We Unpack the Myths & Misconceptions Around Men’s Biggest Sexual Insecurity
We Unpack the Myths & Misconceptions Around Men’s Biggest Sexual Insecurity
A lot depends on the man during sex. The festivities usually begin when he achieves an erection, and typically conclude when he orgasms, so it stands to reason that erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation would be two of men’s biggest issues and insecurities.
After all, nobody wants to disappoint their partner, and nobody wants to feel incompetent or inadequate in the bedroom. And while there has been a great deal of scientific research into erectile dysfunction, spawning several prescription-based treatments, there’s a lot more confusion and outright misunderstanding premature ejaculation.
Unfortunately, most guys don’t necessarily understand what P.E. is or how it functions, since it’s not typically something that’s covered in sex education in any kind of depth.
In order to get a clearer picture of premature ejaculation and how it functions, AskMen spoke to several sex experts in hopes they’ll debunk some of the more common myths when it comes to finishing earlier than expected.
What Is Premature Ejaculation?
In order to debunk any myths about premature ejaculation, it’s important first to understand what, exactly, it is.
If you’re looking for a specific number of seconds or minutes, however, that’s now exactly how it works. P.E. isn’t a question of how long you last — it’s a question of how long you last as compared to your own expectations.
“Premature ejaculation is when the man ejaculates before he or his partner would like,” says Tami Rose of Romantic Adventures.
For many people, the perception is that P.E. occurs during penetrative sex, often vaginal, but that doesn’t need to be the case.
“Originally it was defined by intercourse, but it is now more widely seen as any sexual activity,” says SKYN Condoms’ sex and intimacy expert and author Gigi Engle. “It can either be a lifelong condition — meaning it’s an ongoing condition. Or it can be acquired, meaning it is a new condition.”
Either way, it counts as premature ejaculation if it only happens once, but it’s typically not something to be concerned about unless it’s occurring consistently. Essentially, if you always ejaculate after 15 seconds of penetration when your partner wants you to last half an hour, consider that premature ejaculation. If on one occasion, you ejaculate after six minutes of oral sex when you wanted to last for 12, that’s also P.E.
It’s really a question of whether it’s impacting your sexual happiness or not. If you typically cum after three or four minutes, but both you and your partner are happy with it, P.E. wouldn’t be the proper label.
What Causes Premature Ejaculation?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one easy answer to what causes premature ejaculation.
“The exact cause […] is unknown, with little data to effectively support the most known biological and psychological hypotheses, including anxiety and penile hypersensitivity,” says Shadeen Francis, a licensed marriage and family therapist who specializes in sex therapy and social justice. “It may be most reasonable to say that the cause varies by person and by circumstance (for example, substance use, history of early ejaculation, health, sexual habits).”
But before you can understand how P.E. happens, it’s important to first understand how ejaculation works, period.
“Ejaculation happens when the muscles at the base of the penis contract, but the signal to contract is delivered by the central nervous system,” explains Rose. “So you have to figure out if it is a software problem (emotional stimulus), a hardware problem (muscle strength or weakness), or an electrical problem (nervous system misfire or miscommunication).”
Premature Ejaculation Myths, Debunked
MYTH: Not Many Guys Experience P.E.
“The biggest myth about premature ejaculation is that it’s not a common thing that happens,” says Engle. On the contrary, she notes that “it’s extremely common and most men will deal with it at some point in their lives.”
Francis agrees, adding that “premature ejaculation is the most common sexual concern among men.” In addition to a majority of men experiencing it at some point or other, “up to 25% of men experience it consistently.”
If you feel like you’re the only one, know that that’s far from the case. A big reason you’ve never heard your buddies admit to this kind of thing is because there’s this pre-existing shame around it, not because they’ve never had the experience!
MYTH: P.E. Is Due to Low Testosterone
The relationship between testosterone levels and a man’s ability to conform to various masculine ideals is one that’s often the source of misinformation, and that’s no different in the case of premature ejaculation.
“The most common myth I have heard about premature ejaculation is that it is a sign of low testosterone,” says Francis. “This myth likely was birthed out of cis-sexist, shame-based messages about maleness and masculinity being connected to ‘lasting in bed.’ However, there is no link between testosterone and premature ejaculation (or masculinity, for that matter).”
MYTH: P.E. Is All in Your Head
On the flip side, some people believe premature ejaculation issues have no purely physical component at all — but that isn’t true either.
“Sometimes, P.E. is a psychological issue (including sexual abuse, poor body image, depression, worrying about PE, and guilty feelings that cause you to rush through sex), but often folks with PE have an over-sensitive penis head, which creates a ‘low ejaculatory threshold,’” says Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT, a relationship expert and psychotherapist. “Additionally, irregular hormone levels, irregular levels of brain chemicals, and/or swelling and infection of the prostate or urethra.”
MYTH: If You Can’t Last as Long as a Porn Star, You Have P.E.
With premature ejaculation being a question of perception, not of time, it’s something that’s changeable according to how long you think you should be lasting in bed. And one issue there is mainstream porn’s depiction of actors who last much, much longer than average.
“Pornography has made a huge impact on what people think sex should look like,” says Amy Baldwin, sex educator and co-host of the “Shameless Sex” podcast. “While pornography is great for entertainment, it can be rather harmful as a sex educator. Porn stars are trained to postpone ejaculation for long periods of time as part of their job.”
That’s not to say that you couldn’t also last that long, but just that if you don’t, it’s not a sign that there’s anything wrong with you.
“There is no universal desired duration of sex, but the average is 5.4 minutes,” adds sexologist Dr. Jess O’Reilly, co-host of Last Longer In Bed: 6 Steps to Master Premature Ejaculation. “This means that 3 minutes and 7 minutes are also within the range of normal. Those who have sex for longer periods of time often stop, slow down, change things up and don’t spend the whole time thrusting.”
MYTH: It’s Impossible to Cure P.E.
If your experiences with sex involve frustration from wondering why you keep cumming before you (or your partner) wanted it, it can feel daunting. However, it’s not something that’s etched in stone. Meaning, if your P.E. is psychological in nature, it is possible to improve the situation.
“There are practices available to make the desired shifts,” suggests Baldwin. “Ejaculatory control issues are usually a mental barrier/looping pattern rather than a physiological dilemma. The way to get ‘unstuck’ is to start practicing slow, mindful masturbation with no goals (orgasm) and complete presence for all of the body’s sensations, thoughts and experiences. The penis owner can set a timer for 10-20 minutes and slowly self pleasure without toys or porn, and if/when they feel like they are getting close to orgasm then they stop or slow down while taking long deep breaths.”
Baldwin continues, noting that an orgasm can occur when “the timer goes off, but the key is to learn to stay in-tune with the body while riding the pleasure wave a couple notches below the point of orgasm for an extended period of time.”
“They are reprogramming/retraining their body. It is 100% doable for most folks, but it takes a lot of time, patience and dedication,” she adds.
MYTH: P.E. Can Be Cured With Viagra
According to Francis, some people try to approach their P.E. with medication that’s designed to combat an entirely different issue — erectile dysfunction.
“A lot of folks take Viagra as a DIY solution, but this is not a great idea,” states Francis. “Not only is it usually ineffective, it also furthers the experience of people feeling out of relationship with their penis. If you are struggling with the timing of your ejaculation, please consider working with a sex therapist and making an appointment with a urologist who is experienced with sexual concerns.”
MYTH: Alcohol Can Help Reduce P.E.
There’s a certain logic at play here — alcohol can function as a numbing agent, which you’d think would help in situations where you’re overly physically sensitive. But that’s not quite how it works, says Abbas Kanani, superintendent pharmacist for Chemist Click.
“Excess drinking or smoking can contribute to the rise of premature ejaculation instances in men,” he explains. “Drinking can interfere with signals between the brain and the genitals, which may lead to men ejaculating too quickly. Excessive consumption of alcohol has been shown to inhibit testosterone production in the testes and also constrict the blood vessels in the penis, leading to erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation issues.”
MYTH: P.E. Lessens With Age
Premature ejaculation is, culturally speaking, something we often associate with those on the younger, less-experienced side of things — the implication being that it should go away naturally as you get older and more sexually experienced.
In fact, according to sexologist Tanya Bass, that’s not exactly the case. Many guys, she notes, “may experience a change in ejaculation due to age and the accompanied physiological changes in the body,” but that’s not strictly speaking an age thing.
“Changes can be due to various health conditions or side effects from medications,” adds Bass.
In fact, counter to the stereotype, she clarifies that “many studies indicate that older men are more likely to experience premature ejaculation due to comorbidities such as cardiovascular risk factors.”
MYTH: Sex Toys Can Fix P.E.
“From my perspective in the male toys field, there are a lot of supposed cures offered for P.E. that I think consumers should be wary of,” says Brian Sloan, inventor of the Autoblow toys. “The FDA classifies P.E. as a medical problem and many toys that offer claims of curing P.E. are actually making those claims without any scientific basis.”
Sloan notes that some sex toys are marketed as devices you can use to “‘practice’ lasting longer, but the reality is that many men with P.E. can last as long as they want by themselves and the problem shows itself only during partner play.”
“Sex toys may be fun to play with,” states Sloan, “and some men may benefit from using them to address their P.E. problems, but it’s probably best for men to tell their doctor what they are experiencing and go from there.”
MYTH: You Can’t Be a Good Lover If You Experience P.E.
At the end of the day, ejaculating sooner than you want to can be a humbling experience. Consider it a reminder that our bodies are not completely under our control, often acting in ways we don’t like. But if you’re consistently ejaculating after not much sexual contact, that doesn’t by any means mean you can’t be great in bed.
Lots of guys — perhaps because this is what they see in porn — believe that the key to being a sex god is hours of pounding with a giant, rock-hard erection, but there’s very little truth to that.
“Many (non-porn performer) vulva-owners generally don’t want consistent thrusting/penetration for the extended period of time porn portrays,” says Baldwin. “Sure, it serves a time and place. But vulva-owners like all kinds of touch that do not have to involve a hard penis thrusting in and out.”
Although some may enjoy that kind of intense, long-lasting penetration, most people — whatever their gender — also appreciate other things in bed. Getting good at pleasing your partner with your mouth, your hands, and various sex toys can massively unlock your sexual potential without your penis ever coming into contact with them.
People “often like the soft touch of mouths and tongues, or the precision touch of fingers and hands,” says Baldwin. “Society often puts too much emphasis on the performance of the penis during penetrative sex.”
When you let penetration be just a portion of sex rather than the primary focus, ejaculating after only a few minutes doesn’t mean that the varying levels of pleasure have to necessarily stop, too.
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