The Orgasm Gap: FAQs & Ways to Close it
Do you know how long women really want sex to last? Learn how you can bridge the gap and have better sex.Learn More
When something isn't quite right "down there," you probably won't hear a lot of guys complaining.
Having a penis problem is a rather touchy subject. It is something that many men would prefer to deal with on their own rather than to bring up with their partners, or even with their doctors.
However, in order to address these problems and find solutions, men need to drop the shame and embarrassment and get more comfortable talking about their penises.
The reality is that penis problems are actually quite common and most men will experience trouble in this area at least once during their lives.
Fortunately, there are solutions to most problems.
The most common sexual male difficulties include premature ejaculation (PE), erectile dysfunction (ED), and low libido (low sexual desire). Ejaculation disorders such as retrograde ejaculation and inhibited or delayed ejaculation are less common, but still affect thousands of men.
As you can see from the chart above, the most common complaint guys tend to have about their sexual health is premature ejaculation, which is rooted in a high level of penile sensitivity that leads ejaculation to occur very quickly.
Studies have shown that approximately 1 in 3 men between the ages of 18 - 59 years old will or have experienced symptoms of premature ejaculation.
Of course, some men have precisely the opposite issue: lack of penile sensitivity, which can cause issues with maintaining arousal or reaching orgasm. Either way, sensitivity issues can be distressing to men and interfere with maintaining a satisfying sex life, which is why it’s important to address them.
The penis is one of the most densely packed areas with nerve endings that are designed to deliver pleasure.
Start first by talking to your doctor to make sure that there are no underlying medical issues but some commonly known options would be to use a topical desensitizing spray like Promescent®, try a thicker condom, or consider taking an oral medication.
Generally speaking, the most sensitive part of the penis is an area called the frenulum. This is located on the underside of the penis, where the glans (head of the penis) meet the shaft shaft.
Whether you’re higher or lower in penis sensitivity, you’re probably pretty normal and healthy—there’s just a lot of natural variation in this and most guys find ways to adapt. But what about when sensitivity issues start to cause sexual problems? How do we address them?
To answer these questions, we need to look at what causes some men to experience increased sensitivity and others to experience decreased sensitivity.
Here are some of the main factors that contribute to penile sensitivity.
Genetics and the brain. Some research has suggested that genes may play a role when it comes to penile sensitivity. For example, if you are experiencing higher than average sensitivity, there is a good chance that this runs in your family. For example, some studies have found that the way our brains respond to the neurotransmitter dopamine (which is genetically determined) is linked to premature ejaculation.
Your anatomy. Everyone’s body is a little different in terms of how sensitive a given area is. For example, some guys have very sensitive nipples and enjoy having them stimulated during sexual activity, whereas other guys get no pleasure from this at all. The same goes for the penis—there’s natural variability in our brains and in the way our nerves are laid out in the body, which can lead some penises to be more sensitive than others.
Phimosis. This is a condition that only affects uncircumcised guys. Phimosis occurs when the foreskin is too tight and doesn’t slide freely along the shaft. As a result, the glans or head of the penis may remain covered most or all of the time, which may increase its sensitivity because it’s not used to receiving outside touch or stimulation.
The penis is densely packed with nerve endings and is designed to deliver pleasure. This makes sense from an evolutionary standpoint—the pleasures and rewards of sex are key to promoting reproduction and survival of our species.
However, that abundance of nerve endings in the penis isn't always a good thing. For some men, it’s easy to become overstimulated before intercourse even starts or shortly after it begins. This is what we call penile hypersensitivity.
Premature ejaculation (PE) is a condition in which a guy reaches climax much quicker than he would like. Some research has found that there is a connection between an overly sensitive penis and not being able to delay orgasm.
However, before discussing the connection between increased penis sensitivity and PE, let’s clear up a common misconception about how long the typical guy lasts in bed.
You may have heard stories about guys who claim they can engage in vigorous sex for 30 minutes or longer before climaxing, or perhaps you’ve seen something similar in porn. This can set an unrealistic bar for judging whether you have PE.
The reality is quite different.
On average, it takes most men between 4 to 7 minutes to ejaculate during intercourse, so if you’re in that time frame, you’re actually perfectly normal
But let’s be clear: if it takes you more or less time to ejaculate, that’s not necessarily a problem and it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything wrong with you or your penis. However, if the length of time it takes you to reach orgasm is something that distresses you or creates problems in your sex life or relationship, that’s when it becomes an issue to address.
The DSM-5 defines premature ejaculation as ejaculating within one minute during sexual intercourse.
Not being able to last for longer than one minute can potentially have adverse effects on people’s sex lives. For example, this is unlikely to provide enough time for one’s partner to reach orgasm, which has the potential to lead to sexual dissatisfaction.
So what exactly is the connection between penile hypersensitivity and premature ejaculation?
Research finds that increased sensitivity is indeed linked to premature ejaculation. For example, in a study of 420 men published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers observed that men who had either mild or severe cases of PE exhibited higher than typical levels of sensitivity in both the glans and the shafts of their penises.
The Men's Clinic at UCLA suggests that men who experience early ejaculation might therefore try desensitizing their penises to help treat their symptoms.
Although some research suggests a link between penile hypersensitivity and PE, it is important to mention that not all studies have documented this association.
For example, in a 1998 study published by the International Journal of Impotence Research, researchers using a vibrometer to measure penile sensitivity found no statistically significant difference between men with or without PE; however, that study was based on a very small sample (33 men) and may not have been large enough to detect effects.
Also, part of the reason for the inconsistent associations may be that PE has more than one cause. For some men, it may be rooted in hypersensitivity; for others, however, it may have more to do with brain chemistry and neurotransmitters.
Let's talk about something a little more technical now: fine-touch pressure thresholds in relation to penis sensitivity.
The phrase fine-touch pressure thresholds is a medical term used to describe one method to measure how certain sensitive parts of the body are to stimulation.
A study published in BJU International used fine-touch pressure thresholds to map out the most sensitive areas of both circumcised and uncircumcised penises. According to the findings, the most sensitive area in circumcised men was the area of the circumcision scar, specifically the portion of the scar on the underside of the penis.
They also found that, in uncircumcised men, some areas on the foreskin (the part that is removed during circumcision) were more sensitive to pressure than the most sensitive part of a circumcised penis.
This study is provocative because it suggests that circumcision could potentially play a role in penile sensitivity differences across men. However, this is controversial, so let’s dive into that a little deeper.
Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, the natural “hood” that covers the tip of the penis.
Worldwide, most men are not circumcised; however, circumcision is a common practice in several regions of the world, and it plays a significant part in rites of passage for diverse cultures.
For example, in some religions (such as Judaism and Islam), male followers undergo the procedure either shortly after birth or later in life as a prerequisite for becoming a member of the religious community. Some sources suggest that over 70 percent of all circumcised men world-wide were circumcised for religious reasons.
However, secular circumcision is often performed, sometimes in the name of health, hygiene, and/or cosmetic reasons. However, it should be noted that the supposed health and hygiene benefits of circumcision are hotly debated.
These non-religious circumcisions typically occur soon after a boy is born and are most common in North America and parts of Asia.
In fact, circumcisions are one of the most frequently practiced medical procedures doctors perform in the US.
So does circumcision affect a man’s future sexual health and pleasure?
While circumcision definitely changes the appearance of the penis, there is an ongoing debate about whether it alters a man's sexual sensations. An early study on circumcision and sensitivity conducted by Master and Johnson in 1966 found that there were "no clinically significant difference in tactile discrimination between uncircumcised and circumcised men on the ventral or dorsal surfaces of the glans penis."
This study was widely publicized and is often cited in the circumcision debate even more than a half century later.
On the other hand, more recent studies, such as the one referenced above on mapping fine-touch pressure thresholds, suggest other conclusions.
Looking at the findings from that particular study, circumcision does seem to be related to penile sensitivity, with the authors going as far as to say that “five locations on the uncircumcised penis that are routinely removed at circumcision were more sensitive than the most sensitive location on the circumcised penis.”
Similarly, another study that looked at sensitivity to touch and warmth among circumcised and uncircumcised men found that “the foreskin of intact men was more sensitive to tactile stimulation than the other penile sites.”
However, when the researchers looked beyond the foreskin in this study, no statistically significant differences were found between circumcised and uncircumcised men when testing other locations on the penis. In other words, while the foreskin itself is certainly sensitive, research suggests that removal of the foreskin does not necessarily impact sensitivity of other parts of the penis.
Some men who are uncircumcised and are struggling with premature ejaculation wonder if they should consider getting a circumcision to reduce symptoms. However, the research on this remains unsettled and we need more work to better understand the link between circumcision and penile sensitivity.
Fortunately, there are non-surgical ways to address hypersensitivity issues whether you are uncircumcised or not.
If you are dealing with penile hypersensitivity and want to do something about it, what are your options?
Start first by talking to your doctor to make sure that there are no underlying medical issues that need immediate treatment and to get recommendations that are tailored to your unique circumstances.
Then, consider the following options; however, note that you may need to try more than one before you figure out what works for you.
Switching your regular condom for one that is thicker is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to immediately reduce penile sensitivity.
Thicker condoms are often labeled as "Extra Strength" or "Extra Safe." You may also want to look at condoms that are specially made for guys who have issues with premature ejaculation, which often come with their own numbing gel inside.
The brands that cater to PE have names such as "Extended Pleasure," "Delay," and "Prolong."
Some men achieve the results they are looking for and are completely satisfied with these types of condoms.
However, others may find that these all-in-one condoms over-numb the area, thus creating the opposite problem: making it too difficult to climax.
Do you like the idea of being able to have full control of when, where, and how much of a desensitizing medication to apply?
Then consider a topical treatment like Promescent. Desensitizers are available in multiple application methods, including wipes, sprays, and creams.
Some are available only through a prescription, but you can also purchase other brands (like Promescent) over the counter.
Promescent offers several products in this category that are well-known for their ability to extend intercourse duration without sacrificing all sensation. Just be sure to follow the directions to avoid using too much or too often and be willing to experiment a little to find the right dose for you.
Depending on the cause of your penile hypersensitivity, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a type of antidepressant, may be another potential option.
However, this is something you’ll need to consult with your physician about, and it may come with a higher monthly cost and potential side effects.
While SSRIs were designed an approved to treat mood disorders, they are sometimes prescribed off-label to treat premature ejaculation. Why is that? Because a well-known side effect of SSRIs is delayed orgasm. This is a case where some people take a drug specifically because they want the side effect.
Premature ejaculation is one of the most common sexual difficulties reported by men. It is linked to several different factors, from genetics to neurotransmitters to penile sensitivity, which suggests that different men may develop PE for very different reasons.
In light of this, different guys may find that different treatment approaches work better for them. As with all sexual health issues, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” solution.
If you find yourself dealing with penile hypersensitivity and premature ejaculation, they way to approach it is up to you. Remember that your health is in your hands, so get the facts, consult with your doctor, and make the right decision for you.
Do you know how long women really want sex to last? Learn how you can bridge the gap and have better sex.Learn More