The REAL Reason He's Prematurely Ejaculating (And How To Stop It)

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The Science of Premature Ejaculation

About a third of all men have problems with premature ejaculation (PE). This is often very upsetting both to the man and his partner when it happens. But when you understand what is happening in the body during the sexual arousal cycle it’s much easier to choose effective treatments for PE.

The sexual arousal cycle was discovered by sex experts William H. Masters and Virginia E. Johnson. Their discoveries are just as relevant today as they were back in the 1960s. They discovered the cycle by directly observing and filming people engaged in sexual activity while recording what was happening in the body during sexual intercourse.

The Phases of Sexual Arousal

Masters and Johnson found that there are four phases to the Sexual Arousal Cycle and intercourse:

  1. The Arousal Phase
  2. The Plateau Phase
  3. The Orgasmic Phase
  4. The Resolution Phase

Before looking at these four phases and the importance of each in understanding and overcoming PE, we need to understand what’s happening in the nervous system during sexual activity. During sex, the body is controlled by what’s called the autonomic nervous system.

The Automatic Body


The autonomic nervous system controls all the basic processes of the body such as heart rate, breathing, digestion, getting sexually aroused, and having an orgasm. There are two parts to the system and they balance each other. They are:

  • The sympathetic system
  • The parasympathetic system

Those terms can be confusing to most people, but what it boils down to is that the sympathetic system is in charge of activity. When you’re exercising or working hard, the sympathetic system is running the body. When you’re resting and taking it easy the parasympathetic system is in charge. We can sum up by saying:

  • The sympathetic system is the action system.
  • The parasympathetic system is the rest system.

The action system speeds up the heart and makes you breathe faster. The rest system slows down the heart and breathing. In general, the two systems have opposite effects. For example, the rest system is in charge of digestion. That’s why we often feel sleepy after a big meal as the stomach is starting the process of digestion.

But the action system works against the rest system and interferes with the process of digestion. That’s why heavy exercise after a big meal can lead to a serious case of indigestion. Instead of moving through your intestines, the food just sits there and pretty soon you don’t feel too good.

The difference between the action and rest systems is important for understanding sexual function and PE because during the Sexual Arousal Cycle, we shift back and forth between the action and the rest systems. Now it’s time to look at how the four phases of the Sexual Arousal Cycle work.

Phase 1: The Arousal


Sexual activity begins with the Arousal Phase where a man gets turned on and begins to develop an erection while the woman begins to lubricate. This is a function of the rest or parasympathetic system. For this phase to work well, you have to be relaxed.

If you are overwhelmed with worries or concerned about your ability to successfully have intercourse, it’s difficult to get turned on. But when the two of you are relaxed and tuned into your increasing, sexual feelings, the woman gets lubricated and the man develops an erection. This is the period of foreplay.

For men who have extreme problems with PE, orgasm can occur during this phase. Only about 1 to 2 percent of men experience PE to this extent. The problem is that the feelings of arousal quickly trigger the orgasmic reflex.

The man who experiences this early orgasm is as disappointed as the woman because the orgasmic release is usually not accompanied by the expected feelings of intense pleasure.

Men report that it seemed to just happen and wasn’t very satisfying. The men are then left unable to continue with intercourse and feel like a failure. We’ll talk about the solution to this along with the more common type of PE a little later in this article.

Phase 2: The Plateau 

In the Plateau Phase, the man enters the woman and they engage in the rhythm of sexual intercourse. This usually lasts from 3 to 5 minutes or longer. During this phase, the couple experiences waves of sexual pleasure that get more and more intense.

The parasympathetic or rest system is in charge during the Plateau phase. However, with intercourse, excitement increases and the sympathetic or action system starts to take over. Alternating between the action and rest systems is crucial to understanding the most common type of PE.

Over a lifetime, about 30 percent of men experience either temporary or long-term PE. For most of them, the problem occurs during the Plateau Phase. At some point, there is a shift into orgasm before the man wants to.

Often, the woman feels frustrated at this point and the man may try to help her have an orgasm with manual stimulation. This works for some couples, but not all.

Phase 3: The Orgasm


As sexual intensity increases during the Plateau Phase, the orgasmic reflex takes over and there is a shift from the rest system of the body to the action system. This was one of Masters' and Johnson’s most important discoveries.

During the first two phases of sexual activity — the Arousal and the Plateau phases — the rest system of the body is in charge. But when orgasm begins the action system takes over. The heart rate shoots up and breathing becomes very intense.

The two systems feel very different. During the Plateau Phase, there is a sense of increasing pleasure and warmth. The shift to the action system during orgasm introduces very intense feelings, powerful muscle contractions and sweating on parts of the body like the palms of the hand and the soles of the feet.

Men who experience PE during the Plateau Phase often try to fight the increasing sexual pleasure to hold off from having an orgasm. This can work for a while but often they find themselves overwhelmed by the increasingly intense feelings and suddenly slip into orgasm.

The key to dealing with PE lies in understanding, experiencing and being able to stay in the pleasant, relaxed feelings of the Plateau Phase without shifting into the much more intense feelings of the action system in the Orgasmic Phase.

Men who have mastered the shift from arousal to orgasm are able to stay with and focus on the pleasant feelings they are sharing with their partner during the Plateau Phase so they don’t suddenly shift into the Orgasmic Phase.

They don’t fight against pleasure. They use the pleasurable drifting feeling of the Plateau Phase to delay the onset of the much more intense feelings of the Orgasmic Phase.

Before we talk about how to stay with the relaxed pleasure of the Plateau Phase, let’s look at the final phase of the sexual arousal cycle.

Phase 4: The Resolution

After orgasm, there is a shift from the action system back to the rest system. At this point, the man enters the Resolution Phase and usually feels intensely relaxed. He may even fall asleep. It may be a while before he can have an erection again. This is called the Resolution Phase.

For men in their teens, this phase may last a minute or so. Later in life, it may take up to a day before a man can have another erection and for a man’s in his 70s or older, it may take two days or more before he is able to have another erection.

This is why an early orgasm can be so frustrating, especially when it happens before intercourse begins. The desire to continue is there, but the physical ability to have an erection disappears for a while. The spirit is willing, but the body is unable to perform.

This brings us to the very important topic of learning how to prevent a premature orgasm. The solution on how to stop premature ejaculation lies not in fighting against sexual pleasure, but in learning the difference in feeling between arousal and orgasm.

1. Delay the point of inevitability.  


As a man moves from arousal to orgasm there is a point where the feelings become so intense that it is almost impossible to stop the orgasm from happening. This is called the point of inevitability. It is also called the point of no return.

Treatments for PE focus on keeping a man in the arousal phase and delaying the point of inevitability. One way is to try to reduce the intensity of sexual feelings. For example, applying numbing cream to the penis lowers the level of sexual pleasure and can help delay the onset of the point of inevitability.

Some herbal formulas increase feelings of relaxation and this can help a man stay in the relaxed arousal phase instead of shifting too quickly into the action system and the orgasmic phase. Some doctors prescribe antidepressants because they have the effect of reducing sexual desire and lowering the intensity of sexual feelings.

One advantage that herbal formulas have is that they do not have some of the undesirable side effects of antidepressant drugs. But both types of treatments can help a man delay the onset of the point of inevitability.

2. Practice.

One way to do this is to practice masturbating without trying to have an orgasm right away. Most men try to come as quickly as possible when they masturbate. In this exercise, a man gets turned on and then stops before he has an orgasm.

Doing this several times in a row and concentrating on the feelings of pleasure helps a man learn the difference between staying in the Plateau Phase versus suddenly slipping into the Orgasmic Phase. Of course, one problem with this is that some men are very uncomfortable with masturbation or have religious beliefs that prevent it.

3. Self Hypnosis


When used properly self-hypnosis can help a man identify the feelings of deep relaxation and combine them with erotic imagery and the feelings of sexual pleasure. In self-hypnosis, a man can drift in a state of sexual pleasure instead of just getting turned on and suddenly moving into orgasm.

Self-hypnosis can also be used in conjunction with other treatments that your medical doctor may recommend.

Whatever it is, it must support sexual arousal in a way that allows a man to practice staying in the relaxed state instead of slipping into the point of inevitability. The ability to drift in a state of sexual pleasure and enjoy those feelings is what sets men who can delay orgasm apart from those who don’t have any sense of control.

Any long-term solution to the problem of PE involves learning the difference between feelings of relaxed sexual arousal and the intense sensations of orgasm. By learning to stay pleasantly aroused, a man can stop fighting against sexual pleasure and learn to enjoy the moment in a relaxed way. This is the pathway to a permanent solution for PE.

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Dr. Karen Gless is a Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice who has developed her own approach to helping couples have a successful and loving relationship. For those with sexual and intimacy problems she created the “Pure Pleasure System” - learn more at Sex Therapy For ways to increase love, get close or handle conflict visit

This article was originally published at Consumer Health Digest. Reprinted with permission from the author.