PE, or premature ejaculation, affects almost one quarter of men. It batters their self-confidence and plays havoc with their sexual relationships. Many men suffer their whole lives with this affliction, trying unsuccessfully to control the timing of their ejaculations and apologizing to their mates for their failure as lovers. Their women, at first understanding and forgiving, eventually lose patience and withdraw sexually. Many marriages fail under the weight of this burden. The defeated husbands leave knowing they take this shame with them to their next relationship and the cycle continues anew.
It begins years earlier, when we as mothers slap away our son’s hands fondling his penis and tell him “No.” We reinforce it when we punish him for playing doctor. We cement it when we supply him with no information and little privacy and socially condemn masturbation as a violation.
What is he to do, this pubescent lad coursing with hormones and curiosity, plagued with erections and surrounded with erotic images, if he cannot find pleasure and release in masturbation? He can learn subterfuge and stealth is what. He can learn to get off as fast as possible before getting caught.
And that is exactly what he does: as this boy is imprinting his sexual response cycle, he does so not with pleasure and leisure, but furtively, rushed, and suffused with guilt and shame. The pattern is established and reinforced until he forms his early romantic connections, themselves often rushed and unsatisfying.
If he is lucky, he will establish sexual relationships sufficiently long-term and caring to adjust this response pattern to include pleasure and leisure. If not, he carries his original pattern with him until there is an intervention, usually in the form of sex therapy, often after years of disappointment and embarrassment.
And so I aim this column at the mothers and fathers of little boys, hoping to alert you to the pivotal role you have in the shaping of your son’s sexual happiness. I am fully aware and respectful of the intergenerational sexual taboo between parents and children. I also know that you have the power to teach your boys pride, pleasure and comfort in their bodies. You can do this by leaving your toddlers alone when they happily fondle their genitals and by closing the door when you encounter them playing doctor (you may want to provide books with sex information appropriate to their age following your discovery). Don’t wait for them to ask you about sex—lead with information. Before they hit puberty, prepare them for the physical changes awaiting them and explain that their bodies are in training for sex.
This is your opportunity to impart your family values about sexuality. If you want your children to believe that sex is a glorious, fun-filled game that adults play, this is the time to explain that. Let them know now about nocturnal emissions (wet dreams) so they won’t be alarmed by them. Tell them about the value and enjoyment of masturbation. Talk about the pleasure of sex. This is a good time to talk about privacy. Start knocking–and wait for a response–before entering your child’s room.
Will you feel awkward and embarrassed? Probably! Happily, there are marvellous books to help you. Plan an outing to a bookstore and find the sexuality section. Locate some books written for parents and targeted to kids their age. Pick a topic that makes you feel particularly uncomfortable–oftentimes that’s masturbation. Look up that topic in the Index of each book and see which books best match your family values. Shortlist accordingly and choose your favourites from those winners.
After you have read your chosen books, present the books to your kids or read them together. Don’t make it a big deal. Your children will love being informed and will learn that they can come to you with questions.
Optimally this process starts when your children are toddlers and evolves, but it is never too late. Informed kids are protected kids. They are less vulnerable to exploitation and manipulation and they grow up more confident and respectful of themselves and others. And boys who are given information, permission and privacy regarding masturbation grow up avoiding the agony of premature ejaculation.
As we come to the end of another year, perhaps it would make a fine new year’s resolution to do more to foster good healthy sexuality in our children.