Wednesday 29 Jan, 2014
We need to start talking about sexual dysfunction in an open way
It’s almost impossible to bring up the subject of premature ejaculation without provoking a cringe or a giggle, but it’s no joke for the one in five men (of all ages) who suffer from this common dysfunction, writes Trish Murphy.
IT IS PRETTY much impossible to bring up the subject of premature ejaculation (PE) in conversation without provoking a cringe or a giggle, or both. We’ve all heard the one about the man suffering from PE – he’s ok now but it was touch and go for a while.
However, PE is no joke for the one in five men who suffer from this common male sexual dysfunction. PE affects more men than erectile dysfunction (ED) yet it has traditionally received far less attention than ED, perhaps because of a historical lack of understanding. It also affects men of all ages, despite sometimes being associated with young men. Last week saw something of a first in Irish society – the launch of the new Take Control campaign to highlight the condition and encourage men to talk about it.
Before thinking about solutions, it’s worth considering the issue in a wider societal context. There is no doubt that ‘good’ sex is commonly and misleadingly represented by the mainstream media and porn as requiring lengthy periods of penetrative sex. This leads to rather skewed societal definitions of sexual pleasure and glosses over the fact that many men will last a matter of minutes between penetration and orgasm.
Pornography creates a lot of problems.
That being said, in my practice as a psychotherapist, my work involves therapy for sexual and intimacy difficulties and over the past ten years both myself and my colleagues have seen a growing number of young people – sometimes even teenagers – presenting with sexual dysfunction.
Pornography addiction has been a significant factor. We are seeing complex developmental sexual responses in people of all ages, with ensuing complicated effects on relationships. Orgasms release oxytocin, the attachment hormone and unlike print pornography, the interactive qualities of internet porn and its multi-sensory connections give the user a more intense experience and immediate sense of personal connection, thus leading to addiction. People can end up having relationships with their laptop, smartphone or tablet and find it difficult to respond physically and emotionally to a real person.
So if sexual dysfunctions in general are on the increase and if PE is the most common sexual dysfunction, it stands to reason that there is a greater need than ever for openness and accurate information. Here goes.
Share your sexual worries with your partner
Triggers for PE include feeling anxious about ‘performance’, lack of confidence which can arise from not having had sex for a while, being with a new partner or in a novel sexual experience. Some of these are situation specific and can resolve themselves in a relatively short time. A good rule of thumb is that if the male partner regularly ejaculates before or within a short time of starting sexual intercourse and before he would like to, then PE may be the root cause.
If a man thinks he has a problem, above all he should try sharing his sexual worries with his partner. Practicing mindfulness and meditation may also help him feel less anxious. There are also numerous physical self-help techniques which may help (see takecontrol.ie for more information).
If none of the above prove effective and if the situation is creating frustration for either partner within the relationship or consistently eating away at a man’s confidence, speaking to a GP or healthcare professional is the best next step. Disclosing our most private selves to another human being is never easy but it is the most responsible next step to address anything that undermines sexual intimacy, which is fundamental to overall well being.
The job of intimacy is not to focus on your own inadequacies
Self esteem plays a huge part in our sexuality. If you do not like yourself, it is difficult to expect others to find you attractive. The job of intimacy is not to focus on your own inadequacies but to immerse yourself in the other person’s body using all your senses – this allows you to get your attention off yourself and enjoy the experience.
People have an idea that they need to ‘fix’ themselves before they can be in relationships but my experience is that being in relationship is such a healthy thing to do that it forms part of the whole self development task. When we love, we are more open, more human and compassionate with others and with ourselves.
As adults, we need to start talking about sexual dysfunction in a responsible way. If you believe that you’re affected by the issue, take the initiative. If you’re in a relationship already, raise it with your partner. Inform yourself properly, talk about it and if you need help, seek it out. You’ll be happier for it and your relationships will improve.
Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist specialising in couples counseling and sexual intimacy therapy. She is also Chair of the Family Therapy Association of Ireland. For more information on PE, see takecontrol.ie