We assume that men are the only ones who don’t like the way condoms feel. Maybe that's because men aren’t shy about saying so, or because we never think to ask women.

So imagine my surprise at the groundswell of complaints I’ve received from women when I started asking this question on my sex survey: “Do condoms impact the sensation you receive from intercourse?”

Paul Joannides/a royalty free image from Colourbox.com
Source: Paul Joannides/a royalty free image from Colourbox.com

I've now received hundreds of complaints from women about condoms. Here are fifteen women's comments are representative of what most women had to say about condoms. Remember, these are comments from women, not men:

“I hate using condoms. It feels like he's wrapped his penis in plastic wrap. The sensation is not as pleasurable for me, and I find that my vagina aches more afterwards.”

“Condoms feel less intimate. I love the way the smooth, hard penis skin feels against my skin, but I can't feel that with a condom. We use them anyway, though, because I don't like the pill, and the intercourse still feels good.”

“I feel like I’ve tried just about every type of condom there is and they all limit sensation to one extent or another.”

“We now use the Nuvaring for birth control. But when we have used condoms, the sensation is much less sensitive, and I feel like there’s saran wrap between us. It simply doesn’t feel as good as skin on skin.”

“I have used condoms and honestly (although I would not say this to someone whose only option was condoms) it does make sex a little less intimate and less pleasurable for me.”

“Without a condom, every sensation is a little more intense and a little warmer. Also, the lubricants on condoms sometimes irritate me.”

“When we don't use condoms, it feels great. Maybe it’s partially psychological, but I enjoy feeling him inside me, uncovered. Also, him ejaculating inside of me is a sexual turn on.”

“With condoms, I feel a difference. I like intercourse without a condom because I love the feeling of a penis inside me and our skin rubbing. I like the natural lube. But I do not have intercourse without a condom unless I am in love with the person or in a relationship (meaning I’m willing to get pregnant or willing to deal with his germs for a lifetime). I’d take condom sex over no sex any day.”

“I can tell that something is different and I prefer him without a condom, but in the end it doesn’t change that much for me.”

“We use condoms, but there have been a few times where the horniness has gotten the better of us and you know what happens. The difference I notice is that there is so much less sensation with condoms, even the ones that claim to be ultra thin. I never thought I would say that but you can actually tell the difference.”

“Sensation is definitely different and less intimate. The energy exchange without condoms is palpable.”

“I require more additional vaginal lubrication when a partner is using a condom. I also thrive during intimacy on a partner's reactions/sensations, and when those are reduced somewhat, so is my pleasure as well. However, unless I'm in a long-term fluid-bonded relationship, that's the deal.”

“I lose a lot of pleasure when we use condoms (and so does he). It just feels weird and almost platonic to a degree. I want to feel my husband and for him to feel me. Sometimes condoms can actually cause pain if I'm not wet enough.”

“We use condoms, but when we have unprotected sex, it's a lot softer and more enjoyable!”

“We use condoms and they seem to feel more smooth than the natural friction of skin on skin. I don’t like them. But I enjoy putting it on him. It is arousing. Or watching him put them on is good, too.”

I am not suggesting that women stop using condoms. But I see no reason to ignore the negative impact that condoms can have on women’s sexual pleasure because it’s an inconvenient fact for those of us who promote safe sex.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help minimize the undesired effects of condoms. Here's an extensive list of condom sampler-pack links that I've created because it’s important for couples to try different brands in order to find the ones that work best for them.

I also think it's important for couples who use condoms to try adding store-bought lube. That's because condoms prevent precum from doing its job--which is to help provide lubrication during intercourse. There may also be feedback mechanisms between the penis and walls of the vagina that we don't know about. These would be blocked by condoms.

If you aren't at risk for sexually transmitted infections, please consider a form of birth control like the IUD that is far more effective than condoms and way less of a hassle.

—Paul posts daily on his website at www.GuideToGettingItOn.com 

About the Author

Paul Joannides

Paul Joannides, Psy.D., is a research psychoanalyst, the author of Guide To Getting It On, and a speaker on college campuses.

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