By the time he was 15 years old, John had already gotten familiar with the focused ritual of measuring his dick. Partly, it was driven by wishful thinking — he wondered whether puberty would bring a growth spurt to his member, not just his frame. Time after time, though, the measuring tape shut down that theory. Meanwhile, he couldn’t help but gaze at his peers’ flaccid dicks in the school’s locker room, where he made mental notes about their length and girth compared to his.
After a few more years, John’s suspicions that he had a smaller-than-average penis had all but been settled. The realization came into sharp focus when he bought his own condoms for the first time in high school. John unrolled the standard-fit latex item to its full length, and stared at the disparity between the condom and his own dick. Not only did the floppy condom look big, but it felt loose, too. It would be a precursor to the realities of sex with said condoms, which caused annoying problems even though John didn’t feel that unusual in size.
“It’s not fun to see a condom fitting loose. It kinda hits you that you’re thin and small,” he tells me. “Sometimes I’d just hold my fingers on the base of the condom to ensure it didn’t slide off [during sex]. I preferred not to, since having little length, I didn’t want to reduce it [even more] by having my hand on the base.”
Most condoms in the U.S. are about 7 inches long and 4.8 to 5.1 inches around, a size that satisfies a smaller proportion of men than the “standard” title suggests. It seems pretty close to the average size of a dick, which various studies suggest is about 5 inches long and 4.8 inches in circumference. Yet researchers have consistently found that many men complain about standard condoms not fitting well, which influences their decision to use them (or not). (A recent federal study found that only about a third of men use condoms.)
“Around 50 percent of men need a standard-fit condom. Then you have larger sizes, and about 15 percent of men want that. The other 35 percent need a smaller condom,” says Melissa White, a sexual-health expert and CEO of online condom marketplace Lucky Bloke. “That 35 percent is such an underserved segment of the population. And Trojan, which has around 90 percent of the shelf space in conventional retail locations, doesn’t offer a single snug-fit condom. That’s just grossly negligent to me.”
While some mainstream manufacturers offer slimmer and larger sizes in addition to a standard cut, sometimes the minor differences aren’t enough. Ev, a 20-year-old and frequent poster on the Reddit page r/BigDickProblems, realized something was awry when the first condom he ever rolled on his dick actually squeezed his shaft so tight that it left a painful red ring around the base. Generally speaking, Ev’s had plenty of bad experience wrapper-shopping for his self-reported 7-inch-long dick with a 5.7-inch circumference. Even the Trojan Magnum XL did nothing to alleviate the pain. A few Google searches led him to realize that most “large” condoms sold at the convenience store aren’t actually much larger than the “standard” versions (a perception backed by literal fact).
“I was able to come up with two words to describe the American condom market: Inadequate and deceitful,” he says. “No condom that I can buy in a U.S. store fits me in terms of girth. Perhaps it makes men feel better about themselves, but is that really more important than using proper contraceptives effectively?”
Frustrated by everything he found in stores, Ev hit the internet and stumbled onto the myOne condom, created by a Boston-based company that purports to offer 60 different condom sizes, mixing 10 lengths and 9 widths. The custom-condom concept was first introduced to the European market in 2011 by a company called TheyFit, which was soon acquired by condom mega-manufacturer Global Protection Corp. After several years of working with government agencies on tweaking regulations for the production of varied condom sizes, the myOne condom debuted in the U.S. last fall, with lengths ranging from 4.9 to 9.4 inches and circumferences of 3.5 to 5 inches. Given that spare length can be adjusted by how far you unroll a condom, the range covers pretty much every dick aside from the medically rare “micropenis.”
For Ev, finding myOne was a major improvement. It’s not a perfect product — he says the sensitivity of sex while wearing a condom still “isn’t awesome” — but it didn’t hurt his penis or begin to unroll off during action. (In fact, he lost his virginity about two weeks ago using one.) Ev is one of a number of successful stories for Global Protection and One Condoms, which boasts on its site that 93 percent of surveyed customers say they’re more likely to use a condom because of improved fit. “The range of sizes we make our condoms in, it’s not easy. It’s more expensive. That’s why most brands choose a one-size-fits-all model,” says Jared Maraio, senior director of brand strategy with Global Protection. “We have 60 sizes for the U.S., and the highest percentage of sales for any one size is like 4.8 percent.”
Ordering a myOne requires measuring yourself to find the right model, and the website provides a print-out paper tool that you place along and around your penis to find the correct size “code.” I eschewed that in favor of a ruler and a piece of butcher’s twine from my kitchen, since I don’t have a printer. Sizing up your dick can be a procedure fraught with variables — do you press into your fat as hard as you can at the top of your shaft, or go along the underside of the shaft by the balls? — but this case was simpler. I put one end of the twine just at the base of my dick, where the condom would stop, and ran the twine to the tip, pinching it off so I could measure the length on the ruler. Next came a little loop of twine around the shaft. With a couple of double-checks, the whole process took five minutes.
My dick has long been a source of apathy for me, given the sheer average mediocrity of the measurements. No woman I slept with ever mentioned anything negative, but who gets excited about being 47th percentile at something? Blame my fretting on pornography, constant jokes about Asians with small dicks or the fragile male ego, I guess. And while I only had one major fuck-up with a condom slipping off (turns out you can go soft because of mid-fuck heat exhaustion), I was never entirely happy with the condoms I used. Sometime in sophomore year of college, after the condom-bucket free-for-all of the freshman dorms, I settled on extra-thin Trojan Bareskins as the go-to solution, because at least they were thinner than anything I’d used before. The condom sat just a touch loosely on my dick, leaving little air bubbles and plenty of unused length that in tandem reminded me I was smaller than I should be — otherwise, why would the vast majority of condoms be sized like this? Didn’t that mean something?
Trying a properly fitting condom for the first time served as a moment of clarity. Not only did it hug my dick with a nice tautness, the shortened length meant a thinner band of uncomfortable rubber at the base of my dick. It felt better, but it also looked better, and my mind didn’t wander to questioning the size of my dick. Turns out I was one of those men who had gone his whole life thinking there wasn’t a worthwhile alternative.
Condoms sized for extremely small and extremely large men have been available in the U.S., but rubbers like Iron Grip, Beyond Seven’s Mega Big Boy and Ceylor Hotshot are harder to find, especially for someone who doesn’t know to look for alternatives. It’s what propelled White to launch the website Lucky Bloke in 2011, offering a streamlined shop for condoms of diverse sizes from around the world, with affordable shipping rates and consistent supply. “I found that people didn’t know how to shop for condoms,” she says. “It was often the case that the first experience of a condom, whether it was free at a dorm or a box of Trojans from the corner store, is just what men assumed a condom was supposed to be. No matter whether it was tight or loose, they just assumed that was normal.”
The irony is that, historically, condoms were always custom-made. Made with linen or the lining of animal innards, old-school condoms were designed to fit a single user. Developed by Gabriello Fallopio in the 16th century, these crude condoms served as a shield against syphilis outbreaks around Europe. It was only in the 20th century, after the invention of latex drips and factory production, that the condom fell into the one-size model. Calculating that standard size was a process vulnerable to flaws, including the use of self-reported polls for penis width (rather than a more controlled survey). Global Protection’s Maraio also points out that the early equipment used to test those condoms for strength and flexibility could only be built so small, limiting the process to larger sizes.
Old habits, or in this case regulatory standards, are hard to break, even though technology has caught up. The Food and Drug Administration, along with the international standards organizations ASTM and ISO, in the past decreed that American condoms had to be a certain length, with only a few deviations from standard width. “It takes a lot of investment to change regulations. TheyFit was available around the world, but we believed in it enough to spend to invest in it for the U.S.,” Maraio says.
White agrees that regulators have long made it needlessly complicated to distribute new condom sizes in the U.S., but she also criticizes major manufacturers who shied away from lobbying for change. “A lot of people in the condom industry, even as recently as when I entered the business, thought this whole thing about fit was a made-up problem, and that because a condom stretches it wasn’t a big deal,” White says. “I’ve heard someone say that people wouldn’t want smaller sizes because they can’t admit they have a small penis. I think it’s preposterous.”
U.S. consumers deserve the same spectrum of condom sizes that men in other nations, like Japan, have had easy access to, White says, especially since not being able to find a condom that fits can do great damage to a man’s self-esteem. And while she sees a product like myOne as a long-awaited step for U.S. condoms, White worries that having to measure one’s penis could be a complicated and stressful process for size-anxious men. “I’m not sure you need something so exacting to find a condom that you love,” she argues. “Sometimes, a simpler process can be easier to try and trust. That’s why we offer fit suggestions but don’t worry about exact measurements as much for Lucky Bloke.”
For now, shopping for condoms remains a disconcerting experience for most men with very big or small dicks, even though they feel insecurity for reasons that at first glance appear diametrically opposed. John, who worries about people seeing him with smaller condoms, still uses standard options, though he has a few better-fitting favorites. Ev, meanwhile, is sticking with his myOne orders. Though, he quickly admits, “It’d be nice to be able to walk into a 7-Eleven and buy a condom that fits me, too.”