Is Sex Really Better Without A Condom?


Condoms have long been considered a “necessary evil” in the sex and dating world. While I feel the term “necessary evil” is silly with regard to condoms because they’re not remotely evil (unlike Spanx, which are similarly tight but serve a much less important purpose yet have garnered the same title). People often assume that condoms ruin sex or, at the very least, make it less fantastic. According to researchers, however, this is not the case.

In a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine (probably the only medical journal I read stuff from enthusiastically), nearly 6,000 participants ranging from ages 18 to 59 rated their sexual experiences. The responding pool, consisting of both gay and straight female and male Americans, had their answers analyzed by Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University in Bloomington. Apparently, condoms do not actually affect the amount of pleasure humans have during sex.

There was “no significant difference” for men in maintaining an erection with or without a condom, said the study. Satisfaction ratings were high regardless of sex with condom usage, as well. On a less good note, many women could not tell whether or not a condom was lubricated, nor the material it was made from, during the sex act. This signifies the need for more people to be aware of what types of condoms their partners are using, as well as the kind of lubricant since condoms and skin can be affected by different types of lube.

I would love to say I’m an avid condom user who is always ready to whip one out on a dime no matter who the partner is. I have chosen to use them in most situations, but also opted out in others. Having been on all sorts of birth control over the past decade has enabled me to avoid condoms when I’m in a relationship; this is nice, as I personally find them gross in texture and scent (the condoms, not the relationships) (and sometimes the relationships). They’re what would happen if you took a rolling pin to an unagi roll — i.e. disgusting — but they do save lives and mostly protect us from having kids or acquiring STDs. Plus, sex is generally awesome regardless of whether or not a condom is involved, provided you’re not allergic to latex or something of that nature, so any study released that encourages the public to use them more deserves at least a bit of a high-five.

When it comes to condoms, there are three super important things to keep in mind (at least, three that I can think of at the moment):

  1. Proper fit: If it’s too tight, it can break. I know buying Magnums feels really, really weird, but it can be totally necessary if you notice that the condom is squeezing excessively or if normal condoms keep breaking. Likewise, if you’re using condoms that are too big, it can slide off (or get stuff “up around the sides” a la Girls-induced worries).
  2. Care: Make sure they’re not stored in your wallet, are past their expiration dates or have any holes in them.
  3. Application: I would take an instructional video, but I already ate my zucchini for dinner so I think you’ll just have to make due with either your preexisting expert knowledge or another reliable source, preferably one that doesn’t use zucchinis.

So, um, there you have it. Use condoms. Be safe. If you encounter somebody who insists on not using them, let them know that science says sex doesn’t suck regardless! Or just don’t have sex with them because they’re not listening to your health concerns and that’s not really cool.

Photo: Holly Leighanne / Flickr

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    • Eileen

      Although I think Trojan partially paid for this study, so it’s probably at least a little biased, I was very happy to see it. I felt like an ignorant n00b the first time I had condomless sex because I was scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to figure out how it was different from condomed sex. (And given how thin condoms are, and yes, I’ve put one on my hand on occasion to try it out, I strongly suspect that even for men the difference is mainly psychological). Condoms definitely have downsides in that you have to keep buying them and throwing them out, but unlike every other form of birth control, they’re super-easy to get, super-easy to use, and have no side effects unless you’re allergic to them. (Have you ever had a friend complain that condoms were making her moody or killing her sex drive, for example?) I really don’t think they get enough support from women especially, honestly. And from men – seriously, this is the only form of reversible birth control that you have any control over yourself. If you don’t want to have a kid, a condom is the only thing that you can personally do to prevent pregnancy.

      And this is disregarding the whole STI thing. As my mom told me when I was in college, pregnancy we can handle; HIV is for life.

      • Gina

        Thank you! I thought I was alone in not really being able to tell the difference between sex with and without condoms!

        All my friends, male or female, say the sex feels so much better without a condom and I just DON’T FEEL IT!

        There’s only one difference for me, and that is I don’t still have c*m flowing out of my hooha hours after the fact. Which is something I love about condoms, the fluid’s in there and I’m good to put on my panties and not worry about white stains. Hooray for condoms!
        (Also, yay for condoms saving us from lots and lots of stds of course! :D)

      • Samantha_Escobar

        YES on the last paragraph especially. That is the main advantage to condoms besides the obvious STD/pregnancy protection. Otherwise, you have to worry about that for ages no matter what you do, guhhh.

    • Amanda

      I hate condoms with a burning passion, and this is coming from a woman. For me, it feels SO much better without one. I don’t get anything out of sex with a condom, it just doesn’t feel great to me. My boyfriend and I never use them unless we’re doing anal, for sanitary reasons. We’re so used to having sex without one that when we (rarely) try to use one, its hard for us both to finish.

      • Fabel

        I’m with you (also as a woman). Condoms also irritate me & make me dry out so much quicker (even the pre-lubed ones)

        Of course, they’re great for STD protection, etc. so I don’t think this study is a bad thing, but I basically disagree—on a personal level—with its conclusion.

      • Amanda

        Oh yeah, definitely. If I weren’t in a committed relationship, I’d use condoms to protect from STD’s.

      • Winston Blake
      • Andrea

        I agree. Plus I am allergic to spermicide so all I get is dryness and then I burn. I’m glad I am married and my husband had the big V, because I pretty much hate all forms of birth control.

      • Winston Blake
    • Cee

      I was just on Gay Voices on HuffPost (because of course) and there is an ongoing discussion on condomless sex being better or not amongst gays too and it drives me nuts to read grown adults gay or straight childishly whine “but it just doesn’t feeeel better!.” All I can say is do genital warts, sporadic lesions, discharge, painful urination, paying for lifelong HIV medication/abortion/child support, dealing with HIV symptoms,living with the fear or rejection to having to disclose an STI or raising an unwanted child feeeeel good? Because that is what it boils down to, people! If the sex doesnt feeel just as good with a condom, get a vibrator or a clean or gloved hand hand (lesbians know too well about gloved hands) after and finish things off with your parnter that way.

      But honestly, for the most part, I think part of it not feeeeling good is mental because that is what you are told all the time. So, it kinda sets you up mentally to not enjoy protected sex.

      • Winston Blake

        AIDs is a natural filth cleansing mechanism.

        Mammalian evolution is heterosexual.

        Homosexuals desire their own extinction and if Muslims are willing to give it to them, I will not interfere.

    • Jennybean
    • tanstaafl2

      No guy actually LIKES condoms! We generally only (grudgingly) acquiesce to using them when the alternative is not getting laid.

    • APS

      It would be a moot point if they would make female condoms more available and affordable!

    • squishycat

      *shrug* Condoms do feel different to me than condomless sex, and I prefer the feeling of barrier-free sex (but prefer the cleanup of sex with condoms, ha). I can also definitely tell if the condom is lubricated or not, and have my favorite THESE ARE GREAT and my NEVER AGAIN condoms. I’m also in a long-term monogamous relationship, so I feel safe relying on my HBC if my boyfriend and I don’t want to use condoms. If I were to start having sex with someone else, it would be ALL CONDOMS ALL THE TIME, for certain, and anyone who whines about it and is unwilling to try different kinds? No sex for you. (My boyfriend and I were both virgins when we met, so STIs aren’t really an issue. We’ve both been tested anyway, him because they were doing to for free where he works, me because my doc does it as part of an annual exam.)

    • Amanda

      I was on birth control for a while but had to stop bc it made me depressed, gain weight and upped my blood pressure something crazy.. Without the condom felt a whole lot better, I’m in a monogamous relationship no risk of stds, but with the condom theres less work. So for health reasons I got of bc and chose condoms.. It is what it is

    • Nymph1816

      Once I had a boyfriend who would throw the biggest hissy fit if I asked him to wear a condom. Like, do you so blatantly care about the feeling of skin on skin more than my emotional and physical well-being? lkjlkjxlksjdfcnn I like the feeling of no condom, but the clean up is so nasty. Also my self worth takes a nose-dive whenever I get cooerced into letting them not use a condom.

    • Lucy

      I was a participant in an independent global condom review last year put together by Lucky Bloke. They sent us free premium condom samplers for our feedback. It was a very eye-opening experience for me and my BF. We weren’t condom fans, but found several options that were much better for us than what we’d been using. We now use Skyn – a polyisoprene (non-latex) condom and have found it makes a huge difference for us. Better feeling, more comfortable, less drying. Anyhow, if you do use condoms and want a better experience you should check out – all the condoms are top-rated based on this global condom survey. You can even by single condoms if you are curious about trying a condom without committing to an entire box…and condom samplers based on the best reviewed condoms. This experience totally improved are sex life and I hope it helps yours too! Good luck!

    • Ezee Markatuer

      Dear naive minions:
      Condoms do NOT protect against transmission of HPV – probably the most common STD!
      But THINKING that condoms will protect you only INCREASES the amount of “safe” sex you’ll do, INCREASING your chance of getting HPV…!

    • Tom

      Female condoms is a must

    • Aradhya Malhotra