Normally men are very quick to ejaculate during sex.
But occasionally one comes across a man – and you see this particularly in porn films – who appears to be able to thrust almost indefinitely before he ejaculates.
However closer attention to the men in porn films who behave like this reveals a rather different story.
In general, they have to thrust extremely hard and extremely fast, and it's noticeable that they only reach climax by withdrawing from the woman, and using very hard hand stimulation. Of course in porn films this can be an asset, allowing the "star" to ejaculate precisely where required.
But for the average man, whose sex life doesn't include the excesses seen in porn films, this kind of long build-up to climax is not an asset but a problem.
You may say, isn't the ability to make love for a very long period of time a rewarding and exciting thing for a woman?
The answer to this is a very clear "no" – at least in the majority of cases. Surveys have repeatedly shown that women regard around 10 minutes as the ideal length of intercourse. No matter what the exceptional women who are paid to appear on camera in porn may be capable of, for the majority of women, 10 minutes is the ideal duration of intercourse.
It's worth noting in passing that there is a degree of uncertainty about that, simply because most men ejaculate after about five minutes at the most. However I think you'll get the picture.
For men who cannot come during sex, the ability to last 15, 20, or 30 minutes or even longer, is not an advantage but a major disadvantage. Apart from the fact that a woman usually becomes physically sore and frustrated, there are other consequences.
For the man there might be feelings of shame, incompetence, inadequacy and sexual failure. For the woman, there may well be soreness and frustration, and there is probably also a psychological issue: she feels she's not attractive enough to make her man reach orgasm and ejaculate.
Particularly when a couple is trying to conceive, delayed ejaculation is not an asset in any way, but a major disadvantage. In fact, if you look around the Internet forums, you will see that from time to time couples break up because of it.
Obviously this apparently bizarre (but surprisingly common) condition raises a number of questions. The first of them, and the most obvious, is "why does this happen?"
There's a website is devoted entirely to the question of penile sensitivity after circumcision and how this might be remedied. According to this website, delayed ejaculation is almost certainly a product of penile insensitivity due to removal of the nerves of the foreskin during circumcision.
In reality, that is not likely to be the case, because the majority of men in America, up until quite recently, were circumcised, but the percentage of men who experience delayed ejaculation is much lower than the percentage of men who have been circumcised.
And while that's not absolute proof that there's no cause-and-effect relationship at work, it's certainly suggestive that there is another cause for delayed ejaculation.
Most sex therapists would take the view that difficulty reaching the point of ejaculation is due to low arousal.
Delayed ejaculation is a direct contrast to premature ejaculation, where men reached the point of ejaculatory inevitability far too quickly, because they are "over aroused".
In the case of delayed ejaculation, a man might never reach the point of ejaculatory inevitability, because he is "under aroused". If we accept that there is no evidence to link circumcision to delayed ejaculation, what might be the root cause of this low arousal?
The most plausible answer to this question is that there's some kind of disconnect between the sexual situation in which a man finds himself, and the arousal mechanism in his brain.
Such disconnects do occur in all areas of human existence, and especially in the area of sex.
A man who is not particularly connected to his feelings may also not be particularly connected to the sensations and stimulation which could normally arouse a man sexually. Why would this happen?
The answer is that it's probably different in each case, but we can draw some important generalizations.
Most men with delayed ejaculation are more invested in their partner's sexual satisfaction than their own.
This is rather ironic, considering that in general neither partner becomes sexually satisfied or fulfilled from long-lasting intercourse without ejaculation.
But there you have it. A man's inability to put his own needs first – if you like, to be selfish – or at least to put his own needs equal to his partner's, is indicative of some historical dynamic with women.
Most likely this represents the consequence of an experience with sex or sexuality which resulted in fear around women, and a drive to please them.
Now don't get me wrong, this is not a criticism. For men in this situation, some "traumatic" event happened during childhood or adolescence (or even early adulthood). And it has left them with a legacy around sex of inhibition and inability to "open up" to the pleasure of orgasm and flow of sexual energy that would take them to that point.
The frustration which ensues can be a real challenge for men who want to enjoy normal sexual relationships with women, and who don't understand the origin of the difficulties they have with ejaculation.
Now, should you be a man who is experiencing a long build up to climax, you're probably wondering what you can do about this.
Perhaps, as many of the men who speak to me on this matter believe, you may be thinking that sexual psychotherapy is necessary.
If so, you may be groaning inwardly at the thought of a "talk-cure". But in fact this isn't always needed.
There are ways in which you can learn to be intimate with a woman in adult life which will overcome the inhibitions and difficulties that you have experienced in establishing intimacy.
For example, a series of sensate focus exercises is very good at establishing trust, and rebuilding your capacity to enter into an intimate relationship.
The essence of the problem here is that some younger part of yourself had a bad experience around sex and decided to defend yourself from the pain of that experience in the future by avoiding intimacy and closeness in sexual situations.
To overcome this inhibition, this "learned response", it is necessary for you to "re-educate" that part of yourself.
Doing that with a safe and trusted partner is a good way of making a start on the road to normal sex.
And of course the inherent difficulty here is that the lack of trust, and the absence of safety, that you feel at perhaps a very deep (and maybe unconscious level) is the real cause of the problem.
And what can help you to overcome this is conscious intention. In other words conscious desire to overcome delayed ejaculation. A desire to enjoy normal sex with the timely ejaculation.
Depending on how much you want this, your motivation to overcome the difficulties that you experience with your sexual partner will either be low or high.
Needless to say, the higher it is, the more likely you are to succeed.
And having said all of this there is another factor in the equation: your partner's desires and wishes.
One of the interesting things about delayed ejaculation is that it often disguises sexual problems which the woman is carrying. Most particularly, her inability to reach orgasm.
As an aside it's interesting to reflect on the fact that until really quite recently women who couldn't reach orgasm during intercourse were regarded as frigid.
Only recently has it become understood that this is not a failure of sexual drive or sexual desire, but a failure of physical stimulation. And it's normal!
We now know a woman's clitoris is not stimulated during the act of intercourse. (At least not unless she's using the coital alignment technique.) And we now think nothing of the need for a woman to receive clitoral stimulation during lovemaking so that she can reach orgasm.
Is there a parallel, perhaps, with men who can't reach orgasm during intercourse?
This might be true in some sense, but it does require a reframe of our expectations around male sexuality.
Generally speaking we expect men to be aroused quickly, to enter their partner, and to ejaculate quite quickly.
But what if a man requires extra stimulation to get him to the point of orgasm?
Of course the the reason why a man might need extra stimulation to get into the point of orgasm is quite different to the reason a woman might require extra stimulation to get to the point of orgasm during intercourse.
Even so, there's a similarity in ideology and principle. And it turns out to be true, in that men, or at least in some men with delayed ejaculation, that extra stimulation during intercourse can result in orgasm.
This trigger into orgasm and ejaculation may take the form of nipple stimulation, hard-core fantasy, or even anal stimulation or prostate stimulation.
That isn't really a cure for delayed ejaculation, I must say. It's more of an adjunct to conventional treatment.
That treatment will generally require the desensitization to underlying fear (of intimacy or sex) which I've described above. And the process of sensate focus is most often the form in which this therapy is applied.
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Updated January 17, 2017