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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Express Yourself

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I love your column, and instead of being embarrassed in the doctor's office or looking online for an answer, I turn to you. When I was younger and would masturbate, I would be able to "express" myself for many feet. Whether I was in the shower or bathroom, it seemed to have quite a bit of "oomph," whereas now, in my mid-30s, it seems to "fizzle." Is this something I should chalk up to getting older, or can I regain my youth somehow?

Thanks to omnipresent Viagra and Cialis ads, it's common knowledge that men often have difficulty achieving or maintaining erections as they get older. Ejaculation is not talked about as often, but shooting one's wad less forcefully is also a normal part of the aging process. Starting in their late 20s or early 30s, many men notice exactly what you describe: Semen tends to seep out rather than be propelled across the room. This is due to a combination of two factors. First, the body produces less seminal fluid as men age. Second, the muscle contractions that cause ejaculation are less forceful. It's also common for men to take longer to ejaculate after becoming aroused.

This is all part of getting older. Just as we can't run as far or as fast as we could when we were in high school, our sexual functioning also begins to slow down and mellow. There's nothing physically unhealthy about this, but since ejaculation is linked with male virility in our minds, "dribbling" rather than "exploding" can be psychologically distressing for some people. Traditionally, the "money shot" in porn involves copious quantities of cum exploding all over the place. This is considered the ultimate moment, the proof that sex has happened, the visual symbol of orgasm and sexual pleasure. But like everything else in porn, this is fantasy, not a yardstick against which we should measure ourselves. This emphasis on ejaculation actually isn't the best model of mutual sexual pleasure; thinking about orgasm as one event, not "the" event, can decrease worries about physical performance and put the focus where it belongs: on the wide variety of other activities that feel good to you and your partner(s). (On a side note, the proliferation of porn focused on female ejaculation is starting to put pressure on women to spray fluids in all directions at the drop of a hat. While I'm glad that there's more awareness of female ejaculation, I'm concerned that this will produce the same kind of physical performance anxiety that men have to deal with.)

Our society values qualities associated with youth, including quick, hard erections and ejaculatory explosions. But is the sex you had when you were a teen better than the sex you have now? For most of us, the answer is, "God, no." As we get older, we learn more about our bodies and have greater understanding of our sexual functioning. Older men who are not as quick on the trigger to ejaculate are often better, more caring partners. Rather than trying to regain youth, I encourage readers to embrace their age.

As the owner of a sex toy store, I am sent lots of samples of pills and potions that claim to enhance the quantity of semen or the force of ejaculation. All of these samples go straight into the trash. The supplement industry is pretty much unregulated, and there's no way to know exactly what's in these types of pills and whether they're able to do what they say they will. At best, they're a waste of money designed to separate consumers from their dollars by playing on our sexual insecurities. At worst, they may contain ingredients that are physically harmful. I really encourage readers not to worry about "fixing" something that isn't unhealthy or "broken" in the first place, and instead learn more about and accept their bodies at all stages of life.

Want Laura to answer your questions in SEXpress? Send them tolaura@shepex.com. Not all questions received will be answered in the column, and Laura cannot provide personal answers to questions that do not appear here. Questions sent to this address may be reproduced in this column, both in print and online, and may be edited for clarity and content.

Laura Anne Stuart has a master's degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than a decade. She owns theTool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee's East Side.

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