There’s a really common (and unfortunate) trope in society about men who reach orgasm sooner than expected. It’s often used as a punchline or as a way to challenge a man’s masculinity.
Though "rapid ejaculation" is the more accurate, current term for this condition, most folks still refer to it as premature ejaculation. Both terms will be used interchangeably in this article.
Rapid ejaculation, which is typically defined as being when a person with a penis ejaculates sooner than desired, often with little or no control over when that occurs. Occasionally, the definition will be made more specific to state that premature ejaculation is specifically in reference to when orgasm occurs within one minute of penetration, though this definition is not universally accepted since the duration of intercourse depends more upon personal preferences than a specific length of time.
Sexual psychophysiologist and licensed psychologist, Nicole Prause, PhD, clarifies that rapid ejaculation is "defined primarily by patient distress," not a set amount of time. She goes on to say, "That is, the patient feels he experiences climax too quickly to have sex that is satisfying to him."
Despite what jokes in pop culture would have you believe, rapid ejaculation is not a rarity and isn’t a sign of one’s masculinity or manhood. The American Urological Association estimates that approximately 1 in 5 men between the ages of 18 and 59 experience premature ejaculation with some frequency, and some surveys suggest that the rate is actually higher than 1 in 3 (33%).
One of the main problems men with rapid ejaculation face is that it’s a topic with such strong stigma that it can be uncomfortable to talk about. Failing to talk about sexual concerns often leads to them going untreated, which can only compound sexual anxiety and increase the rate of sexual dysfunction.
In order to overcome this stigma, it’s a topic that needs to be discussed openly. If you’re concerned about rapid ejaculation, know that you’re not alone and there are ways that you can manage your condition. Let’s dive in.
Porn Sets Unrealistic Expectations
First and foremost, it’s critical that we recognize that most sexual health expectations that we see in pop culture have roots in pornography.
We’re not going to take a moral stance on pornography. What consenting adults choose to do or watch is none of our business!
Instead, what we’ll state about pornography is that it is generally meant to be a fantasy. While subcategories exist that present sex and intimacy in realistic or non-produced ways, most pornography is created such that we do not see everything that happens behind the scenes. What is visible during scenes has also been highly edited.
Because of this, people with penises should not expect to automatically have porn actor-levels of sexual endurance. The 20-minute and more scenes of penetration displayed in pornography are not in any way average.
Average Duration of Penetrative Intercourse
Finnish psychologist and sexual therapist Patrick Jern states, “According to the statistics then, any intercourse that lasts between one and 15 minutes would be considered normal.”
Another study by Marcel D. Waldinger et al (2005) looked specifically at intravaginal sex (sex described as the insertion of a penis into a vagina) and found that the average duration for various couples was in a very wide range of times– from an average of 33 seconds all the way up to 44 minutes.
Because pornography is meant to display a fantasy, the penis sizes and sexual endurance that gets showcased are not the norm. In fact, as one study points out, there are entire subgenres of pornography that show the behind-the-scenes moments and “bloopers” where actors ejaculate unexpectedly, lose their erections, or need to take a break. The final product often omits these scenes in favor of what is displayed as an idealized version of a sexual encounter.
If you only take away one thing from this article, it should be to never measure your sexual performance or norms against those in pornography.
Strategies for Preventing Premature Ejaculation
Here are some of the more common strategies recommended for preventing premature ejaculation. We’ll cover each one in more depth later in the article.
- Wearing a thicker condom can decrease penis sensitivity and increase the time it takes to reach orgasm.
- SSRIs (antidepressants) have been shown to delay climax, though they can cause difficulty achieving orgasm for some patients.
- Participating in therapy in order to address sexual concerns can help decrease anxiety-related rapid ejaculation.
- Masturbatory delay training, or edging, can help you learn to identify when you’re approaching orgasm and how to better control it.
Using Thicker Condoms
When it comes to sexual health, condoms are among the most important tools in your arsenal. Condoms are wonderful. They prevent pregnancies and the transmission of STIs, and they can improve your sexual performance by decreasing penile stimulation.
It’s important, whether you deal with rapid ejaculation or not, to find the right condom for you and your partner(s). Some people will do better with pre-lubricated condoms, others with non-lubricated condoms. Some will prefer thin condoms and others will prefer a standard thickness. It all comes down to personal preference and what you are comfortable with. (On that topic, some guys try to get out of wearing a condom by stating that they can’t stay erect with one on– chances are, you just need to find a condom that fits you comfortably, and you may want to add a small amount of lubricant inside the condom before applying it.)
Some condoms, such as the ones below, come in variable thicknesses. The thinner the condom, the greater the stimulation that you will experience. Standard thickness condoms decrease the amount of stimulation, specifically to the glans of the penis, which can delay orgasm. Additionally, there are condom brands that include small amounts of lidocaine or other desensitizing agents can help even further– with such condoms, however, it’s important to ensure that they aren’t applied inside out, since doing so can numb your partner’s orifice, which may decrease their pleasure.
If you speak with your doctor about premature ejaculation, it’s probable that they will recommend some combination of therapy and an SSRI. SSRIs, more commonly referred to as antidepressants, can increase your sexual endurance and delay orgasm as a side effect of the work that they do to rebalance your neurotransmitters.
One of the risks of SSRIs, specifically for folks who do not struggle with rapid ejaculation, is that they can make it difficult to achieve orgasm at all. For folks who do deal with rapid ejaculation, however, this is rarely a concern since the medication instead makes it easier for them to delay orgasm without making it difficult to finish.
SSRIs are only available as a prescription, so speaking with your healthcare provider is the best bet. Your body will need a few weeks to acclimate to your SSRI and there are a few side effects– such as drowsiness and lethargy– which should be monitored and communicated with your doctor. It can take a few months of testing to figure out which doses and specific medication your body will best respond to.
Therapy and Anxiety
Some research suggests that anxiety can be a contributing factor in causing premature ejaculation. Rather than being able to be present in the moment and enjoy the experience, you may experience anxiety and stress about your sexual performance (or simply about the act of having sex). This anxiety can cause rapid ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, or an avoidance of sex altogether.
If you’re in this position, it’s best to speak with a therapist and be honest about what you’re experiencing. Remember: therapy is not an instant solution. You’re probably not going to be in your sexual prime as soon as you’ve finished your first therapy session. You’ll need to keep coming back and building off of the ongoing conversations you’re having with your therapist.
Some therapists specialize in sexual counseling. Resources like Betterhelp and Talkspace can be a great starting point for finding a therapist, but you may also be able to find someone local who you can meet with in person.
Therapy can be awkward at first– especially when discussing something as personal as your sexual experiences– but keep in mind that a therapist, like any other medical professional, is there to help assess your symptoms and find solutions. They’re not there to judge you. Therapists hear a bit of everything throughout the course of their profession. You’re not going to shock one or expose yourself to ridicule by divulging that you experience sexual anxiety or rapid ejaculation.
It takes a bit of practice to get used to having deep, self-reflective conversations with someone, but you’ll get the hang of it eventually.
Stop-Start, Edging, Delay Training, and Squeeze Methods
Some of the more common advice on the internet is to practice the Stop-Start method (sometimes referred more informally as edging, delay training, or the variant Squeeze method) as a means of preventing premature ejaculation.
This technique has its benefits and disadvantages. Off the bat, it seems that this form of training is overhyped and is easy to promote because it requires engaging in masturbation or intercourse, which most people are already doing. As with most of the other methods on this list, however, it requires some long-term practice to produce the most benefit.
The general premise of edging and delay training is that you use sexual stimulation– either masturbation or intercourse, though most folks start with masturbation– to learn to identify earlier arousal cues and redirect attention effectively.
As you’re masturbating, rather than taking a “quickly stroke one out” approach, you would set time targets for yourself and not allow yourself to reach orgasm prior to time being up.
There are a few variants of the Stop-Start method, but the basic procedure is along the lines of the following:
- Begin to masturbate as normal.
- Notice when you start to approach climax.
- Stop masturbating.
- Wait until the sensation of pre-orgasm goes away.
- Repeat process until a pre-determined amount of time has passed.
With this process, you want to not only acclimate your body to wait until more time has passed but also to get more familiar with your body and understand where your point of no return is. That way, in a sexual interaction with another person, you’ll better know how to pace yourself, pause and return to foreplay or non-penetrative sexual activity, and prolong the total time of the experience.
Causes of Premature Ejaculation
One of the frustrating things about rapid ejaculation is that there isn’t one specific cause that medical professionals can isolate. If there were, treatment would be much more direct and expedient.
That said, research suggests that brain chemistry– particularly serotonin levels– along with emotional states, physical health, and behavioral patterns can all affect rapid ejaculation.
Citing research conducted at Liberos LLC, Nicole Prause, PhD, explained,
There are extensive studies of ejaculatory latency in animals, but the process is very complex in humans. There are a number of 'stopwatch' studies, where we asked men to time their latency from penetration to ejaculation. As you might imagine, this approach is fraught with problems. We also conducted laboratory studies where we attached a bullet vibrator to the penis in an attempt to, minimally, determine if men reporting rapid ejaculation problems actually demonstrated faster climax. While men who reported [rapid ejaculation] did experience orgasm more quickly from the vibrator, the difference from men who did not report this problem was tiny. What that means is, many men who report rapid ejaculation problem are not overly or differently sensitive from men who do not report rapid ejaculation problems.
Prause's research, along with other studies, suggest that people who struggle with rapid ejaculation problems aren't physically deficient or biologically incapable of enhancing their sexual experiences.
Identifying a particular cause or factor in rapid ejaculation is best assessed on a case by case basis, and it may be necessary to try a variety of interventions. Therapy and sex counseling may work for some, and SSRIs may be necessary for others. There are also products like MYHIXEL that produce personal wellness products that seek to modify sexual behavior and help you build habits that can increase your sexual duration.
Take Your Sexual Health Seriously
Whether or not you deal with premature ejaculation occasionally, every time you have sex, or have only had issues with it once, it’s key that you remember that it is normal and natural, and it does not diminish your masculinity or value.
As with virtually all other matters of sexual health, the two most important components are to know your body and to communicate with your partner(s).
If you’re worried about premature ejaculation, explore the above strategies for prevention to find out what works best for you. Additionally, remember that sex is more than just penetration. Communicate with your partner(s) to learn what types of foreplay and non-penetrative sexual activity they enjoy and incorporate that into your sexual activity. Being willing to experiment with new strategies, incorporating your partner into edging training in a way that is enjoyable for both of you, and understanding what each party hopes to get out of the encounter will go a long way toward enriching your sexual experiences.
Finally, if rapid ejaculation does occur, remember that a sexual encounter does not have to end with your orgasm. Yes, you likely will feel a bit tired and spent afterward, but that doesn’t mean things have to end then and there. Rest for a moment and return to nonpenetrative sexual activity until both you and your partner feel that the interaction was a success.