June is Men’s Health Month. So let’s talk about what sexual conditions don’t need treatment.
* Juan has no interest in sex most of April
Wrong diagnosis: “inhibited desire”
Juan is an accountant, and so April 15 is the toughest day of the year for him. Actually, April 14 is the toughest day for him, and the two weeks before that are tough, too: he’s flooded with email and phone calls from anxious clients, angry clients, scared clients, and clueless clients. He works 18-hour days in April, and as the 15th draws closer, he knows what’s coming. Every year it takes him a week or more to recover.
Some men turn to sex when they feel overloaded. But many others simply can’t focus on sex when they’re under a lot of stress. When a man feels anxious, angry, guilty, or afraid of a partner’s judgments, these emotions can override the brain’s messages that would otherwise create desire.
* Henry climaxes before his wife almost every time
Wrong diagnosis: “premature ejaculation”
There is, of course, a frustrating condition wherein a man ejaculates soon after getting erect, or soon after getting inside his partner. But measuring “rapid ejaculation” primarily by whether he lasts long enough to make his partner climax is a mistake. Most women, after all, don’t climax from intercourse without a hand or vibrator on their clitoris. And women who can climax from intercourse alone may require 10 or 15 minutes of thrusting. Most men won’t last this long, especially if they’re enjoying the sex and are emotionally engaged.
There are ways men can learn to last longer—primarily by learning how to relax during sex, and by both partners reducing the pressure through emphasizing non-intercourse sex. But for many reasons, it’s crucial that “woman-coming-during-intercourse” NOT be the gold standard of sex. When it is, both men and women tend to feel like failures.
* Harold doesn’t want to kiss as much as he used to
Wrong diagnosis: “fear of intimacy”
Passionate kissing is the most intimate of all erotic activities. If you doubt this, consider: have you ever had intercourse when you were annoyed with someone? Most of us have. Have you ever passionately kissed someone when you were upset with them? Eyeeeeew—-gross!
People withdraw from kissing for a number of reasons—psychological, relational, physical. Before we interpret why someone loses interest in kissing, we should ask: do you enjoy it? If not, why not? Sometimes there are problems in the relationship that people don’t feel comfortable discussing. Sometimes it’s simpler—they don’t like the way their partner kisses, and they don’t feel comfortable discussing that. And sometimes it’s even simpler—they’re taking a medication that makes their mouth taste funny, or their partner is, or their partner has changed their brand of toothpaste (or has stopped using toothpaste).
Assuming our partner’s behavior is always about us is a mistake that can lead to chronic conflict, undermining a relationship.
* Rex can’t “have sex” twice in an evening
Wrong diagnosis: “erectile dysfunction”
Every man’s sexual biology demands a “refractory period”—the mandatory reloading time between ejaculating and when he can get another erection. As a teenager, this refractory period is quite brief, often just a few minutes. But as men age, this mandatory resting period gets longer and longer. In middle age it may be several hours; in old age it could be an entire day.
When a man is used to his youthful 3-erections-a day rhythm, getting older can bring many surprises. If he and his partner are sexual, say, before dinner, have a big meal, and then expect to make love soon after, his penis may simply not be ready. That’s not a “dysfunction.” That’s just the natural evolution of his functioning, the same way our vision or sleep patterns change as we get older.
Note that there is NO refractory period for cuddling, sweet talk, and getting your partner a glass of water. A man can do these whether his body is ready for another erection or not.
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The range of common human sexual functioning is tremendously broad. And different people need different conditions for their bodies and their minds to participate fully in sexual activities.
Before we go assuming that we—or a partner—have a dysfunction, addiction, or emotional problem involving sex, we should be realistic, compassionate, and informed about the circumstances. Sometimes the main difficulty in a sexual situation is that someone is disappointed that their body (or their partner’s body) doesn’t do what they want it to do, when they want it.
That’s an easy problem to fix: change your expectations, and open your mind to different ways of experiencing sexuality.
Think of it this way: if a man is in the middle of making love, and the woman suddenly says “Omigod, I think I hear my husband coming up the stairs,” and he loses his erection, would you say he has a “dysfunction?”