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Dear Sexpert, 

I hooked up with a guy who used an extra large condom. Was this just vanity, or does the size of a condom actually matter?

—  Sizing Him Up

Dear Sizing,

First, let me say that choosing the right condom size is in fact important for two reasons: condom efficacy and pleasure. If a condom is too small, it might break or cause undue pressure on the penis. If it is too large, it might slip off or simply be uncomfortable to wear. Both of these situations are less than ideal and should be avoided.

That said, we’ve all seen the video of a condom fully stretched out (if not, search YouTube for “condom car window” — it is incredible), so we know what a miracle material latex is. That does not, however, mean that a condom cannot be too small for a person with a longer or wider penis. 

This is because the material at the tip of the condom is not as stretchy as the material in the rest of the condom, so a condom that is too small can easily break right at the tip. Often times, this can happen without the participants knowing until it is too late.

So, how tight is too tight? First, it is helpful to know your measurements so you can pick an appropriate size. Most condoms, including the ones you can get at UHS and the ones your RCAs have outside their rooms, are made for the average-sized penis, which is 5-7 inches in length and 3.5-4 inches in circumference. 

If you find yourself outside of that range in either category, you may want to try a smaller or larger condom, which can be purchased at most pharmacies and online. You may want to try out these condoms before sex so you have a better sense of how well they fit you before the time comes when you need them.

This brings us to a few points about condoms that I would like to discuss. First, condoms do have expiration dates, so check those condoms you got from your RCA freshman year before you find yourself suddenly needing them. Second, wearing two (or more) condoms, far from increasing your protection, can cause the condoms to break, rendering them useless. And third, condoms and other methods of barrier protection (female condoms, dental dams, etc.) are invaluable not only for preventing pregnancy, but also the spread of sexually transmitted infections. 

While hormonal methods of birth control, like the pill, are useful to avoid pregnancy, only barrier methods of protection prevent the exchange of fluids and genital contact that can cause STIs. This is especially relevant on our campus, since STIs are everywhere — including Princeton.

The Sexpert

Interested in Sexual Health? The Sexpert is always looking for passionate members of the community to join the team of sexual health educators who, along with fact-checking from University health professionals, help write these columns. Email for more information, and, of course, with your questions about sexual health. Don’t be shy!

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