Penis Numbing Products are Probably Not What Your Sex Game Needs

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These days people demand instantaneous everything: this is the age of TikTok, of porn gifs, of headline only reading. (Thank you for making it this far.) But there is one thing we’re supposed to be fixated on lasting a long time: erections.

To take one example, in the movie French Kiss, Meg Ryan describes the negative experience of losing her virginity to Jeopardy!: “Jeff said it would last longer with the show on to distract him. Got all the answers wrong except for sports. By Double Jeopardy!, he was done; by Final Jeopardy!, he was on his way home.” There’s plenty wrong here besides duration, and there are countless other instances from pop culture where someone bemoans how long a partner lasts, but this one provides an easy timeline: Jeff here lasted approximately 10 minutes, maybe more, depending on commercials. Which is actually, according to science, pretty long! Sex studies are notoriously difficult to fund and run, because people aren’t great at self-reporting nor are they great and humping and pumping with grad students watching, but a study from 2005 of 500 people showed that erections lasted between one and 44 minutes, with the median being…five minutes! (They counted from when a penis enters a vagina)

But a growing wave of brands are cashing in on the fear people have that they aren’t lasting long enough in bed—that long sex means good sex. In service of that (mistaken, I assure you) belief, companies like Hims and Roman have created over-the-counter products to help people last longer: sprays or wipes that simply numb your dick a bit.

I talked with Dr. Luke Witherspoon, urologist and Sexual and Reproductive Medicine Fellow at University of British Columbia about premature ejaculation and whether these products actually work. First of all, Dr. Witherspoon explained, what even constitutes premature ejaculation is not universally agreed on. But PE, as it’s called, is generally separated into two groups: lifelong and acquired, with people who have experienced lifelong PE generally orgasming within 1-2 minutes of insertion and people with more recent or acquired PE orgasming within 2-3 minutes. While the ideal length of time to orgasm might be debated, according to Witherspoon, “what’s not debated across any of these different guidelines is that patients also have to be bothered by this.” That means that if you come within two minutes but you’re happy, congratulations! You are not prematurely ejaculating.

According to Witherspoon, one of the biggest jobs medical professionals have when it comes to premature ejaculation is to “explain normal” to people. “We have a lot of patients who come saying ‘well, I feel like I’m ejaculating too quickly’ when in fact, they’re actually pretty normal as compared to the general population.” He says so-called stopwatch studies show that most people come in about 5 or 6 minutes. “Some people take reassurance in that time frame; their sexual encounters weren’t necessarily unsatisfactory, it’s more that they thought that they were abnormal and our job was just to provide reassurance and say, ‘Listen, you’re not abnormal, as long as you and your partner or partners are happy.’” Again, if you’re not bothered, it’s not a problem.



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