What Causes Premature Ejaculation?

Since the approval of Viagra in 1998, you’d be forgiven for suspecting that erectile dysfunction is the most prevalent sexual issue for men. But that’s simply not the case. Premature ejaculation far outstrips erectile dysfunction as the most common problem for men, when it comes to sex.

what causes premature ejaculation

What Causes Premature Ejaculation?

Premature ejaculation is here defined as the sudden, involuntary orgasm with ejaculation within men, usually the result of a response to the early stages of sexual arousal. There are two primary psychological reasons that might answer the question, ‘why do I ejaculate prematurely?’ I’ll briefly cover them both in this article.

The most commonly cited research on the topic of male sexual dysfunction comes from *research conducted by the University of Chicago. They surveyed almost 3,000 US men on the subject of premature ejaculation, and discovered that it was a surprisingly common phenomenon. Surprising, because so few men are willing to disclose that information out of fear of ridicule, humiliation, and the threat it poses culturally to their perceived virility.

How Common Is Premature Ejaculation?

The numbers stack up high. This is the percentage of men per age group who have experienced premature ejaculation within the last year:

  • 18-29: 30%
  • 30-39: 32%
  • 40-49: 28%
  • 50-59: 31%
  • 57-63: 30%
  • 65-74: 28%
  • 75-85: 22%

As you can see, on average between a quarter and a third of all men, of every age group, experienced premature ejaculation in the year leading up to the survey. To put that in perspective, here’s how many men experienced erectile dysfunction over the same timeframe:

  • 18-29: 7
  • 30-39: 9
  • 40-49: 11
  • 50-59: 18
  • 57-64: 31
  • 65-74: 45
  • 75-85: 43

Taken overall, premature ejaculation is the more commonplace problem, and the most consistent across the age groups studied. Erectile dysfunction exhibits a clear pattern of becoming more common with age, but even so, it’s eclipsed by premature ejaculation.

Is It A ‘Problem?’

Society’s view of premature ejaculation changes as our culture changes. Darwinians in the 19th Century, for example, regarded what we consider to be ‘premature’ ejaculation to be a sign of virility, the thinking being that the faster you ejaculate, the more likely you are to be able to efficiently secure the transmission of your genetic information to multiple offspring. That came off the back of earlier Victorian attitudes regarding women’s role in sex as nothing more than passive receptacles, whose pleasure was inconsequential. Going back further, though, the 4th century Kama Sutra chastises men who ejaculate too quickly for failing to satisfy their partner.

With the development of psychoanalysis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, attitudes changed again. Freudian theory blamed premature ejaculation on a “neurotic ambivalence toward women,” in the sense that men who ejaculate prematurely do so because they have no interest whatsoever in their heterosexual partner. It changed once again in the ‘60s when Masters and Johnson launched contemporary sex therapy with the discovery that premature ejaculation could be addressed with a series of simple self-help programs. 

So What Causes Premature Ejaculation?

The finger of blame can now confidently be pointed at two factors: youth, and porn. The underdeveloped nervous systems of young men can be highly volatile and excitable. Oftentimes, young men don’t even need sexual contact to ejaculate, as evidenced by the occurrence of ‘wet dreams.’ Furthermore, our culture generally puts pressure on men to orchestrate sexual activity, but heterosexual young men really know very little about women and sex. That pressure can cause significant anxiety to creep into a young man’s psychosexual development, which makes their nervous system even more volatile and, therefore, prone to premature ejaculation. Without decent sex education, this anxiety can bake itself into men’s sexual responses and reflexes. 

This is only compounded by the second factor: pornography. We live in a highly pornified society, and porn is inarguably the leading sex educator for the vast majority of sexually developing men. While porn has its place and we at LELO know the benefits it can offer, we’re also aware of the harm it can potentially do. It’s a bad teacher for adolescent men, teaching them that sex is entirely genital, and that they can expect women to be permanently sexually available. This heaps even more cultural pressure on an already anxious penis, which reacts by ejaculating quickly. In this way, porn reinforces the psychological architecture that initiates premature ejaculation. 

Can I Cure My Premature Ejaculation?

It takes months of commitment to break this pattern of behaviour, depending on just how engrained it is, but it is possible. There are quick fixes, like the LELO TOR 2 cock ring, which helps delay orgasm without decreasing sensation. But longer term fixes involve a much more mindful approach, with deep breathing and relaxation, and allowing time into your intimacy in a way not present in porn. Playful, relaxed, massage-based sensuality spreads the sensations across the whole body, taking the physical and psychological pressure off the penis.

This is the truth that’s not taught by porn: women generally prefer more cerebral, leisurely, playful sexual activity. Young men don’t tend to learn this until they’re already into their sexual careers, by which time the damage becomes increasingly difficult to reverse.

*Source: Laumann, E.O. et al. “Sexual Dysfunction in the United States: Prevalence and Predictors (Age 18-59),” Journal of the American Medical Association (1999) 281:537.

Written by: Stuart Nugent

With 16 years in the adult industry, including many years at LELO, it's fair to say Stu has been around the sex toy block a few times. As LELO's resident sex geek, he's been featured in the Independent, the Guardian, HuffPost, Vice, Cosmopolitan, and anywhere people talk about sex. Here on Volonte, he turns his spotlight onto the important events affecting sex right now in a regular op-ed. Views are his own.

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