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My partner doesn’t last long in bed, and it’s killing me

Ask Roe: I love him dearly, but he’s not very good when it comes to sex

Dear Roe,

I've been with my partner for 10 years, and I love him dearly, but he's not very good when it comes to sex. I very rarely orgasm because of how quick he is. Not that I see it as a problem – we usually manage to work around it – but I'm 33 and have started wanting sex so badly. I know he can't manage this, and it's killing me. It's literally a few pushes and he's done, not in minutes but in seconds.

First of all, mazel tov on the increased sex drive. This sudden upswing in libido is far from uncommon; women between 27 and 45 frequently report experiencing an increased sex drive, including having more frequent and more intense sexual fantasies than younger or older women do. They also have more sex and are more likely to have it sooner in a relationship.

This is likely the result of several factors: hormonal changes combined with personal and social aspects such as an increased sense of self-confidence and less social policing of their sex life by peers. This should be a fun, empowering and, with luck, deeply pleasurable time, so let’s examine what’s preventing you from enjoying yourself.


What makes you orgasm? If it's penetration, invest in some sex toys designed for penetration, and incorporate them into your sex life

Your question largely focuses on your belief that your partner does not last a long time before ejaculating. I don’t think that’s the most pressing issue at all, however, so first I am going to pull you up on one very important thing. If you have been with your partner for 10 years, and you rarely orgasm because he finishes quickly, then you cannot blame him for being “not very good when it comes to sex”.

It sounds as if neither of you is being very imaginative or communicative, and as if you are basing your sex lives on his ability to last during penetrative sex – despite knowing that he doesn’t last long. To paraphrase Albert Einstein (probably incorrectly), bad sex is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result – and there are two of you playing that game.

Forget your partner’s erections for a moment. What makes you orgasm? If penetration makes you orgasm – which it doesn’t for more than 80 per cent of women, just as your weekly reminder – invest in some sex toys designed for penetration, and incorporate them into your sex life. Your partner can also use his fingers.

If it’s clitoral stimulation that brings you to orgasm, your partner can do that with his hands, his tongue, a vibrator. Experiment with oral sex and digital penetration. Oral sex and a vibrator on your clitoris. Oral sex and a penetrative sex toy. Some more oral sex. Mutual masturbation. Mutual oral sex. Did I mention oral sex?

None of these activities relies in any way on your partner maintaining a prolonged erection. You can do these activities independently of each other, or combine them in a multitude of ways. You can have penetrative sex before these acts, during, after. Your partner’s erection is not the be-all and end-all of your sex life, just as it is not for the many women whose partners can last a long time and still find they rely on clitoral stimulation, oral sex or sex toys to orgasm. You say you don’t know what to do – do literally anything other than penile-vaginal penetration.

As for your partner, there are three reasons why I will never use this column to diagnose anyone with premature ejaculation. The first two are that I’m not a medical doctor and that a diagnosis is largely based on the man feeling negatively affected by the situation, so your partner would need to participate in any conversation that could result in a diagnosis.

The third reason is that I have a problem with the way diagnoses of premature ejaculation are based on very limited expectations around bodies, sexual pleasure and, often, masculinity. The idea of premature ejaculation presupposes that sex has one clear goal and that you’re getting there too soon, regardless of whether you or your partner is satisfied.

Your increase in libido is the perfect opportunity to talk about desire, your sex life and anything you would like to try or change, so that you can both enjoy this time

Premature-ejaculation diagnoses make a lot of money for pharmaceutical companies that perpetuate the idea that erections are central to sexual pleasure, that there is an ideal length of time for men to last in bed and that the length of time men can remain erect defines both their masculinity and their sexual prowess.

Thanks to the pervasiveness of these cultural myths, we tend to hugely overestimate how long people should last. On average, when stimulation begins with and stays focused on the genitals, most people with penises tend to reach orgasm within three minutes. There are different averages within different age groups, but the averages do not go over 10 minutes – yet there’s a huge amount of pressure on men to either report or attempt marathon sessions.

If your partner himself is genuinely distressed about how long he lasts during sex he can speak to a doctor and look at some options. Before trying medication, I would encourage you both to look at other ways that could help him maintain an erection longer should he want to – using thick condoms, for example, or looking at sex toys such as penis rings, which can be effective for some men.

But, most importantly, start talking to each other. After 10 years together it’s possible that you haven’t been investing a lot in trying new things in bed or even openly communicating about desire. Your recent increase in libido offers you the perfect opportunity to open up a conversation about desire, your sex life and anything you would like to try or change, so that you can both enjoy this time.

Enjoying it could mean getting a bit more imaginative and shifting your priority from trying to re-enact what you think good sex should be to focusing on what good sex actually feels like for both of you. Good luck.

Roe McDermott is a writer and Fulbright scholar with an MA in sexuality studies. If you have a problem or query you would like her to answer, you can submit it anonymously at