One Person’s Sexual Problem is Another Person’s Erotic Desire

Sexually frustrated couple in bed.

What counts as a sexual “problem?” It depends who you ask. 

For example, consider the phenomenon often referred to as “premature ejaculation” among men. What I’m talking about here are guys who tend to reach orgasm very quickly, sometimes with minimal to no physical stimulation of the penis. While this is widely considered to be a sexual dysfunction (in fact, it’s even listed in the DSM), it turns out that a lot of people fetishize this very same thing.  

I was thinking about this the other day while I was listening to a gay man describe his biggest turn-on. In his view, there’s nothing hotter than when he is penetrating a partner who quickly and spontaneously ejaculates without any penile stimulation. He is turned on by this scenario, in large part, because he finds it to be sexually validating to know that he pleased his partner so much that his partner spontaneously orgasmed. 

He’s not alone in feeling this way, either. For example, I recently stumbled upon a Reddit thread focused specifically on people who find it arousing (not disappointing) to have a partner (most of whom were described as male) who orgasms quickly. Here are some of the things people said:  

“It's a huge compliment and it makes me feel sexy when it doesn't take long.”

“It's weirdly such an empowering thing to me, especially because I have my own body issues that make me feel not sexy at times.” 

“How could this ever be seen not as the ultimate compliment?”

“It's (for me at least) a sign of [being] so turned on they lost control, which I find hot.”

There’s a pattern in these comments. These folks are interpreting their partner’s fast orgasm as a sign that they themselves are sexy and sexually competent—and also that they have truly pleased and pleasured their partner. 

I’m not aware of any academic research that can speak to how many people look at men’s fast or spontaneous ejaculation through this lens; however, I suspect such research doesn’t exist because we’ve been taught to think for so long that it’s an inherent problem when men orgasm quickly. 

I mean, just look at the way it’s depicted in the popular media. Ejaculating quickly is portrayed as embarrassing and as a sign of sexual immaturity and incompetence. Case in point, ever see American Pie or She’s Out of My League?  The message of these and other media portrayals is that men can’t possible please a partner if they orgasm quickly.

Or consider the term “premature ejaculation” itself. The “premature” part implies a value judgment that quick ejaculation is dysfunctional—it’s not mature. It’s for this reason that sex researchers and therapists have recently begun to change the language they use surrounding this. For example, “early ejaculation” is a term sometimes used, although “early” still implies a value judgment. Another term sometimes used is “rapid ejaculation,” which (at least to me) sounds more descriptive and less pathologizing than the alternatives. 

The point of all of this is simply to say that we need to be very careful about describing a given pattern of sexual behavior or sexual response as inherently dysfunctional. Characterizing something as a sexual “problem” is arbitrary when you see that something like rapid ejaculation is seen as a dysfunction by some, but as a desirable outcome by others. If we ignore this reality and, instead, use patterns of behavior as the basis for defining sexual problems, this has the effect of imposing disorders and illnesses on huge swaths of the population

To be clear, I am not saying that sexual difficulties or dysfunctions don’t exist—just that there’s a subjective component to the idea of a sexual problem. We’d do well to remember that one person’s sexual difficulty is another person’s erotic desire.

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Image Credit: 123RF/Andrey Guryanov

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