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By Sex therapist and relationship counselor
TODAY contributor
updated 4/10/2008 6:00:29 PM ET 2008-04-10T22:00:29

A new study out of Penn State Erie found that, according to therapists, social workers and physicians at least, the best sexual encounters last between seven and 13 minutes, not including foreplay. That’s a far more reasonable time frame for intercourse than most of us would’ve imagined, and upon hearing these study results, a collective sigh of relief could be heard in bedrooms around the nation.

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However, for the many men who struggle with premature ejaculation (PE), even such a seemingly modest time frame can be a challenge. More than one-third of men chronically suffer from PE. It’s the most common male sexual health problem, affecting both young and old alike, and outnumbering erectile dysfunction (ED) by three times.

Despite the prevalence of PE, it’s hardly an accepted part of our sexual culture, perhaps because there is no Viagra for PE. When sex doesn’t last long enough, a partner may think a man is selfish or unskilled in bed, exacerbating the feelings of anxiety and inadequacy he’s already struggling with and affecting his sexual satisfaction, too. According to a survey by urologists Andrew McCullough, M.D., of the New York University School of Medicine and James Barada, M.D., of the Albany College of Medicine, half of 1,100 men with PE reported they did not enjoy sex because of their struggles with PE.

Partners of men with PE need to understand that it’s not about being lazy in bed; it’s about a lack of control over sexual function, which is embarrassing and frustrating for a man. In fact, a man with PE is often too focused on his partner and whether or not she’s enjoying herself, rather than tuning in to his body to understand and modify his sexual response.

The best thing a woman can do for a partner who doesn’t last long enough in bed is to find other routes to pleasure and encourage him to think beyond his penis. As guys, we need to let ourselves off the hook, and expand the sexual experience to include more than intercourse. Get cliterate! Turn foreplay into coreplay by switching to oral sex or manual stimulation when you feel like you're approaching orgasm. Take the focus, and the pressure, off of the penis. There are plenty of other ways to reach orgasm — all it takes is a little imagination.

During intercourse, I have a method I call Please, Squeeze, At Ease. It teaches a man to recognize his point of orgasmic inevitability and switch to other types of sexual activity to allow the sexual experience to continue. As orgasm approaches, he pulls out and allows himself to experience one or two orgasmic contractions to help diffuse some of the sexual tension that has built up in the pelvic region and cycle back in the process of sexual arousal. Then he or his partner squeezes the tip of the penis and they enjoy some other forms of stimulation before resuming intercourse.

Ultimately, PE isn’t something that a man or a couple ever conquers, but it is something you can modify and work around in the sexual experience, whether it lasts two minutes or two days. (OK, I’m kidding on that last one.)

Ian Kerner is a sex therapist, relationship counselor and New York Times best-selling author of numerous books, including the recently published “Sex Detox: A Program to Detoxify and Rejuvenate Your Love Life.” He was born and raised in New York City, where he lives with his wife, two young sons and plump Jack Russell terrier.

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