Tag: Improve your sex life

Traumatic Masturbatory Syndrome

In his ground-breaking research in the fifties, Kinsey found the most common answer to the question, “How do you masturbate?” was “The usual way.” It still holds true today. Though we each develop individual styles of packing our suitcases or organizing our closets, we assume that everyone masturbates just like we do. Not so.

Generally it doesn’t make much difference how we pleasure ourselves so long as we enjoy ourselves and get the job done. However, for a surprising number of males, there is a style that becomes problematic. It bears the unwieldy title of traumatic masturbatory syndrome.

When men engage in TMS, they lie on their stomachs, often with a pillow under their hips, and tighten their thigh and buttocks muscles rhythmically until they ejaculate. They may or may not rock their hips. They do not touch their genitals with their hands, which are often held tightly at their sides or pulled up against their chests.

TMS
TMS position

You may wonder why your position during masturbation would have any effect on you at all, and you’d be correct in asking. Ordinarily it doesn’t. If you lie on your side, or on your back, or even sit while jerking off, your face and body are exposed to your surroundings. Your hands are likely encircling your penis and stroking your thighs, chest and testicles.

In TMS, none of this is true. Boys who learn this masturbatory technique tend to become isolated with their fantasies during arousal and ejaculation. They close their eyes and go inside–these are not porn watchers. Since they are not touching themselves, they do not learn to associate touch with the pleasure of sex. Also, their rigid body form certainly does not mimic the fluid lovemaking they will be enjoying in later years.

It is the transference of erotic patterning from solo to partnered sex that prompted sexologists to dub this “traumatic” masturbatory syndrome, for these fellows experience great difficulty relating erotically to another person. Everything about partnered sex feels wrong to them. The touch of another’s skin, so much a turn-on for a man who has learned to associate stroking with pleasure, is a distraction and/or an annoyance for one who lies silently, internally focused, clenching and releasing his muscles, hands balled into fists. Eye contact is difficult, as are relaxing and changing positions during lovemaking. Murmuring sweet nothings? Not likely. In fact, sharing the journey from erotic stirrings to orgasm is next to impossible for a man who has learned to masturbate on his stomach without touching his genitals. He becomes sexually crippled in terms of partnered sex.

It requires some intensive therapy to undo the damaging effects of this masturbatory pattern. Not only does the man’s masturbatory behaviour need to change, but also his perspective from inward to outward. If TMS is well-established, many men may find it difficult to relate to sexual partners physically. By the time they come in for treatment, they are often socially withdrawn and sexually anxious.

Treatment requires motivation and dedication. It begins with a thorough sex history and homework exercises that progress over a series of sessions, changing not only the man’s physical position while masturbating but also his relationship with his body, sex, and his relationship with his sexually appealing partners. This transition can require a fair number of sessions, but the resulting change brings relief and interpersonal connection!

TMS is far more easily prevented than cured. When speaking to your boys about sexuality, mention that masturbation is self-pleasuring they’ll do on their backs. If you suspect your child is already masturbating, encourage his creative fantasizing by suggesting he get a magazine with pictures that arouse him (he can’t look at pictures with his face buried in a pillow). Your sex positive attitude will also decrease his anxiety about his changing body and his new-found favourite pastime and lead to his leisurely exploration of his sexual arousal pattern. Though this may be tough for you to do, you will be giving him the chance for great sex throughout his lifetime. He and his lovers will thank you (perhaps tacitly) for it, I assure you.

Regardless of your masturbatory style, try doing it new ways occasionally. It will keep you ever ready to try new and different sexual positions and experiences, knowing that your body can respond to varied stimulations. You’ll be glad you did.

Good Sexual Relationship Essentials: Easier Than You Think

This August, Vancouver hosted the 33rd annual meeting of the International Academy of Sex Research, where I was privileged to meet the stars in the field of sexuality research and to hear them present their latest findings. Among them was Dr Peggy Kleinplatz, an Ottawa-based sex therapist who has been gathering data from seniors in long-term, sexually-successful relationships. Her subjects were all over 60, in their relationships for 25 years or more, and happy with their sex lives. Dr. Kleinplatz and her team wanted to know how they had done it.

They designed the study along scientifically rigorous guidelines. Only Kleinplatz and her assistant knew the identity of the respondents. Once the interviews were completed, they coded the responses and had them processed by other researchers who were blind to ages, genders, and other demographics. What did those researchers learn?

One interesting finding was that the researchers could not identify older from younger, male from female, nor geographical, ethnic, or any other specific differences among the happy couples. This indicates that when we form long-standing, contented, mutually beneficial relationships and are bolstered by meaningful, joyous sexuality, differences between people vanish. Erasing those disparities enables peaceful co-existence and encourages sexual adventurousness.

As well, there were no complicated magical formulae, no unusual practices that these couples used to preserve good sex for twenty-five years or more, other than a sustained insistence on the importance of sexuality in their lives. Though all of these couples were devoted and loving, the majority were polyamorous, or had become so during the course of their relationships. Surely this signals a confidence not only personally but also in their union, so that fidelity was not confused with possession. They viewed sex as a natural and healthy human expression and revelled in its open expression.

These couples set aside time for sex on a regular basis. Being older, they gave sex more time than they did when they were younger and distracted by work and family duties. Some began planning their weekend of sex on Thursday by preparing finger food so they would not be interrupted by hunger over the next few days. Then they spent the weekend luxuriating in lazy, playful sex until Monday started another week’s routine.

Note the word “playful” in that sentence. That’s the key factor found by Kleinplatz’s team. When they analyzed all the data, laughter was the key element. Those couples who laughed, giggled, and thoroughly enjoyed themselves during sex reported solid, happy relationships. Given that one feature, other demographics fell away, leaving happy, loving, communicative couples. Simple, eh?

This is the newest research–cutting edge stuff–performed under rigorous conditions by highly educated, dedicated professionals hungry for accurate information. And the answer? Laughter! Fun! Taking time to enjoy playful sex on a regular basis for many happy years!

This is great news. We can all do this. True, some relationships may need remedial work, but that’s available through sex therapy with dedication, hard work and open hearts. If you already have a strong and loving union, this new research is the hopeful and confirming news you need to fuel years of ongoing love, sex, and companionship.

Penis Size

Dear Subscribers,

The following letter came to me via my website. It reflects such a common issue that I’m sure it will resonate with many of you. Here’s your chance to ‘listen in’ and examine a sexual issue. Feel free to send me your own questions. Even if your letter doesn’t make the Hot Topics column, you will get a personal response.

Please Note: All identifying information in this, and all other, articles has been modified to preserve confidentiality. You can always count on this.

Question:

Dear Dr. Ren,

I am totally embarrassed by this question.

My wife and I have been married for 10 years. We are both relatively fit and able-bodied. The marriage is great and we have 2 wonderful children; it’s just that most of the time we only have time for quickies (dodging the kids) and I would rather use my penis. I can really only pleasure her orally or with different types of devices because my penis very small fully erect. The width of it, along with the length just isn’t enough, I guess, to me more personally than my wife. Although there is no problem with my erections, my wife gets no pleasure when I’m inserted. It would be great if I could finish the job with just my penis.

We have tried many different positions and have bought many books showing other sexual methods. I have never tried any product I see advertised. Is there really anything out there that enhances the penis?

Answer:

Let me begin by assuring you that anything over about two inches in penis length is wasted as far as vaginas go. You see, women don’t have nerve endings except in the outer third of the vagina (it’s why we aren’t aware of tampons). The pleasurable sensations we experience from deep penetration are from pressure on the cervix, which can be accomplished quite well with fingers and dildos. I suspect your wife’s lack of pleasure is far more psychological than physical…we are sold such a bill of goods (women as well as men) regarding the ‘bigger is better’ myth.

You are correct that girth is more important than length. And your comment “to me more personally than my wife” reveals much insight, too. If she is dissatisfied, experiment with positions, toys, different touching techniques, etc, and above all, keep talking and listening. And try to believe her when she tells you she wouldn’t trade you in for anything in the world. As to wanting to “finish the job with just my penis”, you may be looking at an ego issue rather than a sexual issue…and that’s a good thing because you can control that. Please believe me when I tell you women are far more satisfied with a caring, attentive lover with a small dick than an insensitive lout with a big one.

I see from your letter that you are comfortable using toys (and, I presume, your hands). I suggest you continue to intersperse intercourse (which, again I’m presuming, YOU enjoy) with oral sex, penetration with dildos for that full feeling your wife likes, and digital manipulation.

As to your question about whether there is actually anything that will extend penis length, yes, there is, but they are imperfect. Check with your local sex store, or contact Good Vibrations. They carry a condom-like sheath that has an extension included, providing extra length. It might be just what you are looking for.

As for creams, lotions, etc…it’s all snake oil. There are penile extension surgeries, but they are very high risk and many men rue the day their egos convinced them to agree to them. There is also a technique (much less dangerous) in which the suspensory ligaments are severed so the penis hangs lower from the body, giving the effect of being longer. Problem? The suspensory ligaments anchor the organ…cut them, and you have no control of the penis, so you must hold it in place during sex or you keep missing your target while thrusting. What a bother.

The fact that you usually have time only for quickies is certainly as much of your problem as the size of your penis. My bet is that if you and your wife set aside time each week for nothing other than creating a safe and comfortable environment in which sex and intimacy can happen, you will both be far more satisfied. I do understand how ‘quickies’ become the norm in a busy household, but your letter cues me that this may well not be affording you what you are seeking. Have a look at my article ‘Mate Dates’, and call the babysitter.

I hope this helps. If you are enjoying a good marriage after ten years, you’re doing something right! Apparently, you and your wife are communicating and problem solving together. The enjoyment of sex is much more between our ears than between our legs. Still, I hear your anguish and hope that these suggestions will bring you some welcome relief from concern.

If you need more information, just ask.

Women’s Unpredictable Orgasms

I find myself explaining to clients the difference in men’s and women’s orgasmic patterns so often that it seems right to devote a Hot Topic to this essential information. It is true that all human bodies respond physiologically almost identically, but the stimulation we require to achieve orgasm varies considerably. The more we know about our own pleasure paths and those of our partners, the more fun we can have sexually.

The difference revolves around the point of inevitability of orgasm. That is the moment when you know—really know—that you are about to come. What happens for men at this moment is invariable – they come. It doesn’t matter if their mother-in-law walks in the room (or the kids, or the cops, for that matter), they’re gonna come. It doesn’t matter if stimulation continues, stops, or changes. Once a male reaches the point of inevitability, orgasm follows.

Not so for women. During the arousal phases, the physiological signs (muscle tightening, skin flushing, breathing changes) are identical to men’s, but when your girlfriend is shouting “yes, yes, yes” while you are circling her clit with your thumb in rotations of one per second and you figure that if she loves this pace then two per second will be twice as good….well, trust me, you’d be wrong. Any change in stimulation at the point of inevitability and the moment will be lost. The connection is far more fragile for women than it is for men. It is one of the few sexual differences between men and women.

It is not only during partnered sex that women experience this tenuous connection. Sometimes women report that even while masturbating in their usual manner they will sometimes experience an orgasm that ‘gets away.’ Almost at orgasm, the most subtle of shifts will prevent the explosion and they are left to start again. It can be a very frustrating experience.

Women who do not understand the intricacies of the orgasmic pattern can believe themselves unable to achieve regular orgasm. If those same women have been taught to feel shame about self-pleasuring, these fruitless attempts may well confirm their guilt. Without understanding the natural rhythm of their bodies, they believe there is something wrong with them, and that they are not entitled to sexual pleasure.

Add to this our culture’s fairy tale that it is a man’s job to give a woman her orgasm. Now if it is difficult for a woman, who owns a woman’s body, to figure out this complicated stuff, how do we expect a man to know how to do it better than she can?!

What can men do with this situation, then? Spend some long, luxurious time exploring your lover’s vulva in minute detail, requesting feedback. What sorts of touch does she like on her inner labia, her outer lips, her clitoris, her urethral opening, her perineum, around her anus, on her mons? Do those preferences change depending on her state of arousal? Ask her to let you watch her bring herself to orgasm and watch closely how the action stills just before the orgasmic explosion. Let her teach you, and remember to tell her how hot it is to watch—we appreciate that reassurance.

Women do not have orgasms as reliably as men do. When we understand that there is nothing wrong with us and that our next romp will probably reap an orgasmic reward we do not fret about it. When men understand our orgasmic uncertainty, too, we can stop faking orgasms, and we would like to do that. Everyone benefits from this knowledge, and of course, when we relax into open and honest sexual communication with our lovers, sex just gets better and better.

Premature Ejaculation (PE) for Women

Some time ago a client came to me for treatment of premature ejaculation. Like most men, he had suffered with this condition his whole life. Married many years, he reported with great sadness that his sexual difficulties had so eroded his relationship that his marriage was on the brink of collapse. His wife had given him a final ultimatum: get fixed or get out.

I explained the course of treatment and we began. All went well until it was time for his wife to join us. Despite his initial success and my encouragement, she steadfastly refused to attend sessions. She would not even speak with me on the phone. Since this was not her problem, she would not be involved in its resolution. She simply wanted him “fixed.”

Months passed. My client called again, reporting some progress. His wife had agreed to read literature about PE aimed specifically at wives. What did I have? I went to the Internet. Nothing. I appealed to a sexologists’ list serve. They suggested couple’s therapy. Hmm.

Therefore, I designed this month’s Hot Topic for the wives of men who suffer with timing their ejaculation. My hope is that when you finish reading this, you will be inclined to join your mate in counselling, for they need you there with them. In the meantime, I hope this column will address your needs.

Many of you have lived for years hoping that perhaps this time sex will be fulfilling, that he will last long enough for both of you to enjoy the connection and intimacy that intercourse can bring. Then he comes fast again. He mumbles he is sorry. You look away, tell him it’s all right, and soothe him. You both turn away from each other, silent and disappointed.

Eventually you avoid his touch. You do not let yourself give in to the expectation of arousal and release. What’s the point? You accommodate his advances so you don’t have to have a discussion or, worse yet, a scene. You feel like a receptacle. You resent him. This is not what you signed on for. Why doesn’t he do something to fix this!? God knows, you’ve been patient, forgiving and loving. Inside you start turning to ice.

As time progresses, your frustration leaks into other areas of your relationship. You no longer view him as someone you can count on. The respect and admiration that once made you breathless is long gone. He becomes just another child to be tended. You can’t even rage at him about this given men’s fragile egos. You consider an affair but reject the idea, for you know the only way you can maintain your family and your sanity is to deny your body any touch. The first whisper of sensual pleasure and you know your defenses would collapse. You are a prisoner in your frozen world. You hate him for this. You cannot punish him enough!

Now he goes to therapy and says he is better. On the few occasions you submit to intercourse he is just as nervous and incompetent as ever. He tells you his therapist says it will be that way until you come in for treatment, too. No way are you falling for that! You have been hurt enough. Why should you risk any more?

I have an answer for you.

You should risk now because your mate and his therapist are telling you the truth. He has gone as far as he can on his own. He has done weeks’ worth of masturbatory exercises (and in some cases taken pharmaceuticals) to learn a new sexual response language to replace the one that did not work.

When he comes to you, the sexual scene is the same. He needs this, too, to be different, and he cannot do this alone. As a team, he and I want to teach you his new language so that you two can speak it together – cautiously and haltingly at first – until slowly and lovingly you become fluent lovers once again. Joyous, relaxed lovemaking awaits you.

I am not so naïve as to believe this is happening in a relational vacuum. I want to see you alone as well as with your mate. I am well aware of your need to vent and to grieve. I understand that you have sacrificed your own sexual expression and may be hopping mad. I realize that we must repair other areas of your relationship as we mend your sexuality. You have been silent for too long. Now is the time to have your story heard in an environment of safety and solace.

Are you afraid that it is too late for you? Do you think that your sensual, responsive nature is hard and dry now, that it can no longer be awakened? It can.

You are no more frightened than your man was. Your stakes are the same. Your reward for taking this risk is also the same – a chance to reconstitute the promise you two made so long ago, buried under disappointment, good intention, and inadequate communication.

Please consider joining your husband in his treatment for PE. It offers not only a chance to repair your beleaguered sex life but also an opportunity to work on the damage done by the effects of dashed hopes, disappointments, and unresolved anger. So much more is possible. Isn’t the risk worth the chance of renewing your relationship?

First Visit Reactions

A number of clients have shared with me their reactions to their initial sex therapy visit. I thought it might be instructive to those of you considering therapy to hear what they had to say.

A man in his mid fifties told me that the pre-session homework I ask of everyone had been enormously helpful. This involves answering two simple questions: “What are the problems?” and “What would need to happen for you to know the problems have been resolved?” He explained how this exercise had focused him, even before our first meeting, on the precise nature of his troubles and on his goals. He added that the questions reminded him that this appointment was dedicated solely to talking about him, which he had been avoiding for ages. This brought up mixed feelings of trepidation and relief.

Another new client, a woman in her thirties, disillusioned by the disconnection between the myth of happily-ever-after and the reality of maintaining a real-life relationship, shared her relief that she had found a place where she could admit her fears and doubts to someone who would not judge her. Though her friends offered a comfortable place to vent and share good times, they could not give her a neutral and confidential ear. She also appreciated learning accurate information about her body and its sexual functioning.

Then there was the couple who had grown so estranged that visiting me marked their last attempt to save their marriage. I noticed that they did not touch or even make eye contact. They were still emotionally connected and got along well, but it had been a long time since they had experienced any intimacy. I asked them if they would do exercises at home. They admitted they had not like the idea—felt it was juvenile and pointless—but they agreed. Their willingness to risk feeling awkward and vulnerable with each other signalled their willingness to change the character of their relationship.

Sometimes people come in just because they need a safe place to talk about something. It can be difficult to find someone non-judgmental and uninvolved, especially regarding sex. Clients generally tell me they feel a bit anxious when they first arrive, but that it doesn’t last long.

Other times clients need accurate information and want help in determining how that information best applies to their lives. Often that can be sorted out in a session or two. Still, it can feel a bit humbling to admit we don’t know something about sex. We all want to be knowledgeable about something that’s supposed to “come naturally.” I try to make the learning fun and relaxed.

Still other times clients come in who feel quite hopeless about their sexual situation. They arrive bursting with questions and emotions. I can hardly give them information and support fast enough and I watch their anxiety dissolve as the session progresses. Their body language and even their breathing change over the course of the visit. I hear phrases like “I never thought of it that way before” and “I wish I’d come in ages ago.”

Few people have contacted a sex therapist before. I’m used to that. I appreciate the trust put in me as folks stretch their boundaries to learn more about their sexuality and relationships. I hope this peek into what initial sessions can be like helps you to feel more comfortable in approaching the process of sex therapy with anticipation. It can be an exciting adventure. After all, the potential reward is great sex for the rest of your life!

Testosterone for Women

Testosterone (T) for women is generating a lot of interest recently. As our knowledge of the function of the human body increases, our questions become more sophisticated as well. We know that testosterone drives sexual appetite. That said, if a man desires more sex than his female partner, wouldn’t giving her a dollop of testosterone remedy the situation?

Testosterone can be a magic elixir for women. However, to benefit from the libido-boosting effect of T, women must be deficient, which is rare. Our bodies maintain a small but essential level. Testosterone and its related androgens make estrogen, and we have storage facilities for it throughout our bodies. We produce T in the ovaries and indirectly through the adrenal glands. We even cleverly store it in fat cells, especially after menopause. If we are testosterone-deficient, we may experience lessened sexual desire and responsiveness and loss of energy and wellbeing. In other words, we are not much interested in anything, including sex, but those symptoms can have many causes. It is worth investigating for women who have had their ovaries surgically removed or who experience a precipitous drop in energy and libido that cannot be otherwise explained. Check with your health care professional. For the few women who are deficient, there are tests to determine it, effective treatments to correct the condition, and fun activities to celebrate the ‘cure’. Former sexual appetite is restored, as is energy.

If you find, however, that your lack of sexual interest is not hormonally based, you have a number of other leads to follow. Many women complain that we lack agency over our sex lives. Raised to be receptive to men’s advances, we did not learn initiation skills and therefore forfeit the privilege of asking for sex when we want it. Instead we must use charm and flirtation to manipulate our lover to invite us to make love. The result is that women are always figuratively, if not literally, on the bottom. Eventually this lack of control robs us of our entitlement to our own sexiness. We lose our sense of ownership of our lust and begin to feel like objects rather than subjects. In the angry years of the Feminist revolution we blamed this on men; it has taken a long time to understand our own complicity in this counter-productive dance.

All these factors—lower testosterone levels, social and cultural expectations of submissive role posturing, lack of assertiveness skills—keep women from exploring their full sexual potential. Having sex only when he wants it, how he wants it, on his terms eventually erases a woman’s unique contributions. She loses interest because she no longer feels involved. Sex has little to do with her. As surely as these factors affect heterosexual women, they shape the sexual responses of lesbians as well, though the dynamics are a bit different. I will address these in a separate column.

It is by boldly embracing sexuality as our own that we become fully involved in the action, equal partners and peers with our men. This requires us to confront the messages we learned as children about how women—and men—are supposed to behave. We need to question our belief systems and critically analyze our media and everyday speech. We need to have deep conversations with our lovers about the roles of sex and power between us and how we can equalize them. We need to negotiate and renegotiate the rewards and costs of redefining our relationship dance.

The pay-off, of course, is improved sex in a peer relationship with someone you like who respects and honours you. Oh, yeah, and having your mojo running, too.

Premature Ejaculation

A common complaint among heterosexual male clients is their inability to control the timing of their ejaculation. They come too soon. What is too soon? A general perception is that other men last 10-30 minutes. Not so. In his ground-breaking research in the 1950s, Kinsey found that the average time between intromission (when the penis enters the vagina) and ejaculation is two minutes! Most of the time spent in lovemaking is not actual thrusting but in kissing, fondling, caressing and stroking.

In assessing the problem, the number of minutes is less important than the satisfaction of the people involved. If ejaculation occurs sooner than the lovers wish and this causes distress in the sexual relationship, then the ejaculation can be regarded as ‘premature’.

PE is learned early, when adolescent boys hurry through masturbation to avoid getting caught. They focus little emphasis on pleasure; efficiency is the goal. When they begin dating, furtive gropings in inappropriate venues rarely allow boys to luxuriate in the enjoyment of arousal. Ejaculation is often hurried of necessity. When these boys become men and form stable couples, the premature ejaculation sometimes fades as the couple develops a loving sexual rhythm. Those men who more easily learn to control their ejaculatory timing are those who appreciate sensuality and luxuriate in foreplay. They tend to form relationships with women who do not focus on penetrative aspects of sex but rather delight in the overall playfulness of sex. Their relationships are more often egalitarian than those designed along gender role guidelines. Even in stable marriages, however, periods of stress may aggravate PE. When we feel pressured, we often revert to old patterns.

Though a rapid ejaculation pattern generally begins in adolescence, it sometimes occurs later in life in response to a withering relationship or a high stress life change. It can be triggered by the nervousness and excitement of a new sexual experience (partner or situation). Performance anxiety does little to promote relaxation and pleasure, key ingredients for good control. Sometimes after the jitters settle down the problem resolves, but for those men who suffer chronic PE treatment is imperative.

For those men who do not learn ejaculatory control in early relationships, PE can be a difficult behaviour pattern to break, and not all relationships create an environment that promote change. Some components that breed sexual dysfunction are: sexually demanding partners, unrealistic expectations, disparate desires, partners who also have a sexual dysfunction, and an excessive desire to please. A partner’s derogatory remarks uttered in frustration develop a cycle of failure and anxiety. Poor communication and trust underscore these problems.

PE challenges a man’s sexual self esteem and sense of self control. He feels like a bad lover, for in fact he often fails to please his partner. Shamed into silence, he eventually stops discussing other aspects of lovemaking as well. The bedroom is no longer an exciting place to be.

Addressing PE can lead to a new openness about sex that enriches more than ejaculatory control. When trying to deny pleasure to delay coming doesn’t work–and anyone who experiences PE knows that fact—it is time to consider a treatment program. The good news is that a professionally monitored program offers an 85-95% lifelong success rate, and the key to its success is in learning to embrace pleasure. It’s true that it requires commitment and patience, much like learning a new language. The reward is many long years of terrific sex, unmarked by the frustration and humiliation of unintended ejaculation.

Perhaps acknowledging the problem and that you can’t fix it yourself is the toughest hurdle to overcome. No doubt calling a perfect stranger and asking for help with such a personal issue is difficult as well. But with each step in the treatment, your self confidence swells and your ability to control your ejaculation increases. The big bonus is that you begin to experience real pleasure with arousal and sex becomes a glorious expression of joy.

If premature ejaculation is dogging you, consider confronting it. With our modern treatment programs, you can enjoy years of the magnificent sex you deserve!

Preventing Premature Ejaculation: Tales for Tots

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.

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