3 min

Can’t cum with a partner

Dealing with retarded ejaculation

Dear Dr. Ren,

I’m a gay man in my late 30s with a distinctly sexual problem. For a long time I couldn’t cum with a partner, only when I masturbated.

Eventually I learned to cum occasionally with anonymous sex partners, but even then it was rare and only when I was high and the sex was really raunchy and hot.

Now I’ve got a boyfriend I really like and it drives him crazy that I can’t get off when we make love. I hate it, too, but then I’m used to it. I’ve tried to explain that that’s just how I am, but this is becoming a problem between us. Is there some way I can learn how to ejaculate with someone else present? Why am I like this? Have you ever heard of this before?

Not Shy But Dry

Dear NSBD,

The problem you describe is common enough to have its own name: retarded ejaculation, which doesn’t mean it’s stupid, just that it is delayed. As you know, it can be frustrating for both partners.

It can result from some medical conditions or medications, but I suspect that in your case, as for many men, the genesis of your problem was in childhood when you learned to associate pleasurable feelings of masturbation with guilt and shame. This frequently happens when parents happen upon us happily engaged in the reverie of self-pleasuring and angrily chastise us for being bad, dirty or sinful when we had no such associations beforehand.

Of course we are drawn back to our sexual pleasure, but never again can we recapture that innocent sexual bliss. It becomes corrupted in some way, oftentimes acceptable only if we marry it to prohibition.

This would account for how you could ejaculate with anonymous (‘bad’) sexual partners but not with those you care for. It also explains why you can jerk off in private but not with the risk of any powerful and important person witnessing such a potentially damning act.

At the root of this is your belief, probably unconscious, that lust and love cannot coexist.

What you need to do —and it is no small task —is to make lust a little bit tender and loving a little bit naughty until they overlap. It will be this overlapping space where you will find relief and release.

How do you do this? You might begin by watching your boyfriend wank while you switch from the role of loving partner to lusty voyeur, paying close attention to how your internal erotic feelings change. When you can identify these separate processes, work at bringing them together, and then ask him to watch you during the same process.

When you become aware of yourself as the ‘bad’ person being judged by the ‘powerful’ authority figure, you’ll be in a position to start clearing away those old ghosts. Remember, the person you’ll actually be looking at will be your loving partner.

Please note that this is big, old, entrenched stuff. I am not suggesting that you can clear it by doing a few exercises. This is an appropriate situation for some therapeutic help. Nevertheless, these are the underpinnings of the roots of retarded ejaculation and should give you a starting place from which to work.

In the meantime, you would be wise to find ways enjoy lust and love separately with your boyfriend, since you cannot yet revel in them concurrently. Emphasize that your lovemaking need not to focus on orgasm —for you at least —but on sensual pleasures. Your stress levels will decrease and you will be able to concentrate on your mutual intimacy.

On the other hand, when you two are feeling lusty and raunchy, take advantage of your connection with naughtiness and high arousal. Push your limits. What’s the worst that could happen if he ‘caught’ you with your hand on your dick? Could you use that threat to heighten your arousal?

Could he hide in the closet and watch you ‘unbeknownst’ to you? Would it feel different for you if it were his hand holding you? What if you protested? Would that make you innocent?

You get my drift. Push your fears around until the edges allow room for movement. Keep your partner involved in the progression from love-lust split to overlap. Though this is your personal journey, you are not on the path alone.

That said, when one’s sexual problem gets resolved within a relationship, your partner can take on mythic proportions and the relationship can seem more important than it would otherwise. Try to keep your vision clear and your power equal. He will not save you even though he may help you.

Yours is a long-standing issue and may take some time to resolve. Keep your expectations realistic regarding time and measure success in terms of sexual joy rather than ccs of ejaculate.

This is resolvable, though the mind can be difficult to change when it has been moulded early and traumatically.

Still, you enjoy solo masturbation, you have a loving boyfriend, and now you have some cues how to resolve your conflict. All good.