Q:
Everyone seems obsessed about lasting longer, but I have the opposite problem. It often takes me a really long time to come during sex, and when I masturbate. Sometimes I just have to give up because I realize I won’t finish anytime soon. I’ve heard that men lose sensitivity in the penis as they get older. I am going on 40 now, and I didn’t have difficulty climaxing when I was younger. Is this something guys my age just have to accept, or is there any way to reverse the loss of feeling?

A:
The penis does appear to become less sensitive to touch as men age. It’s like aging and hearing loss. At age 25, most men have near-perfect hearing. At age 35, many have lost the ability to perceive sounds below a certain decibel level, though they might not notice any impairment. By age 45, a sizable percentage of men still hear within the range of normal conversation, but have trouble making out sounds quieter than a whisper.

Studies show that 25-year-old men are able to feel slight vibrations on the penis that 35-year-old men typically can’t feel. The sensory threshold of the penis—that is, the lightest touch that can be felt—trends upward with increasing age.

It’s reasonable to suppose that a less sensitive penis would need to be stimulated for a longer time to reach orgasm. However, studies show that in most men, sensitivity of the penis and time to orgasm are not related.

Sex researchers measure “ejaculatory latency” time from the moment the head of the penis enters the vagina to the first spurt of jism. A survey of several men in five countries found that average latency periods actually fell with age. The median shag time for men ages 18 to 30 was more than six minutes, decreasing to just about four minutes in men over 50.

No one knows how sensitive a penis should be for optimal sexual functioning. There’s also a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem involved. For one thing, there is evidence that being sexually aroused can make the penis more sensitive.

What’s more, scientists are just beginning to understand how orgasm and ejaculation actually work. It is a complex process involving many different parts of the nervous system and brain. Things happening in your brain can block the nerve signals that ultimately give the “go” to an orgasm.

Unless you are experiencing actual numbness, which could be an indication of nerve damage, your penis is probably sensitive enough—but your other sexual organ, your brain, may be desensitized to sex. Put simply, you’re bored with the sex you’re having, or else you’re too tired, stressed, or distracted to get into it. Unfortunately, grown-ups have a lot of shit to deal with that gets in the way of enjoying sex.

You say this is only a “sometimes” thing, which suggests that, at other times, you’re able to function as usual. So think about what’s working when sex and masturbation are good. How do you feel in general?
How turned-on are you?

I won’t try to guess at what’s wrong, but I’d bet it has something to do with circumstances beyond your dick. By working on those things, you might find your sensation much improved.

Whether you’re looking for tips to improve your performance between the sheets, answers to a question or two, or help with an issue you can’t take to even your most trusted friend, our expert can help. It’s time to get schooled.

Have a question for Martin Downs…submit them to: sexed@ffn.com.

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