Q&A: Refractory Periods: Why An Erection Remains After Ejaculation

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QUESTION: My boyfriend and I are both virgins. We have gone as far as oral sex, and after he ejaculates when I go down on him, his erection remains, even long enough to go for two more rounds. Neither of us are concerned. In fact, we both find it quite interesting! We are both just wondering why this occurs.

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What a great question! Here’s what happens: After a man ejaculates, his erection typically subsides a little, and he often cannot have another ejaculation for a length of time. That length of time varies from man to man, and from time to time.

Young men in their teens and twenties sometimes find that they can get erections soon again after ejaculating – some may be able to become erect again, and to ejaculate, two, three, four or more times in a row. Sometimes they may need ten or twenty minutes in between, and other times they barely need any time at all – maybe a few seconds or a few minutes. This shows just how short a young man’s refractory period may be.

Other times, young men – particularly if they are feeling tired or stressed – may find it more difficult to get or maintain erections again and again. That is both common and normal. It’s also important to note that not all young men can get repeat erections – some do, and some don’t. Men vary.

Refractory Periods

Why do refractory periods occur? To be honest, science has not completely answered this question. It seems that certain chemicals that are released at the time of orgasm inhibit a man’s ability to become erect again for some time. But what the full picture may be, or how one might shorten or lengthen this period of time known as the refractory period, is less clear.

As men age, they typically find it more difficult to become erect again soon after ejaculating. Men may find that they can only have one erection per day or night that ends in ejaculation, and sometimes a man’s refractory period may last a day or two or longer.

Better With Age?

Though young men may hear this and be concerned about the aging process, let me reassure you: older men often report that the fact that their erections and ejaculations become less predictable with age can actually help them to open their minds and expand their thinking to explore their sexual relationships in broader, more complex and less genital-focused ways. And that that can be very satisfying, liberating and exciting.

So not only can sex be intriguing and interesting when one is young, as you’re finding, but it can continue to inspire interest with age.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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