Finishing too Fast: Defining Premature Ejaculation

Many men and their partners may be discontent with their sexual performance due to their mismatches in orgasm timing. Specifically, ejaculating too fast is a condition that afflicts many men at some point in their lives. However, the descriptions and definitions of premature ejaculation (PE) may vary from man to man, their partners and even within the medical community. Just for reference, here are some definitions to help identify PE.

A personal definition of PE

Per experience, men may complain about having premature ejaculation due to a variety of factors. Some of these factors are:

  • They feel like the time between the onset of sexual stimulation and/or penetrative sex and ejaculation is too short for their satisfaction.
  • Their partners complain that these men ejaculate too fast and that they need more penetrative time to reach orgasm.
  • They feel like they are supposed to last longer than they do based on experience, knowledge or exposure to media.

Given these personal factors, a definition of PE may be as personal as each individual that complains about the condition.

A medical definition of PE

According to the Journal of Sexual Medicine, PE has a few definitions, depending on the professional organization defining it. What these definitions have in common is that they provide a tridimensional definition of PE with three criteria:

  • Short ejaculatory latency (the time that lapses between initiation of vaginal intercourse and ejaculation)
  • Perceived lack of control over ejaculation
  • Distress regarding the condition

Premature ejaculation can also be lifelong (someone who has always been a fast ejaculator from the beginning of their sexual experiences) or acquired (someone who became a fast ejaculator later in life).

Some limitations about defining PE

The definitions that currently exist to define PE are limited to penetrative sex (and specifically, vaginal penetration). This may lead to confusion in identifying PE. Some men may ejaculate during foreplay or not ejaculate during foreplay at all or only ejaculate fast during specific sexual activities. Some men may ejaculate fast during their first sexual activity (i.e. masturation) but last longer during penetrative sex.

Other criteria to define PE

In defining PE, I think it is more important to assess the personal and relationship factors that may lead to less satisfaction during a sexual encounter, such as:

  • Is everyone getting enough stimulation for a pleasurable and satisfactory sexual encounter?
  • Are both parties able to reach orgasm at some point, and if not, are they still satisfied with the sexual event?
  • Does sex end when there is ejaculation, regardless of the other party’s level of satisfaction, need or desire to continue with the sexual activity?
  • Does PE cause distress or dissatisfaction in either or both parties?
  • Does the premature ejaculator feel like they have little control over their ejaculation?
  • Is there a desire or goal to change the ejaculatory latency time?

As a reminder, sex is something that happens before, during and after penetrative sex and it is not circumscribed to the time spent thrusting a penis into a vagina. Moreover, not all sexual activities involve a penis in a vagina; therefore, defining PE only on the basis of penetrative sex and only as it applies to a penis penetrating a vagina is very limiting. PE is something to seek help about when it is perceived as a problem; otherwise, if one is satisfied with their sex life regardless of how much time they spend on penetrative sex, PE may not be something to focus too much energy on. Luckily, there are tools to help mitigate PE when it becomes problematic and they are worth exploring to make the sex life of those who are distressed by the condition much better.