Watch the Clock

Premature ejaculation (PE) is said to affect anywhere from 25% – 33% of all men (either intermittently or chronically) making it the most common sexual dysfunction in the world. Interestingly, the opposite is a very common complaint too; around 20% of men deal with delayed ejaculation, or the inability to climax within a satisfactory amount of time. Men at one end of the spectrum very often envy the guy at the opposite end. But both issues are frustrating and troubling to men and their partners.

The diagnosis of both of these conditions is highly subjective and based solely on the people involved. It is: “When ejaculation occurs earlier (or later) than he intends and it causes distress to one or both partners.” That seems like a good definition.  What bothers me is that men (and women) tend to define the timing of “early” or “later” based on lies they pick up in our culture.  There seems to be a consensus that intercourse should last as long as it does in porn – and for that lie, see the earlier post about porn and lies!

The reality, however, is also highly subjective. Some couples are perfectly happy with intercourse lasting a couple of minutes; others are disappointed if it is not 45 minutes or longer! Again – no rules! The caveat here, however, is that long sessions of sex are great – long sessions of intercourse are often just painful. Ask the guys for whom it can take an hour or more of nonstop intercourse to ejaculate. Most of the time, their partners beg for a break. There is simply no rule about how long you have intercourse. The idea is for each person to be satisfied. How that satisfaction comes about is as unique as each couple.

I had one patient who was concerned about his premature ejaculation. His wife had never complained, but he was getting more and more frustrated. I asked him how long he thought he might be lasting before climax. He thought maybe he was lasting “10 minutes – maybe 20 minutes at most!” We had a long talk about why he thought that was too short for intercourse. He had no idea, it’s just what he had picked up from porn, stories, and other guys talking. When I told him the national average for length of intercourse was 4 minutes, he soon felt a lot better about himself.

Now, let me be clear, lack of ejaculatory control can be a miserable situation. It can devastate couples and each person blames themselves, blames the other, avoids sex, avoids intimacy – it’s a nightmare. If it is bothering you, find a sexual medicine specialist for help. Fortunately, there are very successful treatments available. A combination of medical and behavioral therapy can work wonders.

But make sure you are the one who decides that you need help. You might focus on making sex last for hours. Let intercourse last as long as your body will allow.

Paul Nelson

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Paul is an AASECT certified sexuality educator and a clinical medical assistant.  He is president of the Erectile Dysfunction Foundation, and founder of, the largest online community for men’s sexual dysfunctions and maintains a private practice at  He works in New York City with Dr. Michael Werner ( as a patient/sexuality educator.  Paul is an instructor at the Institute for Sexuality Education and Enlightenment. He is an advocate for men’s reproductive health and has appeared on ABC News with Diane Sawyer, NPR’s Talk of the Nation, the BBC, and the New York Times. Paul is a member of the AUA, ISSM, AASECT, and SMSNA.
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