The Shame of Premature Ejaculation

Louisa Leontiades Sexual Shame, Vile Depths

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if masturbating was medically prescribed, it wouldn’t be too hard for a man to accept.

So when I gleefully told my boyfriend that I’d received samples of a new climax control product – “Prolong” – to review and that it involved systematic wanking with a discreet handheld vibrator over a period of 6 weeks, I was expecting the response –

‘Wow you’re the best girlfriend ever.’

Instead of what I actually got which was ‘Er, desensitize my penis? No thanks.’

Climax control is a fancy expression for ‘how to prevent premature ejaculation (PE)’ which I have promised to make very clear that my boyfriend doesn’t suffer from. Done.

But since Prolong uses the start-stop method with the vibrator to apparently ‘desensitize’ the underside of the tip of the penis it could be used by any man who wants to last a bit longer in the sack. And the magazines say this is every guy’s dream. Right?

“It’s increased my timing from 4-5 minutes to around 15 minutes” said one test subject. I’ve never met him, but interview was set up so that I could get ‘hands-on’ experience (so to speak).

“And were you pleased about it?” I asked.

“Well yes.” He sounded confused. “But I read this Men’s magazine which said some men could go on for hours. And I thought that would be brilliant. Me and my girlfriend were really new to sex and thought I was abnormal. But when I went to the doctor, she said that 4-5 minutes was fine and that the average was only 6-7 minutes anyway.”

Thank god, I thought.  Hours of vagina pumping didn’t sound great to me. In fact, it sounded bloody sore.

Condoms have changed sex. No. It’s not the chafing. The irritating spermicide. Or even the ribs for her pleasure (which quite frankly guys, are barely perceptible). It’s that using condoms has compartmentalized sex more than ever before.

There is foreplay and there is sex. Foreplay is not with a condom (usually). Sex is with a condom (usually). What happens without a condom…is not sex. Foreplay can go on for 5 minutes, 20 minutes, an hour or even longer. But once you put that condom on, that timer starts ticking.

How long can you go?

As it turns out, anything less than 15 seconds from the beginning of intercourse is defined as clinically ‘premature’ (no matter how long the foreplay has lasted).

But crucially this is not an exact science.

If the man feels that he would like the ‘sex’ part to last longer than it does, or if he has little control over his ability to orgasm even if he lasts 5 minutes, 10 minutes or more, then he will experience distress and shame about being a ‘rapid ejaculator’. And the pressure for this comes from inherited values about what our society tells us it means… to be a man.

And if you're not a 'real' man, you can just 'Ejaculate Off'.

And if you’re not a ‘real’ man, you can just ‘Ejaculate Off’.

The values and expectations are pretty much one way, broadcast from the media outwards. Articles from Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Askmen, & RealMenDrinkWhisky.com (er, really?) provide information about technique, stamina and medication…because apparently your woman wants you to last longer. IT’S NOT TRUE!

Men have no outlet to discover how long other men last, what they feel about their own performance and what a woman really wants. Often she doesn’t know because women are also indoctrinated by the media whilst men cannot honestly discuss these subjects with each other. They have been taught that another aspect of being a real man is not to talk about how they feel and never to admit their own humanity.

“I’m no prude.” said another anonymous test subject. “I’ve told my best friend that I got off with a post-op transsexual. But I’d never discuss not being able to satisfy someone – anyone – in bed with him. That’s too private. Imagine the shame…”

Shame is what you feel when you have violated or fallen short of your internalized codes and standards. In many cases, you believe others might also judge you harshly for this violation (but usually not as harshly as you judge yourself). It therefore comes wrapped up in fear of rejection and finished off with a crown of thorns.

Getting off with a transsexual…conquest? Not being able to satisfy your partner in bed…shameful.

You will continue to feel shame for your perceived – er – ‘shortcoming’ until either

  1. You judge you have paid enough ‘shame’ to feel better, or
  2. You have been able to measure up to your own codes and standards, or
  3. You have changed your codes and standards to reflect reality

But those codes and standards are not of your own making. They are inherited from and defined by, others.

With premature ejaculation, the standard is shouted at men – and women – from the billboards and magazine stands. And since there is no concrete definition (it’s a feeling of inadequacy more than science), and no concrete solution (there’s no sure-fire Viagra for premature ejaculation), the shame follows men with every release, or even every thought of sex (and that’s a lot of shame).

No definition. No solution. And no outlet.

  • 32.5% of men 21 years of age reported in an Internet survey that they ejaculated before they wished at least 50% of the time
  • Only 9.0% of men with PE reported having consulted a physician for the condition;
  • 91.5% reported little or no improvement as a result of seeking treatment.
  • A large percentage of men with PE had used alcohol 41.2% ore recreational drugs (15.2%) to address the condition.

European Urology (2007) 816-824

I know about drowning shame in alcohol. I know about the pressure of trying to live up to standards not of your own creation. And I have experience – albeit it second hand – of what the pressure of expectation does to (what was once) an erect cock.

So what about Prolong?

I want to eradicate the misconception around penis-in-vagina sex finishing in ejaculation as the single defining barometer of male sexual success.

I want to hold those men who bottle up their shame every day in my arms and tell them that they are enough no matter how long they ‘last’.

I want to shout out to all those who have been brainwashed by the media and who expect hours of pounding that sex is delicious, fruitful and altogether more frothy when you don’t count the minutes.

But I can’t change our entire society by myself. I can’t reassure enough men that they are enough. Or shout loud enough to pierce the brainwashing.

Meanwhile, for those who suffer from PE for whatever reason there’s Prolong. And over the next 6 weeks I’ve (ahem) “persuaded” someone close to me to test it. I just hope he has enough sense to remember most of us prefer hours of foreplay over hours of penetrative pumping.

But that most of all we prefer the intimacy that comes with both.