Here's a good reason to use a smartphone in bed. An app launched last month aims to help men break the habit of peaking too soon.
The Premature Ejaculation App is the brainchild of Brennen Belich, a Vancouver-based entrepreneur who says he struggled with the problem for years, starting with his first sexual experiences in high school.
Doctors offered to refer him to a sex therapist, or prescribe antidepressants that delay ejaculation as a side effect. But Belich, now 26, says he was too shy to talk to a counsellor and was leery of psychiatric drugs. "I wasn't depressed," he pointed out, "and it seemed weird to start messing with your chemistry just for the side effect."
Embarrassed by his lack of control, Belich began to avoid sex altogether, "because I didn't enjoy it and it would ruin relationships for me."
Then, at the age of 23, he ordered a book on behavioural techniques to help men last longer. Flipping through it, he discovered that a close friend's mom had co-edited the book.
The mom was Dr. Stacy Elliott, medical director of Vancouver General Hospital's BC Centre for Sexual Medicine. Belich phoned her up and together, they created the content for the new app (at getpea.com). More than 1,000 people have spent $2.79 to download Belich's app since its launch a few weeks ago.
Using cartoon doctors to coach men through the steps, the app is a training tool for guys to use during masturbation. Exercises teach men how to recognize when they are at the "point of no return" before climax, how to wind up arousal gradually using foreplay and how to maintain mid-stage arousal for longer periods before ejaculation.
Belich likens the techniques to endurance exercise: "It's like training for a marathon."
He believes that many men orgasm too soon because of early experiences with masturbation, combined with the message that it's wrong or shameful. By the time they have sex with a partner, most guys have logged countless hours of furtive sessions in the shower or under the bed sheets. "The quicker they can reach orgasm, the less chance of getting caught," Belich said. "You're basically training yourself to prematurely ejaculate."
The theory may have some truth to it, said Dr. Gerald Brock, secretary-general of the International Society for Sexual Medicine and a professor in the urology division of the department of surgery at Western University (Brock is not involved with the app). From an evolutionary perspective, he added, the man who could release his DNA the quickest may have had the advantage over slower-paced males. "If you look at the animal kingdom, it's literally seconds."
As many as 1 in 3 men experience premature ejaculation at some point in their lives, according to the Mayo Clinic. Having an orgasm too soon is not always cause for concern. But a man may receive a clinical diagnosis if he nearly always ejaculates in less than a minute or two of intercourse, is unable to delay ejaculation most of the time, feels anxious about it, or avoids sexual intimacy as a result.
Other than SSRI antidepressants such as Paxil and Zoloft, doctors may prescribe an opioid pain medication called Tramadol, which delays ejaculation as a side effect (but can be addictive). Another approach is to numb the penis's sensitivity using a spray-on anesthetic such as Lidocaine.
Topical anesthetics can help, Brock said, but "you have to be careful you don't pass on that anesthetic to the partner."
Studies have shown that medications such as SSRI antidepressants, combined with behavioural therapy, are more effective than behavioural exercises alone. Few men are willing to put in the time and money it takes to learn behavioural techniques from a counsellor, Brock explained.
An app that offers a DIY approach would be a safe alternative to drug treatments, all of which may have side effects, Brock said. "I don't think there's a downside."
The website for the app, getpea.com, includes a "suggest Pea" widget, which allows anonymous users to send a link to the website in a discreetly worded text or e-mail to a friend or sexual partner.
The goal of the app, Belich said, is to help men incorporate the techniques they learn into sexual experiences with a partner.
He cautions against watching porn while training with the app because "it's overstimulating and it winds up arousal way too fast."
Belich, who now has a steady girlfriend, added that dealing with premature ejaculation is an ongoing process. "Communicating with your partner is huge."