Common Question Series: “I Come Too Fast”

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As a sex researcher, I get asked questions about sex all the time. I've documented them and will share the answers with you in this common question series.

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Man and woman in bed. Man distressed.

As a sex researcher, I get a lot of questions from friends, students, and random people I meet at cocktail parties. A lot of questions. Well, I’ve decided to compile a list of these questions and talk about them here on Kinsey Confidential. Because if friends, students, and randoms are all asking about it – you’ve likely wondered too!

Today’s question pick

A common question I get from my male friends is this: “I have a friend who comes too fast…what should he do?” I get this question from my friends so often, in fact, that I made a word document that I now just email to them whenever they are looking for quick advice. I’d like to note how funny it is that they all claim it is their friend who has this problem. Ohhh, men and their erections, such a sensitive topic. There seems to be a lot of anxiety around coming too fast. Anxiety won’t help, my friends. It won’t help at all.

Defining premature ejaculation

The DSM (the manual used by professionals to classify problems) defines premature ejaculation as persistent or recurrent ejaculation with minimal sexual stimulation before or shortly after penetration and before a person wishes. It also has to cause marked personal or interpersonal distress. This doesn’t tell us much, does it?! Well, that’s one of the reasons there is debate about the classification in the field.

A lot of men are under the misconception that they are premature ejaculators when they really just come sooner than they think their partner (and other men) do and wouldn’t meet the diagnostic criteria.

What is too fast?

I think we need to deconstruct what “too fast” really is. A couple of different studies have tried to operationalize this, and have come up with similar results. Waldinger and colleagues found, in a heterosexual sample diagnosed with premature ejaculation, that 40% of the sample ejaculated in less than 30 seconds from penetration, 70% ejaculated in less than 40 seconds, and 90% within 60 seconds. Another study, by McMahon, found that the average ejaculation time was 43.4 seconds and 77% of that sample ejaculated within 1 minute of vaginal penetration. Both of those studies timed the ejaculations with a stopwatch.

In a study that didn’t use a stopwatch, and used self-report from the men, 92% reported ejaculation within 1 minute of vaginal penetration. Taken together, experts in the field are suggesting a 1 minute criteria to be added to the DSM (which has already been adopted by the International Society of Sexual Medicine).

Well, when I talk about this to my friends who think they are coming to fast (or, sorry, my friend’s friends), they are lasting a lot longer than 1 minute. That doesn’t take away from the fact that they want to last longer though. So, tactics for lasting longer…

What can you do?

First things first, you need to reduce your anxiety. The mind plays a huge role in what the groin does…so you need to stop over-thinking. Diagnosed premature ejaculation is associated with lower levels of sexual activity, so when a sexual event presents itself, enter: anxiety. Meditation, imagery, and deep breathing exercises can all help with this.

Second, you should communicate your concerns with someone. You should likely do this with your partner. You might be surprised to hear that he/she isn’t actually bothered by how long you last. And if your partner shares your concern, then you can talk about strategies, removing a lot of the stress associated.

Third, you can try to regain ejaculatory control by using whats called the start-stop method – though I will say this doesn’t work for everyone and has been contested in the field. This method can be used with a partner or alone (though was originally designed by Masters and Johnson to be practiced with a partner). You can gain this control by stopping sexual activity (masturbation, sex, whatever) right before the the point where you feel like you’re going to ejaculate. Then start again. Then stop again. You get the idea….

If you are a man who ejaculates within the 1 minute mark, you should likely consult a trained professional. There are treatments available for premature ejaculation. You could check out the Guide to Overcoming Premature Ejaculation. Or, Dr. Debby Herbenick answered some questions and posted some podcasts about premature ejaculation here, here, and here. Lots of resources, lots of tips.

Kristen Mark, PhD, MPH

completed her PhD in Health Behavior and her MPH in Biostatistics, both at Indiana University. Kristen is an Assistant Professor in Health Promotion at University of Kentucky. Kristen's research focuses on sexual pleasure, sexuality in long term relationships, sexual function, and women's sexuality.
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