A men's health expert weighs in on whether new custom-fit condoms are good for public health or just a good gimmick.
It’s a common lament among guys that condoms just don’t fit well; either they’re too tight, too long, too uncomfortable, or too eager to slip off. And for decades, men looking to practice safe sex have only had a few different sizes to choose from. Now, a new company is looking to revolutionize the experience of buying and wearing a condom, with a product line including 60 different sizes.
The customizable latex condoms, myOne Perfect Fit, launched this month in the United States after being available in Europe for several years. The brand offers combinations of 10 lengths and 9 widths, with sizes both smaller and larger than what has previously been available to U.S. customers.
The bespoke nature of the brand is highlighted by the online ordering process, which instructs men to “Get It Up, Size It Up, Order It Up.” In other words, customers first measure their erect penis with a measuring tape or printable “FitKit” tool, and receive a unique code that corresponds to their suggested size.
In a model that mimics Rent the Runway for dresses and Warby Parker for glasses, myOne Perfect Fit will then provide a sample kit that includes the ordered size plus one size smaller and one size larger.
Customization for condoms is certainly a compelling selling point. But will it really make a difference to users in the heat of the moment? According to a few users interviewed by the New York Times, that depends. One customer said the custom condoms fit well, but that he considered cheaper, standard-size condoms to be sufficient. Another said he found that with custom condoms he had “no slippage whatsoever,” while standard condoms felt too big.
Then there’s the question of necessity: From a health and safety perspective, is there really enough variation in penis size to warrant such a wide swath of options? And is there a medical benefit to having perfectly sized protection?
The company claims there is. “Poor condom fit is a contributing factor to loss of sensation, loss of erection, and difficulty achieving orgasm,” states a press release from myOne Perfect Fit. “In cases where the condom slips off or is removed prematurely, there is an increased risk of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs).”
myOne Perfect Fit says that previously available condoms properly fit only 12% of men, and that most condoms are nearly 7 inches long—considerably longer than the average penis, which measures 5.57 inches. That discrepancy often causes excess condom to roll up at the bottom, the company says, resulting in a tight, uncomfortable “rubber-band effect” at the bottom of the penis.
Then there are the men whose penises are too long for traditional condoms (even XL versions), who are left with the base of their penis exposed to potential STIs. Many men also complain that regular condoms are too loose or too tight, the press release states.
Research does back up these claims, to a certain extent. In a 2010 study published the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, almost half of men said they had used a badly fitting condom in the previous three months.
Those who reported a bad fit were more than 2.5 times as likely to report breakage or slippage—and five times as likely to report penile irritation—as those whose condoms fit well. They were also twice as likely to have difficulty reaching orgasm and to say condoms curbed sexual pleasure for themselves and their partners.
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myOne’s new line of condoms includes 28 sizes larger than the leading XL condom, and 27 sizes smaller than the average condom, with lengths ranging from 4.9 to 9.4 inches and circumferences ranging from 3.5 to 5.0 inches. As far as cost goes, the new condoms are comparable to many premium products already sold in stores—$0.66 each for a 24-pack shipment, or $1.66 each for a six-pack.
Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, co-director of Orlando Health’s PUR (Personalized Urology & Robotics) Clinic in Clermont, Florida, says that the availability of more condom sizes—particularly smaller condoms—is probably a good thing. "As urologists, we've always known that men inflate the sizes of their penises," he tells Health, "and that the average size is probably smaller than what regular condoms are ideally designed for."
But it’s too soon to know for sure whether custom-sized condoms really improve safety and sexual pleasure in real life scenarios, Dr. Brahmbhatt adds. And even though the new products are FDA approved, there is always the potential for risks. “It’s possible that if you have a shorter condom, it may be more prone to slipping off,” he says. “You wouldn’t have that little bit of extra material there that you have with the traditional, longer condom.”
One study from 2008 lends support to that concern: When tested during sex, custom-fitted condoms were less likely to break compared to standard-sized ones—but were also more likely to experience “slippage upon withdrawal.” The authors determined that, if such products were to ever hit the market, customers would need proper education on exactly how to use them.
Dr. Brambhatt also says that regular condoms are totally fine for most men (as log as they don't have a latex allergy), especially those who don’t want to spend time measuring and ordering online. “Anything is better than nothing, so don’t let a condom being 'too big' or 'too small' be an excuse for not using some form of protection,” he says. “Standard-sized condoms have been research-proven for decades to be beneficial, so there’s no reason to stop using them if they work for you.”
If a couple does want to adventure into something more personalized, however, Dr. Brambhatt thinks trying customized condoms is a great idea—and one that will ultimately do a lot of good for public health.
“I have to commend this company, because if this helps guys feel more comfortable buying condoms and helps sex feel better for some men, I think it will encourage more people to use condoms overall,” he says. “And that has dual benefits, not only as birth control but also to prevent against sexually transmitted diseases.”