A problem with "premature" ejaculation...maybe isn't premature ejaculation.

ctguy
asks:
My boyfriend and I started having sex about a week ago. Our first time was also my first time having sex. The three times we've had sex so far, I've finished a lot earlier than him, and a lot earlier than I want to. Basically I'm on the brink of coming by the time things get hot and heavy near the end of foreplay. I have no problem getting him off and I've managed to hide my quickness so far by pretending to come into a condom or tissue. But it's hard to keep up the ruse, and sex would obviously be a lot more enjoyable if I had control over my own stamina. Is this something that happens to all guys their first few times, or is there something I can do to fix it?
Heather Corinna replies:

When people are new to sex in general, or with a new partner -- in your case, both! -- it's totally typical to find they have a hard time reaching orgasm, that it happens more quickly than they'd like, or to experience other ways where sexual responses either aren't what was expected or what they might be when they're more familiar with all of this stuff. If you're only getting to orgasm more quickly than you'd like with a partner -- not having that happen with masturbation -- you can be sure this is probably just about the newness of partnered sex, as well as sex with a brand-new-to-you partner.

It's also most common for young people who've got a penis to find that the length of time it takes to reach orgasm with a partner will tend to start off shorter, and will get gradually longer over time as you get older and as you become more comfortable and familiar with sex with a partner and your own body and sexual response. Same goes for the intensity of orgasm: getting there faster rather than more slowly can also mean orgasm that feels more mild or uneventful rather than super-wow. And it is also typical for people who feel really turned on and excited to reach orgasm more quickly than they are when they're not really turned on and excited.

Do know, though, that on average, once genital stimulation starts, people with penises tend to reach orgasm in less than three minutes. It usually takes longer to make microwave popcorn. I can't know what "too quick" means for you, but if it's somewhere in the vicinity of a few minutes, know that really can't be "too quick," because it's just what's typical. If it seems like your partner's erections hang around way longer than that, it may be your partner is someone not so typical in this regard (or that he's having the opposite thing happening you are, where having a new partner means it's taking him longer than usual). Since he's your first partner, you might be incorrectly assuming that whatever is going on with him is what should be going on with you, rather than getting that we're all just different, and there's neither a right time nor a wrong one for people to reach orgasm within. All there is is what happens, whenever it happens.

This is all new, so it's not going to feel like sex tends to when it's something you're more experienced and comfortable with, and how it can go when we and a partner have really explored a lot together to know each other better. People generally just don't arrive at knock-your-socks-off-awesome-sex right at the gate: it usually takes time, practice and communication to get there, more than a few days, weeks or even months. That all said, that doesn't mean there aren't some things you can do so that this all feels better, in all the ways it can, and you can feel better about it.

The very first thing I'd suggest, the thing I think is also the most likely to make a huge difference, is that you stop pretending you're not reaching orgasm when you are, and creating mock-orgasm performances later. Seriously, you have to stop this if you want sex to feel great to you and like something other than a sad farce.

That, all by itself, has to be feeling pretty crummy. You're not going to be able to connect much to any partner if you're putting on an act, and you're probably going to feel pretty disconnected from your sexual self, too. A partner can't learn about your body and sexual responses if you're giving them the wrong cues: any kind of faking misinforms a partner and really keeps them -- and you -- from being able to find out what does and doesn't feel good to you and what works for you both. Faking orgasm, in any respect, doesn't provide people with sexual satisfaction: we know that it instead creates big barriers to satisfaction.

Sex where people really connect with each other and the experience generally can't be about performance: instead, it's about just experimenting, experiencing and going with the flow. It's rarely, if ever, going to be as fun, and feel emotionally good, if we're putting on a show rather than just going with our own flow and having the authentic experience we're having, including whenever orgasm happens; including when it just doesn't happen. Karen B.K. Chan did a great video, based on a wonderful essay by Thomas MacAulay Millar, that I think expresses some of what I'm saying here beautifully, if you want to take a peek.

You get to come when you come: it's not like it's only okay if that happens in a certain timeframe. It's okay whenever it happens; it's okay for a body to respond however it does. Sex with you is about sex within and with your body, after all, so any kind of sex you have needs to leave all the room in the world for what your body can or cannot do at any given time, or does or does not do outside your control. Sex with yourself or someone else is supposed to be an expression of how and what you are feeling, and your own sexuality and self. That's usually a big part of what makes it feel like something exciting, and big and rich.

Are you with someone you feel emotionally safe with? Someone who seems to accept you, who wants to be with you as a whole person, and who has the kind of emotional maturity people need to be able to handle being sexual with someone else? If so, why try and hide your body just being your body?

Sex would likely be way more enjoyable for you both if you just worked on learning to be cool with reaching orgasm whenever it happens, and gave your partner the chance to be cool with it, which he probably will be if he's not a total jerk. (If he is a total jerk around this, then you probably want to pick someone else to be sexual with. The problem with sex with jerks is always the jerks, and I stand by no-sex-with-jerks as a universal best rule of thumb for everyone, in every situation.) Too, when we're being sexual, there are just some things we can't control or don't have complete control over: this is often one of those things. In order to really be okay with being sexual with other people, and feel good about it, we or our partners can't be at war with our bodies.

If you are into this guy and he's a goodie, how about you just go ahead and fess up. Something as simple as, "I've felt like it's not okay for me to be coming as fast as I am, so I have to tell you, I've been pretending to come later than I did. I'm sorry I did that, and that I also didn't give you the chance to even know what was going on to see how you felt about it, but I'm new to this and just didn't know what to do. I promise I won't do that anymore if we have sex again."

That moment there is going to be a stinker, but I can almost guarantee that the moment right after that is going to rock, thanks to a big wave of relief that will likely wash over you. If this guy likes you, he's going to be understanding and probably pretty appreciative of your honesty and courage. Let's be real about it: it's pretty unusual for someone not to take "I'm so excited with you I just can't keep from coming," as anything but a high compliment (and even if that's not what's going on, people will tend to assume that's part of it).

Besides putting an end to The Great Orgasm Fakeouts of 2014 (and you'll probably laugh about this later and tell it as a funny when-I-was-new-to-sex-I-did-the-silliest-thing story, just maybe many years later), there are a few other extra things you may find helpful:

Put and keep your focus on pleasure and feeling good. Is what you're doing feeling good, and fun, for you and your partner? When you reach orgasm sooner than you'd like, are you just letting that be and staying focused on enjoying yourself and what feels good, including continuing to do things your body can at the time -- erection or no -- that feel good to you both if you, or he, don't feel finished? Focusing on orgasm, when it happens, and putting a lot of your sexual-satisfaction-eggs in the orgasm or performance basket is something we know often plays a huge part in sexual dissatisfaction. If you're all-in when it comes to just going with what feels good to you both, letting your body respond however it does and rolling with that, then sex is usually going to feel very satisfying whenever orgasm happens, and even without orgasm happening at all.

Cory Silverberg once said some of the smartest things I have ever heard about "premature" ejaculation (I put it in quotes because, really, there is only ejaculation that happens when it happens, rather than ejaculation that happens too soon or too late):

...the idea of premature ejaculation presupposes that there is a clear end goal, and that you’re getting there too soon. It also presupposes that extending sex is an obvious goal of sex. If you’re ejaculating before you want to, or before your partner wants to, the first thing you ought to do is ask yourself, what is it that I want to extend? Is the sex I’m having good enough to want to make it last longer? Am I coming quickly because really, there’s not much to wait around for? And do I want the goal I set for sex to be one that requires a stopwatch to evaluate?

What if all you wanted from a sexual encounter was to feel good? If ejaculating prematurely feels bad then you’ve got a good reason to learn to control ejaculation. If it doesn’t, then maybe what’s required is a conversation with your sexual partner about what they want, and how you can make sure you both get what you want, how you want it.

Start openly communicating. One of the great things about being honest about this is that you can now ask for what you want or need around it. You can also find out how much any of this really matters to your partner (my money is on not very much). What you've been doing has made it so you aren't honestly communicating with sex, so once you start being honest, you can open the door to the kind of communication that plays a huge role in a satisfying sexual life.

If you talk about experimenting together with this, you may find that slowing things down works better for you, like taking longer to get to certain kinds of sex or whatever you're calling foreplay. Maybe you two can explore getting your partner off first, with the focus on their body more than yours, then him taking a turn when it comes to you. Or, vice-versa, but now you do what you've already been doing, you first, then him, without putting any shame on that or pretending it's not happening.

You'll likely discover that when you both openly talk about, frame and explore sex as something defined as sharing pleasure and expressing sexual feelings and desires -- rather than in the so-limited scope of mostly being about what happens from when touch starts to when orgasm happens -- this all gets a lot easier, and feels less daunting and more exciting. There are so, so many ways to express, explore and experience sexuality: orgasm, as well as genital sex, are just a couple pieces of a much bigger picture. Limiting sex to being only or mostly about that doesn't usually create a satisfying sexual life or experiences for anyone for long.

Just being honest and communicating about this will likely take a bunch of pressure off of you all by itself, which means you get to start coming to sex less anxious. That almost always means it's going to be more satisfying.

You can try some safe techniques people use to prolong erection, if you like. If you want to try something some folks find works to help learn better control over orgasm and ejaculation, here's some good information (again from Cory, who's apparently the star of this column today) about what's called a start/stop technique. As well, if you're not already using condoms, you probably don't need me to tell you that's really important for anyone sexually active to do to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But the pressure a condom puts on the base of the penis, paired with the slight limit on sensation also often helps people who want to sustain erections for longer to do so. Lubricants can also tend to be helpful (is there anything lube can't do?).

Circling back to the start here, I'd encourage you to just let your timing be whatever it is, and see what you can do to adjust how you're thinking about this so you just accept it and go with it, rather than hiding it or feeling like it must be "fixed." When people don't feel relaxed, or feel under any kind of pressure, including the pressure to perform or have their bodies be different than they are, human sexual response tends to "work" a lot less well. It might also help to have some more thinks about what you feel like you need to feel sexually satisfied, or what may be missing here.

See, we know from study, as well as a lot of anecdote, that how long sex, of any kind, goes on for does not usually play a major role in most people's overall sexual satisfaction. Feeling able to be honest and real, partners being creative, attentive and responsive to and with each other, and basic physical affection paired with other ways of being sexual, like kissing and snuggling, are some of the things we know are major players. Being sexual together often is another common player in satisfaction, too, but that doesn't only mean one kind of sex (the kind that requires an erection). When people have illness or disability that really gets in the way of sexual functioning, especially over years, that often does stand in the way of sexual satisfaction. But you coming more quickly than you'd like a few times isn't that.

If you're not feeling satisfied, maybe how long your erection lasts isthe whole reason why. But I doubt it. Rather, I'd surmise the acting gig you've made of sex so far is the biggest part of you not feeling satisfied, paired with a lack of confidence, including confidence in the fact that your body or your sexual self isn't any greater or lesser, any more or less functional, based on how or when you reach orgasm. The stress you're bringing to all this also can't be helping you out.

You're not broken, nor is your body. However it, and you, are responding, is okay. It has to be okay, just like sweating, salivating, blushing or getting an erection in the first place all have to be okay in this, since that's simply how your body is responding, and largely outside your control.

Maybe you will find that when things stretch out a bit longer -- and with practice, getting more comfortable with a partner and sex with partners period, as well as aging even a little bit, it likely will -- you have a better time and sex feels more satisfying to you. But until or even without that change, there's no reason this needs to be seen as a problem, nor as something that has to get in the way of either of you enjoying yourselves and feeling good emotionally. An erection isn't required for people to enjoy being together sexually, even when both the people being together have penises. That's just one part of a whole body full of parts that can all be sexually responsive and part of shared pleasure.

Personally, I think one of the coolest things sex with a partner can potentially offer us is a safe space to just let our bodies be our bodies as-is, and experience both our own acceptance of that and acceptance from a partner. I know it sounds cheeseball, but sex is a way of celebrating our bodies. If we won't accept them as they are, we can't really do that and get that part of it, which is a pretty big thing to miss out on. We live in a world where acceptance of bodies being the way they are -- not machines, not advertisements, not commodities -- is often hard to come by. Our sexual relationships and experiences should offer us that kind of rare space. If they don't -- or we don't let them -- it's hard for them to be as awesome as they can be, let alone for them to feel physically and emotionally good.

I know that it might seem like being a beginner at something, especially sex, is a bummer, or is something everyone should try and get over with fast, before anyone notices. If you're feeling that way, I want to invite you to consider something different.

Being new at something, having everything be fresh and first-timey and even a little mysterious or intimidating should actually be a pretty cool thing. It's a way to experience a sense of wonder in our lives, right? I think it's so important we allow ourselves and others to be beginners when we are with sex: to fumble, to do something we think is sexy but the person we did it with thinks is hilarious, to not know things, to be green. While with every new partner, we're always beginners to some degree, you won't always get to have all of this feeling so new. Try and enjoy the newness, even if it's strange or not what you expected. It's a limited time offer, after all, and something where you're likely to find the whole business more enriching, now and later, if you let it and yourself be new, rather than fighting that and trying to pretend like you're not. It's not only just okay to be a beginner, there's a freshness, an openness, and ideally a lack of preconceived notion or belief that makes being a beginner amazingly cool.

I'll leave you with a few more links that might give you some more on all of this, but most of all, what I hope you already know now is that the very best thing you can do is to work on accepting yourself, including your body and what it does, and bringing that self as-is to who you're sexual with and just rolling with that. That's not only most of what makes it fun, that's what actually makes it really about you: since it's your sex life, it's pretty vital you are the person present, and you are the person you're exploring, celebrating and sharing so that it actually feels like your sex life. You and any partners will undoubtedly have much more fun with, and be way more excited by, the genuine article -- the real you, including your body -- than with a fake.