t stay hard with condoms? Mojo’s guide to condoms & erectile dysfunction

Written with
Amanda Barge

Rubber? Cock sock? Love glove? Whatever you call condoms, you’re not alone if you’re having trouble staying hard when using a condom.

Almost half (43%) of men aged 18 to 60  are struggling with erectile dysfunction (ED), and one study shows up to a third of men experience erection problems when using condoms.

That’s a lot of men struggling to get it up. 

It’s not easy to talk about condom associated erection problems (CAEP). The good news is, we’re working to change that, and Mojo’s team of sex experts are here to help you stay hard when using a condom.

Condom collapse syndrome

Condom collapse syndrome is an informal name for CAEP. This is when someone goes soft before, during, or after putting on a condom.

We spoke to our in-house Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist, Amanda Barge who explained how there is often a fine line between excitement and anxiety:

“It’s a very common occurrence. You’re opening a slippery packet, perhaps in the dark, maybe feeling nervous… all these thoughts produce anxiety in the body.

So, as you’re trying to get the condom on your penis, your fight or flight instinct kicks in, you’re more likely to be losing an erection, and this makes the whole thing much more difficult."

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist 

Do condoms cause erectile dysfunction?

While there’s no scientific evidence to confirm that condoms directly cause erectile dysfunction, we do know that condoms can trigger a number of physical and psychological issues, which can then indirectly lead to ED.

Read on to find out more. 

Erection issues with condoms: why do condoms make you go limp?

It could be down to bodily causes, mental causes, or in a lot of cases, a mixture of both.

Physical reasons for erection issues with condoms could include:

  • using the wrong type, size, and fit of condom for your penis
  • putting the condom on incorrectly 
  • wearing a condom that is too tight
“Occasionally, men think it’s to do with an allergy to rubber, but this wouldn't really cause the erection to go down.

If they are fit, active, not overweight, not drinking excessively, smoking, taking recreational drugs, or have a medical condition, then it is most likely to be a psychological issue (but it’s always worth checking with a health professional if you have any doubts).”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist 

Psychological reasons for erection issues with condoms might be:

  • worry or stress about putting on condoms (especially early in relationships or during casual hookups) could lead to performance anxiety, which can in turn cause ED
  • feeling pressured in the moment (or feeling watched while pausing to put a condom on) can also cause performance anxiety
  • finding the smell or texture of the condom off-putting, which can be an erection killer
  • having an unhealthy relationship with porn – this can build an unrealistic expectation around how condoms are used (or aren’t used) in porn 
  • the association between safe sex, pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) can cause men to overthink not-so-sexy thoughts when putting a condom on

When these things get in your head, your brain isn’t sending the right seductive signals to your penis. This can stop you from getting it up, and eventually impact your experience with using condoms. 

Physical and psychological factors can feed into each other.

For example, if you have previously gone soft using a condom that was the wrong size for you, you might now associate condom use with ED, and feel more stressed about it. 

“Men who have experienced CAEP have almost given themselves a fright, and sometimes it can feel a bit traumatic.

The Mojo videos are helpful to begin to realize that it is often a psychological issue.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist 

How to stay hard with a condom

Can’t keep your erections with a condom? The first step is to figure out why you may be struggling.

Once you’ve worked that out, read our top tips to learn how to put a condom on without going soft, and how to stay hard with a condom.

A few things you can do that might help you physically are:

  1. Try condoms of different types – including fits, sizes, thicknesses, and textures – to find one that works for you and feels comfortable.
  1. Practice putting condoms on yourself to get used to them physically. Do this in private, and try putting it on in different positions (like lying on your back or kneeling).
  1. Focus on the warm-up, enjoying plenty of foreplay and oral so your partner is ready, before you’re hard and putting the condom on.
  1. If your problems persist, or you can’t get it up under any circumstance, a qualified doctor is the best person to speak to initially, to rule out any underlying physical issues.

There are also answers for the psychological barriers to maintaining erections with condoms, such as:

  1. Practice using a condom and masturbating to get used to it (and realize that you can keep your erection with a condom on).
  1. Keep your preferred condom within reach (and maybe even unwrapped). This could be on your bedside table, for example. No one likes a condom fumble in the dark, and this cuts out any time that could bring on feelings of anxiety.
  1. Maintain physical contact while opening and putting the condom on, which could include pleasuring yourself or your partner.

  2. Incorporate the condom into foreplay, keeping things playful by letting your partner put on the condom, or take part in putting it on.

  3. Make it part of the lovemaking. Try being sensual, asking “should I get a condom?” which can create excitement and build anticipation.

  4. Put the condom on steadily and calmly – any feelings of rushing could cause more anxiety.
  1. It’s helpful to talk. Even just opening up about it can often diffuse the anxiety. The main thing is to share that you anticipate there might be a problem and you're really wanting to improve the situation.
  1. We know it’s easier said than done, but try to throw away any negative thoughts of vulnerability, guilt, or failure. These types of emotions can just create added complications when trying to put on a condom. Amanda tells us that often, it’s simply helpful for men to understand that it's to do with staying relaxed and notice when the anxiety is rising.
"Using condoms is something that can create anxiety for me. I find them so fiddly and annoying. One thing that can help is turning condoms into a bit of a game. Speaking openly with a partner, explaining that it can be an issue, and finding fun ways for them or you to put condoms on, can change the way you look at condoms. It makes it exciting rather than fear-inducing!"

Xander Gilbert, Mojo Co-founder

All these things can help you get in the right frame of mind to mentally overcome the difficulties you have staying hard with a condom, but practice and find the right conditions that work for you personally. 

Take it from us, sex with condoms can feel incredible. 

Discover expert-led exercises, as well as bite-sized information on erections and other psychological sexual issues by signing up to Mojo’s trial. We even have a dedicated section on condom anxiety.

You can also hear from other guys who have had issues with condoms, and read what has helped them on Mojo’s Community Forum

Can you put on a condom when soft?

Although it’s technically possible to put on a condom when not fully erect, one study has found that guys who tried to put on a condom without a full erection were also more likely to report CAEP.


  • practice applying condoms to your partially erect penis
  • engage in stimulation with your mouth and hands, and practice soft play


  • have unprotected sex or penetrate before applying a condom
  • try to have sex with a condom on a soft penis, as there is a risk it could come off
  • rely entirely on erection pills like Viagra, unless medically necessary
“Toy around with the idea of not disregarding the condom totally but saying, okay, let's play around and not go to penetration – then it won't matter, and your mind will feel relaxed. It's not a failure.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist 

Can condoms help with erectile dysfunction?

While they may not necessarily help with ED directly, condoms can be great for other sexual issues. 

“You don't often hear many men saying they enjoy using condoms. However, if men have premature ejaculation, sometimes specialist  condoms can help them last longer in bed.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

Condoms can also be used to boost your sex life. For example, using a ribbed condom to increase pleasure for your partner, and not having to worry about pulling out before cumming. 

Other causes of ED

Although some guys blame condoms for their erection problems, your ED experience might have nothing to do with wearing them.

Read our blog post to understand other ED causes, and help rule out anything else that could be getting in the way of you and your best sex life.

Best condoms for erectile dysfunction

Penises are all different shapes and sizes, so it makes sense that not all condoms work well for everyone. Here’s some top tips: 

  • the most important thing is to find a condom that fits you correctly. You could use this handy condom size chart to find the right fit for your length and girth
  • you might be turned on by the smell of flavored condoms, but if they give you the ick make sure you avoid them
  • mix things up, and see if sex feels better with ribbed condoms and lubricated condoms
  • some condoms are built to feel thinner, and could help you maintain sensitivity
  • a great way to figure out what works for you is by test driving a few different types by masturbating with them in private
  • try different textures, thicknesses, sizes, materials, and fits. And remember, the best condoms to keep you hard are the ones that work well for you, regardless of the brand and whether it works for other guys

Why can’t my partner stay hard with a condom?

Your partner may love how you are in bed and find you incredibly attractive, and still struggle with condoms and ED. So, try not to blame yourself or jump to conclusions. 

Regardless, experiencing erection issues because of condoms can affect your sex life or relationships. Communication, understanding, and empathy are good moves if your partner is struggling to maintain erections with a condom.

“Maybe talk about it before you're in bed or before launching into it. Encourage communication, reassure them that it doesn't matter, that you want to be involved, and talk through what happens if the erection is lost.

Men can lose erections and get them back, and that's often an important exercise therapists do with them.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist

And the condom may not be to blame at all. Read this post which explains some of the other reasons why your partner is struggling to get it up (and what to do about it).

What if my partner won't use condoms?

If your sexual partner is avoiding condoms, or telling you that they don’t like using condoms, consider vocalizing that:

  • unprotected sex may mean they are enjoying it more, but it doesn’t mean that you will
  • it’s your right to feel comfortable and safe during sex, and you’re likely to feel more comfortable (and enjoy it more!) with less risk involved
“It’s important to be persistent with a condom. Even if it fills your partner with dread.”

Amanda Barge, Psychosexual and Relationship Therapist 

The moral of the story 

When it comes to sex, stay safe but have fun with it.

Our supportive Community and expert-led content can help you get better erections day by day.

Give it a try by clicking here (you can thank us later).

Mojo aims to provide useful wellbeing resources to its users; however, you should not solely rely on opinions or advice available on the Website or given by the Community. Always seek advice from a qualified medical doctor or other healthcare professional before acting.

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