October 10, 2007

Q&A: Premature Ejaculation, Erection Control and Refractory Periods

Q&A about how to control ejaculations and how to deal with erection difficulty during a second or third round of sex.

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Question: I am a 24 year old male. Lately, while having sex I ejaculate more quickly than before and somehow I just can’t control it. To make matters worse, when having sex for the second time (after about 30 to 40 minutes from the first ejaculation period), my penis loses its firmness, and this has never happened to me before. After that, I can’t get it up at all. Have any recommendations?

Many men (and women) think that men have – or at least should have – control over their penis. But as writer David Friedman explores in A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis, the relationship between men and their penis is far more complex and many men throughout history have been embattled in a sometimes frustrating, sometimes humorous internal dialogue of “do I control my penis or does my penis control me?”

Controlling or Being Controlled?

Of course, neither is true. However, many men wish that they had more control over the timing of their ejaculation or their ability to get or maintain erections at will.

As teenagers, erections are almost too easy to come by – in fact, many young men report having erections when they don’t really want to be having erections (like in math class).

However, when men become sexually active, they might notice that they cannot have erections when they want to. Often it is because of performance anxiety – wanting or expecting to perform a certain way with a partner.

This stress can make it even more difficult to get or maintain an erection; it can also take a man’s focus away from his own body and the way it feels, and can contribute to ejaculating sooner than one wants to ejaculate (what some call “premature ejaculation”).

Premature Ejaculation and Erection Problems

Most men have had experiences with premature ejaculation or problems with erections. Reassuring yourself that this is a common experience can help, as can trying to relax prior to and during sex and taking deep breaths.

Even though this is common to many men, we still want to encourage you to check in with your healthcare provider as sometimes erection or ejaculation problems are related to side effects from medications, some health conditions (such as diabetes) or to changes in mood or stress (such as feeling somewhat depressed or anxious).

Other times, typical levels of stress that come and go in response to relationship problems or a heavy work load at school or at a job can contribute to sexual problems.

The Refractory Period

It is also common to have difficulty with erections during the second or third sexual attempt in a short period of time due to a man’s “refractory period” (the time after one ejaculation when it becomes difficult or impossible to maintain another erection or to ejaculate).

All men have a refractory period and while many young men (especially in their teens or early twenties) can have several erections in a row, not all young men can – and as men age (yes, even in their mid-twenties and thirties), having sex twice in a row in a short perod of time becomes more difficult to do. You cannot lengthen your refractory period. Just know that it is within the normal range of experience for men your age to notice this.

Learn More

You can learn more information about the stop-start and squeeze techniques that many men use to improve their ejaculatory control in our male sexuality resource pages.

You can learn more about male sexual issues and more detailed information for dealing with them by reading The New Male Sexuality by Bernie Zilbergeld.