Premature Ejaculation: In Numbers

American Pie. Fast Times at Ridgemont High. In pop culture, climaxing too soon is usually the punch line to a bad joke. But there’s nothing funny about premature ejaculation (PE), especially if you have it.

Most guys occasionally ejaculate sooner than they — and their partners — would like. As frustrating as it is, coming too quickly every now and then isn’t usually a cause for concern. But for an estimated 30 percent of men who consistently ejaculate too soon, PE is a real problem.

Thirty Percent of Men Suffer

Think that number sounds high? I believe it may be even higher. In fact, PE is the most common sexual issue a guy can have. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how much experience you have or how much you know about sex, it can happen to anyone.

Fifteen Seconds

Despite what you’ve seen in movies or heard in the locker room, most guys can actually only have intercourse for an average of two to five minutes before they ejaculate. For men with PE, though, that’s an eternity. The majority can only last about a minute or less before they come. Most studies show that men with PE typically last somewhere between 15 and 60 seconds.

From my experience as a sex therapist, I can tell you that many guys with PE don’t even make it to penetration. They orgasm from any direct stimulation. And there’s nothing worse than having your partner ask you to “wait” and then coming anyway.

If you have PE, you know all too well that the old “think about baseball” trick doesn’t work. Whether they want to or not, men just can’t control or delay ejaculation when they suffer from PE. Those 15 seconds of bliss are all you’ve got.

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Two Neurotransmitters

Over the years, a number of different causes of PE have been suggested, including psychological problems like anxiety and guilt, bad masturbation habits, greater penile sensitivity and lack of sexual experience. While there may be some truth to some of these theories, the main cause of PE boils down to straight science — specifically, to two chemical neurotransmitters.

New research suggests that PE is like certain birth defects — it’s a problem you’re born with. Researchers have also uncovered links between PE and the workings of our nervous system. Changes in levels of two neurotransmitters (the chemical messengers that the nervous system relies on to regulate bodily functions) may be partly responsible for PE.

Twelve Times Longer

With these scientific developments have come new lines of treatment that promise to multiply the lasting time of men with PE. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants help boost levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can help delay ejaculation. Low dosages of SSRIs, like Paxil, can help manage PE. A new SSRI called dapoxetine is currently being marketed for PE specifically. Unlike regular SSRIs, dapoxetine is short-acting, so you only take it “on demand” an hour or so before sex, like Viagra. Recent studies suggest that men with PE last up to four times longer when they take dapoxetine. Although the drug isn’t yet available in the U.S., these results may help dapoxetine get another chance to make it in America.

Researchers have also developed an anesthetic spray that may have real benefits for PE. The spray, called PSD502 or Topical Eutectic Mixture for Premature Ejaculation (TEMPE), contains an aerosol version of lidocaine and prilocaine, two numbing compounds. When sprayed on the penis before intercourse, these compounds appear to multiply lasting time for men with PE by 12, or from about 15 seconds to 3 minutes. Like dapoxetine, TEMPE spray is not available in the U.S, though its manufacturer plans to submit it for FDA approval soon.

One Goal

Pharmaceutical approaches like these can help, but they won’t cure PE. Just as there’s no one treatment for PE, there are also no quick fixes. Instead, medication can slightly increase how long you last and boost your confidence so that you can focus on learning new skills to bring your partner to orgasm — and that’s the real goal after all.

Many of these skills involve giving her oral sex. (For details, see my book She Comes First.) I also recommend experimenting with perpendicular sex positions that emphasize the top of your penis rather than the sensitive underside. Combined with an SSRI, good communication with your partner, a positive attitude, and patience, these techniques can help you manage PE. And that’s no joke.