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The question: Most guys wish they could last longer, but with me it's the opposite. I've lost partners over the fact that it always takes me a really, really long time to achieve orgasm. What's a guy to do when he "takes forever"?

Dear Takes Forever,

It is important to keep in mind that a sense of "normal" is entirely singular; delayed orgasm is a call you are making as it is running interference in your sex life. Your first step: If you have not consulted a doctor - at least not recently - it is time to do so. There are a number of questions to ask yourself to determine whether this is a physiological or a psychological issue - or, more likely, both. (And yes, let's dim the lights in this examination room; it's a little Marathon Man.)

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The Mayo Clinic's website attributes delayed ejaculation to a number of possible sources. Physical factors can include: medications (particularly antidepressants such as Zoloft and Prozac), as well as any operations, injuries, infections or birth defects that may be impeding your performance.

When I ask Cory Silverberg, certified sexuality educator and sexuality guide for About.com, about the psychological side of delayed orgasm, he responds: "This is a common issue. Most men have this experience at some point." Yes, those noxious emissions of modern living, stress and fatigue, can be factors - as can that killjoy of the bedroom, performance anxiety - but, at a more subterranean level, issues of self-worth and attraction may also be at play. Mr. Silverberg asks: "What are the messages you grew up with? Do you have a sense you aren't worthy of pleasure? No doubt, people withhold from themselves."

Alongside your self-study, there are a couple of temporary measures you can take. Ducky DooLittle, in her book Sex with the Lights On, makes two excellent suggestions: pillows for comfort and a thick water-based lubricant, which "can cut down on friction and make longer bouts of intercourse a lot more pleasurable."

Of course these are balms. What matters most is the transparency you exhibit with your partners - and with yourself. As you have made clear with your paramours: Just as a lover is not responsible for the other's happiness, she is not responsible for the other's orgasm. People come with instructions: their own.

Claudia Dey is the author of How to Be a Bush Pilot: A Field Guide to Getting Luckier (claudiadey.com), to be published this month.

Let's hear from you

If you have a sexual dilemma of your own, e-mail us at coupling@globeandmail.com. All questions are published anonymously.

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