An account of the three week intense, non-drug psychotherapy and surrogate partner sessions I had in San Francisco in May and June of 2016, which lead to me getting a twenty four year severe premature ejaculation (PE) problem under control.
Warning: this article contains sexually graphic information.
Why the hell am I sharing my experience?
1 – if I’d read an article like this when I was younger, I’d have had this therapy a LONG time ago, and probably saved myself twenty plus years of massive sexual anxiety, not to mention given myself twenty plus years of having wayyyyy more pleasurable intercourse (not your fault past girlfriends – you guys were great!).
2 – approximately three in ten adult males regularly experience PE 1, and I’m hoping sharing my story will give them (and their partners) an insight into the treatment options available, as some of these solutions (a number I’ve tried) have little or no efficacy (not just my experience – other PE sufferers I’ve spoken to concur), or have the potential to worsen the problem, both physically and mentally 2.
3 – some women (including at least one of my ex’s) feel like they’re in some way to blame for their partner’s PE. If this sounds like you, I’m hoping this article will help you to gain a deeper insight and understanding of premature ejaculation, and that this will lead to an easing of your anxiety surrounding the issue.
NOTE: For the record, although none of them are explicitly mentioned in this article, my recent past long term girlfriends have read it, and given me their support and consent to share. You guys are bloody champions, and wonderful women.
4 – coming off the back of participating in Movember for men’s health (go Chamberlain Family Challenge – http://monetwork.co/ChamberlainFamily – $96,000+ this year boys!!!), this seems like a good time to share my experience. If it helps to start a tough but necessary conversation between lovers, or within society to help lower any related stigma, this can only be a good thing.
Finally, only a few close friends and family members knew the real reason I’d traveled to San Francisco. To avoid lying, I told everyone else who asked that I was away for personal reasons. Most thought I was on holiday, except for at least two people, who seriously thought I’d turned gay and was having the time of my life coming out in one of the great gay capitals of the world, romping my way through The Castro (funny enough, I was staying just south of there). Well, I wasn’t on holiday, and I’m still straight (no gay romping occurred). For the record, I did visit a sex toy shop (ok – two) in The Castro – they fucking ROCK!!!
Before I get into the sometimes clinical, sometimes salacious details, I’m not saying that a surrogate partner paired with psychotherapy is the best option for every man with premature ejaculation – just that it’s an option that worked for me, and that if you’re considering the therapy, this article may give you some useful information to help you make a decision.
Also, a quick definition of premature ejaculation for those wanting clarification:
“…that the man does not have voluntary, conscious control, or the ability to choose in most encounters when to ejaculate” 3
All good so far? Excellent…
Let’s get it on!!!
You’ve heard of the two minute man, right? He was my fucking hero (no pun intended).
I could only dream of being him… of what two minutes of non stop, heart pounding out of my chest, near spewing and passing out from lack of breath, purely pleasure focused, no stress, Olympic village pelvic thrusting, slip n’ slide sweaty sex would feel like. I ASPIRED to be the two minute man.
My reality? Most often (through no fault of any of my girlfriends), it was ten to thirty seconds of stress, self admonishment and self loathing, ending with a guilt ridden, half held back, sometimes painful ejaculation, and a very unsatisfying orgasm. A zero sum pleasure game for me, and my sexual partners.
This was usually preceded by all sorts of mind tricks to sabotage sex actually happening in the first place (sorry past lovers – it was to avoid the feelings associated with failure), and was ALWAYS followed by a sense of unworthiness, embarrassment, and fear that my latest incredibly understanding and empathetic girlfriend (you all were) would come to her senses and leave me for a man who could finally give her the well overdue, desired and deserved pounding (whether as pounder or poundee) that she craved and wanted on occasion (as many other women do).
Sure – intercourse is only PART of a sexual relationship, and for some women, not their preferred way of achieving physical intimacy and/or orgasms. However, many women do enjoy intercourse (sometimes high energy and rigorous), and want or need it to achieve these, and certainly for longer than ten seconds.
And yes – compensating for your lack of phallic prowess by upping your game in other sexual activities does go a certain way to keeping your partner satisfied. It sometimes even allows you to pretend that your PE (and sexual insecurity) doesn’t exist.
Regardless, my lack of confidence when it came to intercourse slowly and insidiously permeated every aspect of my attitude and approach to sexual intimacy and connection, and, unfortunately, eventually almost ALL aspects of my romantic relationships, both in and out of the bedroom.
I now realise I was also sabotaging my interactions with women when I was single. I’d almost always keep things very platonic, and wouldn’t let my sexual side out, which made something as basic as flirting impossible (I’m still repairing this damage). The psychology was – what’s the point in successfully attracting a woman and developing a relationship (casual or long term) if you believe your end game represents failure?
Further, it wasn’t just my sexual partners’ pleasure that was being denied – it was mine too. I’d never truly experienced the physical and emotional pleasure that comes from being fully present and in the moment during sex. Specifically, I had no idea what pleasure during extended (or at least “normal” length) intercourse felt like. In other words, PE was denying me the experience of fully letting go and enjoying a woman’s body, mind and spirit during intercourse, and, as I would learn in therapy, in ALL of my sexual interactions.
I was missing out. My partners were missing out. PE was screwing with my head and overall confidence, turning me into an unattractive man, and making it impossible for me to be in any kind of mutually happy and sexually satisfying relationship.
I needed to get this solved.
In the past, I’d tried some other premature ejaculation remedies, including penis numbing condoms, mental distraction ie thinking about non-sexual things during sex, various squeeze techniques (where you squeeze the base of your penis with your fingers, or squeeze your PC muscles), alcohol (drinking, not applying!!!), and even a super super tight cock ring. None of these solved my problem (I’m not claiming they don’t or won’t solve anyone else’s), and each failure made the mental impact of the PE worse.
I’d seen and heard of various drug treatments – sprays etc, but found very mixed information when researching their efficacy. My research also told me that my PE was most likely a psychological issue, and that non-drug therapy could be a better option for me.
I read a book called Coping With Premature Ejaculation4 by Michael E. Metz PH.D. and Barry W. McCarthy PH.D. As well as explaining the physiological workings of PE, the book comes with many exercises for rewiring the way you think about arousal and sexual pleasure, and how this relates to your penis and body during sex. These exercises are split into two sections – solo and couple.
I quickly became a champion at the solo exercises – I once masturbated for 75 minutes straight before having an orgasm (the part of my brain responsible for fantasising must be fucking huge). However, because I was no longer in a serious relationship, I had no practical way of trying the couple exercises… when a girl’s on your bed, you’re not going to ask her “hey – mind if we practise this exercise on page 68 of my premature ejaculation book?”. Mmmmm… hot.
I found that whenever I had real, not imaginary sex, the pleasurable feelings were overwhelming, and my PE was back in full swing again. I’m not saying that the solo exercises in the book aren’t good (they are, and I think that book’s a good place to start, especially if you have a partner that’s willing to work on the couple exercises with you) – just that for me, they weren’t translating to success during sex with non-imaginary women. But the fact that the solo exercises worked at all gave me the confidence that this wasn’t an inherently physical issue5…
My mind was controlling this.6
Note: premature ejaculation CAN be caused by physical issues, so, like I did, talk to your GP before trying any therapy.
I remembered reading about a therapy that involved a psychotherapist and surrogate partner (two separate people). This had always seemed like a dramatic, OTT, not to mention expensive approach when I was younger. Now, at 41 and determined to fix this, I decided to find out more.
I looked at some local therapy, and quickly realised that I had no idea who to trust, or who knew what they were doing. I’d been burned by the experience of some PE therapy I’d had a few years back, where all the “therapist” did was take down my history, then hover her hands back and forth over my body for half an hour to activate the “energies” within me. Regardless if there’s any truth to that style of therapy, I certainly didn’t believe in it by the end of session two, and wasn’t willing to invest any more than the $400 I already had.
I researched the surrogate partner I’d read about a while back – now Dr. Barbara Keesling Ph.D, and it turned out that, as well as being an author of a number of books on improving your sex life (two of which are in my ever growing collection), she was now also an independent sex educator, and a part time lecturer of psychology at a prominent Californian university.
I contacted her, asking if she could please makes some suggestions of who to work with, not expecting to hear anything back. A couple of weeks later she replied, very apologetic that due to vacation she hadn’t been in touch, and suggested three people, two of which were in San Francisco – a surrogate partner, and a psychotherapist (this kind of therapy requires both).
I contacted the surrogate partner, and after some discussion (both with her and between me and Barbara) I decided to move forward with therapy. The psychotherapist Barbara had suggested wasn’t available, but we found another who had worked successfully with other surrogate partners.
Normally, this type of therapy is conducted over many months, but this was not possible in my case, as I could only spend a limited amount of time away from Australia. So we organised a set of ten sessions each (twenty sessions total) of intense therapy over a three week period, to start the following month.
I organised my flights, accommodation, set up my business to operate while I was away, and prepared to take off in four weeks. Including loss of income and the low Aussie dollar, the three week trip would end up costing me just shy of $20,000 AUS, or about $14,000 US. That may sound expensive, but I knew this was an investment I had to make in myself.
The end of May arrived, and off I flew to San Francisco, having no idea what would happen, or if this would end up being a big, dumb mistake.
Friends I’d told had been supportive, though I got the feeling they thought I was a little crazy for doing this, especially my female friends (most thought it was overkill). Sitting on that plane though, with a healthy amount of skepticism, I felt like I was doing the right thing, and let go of my concerns for 14 hours (36,000 foot whisky helped).
I arrived in San Francisco mid Sunday afternoon on May 29, checked into my Airbnb, had the first of many fascinating conversations with my Airbnb hostess regarding my therapy and related topics, ate my first American burrito (looked like and was as dense as a small nuclear payload) and then fell asleep exhausted, my alarm set for 7.30am, ready for my first 9am session with my sex therapist Barbara (MA, MFT) [not to be confused with Barbara Keesling, whom I originally emailed], and a 12pm session with my surrogate partner, Emiko (IPSA Certified Surrogate Partner)…
Warning II: it gets progressively wayyyyyyyyy more sexual from here on in…
Day 1: Monday May 30, 2016
9am Psychotherapy Session 1 (1hr):
Barbara met me at the door, and I instantly knew that we would would be able to work together – she had a very calm, open and non-judgmental demeanor. I immediately felt I could tell her anything.
This session would be all about establishing comfort and trust with each other. Barbara took an in depth account of my history – both family and sexual, established there were no major traumas that could be a contributing to the PE, and gave a brief outline of where the therapy would take us. She explained that she would be communicating with Emiko after each session, and then as needed.
We established that I had anxiety surrounding the issue of pleasing women sexually, and some vulnerability issues, but, apart from some social anxiety, no other areas of serious mental concerns (I didn’t reveal I’d once owned Wham! and NKOTB on cassette tape).
12pm Surrogate Partner Session 1 (3hrs):
Note: So you get the (almost) full experience, I’ll go into great depth during this session explaining the fundamental exercises that would make up the foundation of our work over the next three weeks.
I arrived 15 mins early at the office building (keen to get this fixed much???). The premises were very clean, tidy, and had a welcoming presence, a pleasant waiting room area with tea, coffee, biscuits, and a kitchen area.
Emiko’s room had a white noise generator outside it, making calm noises (that sounded like ocean waves on the beach), to mask any sound coming from inside the room.
She met me at her door, and, just like in her email correspondence, she emanated warmth and empathy – I instantly felt at ease with her. She had a quiet strength about her, and a personable, friendly approach. I also sensed I would be working with a very intelligent, intuitive individual. I felt I was in good hands, and that I could trust her. That moment was a BIG relief for me. She invited me in, and to take a seat.
The room was a comfortable size – about 3m², and was simply but tastefully furnished. It contained a work desk and chair, a portable air conditioner/heater, a futon that was currently folded up into a couch, and a small bedside table with a drawer. We sat down on the futon, and talked for a little about my trip, San Francisco, Australia, and how I was feeling about starting therapy.
The next half hour was about Emiko getting to know some more personal details about me – establishing that I’d had a reasonably normal life, good family relationships, no real hidden shame surrounding sex (besides performance), and had otherwise had a good sex life (thanks girlfriends!!!).
She made it very clear that I would always have right of refusal whenever she would invite me to begin or take part in exercises, that she also had the same right, and that either of us could stop anything anytime we didn’t feel comfortable.
It was time for the first exercise (relax, go make popcorn – nothing remotely wild just yet).
She had me close my eyes, then placed various innocuous objects in my hand for me to feel and explore, one at a time. A smooth stone, a small plastic duster, a round metal tea strainer, and a few others a can’t remember. It was designed to start training me to focus on sensations and listening to my body. It also helped to further relax me, ready for the rest of the session.
We then began the first exercise of what would become a big part of the overall therapy – sensate focus exercises. Here’s an outline of sensate focus…
- it’s designed to teach you to listen to your body, by focusing on physical sensations, as opposed to focusing on your thoughts (which can lead to anxiety)
- one person starts as the active partner, the other passive
- the active partner’s job is to touch the passive partner, while focusing purely on the pleasurable sensations in their own body – they are not to touch for the passive partner’s pleasure
- the passive partner’s job is to remain relaxed, not interact with the active partner, and focus on the sensations in their own body
- both partners keep their eyes closed, and do not communicate verbally (unless either wants to stop)
- after the active person is content (we would sometimes take up to half an hour each on an exercise) the active/passive partner roles are reversed
- once all done, discuss the experience and what you each liked or didn’t like
- ground rules are established before any touching starts (what part/s of the body can be used for touching or are to be touched)
- either partner can stop the process at any time
Emiko took the active role, and established that we would only be touching hands. We closed our eyes, she took my hand, and began to explore it with hers. My job was to focus on what her hand felt like, without moving mine.
I felt my awareness immediately drop out of my mind, and into my hand – it was like ALL of my consciousness was wherever she was touching it. I felt completely relaxed, almost like I was floating, and had zero anxiety. This lasted for a good five minutes, felt amazing, and I could easily have let it go on longer if she’d continued.
Then it was my turn. I’d never experienced a hand in this way before – I was having a range of feelings that stretched from peaceful to super heightened curiosity, from nurturing to erotic. Again, my awareness was completely in my hand, and I felt zero anxiety.
We tried another sensate exercise, this time focusing on touching each other’s face and head with our hands. I had the same reaction as with the hand exercise, only the depth of sensation this time was much deeper – so many more sensations!!! A previously overlooked hidden physical treasure trove of curves, textures, temperatures and pressure responses when exploring a partner… all translating to various degrees of neutral, nurturing, sensual or sexual feelings while I was exploring her – switching between focusing on how her hair, ears, nose, cheeks, eyelids and lips felt (external awareness), to how my fingertips, fingers and hands felt touching her (internal awareness).
I realised that these exercises were opening me up to a highly focused way of experiencing sensation and pleasure that I had never explored this deeply – didn’t know existed on this level. They were also teaching me to hone my power of focus. Lastly, but just as important, they were very quickly establishing a sense of familiarity and trust between me and my surrogate partner.
Emiko then suggested we try some spooning, which I agreed to. I was given the option of being spooner or spoonee – I can’t remember which I chose. She folded the futon down into a bed, and we lay on it next to each other, with our heads on the pillows.
She instructed me that I was to listen to my body, focus on any sensations I felt, then respond to them – to what my body wanted. If I felt at all uncomfortable, I was to adjust my body until I felt completely relaxed.
While spooning me, she talked me through a foot to head relaxation that lasted about 20 minutes. By the end, I was in a blissed out state that felt similar to post orgasm – like a super relaxed version of euphoria. This spooning would be how we would physically start each day’s session… only from day two onwards we would be naked.
Emiko then introduced me to the rules of the game May I/Will You?, which I will familiarise you with now:
- each partner takes turns to ask either “May I…”, or “Will you…”, followed by a physical request
- the partner being asked has right of refusal, or can say “Yes, you may”, or “Yes, I will”.
- the request is carried out
- the requester then looks their partner in the eye, and says “Thank you”
- their partner then says “You’re welcome”
- the roles reverse
- once all done, discuss what you each liked or didn’t like, plus any anxiety you felt
It’s a really fun game to play, and I recommend you try it with your partner tonight! It’s a beautiful, safe yet exciting way of becoming more intimate with each other, and maybe introducing some new things to your repertoire of touch and shared experience. It’s very sensual, and sometimes damned hot!
This session of May I/Will You? was very basic – just requesting to touch or be touched on each others arms, face, head, and neck, using our hands.
Emiko then asked me how it felt, and I explained I’d had sexual feelings, especially when touching her lips, which introduced some anxiety because it felt like I was crossing a boundary. She explained that any feelings are ok, and that she would speak up if any boundary was crossed or about to be.
We wound the session down with some more spooning combined with May I/Will You?, then she checked in with how I felt about what we’d done, and gave me some homework, which was to touch things around the house, focus on how they felt, and also to check in with what my body was telling me on a regular basis throughout each day eg any pain, desires, physical needs. We then had a quick shoot-the-breeze chat to get me into a more high energy state of mind before I left, ready for the walk home. We hugged and said goodbye.
For the rest of the day I felt very contented and calm, while hyper-aware of my environment (everything around me seemed more vibrant and alive than usual). Over the next 24 hours, this feeling intensified each time I checked in with my body.
I felt I was in good hands, and had made the right choice – both in starting this type of therapy, and in the people I had chosen to work with.
That night, I slept like a jet lagged, blissed out, slightly inebriated (Californian red is cheap and good) baby.
Day 2: Tuesday May 31, 2016
[no psychotherapy session]
12pm Surrogate Partner Session 2 (3hrs):
We chatted for a bit about our day, then discussed my homework. I’d discovered that periodically checking in with my body was also making me more aware of my environment. It’s like I was more switched on, more aware externally AND internally.
We then went into spooning – same process as day one. After that, Emiko introduced me to the mirror exercise, where we would take turns standing naked in front of a full length body mirror, describing ourselves from head to toe – what we see, like and don’t like about ourselves, and any stories from our past related to our bodies, scars, injuries etc. She then asked if I would feel comfortable with us both getting naked and starting this exercise. YES!!
She went first, and spent about twenty minutes – she was very thorough – I imagine she’s done this exercise many times! I found it a little tougher – I’d never had to think about describing every part of my body before, so it felt like an introduction to myself in a way, but I did fine in the end.
I think the main aims of this exercise were to a) get us feeling comfortable naked in front of each other (it would have been hard not to feel so after that exercise), and b) reveal any negativity we had surrounding our body images, of which we had nothing considerable, apart from me wishing I had a less demanding body hair maintenance regime.
We then spooned again, taking turns to be spooner, but this time naked! It felt natural and good, although I had a little anxiety when I became involuntarily physically aroused (again figuring out boundaries), but focused on my breathing, relaxed, and just let my body be as it wanted.
We then did sensate focus, but this time I lay on my belly, Emiko put coconut oil on my back, and used any part of her body she desired to explore mine (not including our genitals). She was to focus on her pleasure, and me on mine.
It felt incredible. The only anxiety I felt was when I kept thinking she was going to stop, but she did this for almost half an hour. By the end, I was super relaxed, felt like I was floating, and that my arms has disappeared. I was 100% in my body – thoughts nowhere to be found.
It was then her turn to lay on her belly, and for me to explore her body for my pleasure. I discovered unusual places of contact that presented great pleasure, sometimes nurturing, sometimes sensual, sometimes sexual eg my side and armpit nestling into her butt and hip – nurturing; my lips lightly nuzzling the soft hair on the small of her back – sensual; my neck and side of my face sinking into her shoulder blades then brushing against her ear – nurturing/sensual/sexual; the back of my hand curving into the sole of her foot and her ankle – sexual.
Afterwards we discussed what we each liked, and I was surprised to hear that she’d experienced much pleasure, when the whole time I had been purely focused on my own pleasure. Turns out that focusing on your own pleasure, whilst remaining aware of your partner’s response and wellbeing, gives pleasure. This was a key lesson that would become a recurring fundamental of our therapy, and my future sex life.
In the past, I’d always been so focused on the pleasure of my partners (to make up for my PE), that I wasn’t used to focusing on my own pleasure. This exercise was immediately teaching me three things I’d not realised in the past:
- That my partner could derive massive pleasure simply from me deriving pleasure from her body ie that me focusing on my own pleasure could give her pleasure.
- That I derived massive pleasure from her doing the same.
- This massive pleasure was not just focused in my genitals – it was spread out over my entire body.
I also noticed I was deeply focused on my body almost to the point of trance, very relaxed, and hardly thinking about anything. This was new for me during sex. I was begin to realise that thought during sex had been my enemy in the past.
We then spooned and went through some relaxation techniques, caressed some, then chatted, got dressed, and hugged goodbye.
Day 3: Thursday June 2, 2016
10am Psychotherapy Session 2 (1hr):
Barbara and I delved deeper into my past relationships (I obviously won’t go into much detail here), specifically where I had failed to be vulnerable, and for any issues and conflicts that hadn’t been addressed. She was searching to see if there could be anything that may have lead to an obvious emotional cause of the anxiety that was contributing to my PE – an emotional scar if you like.
She gave me the name of a book that deals with Emotionally Focused Therapy (essentially how we deal with conflict within relationships) – Hold Me Tight, by Dr. Sue Johnson. Among other things, it teaches you how being more vulnerable can lead to deeper intimacy. I downloaded it to my Kindle app and started reading it that night.
12pm Surrogate Partner Session 3 (3hrs):
We started with naked spooning, then some May I/Will you? to get some energy going. Then we did front of body sensate focus without breasts or genital touching. This, like back of body, felt amazing, and the only problem I had was that I kept drifting off as I was so blissed out (I’m pretty sure I fell asleep at least twice). I suspect some jet lag, and nightly Californian red wine, was partly to blame.
I was learning quickly that I had the power to spread any pleasurable sensations I was feeling in my genitals to the rest of my body, and that this lowered the arousal I was feeling in my penis, without affecting my erection.
This then progressed into some sensual making out, which we stopped after a few minutes, for a bit of a sex and body ed. 101 session, where Emiko went through some printed information that discussed and displayed diagrams and photos of vulvas and penises. We also had a discussion about sexual health and STI/STDs, and she discussed her history with regard to the latter.
The sex ed. continued with Emiko giving me a guided tour of her vulva and vagina, and then she had me perform sensate focus on her genitals with my fingers, followed by her doing the same to my penis with her fingers. As well as a more intimate introduction to our bodies, this was the beginning of me learning to focus on what arousal level I felt in my penis – zero being none, to ten being orgasm, and also to focus on deep belly breathing throughout (she would often catch me unconsciously holding my breath – “breath Shaun!!”). It sounds so simple to do, but it would be a number of sessions down the track before I got basic breathing under control.
We spent the last part of the session spooning, then a little light making out and cuddling (it would have felt weird not cooling down like this after having been sexual), then just relaxed and talked for a few minutes before the session ended with a hug and goodbye.
Day 4: Friday June 3, 2016
On Thursday night (June 3), I started having an affair. I bring this up as, although I don’t regret the affair in the slightest, it did add a layer of emotional complexity to the therapy that, regardless it didn’t affect my outcome, I probably shouldn’t have introduced at the time. What can I say – our chemistry was off the charts, and I definitely would have regretted not initiating something with her.
The problem was, although she was incredibly supportive of what I was doing, it was clear that the more sexual the therapy became, the harder it was on our relationship. This was certainly understandable – here we were having this fantastic, intense connection, and each day I would go off and have some form of sex with another woman. Logically, we both knew I wasn’t cheating. Emotionally… well, our primal emotional responses have NOTHING to do with logic.
So I don’t recommend getting involved with anyone new during this type of therapy, and if you’re already in a relationship, make sure they are 100% supportive to start with (or reconsider your options), and then be prepared to help them through any emotional issues that may arise for them due to the nature of the therapy (your therapist or surrogate partner can help you with this).
NOTE: I checked in with both Barbara and Emiko as to whether it would be ok to continue the affair, and they both said yes, with the proviso that we all keep an eye on how it affected my work in therapy.
10am Psychotherapy Session 3 (1hr):
Barbara and I focused on breaking down what was going on inside my head just prior to me experiencing overwhelming feelings of arousal during intercourse (and sex in general). Panic, dread, pending disappointment, in general – a very bad state of mind.
We discussed the idea of instead focusing my attention on the physical sensations, to stay in the moment and in my body – not up in my head. This was a scary, counter-intuitive thought. My instinct was that this would magnify the problem.
As I would come to discover, typically it’s the anxiety is what that leads to or at least exacerbates premature ejaculation. Interrupt the anxiety, and PE begins to lose it’s power.
The problem would be breaking my twenty plus year learned sexual response pattern. As anyone with any kind of anxiety can attest, once it kicks in, it can quickly take hold, and spiral you out of control.
I could see how this could work from a logical point of view. I now had to begin putting that into practice, and to learn to trust the method… and my body. This felt like a hard thing to imagine happening. I hadn’t trusted my body in a LONG time.
[no surrogate partner session]
Day 5: Saturday June 5, 2016
10am Psychotherapy Session 4 (1hr):
Barbara revisited making a distinction between me being in my head (where anxiety can take hold) and being in the present moment by focusing my attention in my body, and techniques for this – focusing on breathing; on the sensation of skin on skin; on verbally expressing what feels good; on being vulnerable by being willing to express anxious thoughts as they present themselves, in a matter of fact, non-emotionally needy way.
The thinking with expressing vulnerability is – we all (men and women) have fears surrounding sexual performance, pleasing our partners, our attractiveness, our perceived sexual weaknesses. Done in the right way, expressing these fears and anxieties can lead to a deeper connection, understanding of our partner, and ultimately – wonderful intimacy.
Imagine if your girlfriend expressed that, because you’re always quiet when she goes down on you, she’s scared that she’s doing it wrong; that you don’t enjoy it, and this ends up being a source of anxiety for her. You might think she gives the best blowjobs in the world, and the only reason you’re quiet is because you’re so blissed out. Telling her this relieves her anxiety, teaches you something new about each other, and makes you both feel incredibly close to one another (deepened intimacy). You’ll probably also have a laugh together, and your sex life and relationship in general will be improved from that moment on, all because she was brave enough to be vulnerable and share her fear with you.
Barbara and I also discovered that I had a fear of EVER putting a woman in an emotional position where she had to reassure, comfort, or nurture me. In other words, I felt I had to ALWAYS please her (never myself), get everything right 100% of the time, instinctively know what she wants and desires, never ask her for what I want or desire, and certainly never express or show any sexual weakness – otherwise I’m not a real man. Barbara pointed out the enormous anxiety that having a mental attitude like this inevitably causes, and went on to explain that part of what makes a women feel good, even during sex, is her ability to sometimes play the role of the nurturer.
This isn’t about falling apart emotionally on your lover, or being a needy partner. It’s about being vulnerable enough to be honest with you partner in a positive way, which is a very intimate and ultimately attractive thing to do. This was a new, exciting concept for me.
From the point of view of reducing PE, it could mean looking into your partner’s eyes, and calmly saying “ok, this was feeling amazing, but all of a sudden, I feel like I’m thinking too much, and that’s making me feel anxious, so I’m going to focus on how incredible the skin on your thighs and calfs feels rubbing against the skin on my thighs and butt right now. You are soooo fucking sexy.”
Instinctively, your partner will most likely become receptive to working with you ie will go into nurture mode – slow down, breath with you, help you to focus on your body and arousal level – will most likely be smiling the biggest smile at the fact you are so turned on by her, and will probably feel more turned on herself. All because you spoke up, and turned the anxiety into something positive.
The alternative – not trusting your partner by holding those feelings inside (the opposite of intimacy), the anxiety spiraling out of control, possible premature ejaculation, and a disconnect between you and your partner.
12pm Surrogate Partner Session 4 (3hrs):
Emiko and I started with our normal “how are things” chat, plus discussed how my affair was relating to the therapy. We then naked spooned, and did full front of body sensate focus on each other for about 25 minutes each.
I found my focus frequently drifting off. I was feeling guilty about being physically intimate with Emiko while being involved with someone else. Anxiety was somewhat winning, but it was great practice for me to work on returning my focus to my body whenever the anxiety took over.
We then did some more spooning (I think Emiko sensed my distraction, and was trying to relax me), and then genital sensate focus, where I was to remain aware of my arousal level from 0-10.
I was still quite distracted, and also very tired from lack of sleep. Emiko returned us to spooning, but I ended up happily sleeping for a while. However, when I woke, I still wasn’t in the best head space, so we ended up doing spooning relaxation exercises, then talking for the remainder of the session.
Not the best effort on my part. In saying that, it’d been a big week!
Day 6: Monday June 6, 2016
9am Psychotherapy Session 5 (1hr):
Barbara and I delved deeper into the concept of staying connected to my body – breathing, eye contact, slowing everything down, and also discussed my affair and how it related to the therapy.
We picked apart some of my vulnerability issues, including how I felt it was a weakness to ever be vulnerable with or not please a woman. We discovered that I was assuming I knew what pleasing a woman looks like ie I’d for a long time been very focused on erotically stimulating women physically and mentally, but not so much on being intimate.
Barbara explained that in order to have a fulfilling and truly intimate sexual connection, a couple not only need the eroticism, but they both have to get vulnerable with each other – that that’s where the closeness and connection ie intimacy truly comes from.
My homework was to look for ways to not only be vulnerable, but also ways in which I can be the nurturer, so as to complete the symbiotic vulnerability she was talking about, and show my partner that she can also trust me to nurture her when she needs it.
12pm Surrogate Partner Session 5 (3hrs):
This session was two thirds very physical. The other third was us having a good talk about vulnerability (how if your partner is feeling vulnerable about something, it can sometimes help, after you’ve reassured them, to express your vulnerability about something within the relationship – and how this balance of sharing can lead to comfort), touching to make the other person feel good vs touching for your own pleasure, and finally performance and expectations – specifically that good sex and intimacy is not about performing – it’s about enjoying.
Note: porn and sexual myths in society have given us some twisted ideas about how we should act during sex, and our sex lives in general, leading to a lot of anxiety. A book called The Sex Myth: The Gap Between Our Fantasies and Reality by Aussie journalist Rachel Hills, which I read a few months before starting therapy, is a huge eye opener on what really goes on out there.
We spooned, did warm-up sensate focus before going into sensate focus on genitals with mouth, which a) increases the overall arousal level compared to past exercises, therefore forcing you to focus harder on your arousal levels, breathing, and staying out of your head to minimise anxiety and b) increases the comfort level between the two of you so that intercourse (sessions 7, 8, 9, and 10 in my case) feels natural and comfortable.
It should be noted here that surrogate partners do not commit to intercourse before or during therapy – it’s something they must decide is actually needed during therapy, and both parties must feel comfortable with it (indeed ANY of the exercises). It’s worth mentioning again that Emiko ALWAYS talked about an exercise first, then would ask me if I was comfortable to begin ie you always have right of refusal at any stage, as does your surrogate partner.
At one point Emiko expressed that her arousal level was getting too high, so we cuddled and made out for a while to cool down. I later found out that she had hoped this would be good modeling for me as far as being vulnerable and speaking up about needs and slowing things down during sex.
When then spooned and went through relaxation exercises, and chatted some more before ending the session.
Day 7: Tuesday June 7, 2016
[no psychotherapy session]
12pm Surrogate Partner Session 6 (3hrs):
After a “how’s your day, how’s things?” chat, Emiko and I discussed some conflict that was developing in my affair regarding the therapy.
We then spooned and did back of body sensate focus. I was completely blissed out (try sensate focus with your partner!!!). However, when it came to my turn to be the active partner, my mind was wandering – I was again thinking about my affair, and experiencing guilt surrounding the intimate nature of the therapy.
Emiko mentioned straight after the exercise that her mind had been wandering, and that my touch didn’t feel as good this time. She asked if there was anything wrong. FREAKY! When I explained, she said that when I notice the anxiety, to bring my attention back to the present moment – back to touch.
We then did front of body sensate focus including genitals, and progressed to genital sensate focus with lube. I noticed that my ability to know where my arousal level was from 0-10 was becoming better, and that simply by focusing on that level, my overall arousal wasn’t peaking as highly – it seemed to hover around a 6.5-7, instead of peaking near orgasm.
We spooned and talked some, and touched sensually and erotically, while Emiko had me take notice of my arousal levels, desires, and what kinds of touch were leading to pleasure and what that pleasure felt like.
When then went into a very erotic session of May I/WillYou?, where I was to focus on my arousal levels. She stopped us when she reached a nine. I’d topped out at a seven and a half, and distinctly remember being somewhat confused – that I was incredibly turned on, but my arousal level was plateauing out at well under a ten.
The work we were doing was obviously having an effect, but it still felt new and mysterious to me – like I didn’t really have control over it yet. If you’ve ever learned guitar (or any instrument), it was like that first time, after practising a piece of music for a while, that you get it right without actually thinking about what your fingers are doing – it kind of surprises you, gives you a confidence boost, but you don’t yet fully trust that you can get it right again – kind of a “how the fuck did I do that?” moment.
I sometimes still feel that way about all this – not fully trusting in the counter-intuitive nature of some of the techniques (focusing on the pleasure and staying in my body). It doesn’t always result in an absence of PE, or more accurately – I don’t always get it right. I’m still a work in progress, and very much aware that I am undoing many years of negative mind conditioning. Also, EVERYBODY has times when their sex game is a little off – lack of sleep, daily stress, partner disconnect, periods of being single, alcohol etc all can affect your ability to focus, stay present and have great sex.
Emiko then did more genital sensate with her mouth, and I noticed again that, unless I started to thrust, I was unable to get past a 7.5. I remember having a moment of anxiety where I felt like I HAD to make myself reach a higher level, like I was feeling an obligation to cum; like, regardless that she was my surrogate partner, in some way Emiko’s feelings would be hurt that I wasn’t peaking any higher. Again – up in my head when I should have been in my body!!! In Emiko’s session notes, she commented that in retrospect, she wondered if I was trying to get to the upper levels, or at least desiring to. She’s INCREDIBLY intuitive – I assume a very much required and desired trait in this type of therapy.
We then lay together, and she spooned and caressed me for that last part of the session.
In her notes, Emiko felt I was pulling back in this session – maybe because of my affair. Looking back now, it was in part that, but also because I was in a state of bewilderment at how my body was beginning to react to the therapy.
Day 8: Thursday June 9, 2016
10am Psychotherapy Session 6 (1hr):
Barbara and I discussed in depth other ways of being vulnerable and deepening intimacy, including asking your partner how they feel during sex, having your partner masturbate for you to show you what they like, what it’s like for them if you have to slow things down, and asking them what their favourite things to do during sex are – specifically, what turns them on about it.
She then suggested a couple of books to help increase intimacy – The Fine Art of Erotic Talk by Bonnie Gabriel (I’d always thought erotic talk was JUST dirty talk, but the dirty talk section only takes up a small space in this book… mind officially expanded re the power of the voice and language during sex!), and The Guide To Getting It On by Paul Joannides (over 1000 pages of absolute gold! It even covers the various shades of makeup you can wear to hide a love bite – different shades depending on which day of hickey healing you are up to!!! Again, mind expanded).
We also talked about the interplay of the therapy and the affair.
12pm Surrogate Partner Session 7 (3hrs):
Today was the first of four sessions that would involve intercourse. This was a big test for me, and I was pretty nervous – my confidence in the therapy and myself felt like they were on the line (I still didn’t feel confident that I had control over what was happening in my body). Putting this pressure on myself was the opposite of what Barbara and Emiko had been teaching me, but I was very aware of the fact that we were approaching the end of therapy, and how the question “what do I do next if this doesn’t work?” had jumped into my consciousness for the first time.
We started with spooning, back of body sensate focus, and then some May I/Will You?, all the time staying aware of arousal levels.
Then Emiko suggested we get a condom and try intercourse. She straddled me, then rubbed my penis on her labia. My arousal level shot up, but stabilised at about 5-6 the more I honed my focus on my breathing and the sensations.
She moved me inside her, then began to grind on me, slowly at first, then with more energy. I focused more on my breathing, and being present in my body. We continued for a few more minutes, increasing the sexiness, and I noticed that I was staying at a solid six the whole time. I felt virtually no anxiety – just more of that bewildered “how the fuck is this working?” feeling. I laugh now thinking about it, but at one point, I asked her “What’s happening Emiko?”. I think I was in shock that I wasn’t cuming.
She further increased the sexiness of what we were doing, and my arousal increased, but only to a seven, and then plateaued. I was feeling pleasure in and all over my body, not just in my penis. I was also beginning to relax into the experience, and felt an incredibly powerful sense of control – like I could fuck forever, and not cum.
She asked me what was different here. I said that she was the smallest person I’d had sex with (she’s just over five foot), and that that was adding to the sense of control I felt over what we were doing (later she made reference to this, and we talked of other ways in which I can feel in control during sex when with a woman taller or larger than me).
Every now and then, she’d catch me unconsciously holding my breath, and remind me to breath and focus on my arousal level, which peaked at a 7.5.
The sex became more vigorous.
Emiko was very orgasmic – she’s very in touch with that side of herself (she feels the pleasure of orgasm when eating a particular high grade sashimi – I’m not kidding). Looking back, I was definitely in a state of shock. This was the first time that I’d ever experienced a woman having extended, continuous (longer than 10-30 seconds), high energy intercourse with me, and the first time I’d ever experienced a woman having extended, ongoing orgasmic pleasure from intercourse with me. It was also the first time that I had ever experienced extended, ongoing pleasure from intercourse, without the fear of cuming.
As well as being in a state of shock, I now know I was also in awe of what was happening. The best I can explain it – I was simultaneously in the experience, AND observing it. I was enjoying watching Emiko, and being a conduit for her pleasure! She was ALWAYS aware of where I was at (reminding me to breathe, checking in on with my arousal level), but at the same time, I was encouraging her to let go as much as she wanted – experiencing a woman getting hers over and over from intercourse for the first time had me wide-eyed, fascinated, and feeling very worthy, valuable and fully capable as a sexual partner. Not that any of my past partners had ever made me feel unworthy. This was just a new feeling of confidence and power that I had never been capable of experiencing before.
I further relaxed into the rhythm, and enjoyed the experience, without feeling like I needed to cum at all. The pleasure continued to spread through all of my body, and I was content experimenting with different angles – adjusting Emiko at will, and adjusting to her when she changed to new positions.
All up, we had medium to high intensity intercourse for approximately 40 minutes, and I didn’t cum.
I was stunned.
Although I couldn’t get my head around what had just happened, something deep in my mind definitely changed in that moment. It was a case of “I’m not quite sure how that worked… but it FUCKING WORKED!!!”
We talked about what had just happened. I expressed that I felt like I couldn’t cum, and had again felt some anxiety with that (the complete opposite problem to PE!!!). We concluded it was most likely because of the intense connection I was having with the woman in my affair.
We ended the session with some spooning… and me being a little lost for words (and bit proud of myself).
Day 9: Friday June 10, 2016
10am Psychotherapy Session 7 (1hr):
Most of this session was taken up with dealing with vulnerability, reassurance and conflict resolution… Thursday night saw some conflict in my affair, as it was the first day that I’d had intercourse with Emiko.
You might be thinking “you idiot, why did you continue the affair when it could’ve potentially ruined your therapy?”. One hundred percent of the time, the affair was a fuck yes7 experience for me, regardless any conflict. I would have ended it had I thought there was a real risk of jeopardising my therapy or the woman’s wellbeing (she’s a very smart and strong girl who would have backed away had she felt the situation was not good for her). Also, although I wasn’t treating the affair as a therapy related experiment (we were genuinely falling for each other), there were positive incidental crossovers in what I was learning during treatment and experiencing in the affair – especially dealing with vulnerability and reassurance. So on balance, being involved with her certainly wasn’t a threat to my therapeutic progress.
Barbara felt I had made great progress overall, and we organised that instead of carrying out the remaining psychotherapy sessions, I would come in on Saturday for an extended session, and finish up there.
[no surrogate partner session]
Day 10: Saturday June 11, 2016
10am Psychotherapy Session 8 (1.5hrs):
This was a big recap session, reinforcement of how symbiosis of vulnerability in a relationship can lead to a lifelong satisfying sex life between two people, and Barbara answering some questions I had from the Hold Me Tight book8 (not really related to PE).
She explained that she was more than happy with how the therapy with Emiko had been going, which gave me more confidence that I had turned a corner and was heading in the right direction.
From memory, the last half hour was on her time (not my dime), and I remember us chatting about the future, various topics from the books she had recommended, plus some of the many other related books we’ve read over the years. She’s a very smart woman, and it was a fantastic conversation.
Barbara made it clear that if I had any questions, I was free to email or call. We finished up wishing each other good luck, hugged, and said our goodbyes.
[no surrogate partner session]
Day 11: Sunday June 12, 2016
12pm Surrogate Partner Session 8 (3hrs):
I was feeling a sexual confidence I’d not felt before. After a very quick May I/Will You?, we went straight into intercourse, and I discovered a depth of animal masculinity within that I had never experienced. It was a little scary sometimes – almost like I was possessed by another personality, and I remember one moment where I held myself back from what I thought was me about to get a little too rough. After that, I decided that I wouldn’t worry about boundaries – that Emiko would tell me if I was about to cross any.
My arousal levels were reaching 8, 9, and then a 9.5, but it still felt like I wasn’t going to cum. This felt great!!! But after about half an hour of testing this new found confidence out in various positions, I felt a little disconcerted that perhaps I couldn’t cum. To switch things up, I started some dirty talk, which felt both ridiculous and ridiculously taboo considering the nature of the situation, but it did the trick – everything just went into erotic overdrive in my body, and, in true May I/Will You? etiquette, I asked “Emiko, may I have an orgasm?!??!?!”
“YEEESSSSSSSS – you may!!!!!!!!!!!!”
It was the first time I’d ever really felt like I’d EARNED the right to have an orgasm (at least with someone else involved) – the first time that I hadn’t felt an ounce of guilt, or self loathing.
It felt pretty damned good!!!
Looking back now – I’m not sure it was only the dirty talk that did the trick. I think I’d also given myself permission to just let go.
We were both a little foggy, so cooled down with a little light making out, caressing, and talking.
Before each session with a client (prior to their arrival), Emiko sets her intentions – what outcomes she’s aiming for – by verbalising them to herself. Interestingly, this session she had said “May Shaun feel worthy”. After sex, when she asked me how I was feeling, I said: “I feel worthy”.
Day 12: Tuesday, June 14, 2016
12pm Surrogate Partner Session 9 (3hrs):
After chatting for a bit, Emiko asked to snuggle, then invited me to listen to my body, and go with what it wanted. This turned into a major make out session that could have gone straight into intercourse. Instead, we backed up a bit, did some naked spooning, then more making out before having intercourse for about half an hour. Again, just like in session seven, I felt like I couldn’t cum.
We then caressed to cool down for a bit, broke out some snacks and water, and chatted for a bit about sex, before going back to sensate touching, moving between the sensual and sexual, focusing on breathing and being aware of arousal levels.
We finished up with spooning, and then chatted for a bit where Emiko reinforced the narrative of believing in myself as a good lover, and how so much good feeling comes from getting in touch with the pleasure inside ourselves.
Day 13: Wednesday, June 15, 2016
12pm Surrogate Partner Session 10 – FINAL SESSION (3hrs):
Emiko started with reading out some closure notes she’d prepared. Some of these notes were written for me – others were for her record, but she had decided to share them all, which was really nice. They gave me an insight into how she was feeling during the therapy, and of what kind of lover I am . Also, there was a recapping of some of the key techniques – dropping into my body, focusing on the sensations, coming back to the sensations in my body when feeling any anxiety – just noticing them, relaxing, breathing and inviting my body to lead me (I love this last one – it’s made a real difference, and has since helped me to tap into my sexuality and masculinity).
She also talked about things I can do moving forward: kegels9, sensate focus on my own in the shower, checking in with my body throughout the day (practising body awareness), sensate focus before masturbation and sex. Also, further investigating what makes me feel in control during sex. Plus, something I really love (which sums most of the above up)…
“To develop the trust with someone so that you can honestly ask for what you want and ask the other person what she wants. Remember connection – connecting with yourself, your body, the present moment, and with the other person.”
She then spoke some words of gratitude and thanks for being open and vulnerable with her (stunned me – should be the other way around, but was really nice!!!), and a number of best wishes and hopes for me moving forward.
After that, spooning seemed very much appropriate, and felt great.
I then I did sensate focus on Emiko’s back, and she reciprocated on my entire frontside including my face, focusing on breathing and sensations. We spent about 45 minutes all up.
She then introduced me to body dancing, an interactive version of full body sensate focus, where you touch each other’s bodies, allowing your own to move in response (by giving it permission to move as it would like in relation to the sensations of the touch of the other person). The trick is – you’re not supposed to stop to think about where you will move to next ie movement is continual, no matter how slow or small! This, more so than sensate focus, challenges you to keep your awareness fully in your body, not up in your mind.
To someone watching, body dancing probably looks like a very sensual and beautiful piece of amateur improv. dancing. I found that once I let go of thinking about boundaries (doing something Emiko might not like), or worrying about how silly my latest movement might look, the exercise became an incredibly liberating and exciting immersion in physically discovering someone else, plus more of my own pleasure responses. It was quite magical!
This became more sensual, then sexual, and lead to very erotic intercourse.
Again, I was reaching arousal levels of 8-9, but plateauing – I felt like I wasn’t going to cum. But this time, I didn’t feel like wanted or needed to cum – I was content just to be very aware of what was happening – to stay in the present, and take it all in, enjoying the experience without any anxiety.
I was also feeling a tinge of sadness at that moment. So much had happened – the therapy, the city (first timer – fantastic city, and I’m not a city person), the affair… and it was all too rapidly coming to an end. Plus, I hadn’t had much down time to process everything. My time there was now a blur, and I wanted to slow things down… let the entire experience sink in… savour everything that had happened… all the things still happening.
In retrospect, I think I was having an extended moment of gratitude for my entire San Francisco experience. Me feeling gratitude can be a rare thing, and I’ve since made an effort each day to be grateful for fundamental things – I’ve discovered it’s a very effective way of eliminating any whininess from my attitude – because my life is pretty fucking terrific. My defaults are…
- I’m grateful I was born in a First World country, with an abundance of opportunity, and the absence of major conflict
- I’m grateful I have full use of my body
- I’m grateful I have the power to greatly influence and change my life as I wish
When I begin to feel sorry for myself about ANYTHING, repeating these to myself a couple of times slaps my attitude into shape – a complete perspective, outlook and mood reset. And so it fucking should – I’m a lucky bastard, who has for the most part led a charmed life.
Meanwhile, back in Sexville…
After about half an hour of rigorous intercourse, we took a break, broke out some snacks, continued touching to stay connected and warmed up, and talked about, among other things, sex, our kinks, BDSM, how we put pressure on men and women to be a certain way, and our lives in general. As it turned out, we felt pretty content doing that for a while, and didn’t go back to doing anything sexual. For me, it felt like a fitting way to end things.
Emiko then had a sweet and thoughtful ceremony prepared – she lit a candle, said a few words, and I blew the candle out. It was a really nice way of bringing the journey to an end.
We got dressed, kissed, hugged, wished each other the best, and said goodbye.
I walked back to the apartment, my head buzzing with the events and emotions of the past two and a half weeks. I was still assimilating it all, not fully understanding everything yet, but deeply felt I’d turned a corner in my life.
So that was my premature ejaculation non-drug psychotherapy and surrogate partner experience.
I’m still a work in progress, but when I follow the techniques and philosophy, most of the time they work. The rest of the time, outside influences are usually at play. Also, like getting good at anything, it’s a discipline that needs to be practiced. I get lazy sometimes. Plus I have many, many years of bad practice to undo.
Thanks for reading – I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions about the experience, I will answer as best I can – feel free to leave a comment on the Facebook page:
I’m not a medical expert, so cannot offer medical advice.
1. From Coping With Premature Ejaculation by Michael E. Metz PH.D. and Barry W. McCarthy PH.D.↵
2. For more, see Coping With Premature Ejaculation by Michael E. Metz PH.D. and Barry W. McCarthy PH.D.↵
3. Taken from the book Coping With Premature Ejaculation by Michael E. Metz PH.D. and Barry W. McCarthy PH.D.↵
4. Coping With Premature Ejaculation by Michael E. Metz PH.D. and Barry W. McCarthy PH.D.↵
5. Premature ejaculation CAN be caused by various physical issues, so, like I did, talk to your GP before trying any therapy↵
6. Premature ejaculation CAN be caused by various physical issues, so, like I did, talk to your GP before trying any therapy↵
7. From Fuck Yes Or No by Mark Manson – a great blog article about a simple way to help set boundaries when choosing a partner↵
8. Hold Me Tight by Sue Johnson – teaches Emotionally Focused Therapy, and that the way to save and enrich a relationship is to reestablish safe emotional connection and preserve the attachment bond↵
9. Kegel exercise examples from the Mayo Clinic↵