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How we talk about premature ejaculation

How we talk about PE makes a massive difference. Don’t let the scare tactics of the self-help industry hijack your development.

I had a client – let’s call him Jeff – and he was fairly typical of the guys that I work with.

Jeff had always struggled with premature ejaculation. He’d tried lots of things to try to last longer: self-help books, supplements, I think he’d taken an online self-help course too. Whatever he tried, it hadn’t really worked and he was feeling disappointed.

Note that he had a partner, a girlfriend. He still does and she is supportive and completely on his side. She just wants to see him happy and relaxed into enjoying sex with her.

As he told me about his experience, his hurt and despair welled up – he said he didn’t feel like a proper man.

This led to a conversation about what makes a proper man. Jeff talked about qualities of strength and confidence. A proper man takes control and gives pleasure; he gives orgasms to his woman, his partner. He’s able to dial down his own sexual urges in order to give her orgasms before getting pleasure himself. He’s the kind of sexual man that women want to have sex with.

Now there’s nothing new about this stereotype of masculinity. Jeff had absorbed this from all the usual places: our cultural narrative about strength, confidence and control, the way we like to talk about the male role in sex. It’s the classic portrayal in our mainstream media and, of course in more recent times, in porn too.

There’s a whole conversation we could have about the unrealistic aspects of porn. How bizarrely it portrays sex, how it’s not particularly good sexual education or any sane way of measuring our own sexual performance.

But Jeff also made references to the self-help books and courses he’d invested in. He said they had contributed to his feelings of not being a man too, and they were written by health experts.

I know what he’s talking about. Let’s remind ourselves that premature ejaculation is very common, even more so than ED. One in three men experience PE in some form. There’s a lucrative market for solutions, fixes. But it’s a competitive and crowded market too, and requires powerful marketing to really get attention.

It’s a golden rule of marketing that adverts get noticed, articles get read, products get sold when the pain points are highlighted. A pain point is a specific problem that prospective customers are experiencing.

We’re all familiar with how this works. Highlight and turn the pain points up in all marketing communications. Describe all the ways that the problem could impact your life, how it’ll get worse over time if you don’t buy into this product or try this supplement or solution or cream or whatever it is. Promise a fix and assure the customer that everything will be great and the problem will go away, if you buy the product now

Of course, there are pain points about PE as many men will know. We’re talking confidence and self-image issues, immense frustration and relationship difficulties. And it can be complex too: PE isn’t simply the direct cause of issues, it’s symptomatic too. It’s all very chicken and egg.

But back to not being a proper man if you struggle with premature ejaculation. Unfortunately, there are people in the self-help industry who make claims that are completely untrue and unhelpful. This doesn’t apply to the whole self-help industry. There are reputable products, reputable therapists and good information is out there. But…

I’m going to pick an example here. He’s been around for quite a long time. He sells various online courses for men to improve their sexual performance. He’s got a YouTube channel with 96k subscribers. He’s all over Facebook. He’s got lots of websites, lots of marketing set up and he’s been doing this for some time. So he is a voice, an authority, an expert in this industry.

I’m not going to comment on his courses, but let the marketing speak for itself.

You can sign up to his email mailing list and every week he will send you, for free, information and advice about premature ejaculation. Now I repeat: he’s not the only guy taking this approach and using such methods. But I’m going to pick some of the things that I’ve seen in his emails, just to give you a taste.

So at the top of the email, he will lead with:

  • A women will never tell you you’re bad in bed, so 99% of guys don’t realise. When she’s feeling “unfulfilled”, she may be forced to seek “fulfillment” elsewhere. Don’t let it happen to you.
  • Bad news – PE and ED can develop/get worse as time goes on. Imagine how awful and don’t let that happen to you.
  • You need to be able to last for 20 mins to please her – it’s in her DNA. 
  • Your woman needs to have an orgasm through intercourse to feel satisfied, otherwise she will cheat.
  • If she says it’s not a problem, she’s lying.
  • PE is reaching epidemic proportions. In fact in my book if you can’t last for at least 20 minutes consistently during intercourse… you have a serious PE problem!

For the record, there is no premature ejaculation epidemic. It might be that these days, more guys are jacking off to internet porn on their phones so they’re kind of distracted and disconnected from their bodies. They’re not thinking about giving pleasure to anyone else which doesn’t really set them up for sexual relationships. Commonplace yes, but certainly this is not an epidemic.

Another thing that intrigued me is this. Amongst the list of benefits of his course on overcoming premature ejaculation:

Just imagine the look on her face when you cum with a hurricane force strong enough to hit the wall across the room.

A premature ejaculation expert

All of this is marketing hype and exaggeration and we know that. But I have a problem with it. These messages are completely false, negative and unhelpful.

Picture the young guy who hasn’t had that much experience of sex. He’s just starting out and maybe the few experiences he’s had haven’t lasted particularly long. He’s comparing himself to porn on the screen. Now he might start doing a bit of research and start looking at some of this stuff. What kind of start to his sexual life is that?

Take my client, Jeff. He was frustrated and he reached out for information and help. He read these books, did these courses and they underlined in his mind that he really did have a problem. But there was a fix. But the fix didn’t work. So now he’s left feeling “I’ve got this terrible problem, I’m part of the epidemic. It’s not working. My wife is going to leave me. I’m going to be sexless, lonely and dejected and a failure. I am not a proper man“.

So [deep breath]. Let’s just address this with some facts:

If you come sooner than you’d like to – you are very much still a man. If you’ve always come sooner than you’d like to – you are very much still a man. If you’ve tried a few things to last longer and it didn’t work – you are very much still a man.

Premature ejaculation – the self-diagnosis, the label – is highly subjective too. Is it premature when we don’t always last as long as we’d like to, or as long as the guys in porn or in the stories that we hear about other guys?

For some guys, it’s the way their bodies work. They don’t last particularly long and their partners are fine with that (don’t forget, only 25% of women actually come from intercourse alone). So they find lots of other ways of giving pleasure to each other. They get creative and this is never really an issue. They are not part of any epidemic.

So when is PE a problem? Well, we can look to the DSM-5, the diagnostic manual used by many medical professionals and therapists. Its definition of premature ejaculation includes: “when the symptoms … cause clinically significant distress in the individual”.

According to the International Society Sexual Medicine, symptoms of premature ejaculation include “negative personal consequences, such as distress, bother, frustration, and/or the avoidance of sexual intimacy”.

There is no mention of not being able to last for 20 minutes or not being able to generate hurricane force orgasms that hit the wall across the room.

Note that the most common form of PE is lifelong. In other words, when guys have always had it; it’s just the way their body wants to work. There is acquired PE too, that can come along later in life or out of the blue. That might be symptomatic of a health problem such as prostate issues or hypothyroidism but it’s relatively rare. Usually, PE is just the way that guys bodies work

For the millions of guys that all this applies to, they deserve to get support and information about what this means and what they can do to overcome it. They don’t deserve to have their frustrations pathologised and be told that they have a serious problem with terrible consequences.

Remember, research studies have shown that the average duration of intercourse is 5.4 minutes. This varies greatly but it highlights that this is what sex looks like. This is living and giving pleasure and having fun in the real world as a man.

Of course a lot of guys want to last longer and build their stamina. Their partners might really want that too. I view this as a healthy form of personal development. It’s about gaining skills, not fixing a problem.

Some guys naturally last longer than others. Some guys are physically able to lift heavy weights. Some guys can do a 200 kilo deadlift much easier than others. Some guys can run elite race times much easier than others. That’s in their DNS, that is the genetic advantage that they might have.

So other guys, the rest of us, might need to do some work, gain some skills, do some training. It’s just like any skill, any form of development.

Now imagine deadlifting or training to run but added the pressure that if you don’t achieve your goals, if you never do this, life’s going to be terrible and you’re going to be lonely. How realistic is that?

Well that’s what Jeff was trying to do. That’s what guys are trying to work on: to improve their sexual performance with the added pressure and anxiety around failure and the label of who they’re going to be. It’s impossible to make positive progress under such conditions.

So don’t believe the scare mongering and the hype. Your sexual performance, how long you last in bed, is absolutely no measure of how much of a man you are.

There are a million ways to give pleasure and love and live and to have satisfying fun relationships. And I think that if you want to last longer in bed, if you want to work on this and experience more pleasure with your partner more often, then go for it. I think this ambition makes you more of a man.

Just remember that this is personal development – gaining skills – rather than fixing something that’s broken. There’s a head start, right there.

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