If you’ve tried to tackle your PE but without success, keep the faith. I’ll explain why the things we try don’t work, and what to do about it.
Steve’s story: boring pauses
Steve had a technique for dealing with his PE, kind of. Whenever he and his wife Nicky had sex, he would watch out for the familiar sensation of his approaching orgasm. When he felt like he was close to coming, he would pull out and mentally count to 20.
During those precious seconds, Steve would pause all activity. He became a plank, suspended in time above his wife. Sometimes he would kiss Nicky, nuzzle her neck and pay her compliments. If he felt tingles and twitches, he knew he would need to pause a little longer.
When he felt sufficiently cooled down, Steve would go again for another 30 seconds or a minute until he felt close. He would repeat until he couldn’t hold back any longer, and would finally let himself come.
Now this did indeed prolong the time that Steve spent between Nicky’s legs. But Nicky wasn’t feeling it. The interludes of waiting for Steve to cool down were frustrating and a bit boring. It was difficult for her to stay aroused, she worried about going dry and she would usually have her own private orgasm later with her vibrator.
Nicky knew that Steve was doing his best to stay in control, so she didn’t say anything for fear of hurting his feelings. This was how Nicky and Steve’s sex life muddled along.
William’s story: mind the gap
William also had a technique for lasting longer. As soon as he began intercourse with his wife Cath, he forced himself to think unsexily. He would mentally list the players in his local football team or count backwards in threes. Anything to distract himself from thinking about coming.
On the whole, William felt that this distraction technique helped but it had its downsides. “I get too distracted and go soft, it’s difficult to switch back and get it up again”, he explained. And there were times when no amount of thinking seemed to delay his ejaculation.
Cath couldn’t tell that William was counting or listing, but she always found him distant and a bit robotic during sex. He was very much in his head and not sexually present with her. She could reach orgasm sometimes, but both Cath and William felt that there was something missing. Cath especially wished for a more connected experience with her husband.
What’s going on?
Steve was trying his hardest to make sex last for longer. And we all completely get that; many women need sustained vaginal stimulation in order to reach orgasm through intercourse. A steady build-up of friction, with variation in speed, depth and angle of penetration is the classic way to go.
But Steve’s stop-start approach has a fundamental flaw. When he needs a break to cool down, time stands still. Anyone who has watched Netflix over a broken internet connection will know that random freezes ruin the experience. Welcome to Steve and Nicky’s world.
Stop-start pausing in this way is a common faux pas. Yes it does prolong the experience, and we might tell ourselves that we are training ourselves to last longer. But it’s an edging session, with our partner coming along for the (super-frustrating) ride.
Steve didn’t have a plan for what to do during the intervals, besides show affection. And sometimes he would be really close, freezing in fear that the slightest movement or body contact would tip him over the edge. All of this made the pauses even more robotic and awkward.
Then there’s the risk of over-cooling. For reasons of performance anxiety, over-thinking, distraction or tiredness, we might lose our erection and not get it back. Now this can happen to the very best of us, of course, but stilted stops and starts is like playing Russian roulette with our erections.
William was also trying hard to give Cath extended bouts of pleasure. It takes dedication to divert our attention from the sweet intensity of sex to football leagues and spreadsheets.
By thinking of such things, William was attempting to distract himself from his anxieties about coming too quickly. Indeed, anxiety is a major player in most cases of PE. And distraction can be useful for managing some forms of anxiety or panic attacks.
But when it comes to lasting longer at sex, distraction is ultimately a flawed technique. Good sex requires us to be present in our bodies and forging a connection with our partners. Cath could detect the absence of both, and no amount of extra time is going to compensate for this.
By desperately trying to distract ourselves in this way, we emphasise just how freaked out we are about coming. This has the opposite effect. It’s like trying to think of everything but an orange elephant – this guarantees that you will think of an orange elephant. Some guys might be able to pull off such mental feats during sex and stay sufficiently relaxed, but most of us will struggle.
Apart from getting really familiar with the line-up of his local football team, William wasn’t developing his intimacy skills. When he was trying to distract himself from his rising sexual excitement, he wasn’t learning anything about controlling it. The more we can consciously notice our triggers and physical sensations during sex, the more we can learn how to respond to them in creative, fun, sharing ways.
What works better?
The key element here is sexual interaction. This applies to Steve, William and a million men who are doing their utmost to make sex last longer and to satisfy their partners.
Everyone needs to take a pause during sex, regardless of age or gender. Remember that the relentless banging portrayed in porn is for the viewer’s entertainment. In reality, we all have to contend with tiredness, leg cramps, neck aches, dryness, unflattering angles and of course, over-stimulation.
A particularly ironic law of nature seems to be that one partner needs to take a break just when the other is really getting off. And 98% of the time, it’s the guy who needs that break.
So how can guys cool themselves down without killing the moment? It’s starts with getting in touch with her arousal levels as well as our own. Observe her responses: her breathing, the direction of her gaze and the movement of her body. Let this tell you where she is at and what she wants more of.
Remember to use your words, and don’t be afraid to take the initiative. When you stop and pull out, smile and say “Oh, do you want more of this?”. Or pull out and gently tease her pussy with the head of your penis; this lowers the stimulation for you and frustrates her in a good way. Or tell her to get on all fours, or to climb on top. Hold back and tell her she has to wait a little longer, slowly running your fingers all over her body. When you finally plunge back into her, her anticipation will be heightened and you’ll stay in control.
When you pause, does it need to be a complete withdrawal? Perhaps if you are sensitive or close to orgasm, but stopping inside her can be super hot with the same effect. It’s an opportunity to grind her clit and let her enjoy that filled-up feeling.
Also note that for many women, the duration of penis-in-vagina intercourse isn’t a big deal. They might not reach orgasm from PIV sex alone, and enjoy different forms of stimulation. Guys have a tendency to fixate on lasting longer as the ultimate sexual badge of honour. But if she isn’t going to orgasm from PIV anyway, we need to be more resourceful.
You might go down on her for a minute or two, or reach for her favourite toy. Play with her ass during the breaks, suck on her breasts while your finger circles around her clit, run your hands all over her body. This isn’t about frantically trying to excite her or ‘give her an orgasm’ by any means possible. It’s about both of you enjoying the variety of hot, spontaneous sex. Learn to interact and follow her cues.
Takeaway tip: when you pause to cool down, try to fully relax your glutes and PC muscle. If you’re not sure where your PC muscle is, try to pause the flow when you’re taking a pee – that’s your PC muscle contracting right there. If you’ve ever tried doing kegels, that’s also the PC muscle you’ve been working out. You can easily do this while changing position or stimulating her in some other way, and you’ll cool down much more effectively.
Steve adapted his technique, and began by asking Nicky what she would enjoy. It turned out that there was a particular oral and fingers combo that she loved to receive, and this would drive her closer to orgasm even while Steve was taking a break.
Steve also learned how to make more subtle switches in position and angle, which adjusted his stimulation levels and provided the variety that Nicky enjoyed. Steve was still able to to cool things down, but gone were the days of hovering over his wife in awkward limbo. He became a much more exciting lover in the process.
The counters and football-thinkers amongst us can learn how to turn up the sexual interaction too. Paying closer attention to the signals of her arousal is a much more useful way to unhook from the desperation to delay our own orgasm.
But that’s not all we can do. As our sexual excitement peaks, a psychological phenomenon occurs: our focus of attention narrows right down to orgasm. This has the evolutionary purpose of completing the process of conception. We can take advantage of this phenomenon by consciously reversing it.
Takeaway tip: rather than forcing your thoughts, take in the entire sexual scenery. Her looks, her body, the electric air around you both, the sounds of your breathing. You can mentally zoom out as far as you need, taking in the colours, the time of day and the sensations in your own body.
Try to move that pleasure around your body, or envisage it expanding to fill your entire being. All of this is fun to try and it engages your imagination in a way that builds deeper sexual connection and prolongs the action.
William switched his mental focus from football to Cath. He communicated with her more during sex, and sharing in his experience turned her on. He also practised ‘zooming out’ and noticing all the sensations and sights in the room. This took a while to master, just like any mindfulness technique, but it was beneficial in the long run.
Enjoying the sexual scene kept him turned on but didn’t push him over the edge, and he felt much more connected to Cath. He still used his faithful counting technique now and again when he needed to cool down, but it become part of his wider repertoire and not his default mode of experiencing sex.