August 16, 2019

What Causes Premature Ejaculation?

Ejaculating more quickly than you’d like can be frustrating and stressful. Here are potential causes of premature ejaculation.
Written by
Louise Bourchier, MPH
Published on
August 16, 2019
Updated on
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Feeling anxious that you might ejaculate too quickly can make sexy time stressful. It’s hard to enjoy the sensations and intimacy of sex when you’re worrying about your performance and concerned it may disappoint and frustrate you and your partner. People in this situation often wonder: “Why can’t I just last longer?”

What Is Premature Ejaculation?

Premature ejaculation is a term used to describe when a person ejaculates sooner than they (and their partner) would like. While it’s a common issue, there is no specific length of time that qualifies as premature ejaculation; you can’t say that if a person takes less than X minutes to finish that they’re experiencing premature ejaculation. Since there isn’t a standard duration to compare to, the term “rapid ejaculation” is preferred by some people and doctors.

Premature ejaculation is primarily an issue if it feels like an issue: Do you struggle to control ejaculation? Does the time it takes to finish cause a problem for you or your partner? If it’s not troubling anyone, then it’s not a problem. If, however, it’s causing distress and worry, that’s when it’s a problem.

Since there isn’t a standard duration to compare to, the term “rapid ejaculation” is preferred by some people and doctors.

Studies show that the average length of time for penis-in-vagina penetration to last before ejaculation is around five minutes, but there is a lot of variation between people, and even one person can take a shorter or longer time to come depending on factors like stress, how turned on they are, and how long it’s been since they last had an orgasm.

What Causes Premature Ejaculation?

For many people who ejaculate sooner than they’d like, there’s no official “cause,” per se. They would just like to last longer! But for some people there may be physical or psychological causes underpinning the problem. Understanding the causes can help you work out the best strategies to manage premature ejaculation in your situation.

Performance Anxiety

The fear of ejaculating too soon can be very distracting—and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy! If you’ve experienced rapid ejaculation in the past, it can become something you worry about every time you’re having sex. When you’re worried about it, you’re focusing on it and tensing up, both of which make a quick ejaculation more likely. Unfortunately, it’s a negative feedback loop!

Pelvic Floor Muscle Tightness

Pelvic floor issues, especially muscle tightness, can be an underlying factor with premature ejaculation. When the muscles are tight, it can trigger ejaculation sooner than you’d like. Studies show that learning to control the muscles using Kegels and practicing relaxing exercises can help with premature ejaculation.

Age And Inexperience

When you're new to sex, being sexual with someone can be especially exciting. You may not have learned how to fully control your body yet, and rapid ejaculation can be part of that. As you get older and more practiced, you are likely to also gain more control over your ejaculation and, as a result, be able to last longer.

Stimulation Prior To Penetration

If you’ve already had quite a bit of stimulation to your penis before attempting penetration—for instance, manual stimulation or oral sex—you may already be highly aroused and near orgasm before penetration. So reducing other stimulation of the penis beforehand can help.

Alcohol And Drugs

Alcohol, cannabis, and other drugs reduce your control over your body, so when you’re under the influence, rapid ejaculation can be more likely. Some people use these substances as a strategy to help with rapid ejaculation, thinking it will make them to be more relaxed and slow everything down. While this may be true for some people, the opposite is just as likely.

Past Trauma

Sometimes rapid ejaculation can be due to past traumatic sexual experiences. The psychological aftereffects of this trauma can lead to ejaculation issues, and may also be a cause of erection issues.

Prostate Inflammation

Having an enlarged prostate (from aging or infection) can also be an underlying cause of rapid ejaculation. A medical care provider can help determine if this is affecting you and can recommend treatments.

Happily there are a number of effective strategies and tips for managing rapid ejaculation, so don’t let this frustrating issue keep you from pursuing the pleasure you deserve!

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

Louise Bourchier is a sex educator and sex researcher with 8 years experience in the field. She teaches about sexual health, sexual pleasure, and communication in relationships through workshops, live-streams, and with written content. Using a sex-positive approach, a dash of humour, and bag full of fun props, Louise’s style of sex education for adults is not what you got in high school! Since 2011 she has taught over a hundred workshops to a wide range of audiences, from university students, to refugees, to medical professionals, to adult store clientele. She has a Masters of Public Health, and is currently a PhD candidate.

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