You’re about to finally seal the deal with a new partner. Things are going beyond great — you two are totally feeling each other, and you can’t wait get home to your place and finish what the two of you started at the bar. But as soon as things get going, you realize that it’s all happening too fast — and you can’t stop yourself from finishing early.
“I swear, this usually never happens,” you say, an apologetic look on your face. Not the end to the evening you were hoping for, right?
It’s embarrassing, but it happens. In fact, according to a recent study, premature ejaculation affects 20% to 30% of the U.S. population. In the short term, PE can mean a disappointing night. But the longer the problem persists, the more likely it is to have a negative impact on the relationship you have with your partner, impact your self-esteem and can cause long-term stress.
The key to getting a handle on premature ejaculation is to understand what it is, what causes it and what can be done in order to prevent it from happening. Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about premature ejaculation.
1. What Is Premature Ejaculation?
Medically speaking, premature ejaculation is determined by two things — the lack of control a man has over when he ejaculates, and whether or not he and his partner are satisfied with the duration that he lasts for.
According to urologist Dr. Peter Stahl, there are different varieties of this condition. “Premature ejaculation comes in two variants: lifelong and acquired, which have slightly different definitions,” he explains.
“Lifelong premature ejaculation is generally defined as ejaculation that almost always occurs within one minute, is difficult or impossible to delay, and is associated with distress or bother. Lifelong premature ejaculation is a true neurobiological predisposition to ejaculate early. Acquired premature ejaculation is different and usually related to anxiety or other sexual dysfunction.”
As far as the amount of time that qualifies as ejaculation being premature, sexual psychophysiologist Dr. Nicole Prause says that there isn’t a medically accepted amount of time that dictates this disorder.
“There is no standard number of intromissions (intravaginal strokes) or latency (time to ejaculation) that is recognized as [premature],” she explains. “This definition is usually left to the male reporting distress. Of course, this is very problematic.
A series of laboratory studies actually found most men who believe they have [premature ejaculation] actually did not orgasm more quickly to vibratory stimulation than men who did not believe that they had a problem in laboratory studies.” There’s also no medical test for premature ejaculation currently available.
But if both you and your partner are unsatisfied with the amount of time that you’re lasting, this means that it’s a problem for both of you — so you’ll want to take the necessary steps to address it.
What Real Women Say: “I dated a guy once who wouldn’t sleep with me for several months,” says Casey, 26. “While I usually don’t rush into things sexually with new partners, I did think that the behavior was strange — to the point that I questioned where things were going, and whether or not he was actually interested in me.
When we finally did sleep together it became extremely clear that the reason why he wasn’t rushing to do the deed was that he finished very quickly. We did it again a few more times and the same thing kept happening — although I did find that the more we drank beforehand the longer he lasted, though it still wasn’t ever anywhere beyond a few minutes long.
In retrospect, I should have said something — I would’ve been willing to try things that would have maybe helped. But instead we started to see less and less of each other until things ended.”
2. Why Does It Happen?
As Dr. Stahl explained, there are two different types of premature ejaculation. One is caused by a neurobiological predisposition to ejaculate early. If you have this type of premature ejaculation, it’s likely something that you’ve experienced since you first became sexually active.
But as for acquired premature ejaculation, there are plenty of factors that can cause this. “Acquired premature ejaculation, in contrast, can be caused by relationship anxiety, intensity of arousal, and other sexual dysfunction,” Dr. Stahl says. “Erectile dysfunction is actually commonly associated with acquired premature ejaculation, and treatment of the erection problem often cures the ejaculatory problem.”
Another factor that can cause premature ejaculation is when the body’s sympathetic response (our body’s “fight or flight” reaction) is triggered during sex. “Sexual contact makes most everyone have some sympathetic arousal,” explains sex therapist Michael J. Salas. “However, for some, this can happen even more rapidly, with more intensity. With so much intensity, the body does what it needs to do to deactivate some of this arousal. It can come from a variety of sources. Sometimes the person has some hangups about sex. Sometimes it’s simply the type of touch that was offered. And it can even be below the surface issues and insecurities that the person isn’t even aware of.”
Premature ejaculation can also happen due to complications with feeling the physical signals that you’re going to ejaculate. “Some men who have premature ejaculation have difficulties with the sensations that tell most men that they may reach a point of sexual ‘no return,” Salas explains. “Meaning that they have to ejaculate if they cross this point.”
“Prevalence is slightly higher at younger age, but [premature ejaculation] tends to be pretty stable across age,” says Dr. Prause. “Most remarkably, men with [premature ejaculation] consistently report more problems with anxiety in general, including with their bedroom ‘performance.’ “Hyperthyroidism and some medications can contribute. With respect to partner factors, men with [premature ejaculation] are more likely to feel less informed about female sexuality and have a more sexually experienced female partner.”
According to tantra instructor Helena Nista, personal masturbation habits also come into play with premature ejaculation. “Many men first learn to self-pleasure when they’re teenagers and they form a habit of touching themselves in a very quick, efficient way in order to avoid getting caught,” she says. “As they continue masturbating exactly the same way for many years, their nervous system becomes wired in a way that leads to a quick release and they lose control over their arousal.”
The type of porn you watch — and the frequency at which you watch it — may also be contributing to the problem. “Porn is a great source of sexual stimulation and can lead to high levels of arousal,” says Nista. “When overstimulated, men become highly excited very quickly, leading them to a premature climax. When this process is repeated often, the body adopts it and performs the same way each time — whether the man wants to release quickly or not.”
What Real Men Say: “I used to literally go for hours,” says James, 32. “Since I got Type 1 late-onset childhood diabetes it’s been, well, quite the opposite. I’ve tried Fluoxetine/Prozac in high doses, but to no avail. Cialis didn’t address the issue either. It’s really put a damper on my sex life. Especially when I’m used to it being a good one. I might try some lidocaine gel but then it would be only for my girlfriend — probably nothing but exercise followed by a poor excuse for an orgasm for me. I also may try another prescription.”