George reached out to me. He’s having problems lasting in bed. He’s finishing within a minute or so. He can’t quite hit his stride when he has sex with his girlfriend.
He’s experiencing a common problem that I often work with: early ejaculation.
The same thing happened with George’s previous girlfriends. But he’s really stressed about it now. I ask him why and he says that the relationship he’s in now is fantastic. This girl is a keeper. But he’s afraid he won’t be enough for her sexually.
That’s not the only thing stressing George out.
He plucked up the courage to speak with his doctor. The doctor asked about his general health, his relationship situation, his sexual history, how long he’d experienced premature ejaculation for.
And then the doctor asked what his sexual orientation was.
“I’m straight”, George said. “I have a girlfriend.”
“OK so you don’t have sex with men or fantasise about sex with men?” said the doctor.
“OK just checking”, said the doctor, “as that can sometimes underlie problems like this”.
Now that planted a new worry in George’s mind, and he had enough worries already.
He doesn’t feel attracted to men or fantasise about sex with men. But what if his body, his ejaculation reflex, is trying to tell him something? What if his doctor has sensed something about him?
George asked me whether his sexual subconscious was trying to get the job done quickly, maybe because he’s actually gay but doesn’t realise it?
That’s quite a leap.
I’m not blaming the doctor because they were asking valid, sensible questions. In fact, NHS guidelines recommend that health professionals and GPs do ask about sexual orientation if the patient is over 16.
In this situation, when someone goes to see a doctor with sexual problems, relationship problems, the doctor shouldn’t just assume they’re straight. The doctor might give advice or a treatment plan that’s unlikely to make any difference if they have a different orientation.
George’s GP said he probably had performance anxiety and suggested some relaxation techniques. He said they could try medication if there wasn’t any improvement. Again, perfectly sensible. I think the doctor nailed it.
It just might have been something in the “do you like men?” question – or something in the way George heard it – that set George’s mind off making these connections. Generating more worry and stress for George, and more of a problem in bed. PE is usually experienced in these kinds of loops.
Sexuality doubts or HOCD fears?
I sometimes talk with clients about their sexual orientation, and such doubts might be legitimate of course.
Or it can be obsessive: so-called HOCD (homosexual OCD) or SO-OCD (sexual orientation OCD). Getting fixated on “am I gay, am I straight”. Analysing all our interactions and looking for any evidence that we might be living a lie.
This is a common form of OCD and can be difficult to get a handle on.
But it wasn’t the case here. George hasn’t reached that point of OCD-like obsession – fortunately for him – but there’s a whole ball of stress and rumination forming anyway. All around how long he lasts in bed, and pulling in other doubts and insecurities.
Sexual orientation: the beach test
A question for anyone wondering about their sexuality – and there are no right answers, of course. It’s called the beach test. I originally got it from Dan Savage, I think.
When you’re at the beach, on a beautiful day, and people are walking up and down in their swimwear, you’re surrounded by bodies… who catches your eye?
Who do you look at? Men, women, both? Who do you feel drawn to look towards, rather than who do you think you should be looking at.
We already have our answer, but I run the beach test past George anyway. And he looks at women. He doesn’t look at men, or fantasise about men, sexually or romantically.
And he looks at his girlfriend too. He is aroused by her, he’s drawn to her. That’s why he wants to have longer-lasting sexual intercourse with her.
George is a heterosexual man experiencing early ejaculation. There will be reasons for this, but he’s not coming quickly to get it over and done with because he’s secretly gay.
It’s estimated that 30% of men experience PE. It’s the most common male sexual dysfunction. Closely followed by ED, erection difficulties.
Straight and gay and bisexual and pansexual men can experience PE and/or ED.
For the vast majority of men, PE is nothing to do with sexual orientation
When guys are struggling with their sexuality, having legitimate doubts, they might experience arousal and desire issues.
But they will be experiencing other things too: the fantasies, desires, same-sex attraction, and they have probably been aware of this for some time. The beach test can tell us something.
Some people never really experience such doubts. Some go through a phase maybe during adolescence or as a young adult, and some people are still figuring out their sexuality.
And that figuring out can be really difficult, especially if we live in a culture or family where there’s prejudice or shame about being LGBTQ. Seeking some counselling and support makes complete sense.
For people with OCD-like struggles around their sexuality, doing the beach test probably isn’t enough to put their minds at rest. There’s work to be done about how they respond to intrusive thoughts that keep reoccurring.
BUT the beach test is useful for reality checking the kind of worries George was having. Coming a bit quickly with your female partner not IN ITSELF an indicator that you’re gay, or you’re meant to be gay. That’s over-thinking it, that’s what we call a cognitive distortion.
George isn’t the first guy to worry that his PE might mean he’s gay
I’ve heard it before. And unchecked, this misconception will confuse and exacerbate the problem. And it’s just the kind of scenario that dodgy conversion ‘therapists’ will exploit too. Don’t get me started on that.
If you’re struggling with PE, see my other resources on relaxation and building up your sexual skills. George found these helpful; he just needed some more sex-specific guidance than his doctor was able to provide on that day.
I hope that’s helped clear things up a bit, and thanks to George for letting me share his story.