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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Speed Racer

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I've gotten several questions recently about premature ejaculation. I commend both the couples and the men on their own who have approached me to ask about coming more quickly than one would like; although some people might feel embarrassed about this topic, it's one of the most common male sexual concerns. About one-third of men under 25 and 10% of men over 25 experience premature ejaculation. This might be due to the fact that when men or boys are first exploring their sexual feelings and learning to masturbate, they often jerk off alone and as fast as possible-either not wanting to be discovered by a family member or just wanting to reach orgasm quickly. Training yourself to come quickly, however, can lead to problems when men are having sex with a partner. Men may have to learn to pace themselves differently and be more aware of the sensations they experience before having an orgasm, so that they can recognize when they're getting close to coming and back off a little.

There are things that men or couples can do to try to delay orgasm, including specific techniques during sex, using condoms (which decrease sensation a bit and therefore help some men last longer) or using erection rings.

One physical technique that can help with "retraining" men to delay ejaculation is the Start-Stop Method. Men using the Start-Stop Method focus carefully on the sensations they feel leading up to orgasm and stop stimulation of the penis before they reach what's called "ejaculatory inevitability"-i.e., the point of no return. Stimulation is restarted when the urge to come has passed. Over time, men who regularly practice Start-Stop usually find that they have more control over the timing of ejaculation. This method is described more fully in the classic book by Bernie Zilbergeld, The New Male Sexuality, and in Coping with Premature Ejaculation, by Michael Metz and Barry McCarthy.

Another method is to gently pull the testicles away from the body when a man feels that he is about to come. The testicles naturally pull up toward the body to prepare for ejaculation, and tugging them downward can halt this process. Wearing a ball stretcher (a neoprene, rubber or leather sleeve that wraps around the scrotum and pushes the testicles toward the bottom of the sack) can also achieve this effect, while looking quite dapper, I might add.

Wearing an erection or cock ring can also delay or even prevent ejaculation. Most people wear these rings (which can be made of leather, silicone, steel or other materials) because they prevent blood flow out of the penis once an erection has been achieved, making the penis feel harder, firmer and more sensitive. Some men find that they can't ejaculate while wearing a cock ring, so they are worth experimenting with if premature ejaculation is a problem. Cock rings are most effective when worn around the base of the penis and behind the testicles, not just around the shaft of the penis.

Men often ask me about desensitizing lubricants. I'm not a fan of desensitizing gels, because they can diminish pleasure for both partners: If that gel rubs off on a man's partner, that person's genitals, mouth or anus will also feel numb. If the point of sex is pleasure for both people, that can be kind of a downer. Also, desensitizing lubes are really a temporary fix to a problem that has deeper roots. It may be more work to try some of the techniques described above, but the payoff is much greater, and you might even find that some of these methods feel great as well as slow the race to the finish line.

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.