If you ask anyone how long they expect sex to last for, the response you get will undoubtedly vary from person to person. Different couples have different expectations, so it isn’t always easy to determine just how soon ‘too soon’ is when it comes to premature ejaculation.
But using averages can help us to get an idea of what the typical range is.
A survey of 500 couples published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, which reviewed people living in the UK, the Netherlands, Spain, the US and Turkey, reported that the overall median intravaginal ejaculatory latency time (IELT) of male partners was 5.4 minutes. Other studies have reported slightly different figures, but the 4-7 minute window is generally considered to be the average duration.
Taking these into consideration, a consensus has developed since the term ‘premature ejaculation’ was introduced by researchers William Masters and Virginia Johnson in 1970, that the majority of men with PE will tend to ejaculate inside a minute or two.
Most men will attest that this has happened to them on an at least occasional or infrequent basis, and in such cases is not a significant issue. However it’s when the issue persists (or occurs 50 percent or more of the time, using the definition of PE put forward by Masters and Johnson) that it starts to present a problem. It can lead to feelings of tension or frustration in couples, and create discord when not addressed; so taking measures to rectify the issue is more important than many couples might think.
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the techniques couples can practice to help improve male ejaculatory latency, as well as some of the treatment options available if these methods do not provide sufficient results.
We’ll start with some quick fixes. The following don’t require much preparation, and can be employed at fairly short notice to resolve comparatively mild or temporary cases of PE.
Use a thicker condom
Probably the simplest change someone can make is to opt for the thicker or ‘extra safe’ variety of condoms over the thinner or ‘featherlite’ versions. Doing so can help to reduce feelings of sensitivity in the penis, and prolong ejaculation time.
Take a break during sex or think of something else
Another method which can help to delay ejaculation is to take a short rest when the male partner is about to climax. During this break, it can be useful to think about something less sexually stimulating to help reset the ejaculatory reflex.
Two or three hours prior to sex, masturbating can be a useful way to desensitise the body to sexual stimulation, and prolong ejaculatory latency during sex later on. However, it is important to time this right; leaving too small a gap between masturbation and sex may make it more difficult for some men to ‘get going again’ during the latter.
Take a deep breath when about to ejaculate
Doing this might be tricky to time during intercourse, but taking a long breath in at the point just before ejaculating can help to cut off the ejaculatory reflex for a very short time, and delay climax.
Use a ‘last-longer’ condom
This type of condom is lined with a small amount of anaesthetic agent (such as benzocaine), and is designed to reduce sensitivity in the penis during sex. This helps the user to last longer.
More advanced methods
In some cases the above methods may not provide the desired results, and in more severe or persistent instances therapy or treatment may be required. We would advise seeing a doctor or therapist in person before trying any of the below on your own:
The ‘squeeze technique’
This technique, otherwise known as the Masters and Johnson method, sounds painful but it isn’t. It is typically employed over a period of weeks or months, and will need to be learnt with the help of a practitioner. It involves:
- the man’s partner masturbating them;
- when the man is nearing climax, the man’s partner holding the penis, so that their thumb is roughly where the frenulum is;
- positioning the fore and middle fingers on the other side of the penis (nearest to the man) so that the middle finger is just below the start of the ‘head’ and the forefinger is just above the start of the head;
- when the man is almost at the point of climax, he informs his partner;
- the partner then applies a small amount of pressure on the penis for 10 to 20 seconds;
- following this, a break of 30 seconds is observed, then masturbation continues.
The above steps may be repeated a few times, prior to ejaculation eventually being permitted to happen. It essentially re-trains the male to be able to exercise better control over when they climax.
Those who attempt to employ the above without expert help may get the technique wrong, in which case it won’t be as effective in prolonging ejaculaory latency; so it is important to see a trained professional before embarking on this programme of treatment.
The ‘stop go technique’
This is a form of cognitive behavioural therapy which again involves masturbation, however it doesn’t require the man’s partner to be present. It involves:
- the man masturbating with dry hands, and stopping just before reaching the point of climax;
- the process is repeated three times;
- the man allows himself to ejaculate on the fourth attempt.
The idea is that once the man has mastered a greater level of ejaculatory control using the above, they then do the same but using wet hands (to simulate the sensation of being inside their partner).
As with the Masters Johnson method, this helps to re-train the sensory processes which lead to ejaculation, and to give the man better control.
However, in some cases it may be important to practise it as part of a wider programme of therapy. Supplementary sex counselling may be required to provide the support needed, and ensure the technique is being practised accordingly.
Sometimes, a doctor may be able to prescribe an anaesthetising cream to help reduce sensitivity in the penis during sex. EMLA Cream is a treatment used primarily for minor skin procedures, but it is sometimes prescribed off-label to treat premature ejaculation.
Because it isn’t licensed specifically for PE, the makers of EMLA Cream do not provide guidance on how to use it for this purpose. However, your prescribing doctor should be able to give you instructions.
Only a very small amount of EMLA is needed when being applied to the penis. It’s very important to wipe off the cream before entering your partner, so that the agent is not inadvertently transferred to them, as it will induce feelings of internal numbness. To further reduce this risk, it’s also recommended to use a condom, and for the man to apply this after wiping the cream off and before entering their partner.
One study by Turkish scientists attempted to determine the ‘optimum’ usage of prilocaine and lidocaine (the agents in EMLA) in PE. They noted that in the group applying it for 20 minutes and removing it prior to sex, mean latency time during intercourse increased to ‘6.71’ minutes.
However, they also noted that in their other groups leaving it to work for longer periods, some loss of sensation led to loss of erectile potency; so it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions and to use EMLA carefully.
In some severe cases of PE, where the above measures have not been effective in treating symptoms, prescription medicine may be able to help. Dapoxetine, which is marketed as Priligy, is a medication developed specifically for premature ejaculation.
It is a tablet which belongs to the SSRI category of medicines, which are typically used to treat depression. When treating PE, dapoxetine works by altering serotonin function; and serotonin plays a role in the communcation of pleasure signals in the brain. In changing the way serotonin functions, dapoxetine essentially helps the user achieve better control over when they climax.
Once more, Priligy is only indicated in severe cases of PE, and is only available on prescription.
When should I see a doctor about premature ejaculation?
As soon as you feel as though it is negatively affecting you and your partner’s sex life. As discussed above, intermittent or temporary PE will often pass on its own, without the need for counselling, therapy or medical intervention.
But if you have persistent PE, you should make an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to help you determine the best course of action in your particular case.