Each week, The CSPH answers questions that have been submitted anonymously through Formspring. This week’s question is: I’m a man who has difficulty reaching climax. Why might this be, and how can I solve this?
While vagina-owners’ difficulty or inability to reach orgasm is oftentimes considered natural, stereotypical discourse tends to suggest that those with penises easily achieve climax, regardless of the issues affecting them as individuals. Indeed, while some penis-owners can reach orgasm without difficulty, others may possess “too much” endurance, often characterized by an inability to orgasm with or without a partner after an extended period of time. Despite the media’s insistence on the importance of sexual endurance, delayed orgasm can result in shame, anxiety, discomfort, and even relationship issues. For this reason, penis-owners who experience delayed orgasm might want to explore not only the potential reasons for their difficulty climaxing, but also how to potentially rectify the situation.
With that said, there are a number of reasons why penis-owners experience delayed ejaculation; for example, as men age, some experience difficulty maintaining an erection, in addition to difficulty orgasming. Moreover, as discussed in the Q&A, Why does he go limp?, some medications result in not only erectile issues, but also delayed ejaculation or anorgasmia, an inability to orgasm. These medications include, but are not limited to, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety prescriptions, and even certain medications that treat high blood pressure. If you are taking these medications, I suggest that you visit your healthcare provider to discuss potentially switching brands or altering your dosage. Furthermore, some find that recreational drugs, such as cocaine and alcohol, can result in delayed orgasm, so if you are engaging in sexual activity while inebriated or otherwise under the influence, I recommend limiting your intake of said substances for a couple of days before trying sexual activity once more.
It is also possible that your difficulty reaching climax is due to medical issues. Such medical issues include, but are not limited to: poor blood circulation, heart problems, hormone irregularities due to the thyroid or testicles, injuries of the spinal cord, prostate problems, and neurological issues such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, and diabetic neuropathy. Cancer, especially prostate and bladder cancers, can also have an impact on the sexual functioning of penis-owners. Therefore, my suggestion in this regard is that you first visit a urologist, a doctor that specializes in urinary tracts as well as the reproductive systems of penis-owners. A thorough physical evaluation and, possibly, blood tests will allow the urologist to determine whether your difficulty orgasming is due to physical issues.
When physical complications are ruled out, it’s important to consider alternative reasons for delayed ejaculation. Just as with vagina-owners, some people with penises experience delayed orgasm or anorgasmia due to emotional and/or psychological reasons. Nervousness, whether due to issues such as sexual shame, performance anxiety, or body image issues, can result in people being unable to “let go” and truly experience the moment. Unfortunately, for many, this is a self-perpetuating cycle, where anxiety over ejaculation results in delayed orgasm, further increasing one’s nervousness. Therefore, in this case, it might be useful to contact an accredited sexuality professional—whether a sexologist or sex therapist—who can help you navigate your worries and fears. The CSPH has a wonderful Medical Resource Referral List that can help you find a sexuality professional in your area.
Moreover, some people find that, while they have difficulty reaching orgasm through partnered sexual activity, they can consistently climax through masturbation. This is the result of a person conditioning themselves to orgasm only under certain circumstances, whether with their hand, with a certain amount of pressure, with or without lubrication, or with the aid of pornography. Some people with penises find that they masturbate with a tight grip, oftentimes without lube, which can desensitize the body to the sensations of partnered sexual activity. Others find that they become so accustomed to the particular type of stimulation from pornography—which is on-demand and requires focus only on the self, as opposed to interaction with another person—that partnered sexual activity becomes difficult. In these situations, you might find it beneficial to alter your masturbatory behavior; for example, you could change the way you masturbate, such as by utilizing a looser grip with lube as opposed to a tight grip without lube. You could also limit your pornography consumption and engage in fantasizing more often, both during masturbation as well as partnered sexual activity.
One last thing to keep in mind is that focusing too much on climax may also result in delayed orgasm. If you are unable to relax during sexual activity, you might find yourself too preoccupied to wholly enjoy yourself, which can prolong your endurance. In response to this, my recommendation is that you first and foremost stop concentrating on orgasm, but rather allow you and your partner to explore your sexual selves without the goal of climaxing. The CSPH refers to this as pleasure-focused sex, which encourages people to navigate their sexual desires for the sole purpose of experiencing pleasure. Experiment with different and non-obvious erogenous zones, both during partnered and solo play, and perhaps even make this a rule from time to time. If orgasm happens, great! If not, still great! In this process, it’s also important that you and your partner openly discuss your turn-ons and turn-offs; communication can result in greater comfort in sex, thereby encouraging individuals to truly immerse themselves in the pleasure of sexual activity. Finally, I want to stress that sexual experimentation is not limited to partnered sexual activity. For masturbation tips specific to penis-owners, visit The CSPH Q&A, “Do you have any tips for male masturbation?”