According to one source, 75% of men ejaculate within two minutes of penetration. At the request of one of our patrons, we went into the research literature to see if this time period could be extended. Not surprisingly, 88% of men have some concern over ejaculating too quickly and almost all men (99% in one study) use some kind of strategy to delay ejaculation. So if it’s something that basically all men worry about, is there anything that can reliably help?
A Quick Primer on Ejaculatory Control
In case you were wondering, ejaculatory control is the ability to control when you orgasm (for men). There’s also the term ejaculatory latency which is the time between penetration and ejaculation.
Perhaps the best-known term is premature ejaculation. It is not always a clearly defined term but it indicates that ejaculation is either happening too soon or sooner than you want it too, or in a way that affects the quality of sex for you and your wife[i].
So by one definition, premature ejaculation is only a problem if you and/or your wife feel like it’s affecting your sex life. Well 88% of men report some concern over ejaculating too quickly, so we want to look at some strategies to use in this regard. There are a lot of different ideas floating around about what works and what doesn’t, some of which get pretty strange. So let’s try to sift through all the rumors and heresy to try and figure out what the research says actually works.
Strategies to Use
Let me say a couple things before we jump in here. First, this is a complex issue. So maybe think of today’s episode as a primer and know that sex therapy really is a specialty in the counseling field. Remember that we are really working on ejaculatory control today and not so much on premature ejaculation itself. There are books and resources and therapists who can really dig into that issue with you: we are more aiming at husbands who are doing OK during sex but feel that they could improve the sexual satisfaction in their marriage if they had more ejaculatory control.
Second, stay with me to the end because we’re going to go a couple layers deeper on everything at the end.
Third, while some of these strategies seem pretty simple, this can actually be a really complex issue.
OK let’s get into some of these.
A research study back in 1984[ii] found that there is a link between long periods of abstinence from sex and a lower ejaculatory latency. Longer periods without sex cause men to ejaculate at lower levels of arousal. So more regular sex can help with the ability to control or delay ejaculation.
This is where it gets complex right off the bat because if you haven’t been having great sex due to this issue, your wife probably doesn’t want more of the same sex. So while we titled this “A Husband’s Guide” this is where it becomes apparent that a problem like this is best faced as a couple to talk through what is going on and find a way forward.
Medication for Ejaculatory Control
Various medications exist to enhance ejaculatory control, such as the pill vardenafil and the spray PSD502, both of which have research demonstrating that they increase ejaculatory latency and overall sexual satisfaction[iii]. Use of these medications can also increase confidence and reduce anxiety about performance, which is often just as important. Apparently, they do sometimes come with some minor side effects such as headaches or indigestion.
So if it’s really affecting you, going to a doctor and getting something prescribed could be a quick fix.
Perhaps on the more humorous— or disturbing — end of the spectrum are the use of distracting thoughts.
A study in 1997[iv] studied ways men try to delay ejaculation during sex. 74% of men in the study utilized distracting thoughts to delay ejaculation. 65% of these were “sex neutral” thoughts about things unrelated to sex such as work. One participant reported “singing the national anthem in his head” as a strategy. 39% of participants used “sex negative” thoughts such as having sex with an unpleasant partner or even “thinking of one’s mother” in order to reduce arousal and delay ejaculation.
Not to mention the fact that when you are doing this you are disconnected from your wife.
Helping Your Husband with Ejaculatory Control
Our bonus guide for today’s episode speaks to wives — not to put the pressure on you now — but just so you know how you can help your husband. It also describes how to take this beyond mere technique and note the emotional connection between you. You can get this by becoming a patron of The Marriage Podcast for Smart People.
Actions to Prevent Premature Ejaculation
You may be wondering about technique. Most men attempt to use some form of physical strategy to delay ejaculation.
These strategies vary greatly, including sex techniques such as trying different positions, withdrawing for a few moments, or changing the speed/intensity of their thrusting. Some men reported doing exercises to relax their pelvic muscles before sex (53% of sample) or drinking alcohol before sex (62% of sample). 10% of the sample had tried having a cold shower right before sex and 4% had tried applying ice to their penis![v]
The research found that there was very little correlation between which strategies men thought were helpful and which ones actually helped[vi]. It’s one of those situations where no one really wants to talk about it, so you end up using whatever strategies you happen to hear. But there were a few tips that actually did seem to have a reliable effect. The physical strategies which helped the most were:
- Withdrawing for a few moments during intercourse and then carrying on
- Drinking small amounts of alcohol prior to sex
- Experimenting with different positions
- Using a condom
- Thrusting in a circular motion
Even within these strategies, there was high variance among which strategies helped, suggesting that it is very much determined by personal circumstances. The overall effect sizes for these physical factors was also much smaller than for the mental factors, suggesting that dealing with performance pressure/anxiety is the most important factor.
Anxiety and Preoccupation During Sex
This is where we start to get closer to the heart of the issue. Research done in 2005[vii] studied the thoughts that men who were concerned about ejaculatory control had during sex. Men who struggled with EC were often very preoccupied with anxiety about trying to delay the orgasm, or performance anxieties about premature ejaculation.
Conversely, men who reported good ejaculatory control mostly had thoughts relating to their own arousal and to meeting their wife’s needs during sex. So, the more a man is focused on delaying the orgasm and worrying about his performance, the harder it will be to control, while focusing on your spouse makes things more enjoyable for both of you.
Pulling It All Together
I think strategy has a place in this but it is not the bottom line answer for solving this problem. If you’re only having sex a couple times a month and you are middle-aged or younger and in good health: yes, it’s going to go fast when you do have sex.
But sometimes it can be helpful to take a step back from a problem like this and ask yourself: is this really the problem? Or is it a symptom of a problem?
See, if you’ve been spending a lot of your energy focusing on technique rather than focusing on really connecting at a deep emotional, spiritual, and physical level then you’re probably not really engaged during sex. Which may be the problem behind the problem. Because then all you really have between you is a way for your husband to ejaculate. What if you slow the whole thing down? Turn the lights on, but low. Open your eyes. Extend foreplay — not just as a technique — but for the purpose of taking time to explore, caress, find out what you both like and don’t like, connect, show affection and so on.
Then, when you do copulate instead of focusing on NOT ejaculating, what if you focus on what brings your wife pleasure? On what makes this particular sexual encounter with her meaningful and deeply connected? Lean in instead of leaning out (I mean mentally!) but look past your own experience for the moment and focus on hers.
I think this is where the Bible gives us a really good clue. I used to think it was purely a matter of discretion that the Scriptures use the word “knowledge” as a euphemism for sex. But I think it’s actually the foundation for sex therapy: the Bible is not trying to be obscure. Rather, it is offering a huge clue: that what really matters in sex is not all the technique and strategy but rather really allowing yourself to be known, and really knowing your wife. As in, intimacy.
I would really encourage you to set that as a primary goal: knowing each other better. Even through exploring this problem. Knowing each other physically: what works and what doesn’t. Knowing each other emotionally: how is that bond between you? And knowing each other spiritually: fostering that sense of one body one flesh as you make love.
[i] G. Grenier and E. S. Byers, “The Relationships among Ejaculatory Control, Ejaculatory Latency, and Attempts to Prolong Heterosexual Intercourse,” Archives of Sexual Behavior 26, no. 1 (February 1997): 27–47.
[ii] Walter F. Spiess, James H. Geer, and William T. O’Donohue, “Premature Ejaculation: Investigation of Factors in Ejaculatory Latency.,” Journal of Abnormal Psychology 93, no. 2 (1984): 242–45, https://doi.org/10.1037/0021-843X.93.2.242.
[iii] A. Aversa et al., “Effects of Vardenafil Administration on Intravaginal Ejaculatory Latency Time in Men with Lifelong Premature Ejaculation,” International Journal of Impotence Research 21, no. 4 (August 2009): 221–27, https://doi.org/10.1038/ijir.2009.21; W. Wallace Dinsmore and Michael G. Wyllie, “PSD502 Improves Ejaculatory Latency, Control and Sexual Satisfaction When Applied Topically 5 Min before Intercourse in Men with Premature Ejaculation: Results of a Phase III, Multicentre, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study,” BJU International 103, no. 7 (April 2009): 940–49, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2009.08456.x.
[iv] Grenier and Byers, “The Relationships among Ejaculatory Control, Ejaculatory Latency, and Attempts to Prolong Heterosexual Intercourse.”
[v] Grenier and Byers.
[vi] Grenier and Byers.
[vii] U. Hartmann, M. Schedlowski, and T. H. C. Krüger, “Cognitive and Partner-Related Factors in Rapid Ejaculation: Differences between Dysfunctional and Functional Men,” World Journal of Urology 23, no. 2 (June 2005): 93–101, https://doi.org/10.1007/s00345-004-0490-0.