Courtesy Amazon Publishing
By Dr. Ruth Westheimer
March 15, 2018

After 30 years of working as a sex therapist, the legendary Dr. Ruth isn’t done sharing her wisdom. Here, she answers your most pressing questions on sex, relationships and life. Email your own queries to drruth@time.com, or catch up on previous installments of the Ask Dr. Ruth series.

Q: Does it matter how long my partner lasts in bed?

A: There are two ways to read this question, though both are tied to the same issue: premature ejaculation. Since the majority of women cannot reach orgasm from intercourse alone, how long a man can perform the act has relatively no bearing on the ultimate satisfaction of most women. If the man ejaculates faster than he would like, the definition of premature ejaculation, and yet takes the necessary steps to provide sexual satisfaction for his partner by stimulating her in other ways, then this issue of how long he lasts isn’t all that important. On the other hand, if he’s the “slam, bam, thank you m’am” type, has his orgasm within moments of penetration and then leaps out of bed leaving his partner frustrated, then that’s a serious problem.

Most men can be taught how to control their orgasms, and that’s especially true if they have a patient partner who’s willing to help. Some men are so badly psychologically affected by this problem that they require the help of a sex therapist to work through it, but many men can learn on their own. Of course they must want to first.

We in the field of sex therapy believe that this affliction is often caused because of early masturbation. A young male teen, afraid of being caught by his parents or siblings, learns to complete the process as quickly as possible and then that sets a pattern later on his life when he is with a partner. (Parents who respect a closed bedroom door might do a lot towards eradicating this condition.)

Whatever the cause, a man must learn to recognize the sensation, and stop himself when he reaches that point by reducing his arousal a few notches in order to continue. Now some men are afraid that if they don’t have an orgasm at that point that they won’t be able to have an orgasm at all, but that’s usually not the case and a little patience will be rewarded.

Premature ejaculation is a bigger issue when a man has a partner who can have orgasms from intercourse. She will want intercourse to last as long as she needs, which in some cases might be a long time, perhaps as much as half an hour. This could end up making intercourse too much of a chore for the man. Such a couple might be better off having their orgasms separately. I know that in the movies there’s this ideal that’s been presented, two people having intercourse and having simultaneous orgasms. I’m not saying that this isn’t something that some couples do achieve, but they’re in the minority, and even then, it might not happen every time.

The most important point to take from this question is that each partner in a sexual relationship should take responsibility for making sure that the other achieves sexual gratification as a result of love making. Exactly how that is achieved isn’t so important.

Email questions to drruth@time.com.

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