Sex Education .

QUESTIONS ASKED .

Q: First of all. I'm male, 29, and of good health...that being said...without the use of drugs, how long [in time] should a guy be able to maintain an erection [in one session]? As for myself - I can last 4 hours, and yes, I know this can't be healthy.

A: Most of the research on how long a healthy erection lasts involves studying a man’s sexual response cycle as he sleeps. This is not only the easiest way to gather such information, but the information gathered is considered a good baseline for what an average erection time might entail since a man’s erection is so dependent upon so many biological, physical, mental, emotional, and relationship factors. For any number of reasons throughout a man’s life cycle, a man may not attain erection, may stay hard for only a couple of minutes, or may easily maintain erection for an hour or longer. That being said, 2004 research in the Journal of Sexual Medicine reported that 33 healthy men, ages 18 to 25, had the average erection time of 22 minutes. Compare this to the four hours you’re experiencing, and it’s wise to be concerned. Erections that last more than 4 hours are problematic because they begin to cut off fresh blood to the penis. Referred to priapism, these erections often involve pain and occur even without sexual stimulation. Priapism is a condition where blood becomes trapped in the penis and is unable to drain. It needs to be treated immediately. Penile fibrosis, the development of permanent scar tissue in the main part of the penis, can result, eventually causing a permanent state of erectile dysfunction. So the best thing that you can do for yourself is to pay a visit to your doctor for a thorough checkup. This is a medical emergency and may be the sign of another health issue, e.g., diabetes.

Q:I have a partner who does not believe he pleases me sexually, regardless of much I tell him I am pleased sexually. He has informed me that in prior relationships the majority of former partners have "gushed" (released additional secretions) during intercourse. I have never known myself to "gush" - is there something wrong with me? I am confused...how do I make him understand that he pleases me sexually, although I don't "gush." I guess it's called reassuring him and breaking him of this mind set.

A:Hi! To begin with, there is absolutely nothing wrong with you if you don’t “gush” when you are enjoying sexual interactions. Your partner may be talking about female ejaculation, or he may simply be referring to the fact that some women continue to become more lubricated (with vaginal secretions) as they become more aroused. My guess is that he is referring to female ejaculation, which is a clear fluid that is expelled from two tiny ducts on each side of the urethra during or immediately before orgasm. Some women expel a lot of this fluid, and some expel none at all, but your partner should be aware that it doesn’t mean you are not enjoying yourself or having an orgasm. I am not aware of any reputable studies that specifically track the percentage of women who ejaculate, but my sense is that it is less common than your partner thinks, and there is certainly nothing to worry about if it doesn’t happen to you. Separating myths about female ejaculation from the reality may help your partner to accept that you do not ejaculate. For instance, there is still a great deal of debate around this phenomenon even among sex scientists. Some researchers do not believe that female ejaculate is different in composition than vaginal lubrication and/or urine, whereas others have tried to demonstrate that it is a unique compound that is not chemically similar to either. The data on this have been contradictory, so no scientific consensus has been reached. In fact, it may be the case that women who “gush” in pornography are actually just urinating, particularly when there is a great deal of ejaculate. The tissue that surrounds the urethra is minimal, so the chance that those glands and ducts could produce a huge volume of liquid is unlikely.

If your partner is simply referring to the amount of vaginal lubrication you produce, you should let him know that lubrication is quite variable among women, and that it is influenced by such factors as stress, hormone levels, and so on. It may be that you simply do not lubricate as much as his previous partners, but, as with female ejaculation, this has no relationship to your own subjective experience of arousal and pleasure. (I would recommend, though, a water-based sex lubricant if you do not lubricate sufficiently – it can make all the difference with respect to your own enjoyment!)

In short, there is nothing wrong with you or your body. Your partner needs to realize that different women have different physical reactions to arousal and orgasm, and that your reactions don’t mean you aren’t enjoying yourself. If you are interested in trying to learn how to ejaculate (either for yourself or for your partner), there are books and videos available that claim to offer instruction in this. My understanding is that ejaculation usually requires a great deal of g-spot stimulation (since the g-spot includes the spongy tissue surrounding the urethra – the potential source of ejaculate) as well as a willingness to “let go” and to be uninhibited in bed (because, from reports I have read, it does feel similar to the sensation of having a full bladder and needing to urinate). However, I only mention this to let you know such resources do exist. If you have no desire to change your physiological responses to arousal and orgasm, then you shouldn’t. Instead, your partner should learn to accept you at your word that you are enjoying yourself in bed, even if you don’t ever “gush.” Good luck!

A common concern I hear from my female clients involves difficulty in reaching orgasm. Here are some hints that I have found to be helpful:

PSYCHOLOGICAL HINTS:

1) Anticipate the Sexual Encounter - Many women find that if they spend some time fantasizing about an upcoming sexual encounter, they can use their minds (imagination) to "turn themselves on" physically, as well as emotionally. It also helps for women to learn to identify what turns them on in their environment (e.g. romantic or erotic stories, love songs, videos, etc.) and use this material in anticipation of a sexual encounter. This process of "starting on warm" can help to make reaching "the end" easier.

2) Get Relaxed - Most women require a transition or "down time" in order to be opened-up to receiving sexual pleasure. This is because emotional tension negatively interferes with sexual response. So, listen to music, take a hot bath, read a book, do "whatever works" to get relaxed. Being in a relaxed mode is very helpful to achieving orgasm.

3) Eliminate Distractions - Women frequently find that their minds are cluttered with distractions such as "to do" lists, worries about privacy, too much light in the room, too much noise, pets in the room, etc. Identifying one’s distractions and then eliminating them before sex can help a woman to focus on her body and her good feelings so that orgasm is easier to achieve. Distractions of any kind usually sabotage the sexual focus needed for most women to reach orgasm.

4) Eliminate Anger - It is hard to make love to a porcupine - and that is how many women feel when they are angry at their partner. Anger distances people. It is necessary for most women to work on eliminating angry and hurt feelings so that they can feel intimately connected with their partner. Most women require connection at the heart before they can truly connect with their genitals.

5) Get Comfortable with Your Body and Its Imperfections - Learning to appreciate and accept one’s body is key to good sexual responsiveness. Obsessing over body imperfections - how it looks, feels, smells, or tastes, etc., may sabotage sexual response and certainly can interfere with orgasm. Such obsessing interferes with sexual arousal. In other words, the mind gets in the way of the body’s response. It is good to remember that most men get more turned on by an interested and interesting partner than by a perfect body.

6) Get Into an Erotic Focus During Sex - This requires putting the mind in an erotic mode so that the mind can boost physical arousal. This can be done by following in "the mind’s eye" what one’s partner is doing (to you) physically. It may require imagery of an erotic or romantic scene or fantasy that is a turn on. Perhaps best of all is being turned on by watching one’s partner and/or looking into each other’s eyes. But this might not be possible because many women need closed eyes to focus in order to reach orgasm.

7) Concentrate - As arousal builds, most women need to concentrate on their pleasurable feelings (especially those in the clitoris and/or vagina), and on their growing excitement. Concentration, which usually excludes verbal responses, is part of the erotic focus necessary for many women to reach orgasm.

8) Get Out of The "Real Way" Trap - Many people of both genders mistakenly believe that "the real way" to orgasm is only through vaginal intercourse. Other ways of achieving orgasm, such as by clitoral stimulation (manually or orally), do not count to these people because these orgasms are deemed inferior to a "vaginal orgasm." This false belief (which originated with Sigmund Freud) still causes many modern women to think they are broken, abnormal or inferior because they can not orgasm "the real way." Please remember: The majority of women orgasm most effectively with clitoral stimulation or vaginal stimulation assisted by clitoral stimulation, not by vaginal stimulation alone, and that is okay and fine! Many women will never orgasm just by vaginal stimulation alone. All orgasms are valid no matter how they happen to occur. Trying to orgasm the "real way" can trap people into worrying about sexual performance and can certainly inhibit orgasm.

9) Make Time For Play - People frequently leave lovemaking for very late hours, when bodies just need sleep. If people would "make time for play" (not necessarily foreplay), protect that time and not wait for spontaneous encounters, they would be more assured of good sex. This is especially meaningful for women because it is easier to reach orgasm when feeling energized rather than tired and weary.

PHYSICAL HINTS:

10) Become an Expert On Your Own Body - Learning about your body and its responses is essential for most women to reach orgasm reliably. The idea is to take control of your body and personally get in touch with your responses, then teach your partner what kind of touch is most pleasurable. Remember, he is the expert only on his body! You are the expert on yours! Women who haven’t learned about their bodies are not able to know what they like sexually. These women are often not orgasmic because they haven’t learned what works for them.

11) Communicate Openly - Open communication is essential for sexual satisfaction because people are not mind readers. Spoken communication is clearest, but guiding your partner’s hand or prearranged cues may work as well. Open communication about sex takes honesty, trust, respect and the ability to take risks.

12) Be Sure Your Partner is "On the Mark"- If your partner is off target when stimulating your body, you won’t ever reach orgasm. So, make sure you convey where you need to be touched as well as what you like best.

13) Exaggerate Sexual Tension - With physical arousal it is natural for one’s muscles to tense up as orgasm approaches. This happens in both sexes, but is more noticeable in women. Exaggerating this muscle tension may help to trigger an orgasm.

14) Squeeze those Muscles - Contracting the muscles around the vagina (called PC muscles) helps to bring blood to the genitals and thus builds arousal. These are also the muscles that contract with orgasm. Squeezing the PC muscles (called Kegel Exercises) may help to trigger orgasm and may make orgasm more intense.

15) Hang Your Head - Hanging your head over the side of the bed may trigger orgasm. In some women this may heighten arousal and sexual tension. If nothing else, this position will be a distraction from "trying too hard" and hence may lead to orgasm.

16) Breathe Differently - Varying breathing patterns may also add to sexual arousal and can trigger orgasm.

17) Be a Tease - Teasing yourself or allowing your partner to tease you by touching your "pleasure spots," then withdrawing the touch over and over again, is a very effective way to build arousal and heighten orgasm.

18) Practice Letting Go - Orgasm rehearsal (in private) is often helpful for women who have trouble relinquishing control. Practicing orgasms, including making noises and "funny" faces, may help to increase comfort and reduce anxiety about having orgasms. This may help in the process of learning to orgasm.

19) Be Superior - For women who want to "work on" their orgasms with intercourse, the female superior position (on top) generally works best. This position allows a woman to take control of intercourse, thus allowing maximum stimulation. In this way, she can control the tempo of intercourse, the depth of penile thrusting (or sliding movements), and the clitoral stimulation. The female superior position is especially good for women who have personal issues that require the need to feel in total control sexually.

20) Use Toys If You Like - If you are comfortable with the use of sex toys, vibrators can be a fun way to help "get there" reliably and easily. They take "the work" out of trying to orgasm and can also take pressure off your partner because your pleasure then becomes your own responsibility. Vibrators work best when you hold them on yourself. Vibrators can be used (held on the clitoris) for sexual play or during sexual intercourse to facilitate the path to orgasm



This question was submitted to the HSAB by an actual iFriends user, and answered for recent publication.