How to Do It

I Have a Penis Issue That No One Told Me to Expect

Two people getting ready for sex with a glowing X in the background
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by JackF/iStock/Getty Images Plus and koya79/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

How to Do It is Slate’s sex advice column. Have a question? Send it to Stoya and Rich here. It’s anonymous!

Every week, the crew responds to a bonus question in chat form.

Dear How to Do It,

My question is about penis mechanics. My wife and I are in our early 50s. We’ve been married 20 years, and luckily after all this time, we still manage to have sex with some frequency. But recently I’ve had trouble finishing sometimes during intercourse. This has very rarely been an issue for me for my whole adult life. For as long as I can remember, I have often had a hard time holding back from ejaculation almost immediately when things get going, but if I can stay on the edge but stifle the urge for long enough, I sort of get past it and can then carry on in a more relaxed manner. Until relatively recently, every so often I “got past it” and then found it very hard to finish through intercourse. But now this is happening a lot! I can’t predict beforehand when this might happen, but lately it is often. I can always finish myself off, and my wife is more-or-less game to do other things to help me out, but both of us enjoy it more when I can bring it home the old-fashioned way. Is this just part of aging that no one talks about? Is there anything I can do about it? I’ve tried abstaining from “self-help” for days before we do the deed, and it doesn’t seem to make much of a difference.

—Over the Hump

Stoya: We have this widespread idea that sex follows a certain (heteronormative) formula in which much thrusting of penises into lower orifices occurs until male orgasm, and then the sex stops. But our writer can absolutely flip that script.

Rich: We hear from a lot of people who have actually found workarounds to their issues that involve upending these ideas of how sex “should” go, but they still hold on to those ideas. It’s like: You’ve done it! You figured out the way! You’ve solved your own problem!

Stoya: Yeah … I was at a loss for what to say, because the solution I would offer is what our writer is describing as the problem.

Rich: If I’m reading the note right, he’s experiencing delayed orgasm. However, since he’s pretty vague about exactly what’s going on when he encounters his issue. I just want to say a few things about ED, in case that’s what’s inhibiting his ability to finish via intercourse. If that’s the issue, there are a host of things he can try, starting with ED drugs. Definitely visit a doctor to see if there are underlying conditions causing the ED that are associated with aging, such as weight gain, diabetes, or prostate issues. If he’s achieving erections that are waning, he might not even need meds and could try a cock ring to give him a little more stability.

Stoya: I’m not sure that his difficulty achieving orgasm if he restrains himself through the initial desire to orgasm has anything to do with age, since he says he’s had this for his whole adult life. I have a friend who has a really hard time orgasming, and he simply doesn’t most of the time—the journey is the reward, as it were.

Rich: Delayed ejaculation, however, sometimes presents with age and can be a result of lowered testosterone, so I’d definitely see a doctor to get my T levels checked.  It can owe to other issues—some psychological, some physiological—so a full exam/battery of tests would be useful just in case there’s an underlying physical condition. There are meds to treat delayed ejaculation, too (though they’re drugs that were developed to treat issues: amantadine, for example, is a Parkinson’s medication).

Stoya: “See a doctor” is a recurring theme at How to Do It for a reason.

Rich: Haha yes. Let us blow your mind with this one: The field of medicine is extremely useful. Like your friend, I’ve seen several guys that can go for a while but need to finish themselves off at the end. Again, it doesn’t fit the script, but it ends up working out? Some receptive partners appreciate the longer intercourse time.

Stoya: Speaking of receptive partners, I’m wondering if prostate massage might be interesting to our writer.

Rich: And if it does help him achieve orgasm, or a more intense orgasm, he could incorporate that into intercourse by wearing a butt plug during sex.

Stoya: Yes!

Rich: I’d also recommending abstaining from sex for longer than a few days, just as a test. During various periods of increased sexual activity, I’ve experienced something like delayed ejaculation. It’s more like a failure to get adequately excited/engaged. You can feel like you’re going through the motions. I’ve regularly found that starving libido is a great way to recharge my dick to enjoy intercourse.

Stoya: And the more data he can gather, the more his doctors will have to work with.

Rich: Exactly, think of this as a project.

Stoya: So experimenting with different conditions is useful.

Rich: And fun since they inevitably involve sex and exploration!

Stoya: Notes might be a good way of keeping track of what they’ve tried and how they’ve responded.

Rich: Get organized, get off.

More How to Do It

I am a lady in my mid-30s, and over the past year, I’ve gotten close to a 40-ish married man whom I met through a work colleague. We’ve started an online-only sexual relationship, with plans to connect physically in the future. I’ve tried to cover my own electronic tracks—it would be quite devastating for my work life if my colleague found out that I was sleeping with her neighbor—so I’m not afraid of his wife tracing sexts back to me. For a variety of other reasons, this sexual relationship appeals to me at the moment. I don’t believe it will be long term, and it’s quite hot. We’ve had conversations about discretion, including from my co-worker, but I’ve never explicitly asked what his wife knows or doesn’t. Should I? I can’t decide if it matters. Should I have figured this out, or is it his business?