It’s a random Wednesday afternoon. My girlfriend and I are having yet another conversation about sex.
“Can you be a little less Kanye in bed?”
This is not a question you want to hear from your girlfriend. What does that even mean? Be less arrogant? Less MAGA? And why is she bringing up Kanye in the middle of a conversation about sex?
“What are you talking about?”
“You didn’t hear about the Kanye sex tape?”
I Google “Kanye sex tape” and find an article from 2012. A video of Kanye West having sex with a Kim Kardashian lookalike made the rounds, and many were marveling at Kanye’s 40 minutes of uninterrupted stroking.
“So, what’s the problem?” I ask.
“The problem is sex shouldn’t take that long.”
For as long as I can remember, hour-plus sessions have been typical for me.
I thought it was a good thing. Between spending my formative years watching porn and listening to comedians, films, and that Missy Elliott song about one-minute men, I assumed that my hour-plus marathons were the goal. One minute is not good? How about 100 minutes!
I search for “sex too long” and find article after article about men who take too long to climax. I know at a certain point enough is enough, but I didn’t think I was anywhere near that. My girlfriend felt differently.
“What do you want me to do?” I ask.
“Figure out how to make it not last so long.”
“So, you don’t like it?”
“I do. But my kidneys can’t take it.”
Between my cursory understanding of human anatomy and the fact that my penis isn’t the size of a billy club, I don’t get why her kidneys would be an issue. I’ve listened to hip-hop my entire life and never heard a rapper brag about beating the kidneys up.
Turns out that’s what I’ve been doing.
She explains that in our four months of dating, she has had two kidney infections related to urinary tract infections. Women who have sex three or more times per week or have longer than average sessions are more likely to have UTIs that can lead to kidney infections. In a woman’s body, the urethra, vagina, and anus are close together. Urinating after sex helps flush out bacteria that could cause a UTI, but if a session lasts for 90 minutes, the damage is already being done before sex is even over.
And, yes, there is an actual name for men like me. The affliction is called “delayed ejaculation.” The information is fairly vague because we don’t really know what the tipping point is for ejaculation to be considered delayed. Is it delayed if it lasts 30 minutes? Sixty minutes? Even now that I’m in my 40s, I can easily go longer than 60 minutes, so DE definitely applies to me.
The most comprehensive study tracking sex duration timed 500 couples’ sexcapades, with the shortest session being 33 seconds and the longest being 40 minutes. The average time was a little over five minutes. But even these studies can be murky when it comes to sorting out a desirable length of time. Who decides when sex ends? Is it when a man climaxes or when everyone has gotten theirs? What about time spent on oral sex or using toys? Not to mention the heteronormativity of it all.
The vagueness of delayed ejaculation is further exacerbated by the myriad of potential causes. I read through them one by one.
Chronic health condition? Nope.
Poor body image? Eh. Depends on the day.
Relationship problems? We’re good.
Religious taboos? Next.
Depression? Wait. Shit.
I have not been formally diagnosed with depression or anxiety, but I’m sure I’ve experienced both, particularly at the end of my marriage a few years ago. When I saw that could be a cause, I decided to have a rather uncomfortable conversation with my ex-wife. I flat-out asked her if our sessions had ever been too long, meaning an hour or more. She said no. So I realized that the origins of my DE were after my divorce.
I thought immediately of Leslie, the woman I met at a conference in 2015. Leslie was smart, funny, and attractive, and we clicked quickly. She was my first partner after my wife and I called it quits. We had sex three times during the conference. Each time, after over an hour, I would pretend to climax, slink off to the bathroom and flush my empty condom down the toilet. I had a blast. I just didn’t “blast.”
This had continued happening with partners after my divorce, up to and including my current girlfriend, who was the first to make me realize it was actually abnormal to last well past an hour without climaxing.
So here’s a look at the facts when it comes to DE. There are two main delineations.
- Lifelong vs. acquired: While some men have had to deal with DE their entire sexual lives, others develop the condition later, either over time or as the result of a singular event.
- Situational vs. general: For some men, DE presents itself under specific circumstances. Something as simple as having the lights on or off could make all the difference. For others, DE presents regardless of circumstance.
My classification, then, is acquired/general.
It’s clear that DE is a tricky thing to figure out. My dad felt like he didn’t last long enough. But what if my mom just didn’t want to last at all? It’s all very subjective.
I have begun “pregaming” before sex when possible. If I get myself close to the edge before I see my girl, it will last just 30 minutes instead of 60.
There isn’t much in the way of therapy for DE. The few drugs that can help are primarily prescribed for other conditions including Parkinson’s disease, general anxiety, and allergies. I also believe there isn’t much in the way of treatment because there’s no pity party for guys with too much stamina.
In the short time since discovering DE was an actual condition, I have been sorting out how best to handle it. Here’s what works for me.
1. Let the games begin
I have begun “pregaming” before sex when possible. If I get myself close to the edge before I see my girl, it will last just 30 minutes instead of 60. This means we have to schedule sex sometimes. My girlfriend will send me her GPS location, and I’ll know, “Oh, she’s 20 minutes away. Time to hit PornHub!”
2. The finish line
We are taught that sex ends when a man finishes and that his finishing is a default occurrence. I try to make sure that my climax is not the default ending so that there is less pressure if it doesn’t happen.
3. Mission impossible
Sometimes, there just has to be a hard stop. In order for my girlfriend’s bladder and kidneys to remain healthy, she has to have a set finish line. Sex ending in 30 minutes whether or not I have finished has taken a lot of the pressure off both of us.
So, that Kanye sex tape? If he does have DE, that wasn’t a man with an erotic superpower. Instead, he might be struggling with a larger health issue. It may be mental, physical, or both, and what you are watching could be a symptom disguised as goals.
While I’ll be the first to admit the humor and curiosity of the symptom, it should not overshadow its causes. Erectile dysfunction is a billion-dollar industry, and if you can’t get it up or it doesn’t last long, there’s a pill for that. I won’t look for any magic pills for my issue. But it doesn’t mean I don’t need it.