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How do I make my erection last longer for intercourse?

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funkykingston asks:

Hi guys: I'm a 15 year old male, not in a relationship, and really doubt I'll be having intercourse any time soon. However, given that I have the time, commitment and attitude for it I thought it might be a good idea to train myself to last longer for intercourse, so that when the time does come I feel, y'no, good about myself.

I've been masturbating with varying regularity for a bit less than a year now, so I know myself and my sexual responses. I'd also like to make it clear that I don't: a)feel unconfident and generally scared of intercourse from fear of inadequacy, b)have unrealistic ideas about what is 'normal' from pornography, or c)think that intercourse is the only 'real' sex, and that how long you can last is a measure of how good or 'manly' you are.

This said, I also know that improved ejaculatory control would be useful in the future to improve the amount of pleasure me and my future partners get out of intercourse, and starting now would likely be more effective. I try to masturbate with a relaxed attitude, and not in environments where I'm somehow pushed for time or otherwise stressed. I've read about a lot of techniques online, but given that 'premature ejaculation' is a problem so many people have a lot of anxiety about and there's obviously a huge amount of money to be made in convincing people that you have some miracle cure for their problem, I thought I'd ask you guys at Scarleteen about what sort of things actually work in the real world and what's just fantasy.

Heather Corinna replies:

Honestly? The biggest fantasy driving the bus here is that the length of time your erection lasts has much to do with your partner's pleasure (or yours, to some degree) at all.

That isn't to say that you won't likely have sex partners -- some, plenty, even all of them -- who don't enjoy sex that involves your penis. You probably will. But the idea that what's critical for a female partner in terms of her pleasure is a given size of penis or long-lasting intercourse is based more in men's ideas of what women should enjoy than what a majority of women actually do enjoy. You seem like you've got a pretty good handle on some realistic ideas here, but looks to me like you could still stand a little fine-tuning.

Since we talk about this a whole lot here, I'll just give you the bare basics when it comes to female anatomy on this one, and let you read some of those links if you want more information. The long and the short of it is that the vaginal canal, overall, is not the most sensitive part of the female sexual anatomy, not by a serious long shot. That's the clitoris, and it is both internal and external. Much of the vaginal canal isn't rich with sensory nerve endings. The part which is -- usually in the first inch or two of the vagina, and on and around the g-spot -- is also within the internal clitoris, so even when that feels really good, the clitoris is part of why it does. Even that given, many women will still find that area responds better to more targeted stimulus -- like with fingers -- than to something which feels more general for us, which intercourse usually does, especially after the first minute or two of it.

For some women, intercourse is satisfying by itself, though often that will be because that woman aroused enough (usually from other activities first) that her whole vulva is engorged with blood inside, making the whole area puffier and more sensitive. For most women, though, intercourse without other activities involved -- like rubbing the clitoris, or switching back and forth with activities -- isn't going to result in orgasm or even anything all that exciting. And some women don't like intercourse at all, even with other activities before or during it. Too, even for women who don't get off on intercourse, or find it all that amazing physically, some enjoy it because they are getting off on how much their partner likes it.

This may seem trite to you, but I assure you that what makes a great lover has zip to do with erections. I'd posit that anyone who says a partner sustaining an erection alone made them the best lover they ever had is either not being truthful, or hasn't met a great lover yet, and is limited in their perspectives.

Being a great lover, being someone who is both going to experience lots of sexual pleasure and enable a partner to do same has to do with other qualities, like having an open mind, being a good listener and being responsive and attentive to what a partner communicates, being imaginative, inventive and spontaneous, having a good sense of humor, seeing and treating your whole body and a partner's whole body -- including your minds -- as a sexual organ. In other words, if we want to be a fantastic lover, it's our mind and our interpersonal skills that benefit us best to work on, above and beyond all else. Once you're in the groove with all of those things, finding out what movement of your hands, mouth or penis doing this, that or the other thing works best for a partner is the easy part, and it comes pretty naturally.

Mind, you speak to something that is realistic, which is you saying that for you to feel good about yourself, you want to have your erection last a while. That one, we can put some stock in, because it seems to be a lot of where this whole long-erection business really comes from, is in terms of being about what men want, for themselves. It's a big body image and masculinity issue for plenty of men (in large part, likely primarily because men have dictated it be so to each other: in other words, it probably has more to do with social conditioning than anything else).

But if you want one inside scoop, as a woman with plenty of female friends who are women, when a group of women bring up one of these guys who seems to have the idea that bragging he can last an hour or two is something which makes women feel more attracted, what they -- in my experience -- will often comment on amongst themselves is that there is nothing appealing about that and that, in fact, he's just turned them off completely. A minority of women will enjoy intercourse by itself all that much in the first place, let alone for extended periods of time. On the other hand, a majority of men DO enjoy penile sex and do enjoy vaginal intercourse, and a majority also reach orgasm through that activity alone. You get to enjoy that, even if a partner's enjoyment is vicarious or not at the same level yours is, no matter what you do or how long you last: what we enjoy with partners isn't just about us, after all, it's about a shared experience and mutual pleasure, some of which is derived from what our partner is experiencing. Suffice it to say, if you find in time you're someone who doesn't enjoy intercourse yourself either -- which is a possibility -- that's totally okay, too. There are some men, like some women, who don't. What sexual activities men and women enjoy, and which are their favorites, varies really widely, and there's no right one for anyone to like best.

However, limiting your sexual life to one part of your body has limited mileage, as does thinking of the whole sexual you as being just about that part. If you expand those horizons more, not just including things like prostate stimulation, but again, thinking of your whole body as sexual -- you're bound to have a better sex life than if you don't, as is your partner.

A lot of this anxiety about "premature" ejaculation is based in paranoia, and the idea that it's normal to have erections lost way longer than they tend to realistically for most men, most of the time. Sure, sometimes, a man might last 15 minutes, 30 minutes, even an hour sustaining an erection during intercourse, but 75% of all males reach orgasm within 2 minutes of the start of intercourse, according to Kinsey and other studies. There's nothing abnormal about sustaining an erection for only a couple minutes with intercourse or other sexual activities.

I know that might seem like a really short period of time, but really, when you're having enjoyable sex, time gets stretchy. Minutes can feel like hours, and it's normal for couples to slide into various activities in a given tryst, not just engage in one, and with a partner we jibe with, that does tend to happen pretty organically, and those progressions feel adventurous and natural. If you want to extend that period of time, one of the best ways to do that is just to go with that flow and vary those activities: when you start to feel close to orgasm, if you want you can shift to something else, where you penis isn't being stimulated at all, or slow down with the intercourse you're having, so your movements aren't so intense for you.

Some men also find that if they masturbate before dates, they'll last a little bit longer than they would otherwise, others find that using something which grips the base of the penis -- like the base of a condom or a rubber penile ring designed for this purpose -- helps. Another biggie is to do what you can to ditch any anxiety about sexual "performance" and erections. The penis doesn't tend to respond to stress well: it shies under pressure. So, the more you can do to just relax, accept that however long an erection wants to stick around for is fine and enjoy it while you've got it, and focus on just enjoying yourself and your partner, the more likely it'll be for your hard-on to hang around for a bit longer. You're not going to see these suggestions most of the time on television, advertised in magazines, or in your spam box because they can't make anyone a buck, but I assure you, it's just not that complicated, and the big reason something has been made into a problem when it isn't -- you're right on the money with this, literally -- is more about capitalism than it is about pleasure.

Masturbation is supposed to be for your own enjoyment. There's no need to approach it like job training: just enjoy yourself when you're masturbating. It's for you, not anyone else.

And do try not to get all hung up on this. If there's one thing we can say with certainly is a big time buzzkill when it comes to enjoyable sex for everyone, it's someone being all in a pickle with how they perform or seeing sex as technical, rather than being able to just get into what's going on in the moment and flow with it. I know it's tougher to see that when it's abstract, and not yet tangible, but chances are good that when you have a partner, it'll be a lot more clear. You sound to me like you're in a pretty good headspace to do find and create the good stuff, so don't let dysfunctional cultural static, and other people's insecurities, get in the way of what seems like an otherwise great foundation for a fantastic sex life.

written 25 May 2008 . updated 15 Jun 2014

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