We asked the experts how your masturbation habits could be screwing with your sex life.
Welcome to the new BuzzFeed Sex Q&A where you can ask us your awkward, confusing, gross, embarrassing, or thought-provoking questions, and we’ll provide answers from leading sexual health experts. Have a question about sex or sexual health? Send it to sexQs@buzzfeed.com.
This week’s question:
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Q: Hi, I am a cisgender male, I’m engaged to my wonderful cisgender male fiancé. I love him dearly and we have wonderful sex. Except I can’t ejaculate in front of him no matter how wonderful it feels.
The only way I can ejaculate is if my penis is flaccid, I’m alone, the room is silent, I lay face down on my bed, cupping my penis and balls in my hands, and basically grind my penis into my hands. Also, because I ejaculate with a flaccid penis, I’ve noticed I do have a hard time keeping an erect penis when having sex. I’ve tried multiple testosterone pills, herbal supplements, different masturbation poses, and not masturbating for weeks. Nothing works, what’s going on?
Thank you, Dustin
Hi, Dustin! Thanks so much for sending along your question. To help answer it, we spoke with Dr. Harry Fisch, clinical professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, and sex therapist Neil Cannon, Ph.D. Here’s what they had to say:
You should know that it’s NOT uncommon for your masturbation habits to pull one over on your sex life. Really.
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Now, we’re not saying there’s anything wrong with masturbating — obviously, it can be freaking fantastic. But you can actually be too good at masturbating, and that can be a problem if you’re doing it in a way that’s not easily replicable with a partner. It’s something Fisch sees a lot in his practice. “Guys come in and say I can’t ejaculate when I’m having sex with a partner, but if I masturbate it’s no problem,” he tells BuzzFeed Life. Essentially, they’ve been conditioned to orgasm in one certain way, and when they don’t get that during sex, they can’t finish.
But you may be able to retrain yourself to orgasm in other ways.
Some people use a specific hand pattern that never changes, or they use a lot of pressure, or they masturbate in a position or situation that isn’t something you can replicate during sex. What you described above is actually called prone masturbation (where you masturbate lying on your stomach), Cannon tells BuzzFeed Life, and it can definitely make it harder to have an orgasm during sex with a partner.
It’s great that you’ve tried taking a break from masturbating and switching up your technique, which are both things that Fisch and Cannon recommend. The thing is, you really have to commit to these things for them to work. Fisch suggests not masturbating for at least a month. In addition to that, you should stop masturbating in the prone position completely until you’re at a place you want to be sexually, says Cannon.
If this is something you’ve been doing forever and you really want to be able to ejaculate with your fiancé, you’ll probably want to work through the next steps with a sex therapist.
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They’ll likely suggest some behavioral therapy that will gradually help you get away from this conditioned response, says Cannon. It may include masturbating outside of the prone position to erection and orgasm, then maybe masturbating with your partner in the room, then maybe masturbating while in bed together, and eventually stimulating each other to orgasm, he says.
Obviously, you’re not going to get off as easily as you did with your go-to move, but that’s OK. Try not to get discouraged. “Don’t worry about whether you’re hard, don’t worry about whether you ejaculate. Just focus on the pleasure,” says Cannon.
That said, the fact that you masturbate and ejaculate while flaccid might be pointing to another problem.
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People can definitely orgasm without getting erect, but this is more often the case in older men with erectile dysfunction or in men who already got off several times that day. But if this is something you’ve always been doing, it’s definitely worth checking in with a doctor (or a urologist specifically) to check your hormone levels and cardiovascular health — both of which can affect your erections.
Some of the most common causes of low testosterone are being overweight, not getting enough sleep, excessive alcohol use, or certain medications like narcotics — but there are a variety of other factors your doctor can talk to you about.
But don’t try to self-medicate with testosterone pills or herbal supplements. Fisch doesn’t recommend giving young men external sources of testosterone since it could make it harder for their bodies to produce it on its own. Instead, your doctor might talk to you about lifestyle factors that can boost your own production of the hormone. There’s also an anti-estrogen prescription that some doctors prescribe off-label, which can help your body make its own testosterone, says Fisch.
Or it could also have a psychological or emotional basis.
There’s always the chance that not being able to orgasm with your partner is rooted in some sort of anxiety, stress, fear, or discomfort, says Cannon. These might center around your relationship, your sexuality, your performance, or any other number of things going on in your life. Again, a sex therapist would be a great resource for helping you work through these roadblocks so you can have the orgasms you want to be having. (The American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors Therapists would be a good place to start looking for a provider in your area.)
Here’s the thing: Not everyone orgasms during sex and that’s completely fine, too.
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As fantastic as it would be if we all had multiple orgasms together every time our genitals were touched, that’s just not realistic for everyone. And more importantly, there is no rule that says an orgasm is the definitive marker of great sex, so if you and your fiancé are both enjoying yourselves, that’s all that matters.
Another important thing to note here is that sex can mean a lot of different things, so while we’re not sure exactly what it means to you and your fiancé, there are definitely steps you can take to make yourself more comfortable having an orgasm around him:
1. The first step would be to stop prone masturbating entirely and instead self-stimulating in other ways that you can replicate with your partner.
2. If you’re still having trouble getting or keeping an erection, talk to a doctor or urologist about any tests or medications that might help.
3. Find a sex therapist who can help you work through the behavioral changes that can take you from prone masturbation to satisfying orgasms with your partner, and one who can help you identify any mental or emotional roadblocks in your way.
4. When you’re with your partner, just explore, be playful, and focus on what feels good. Remember: This actually isn’t uncommon and isn’t something that you should be afraid to bring up with a doctor, partner, or sex therapist.
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