Sensitive Man, Insensitive Penis?
January 3, 2010 9:12 AM   Subscribe

I am currently in a happy relationship with a remarkable guy. He is wonderful, loving, and all-around awesome. We've been together for some time now, and things are great--emotionally, we've very solid and better than ever. For all of these reasons, I hope we'll be together for a very long time. There's just one topic I feel the need to broach--my SO's insensitive penis.

As two people who are, as mentioned, really attracted to each other, we are all over each other and have a good amount of sex. We are both in our 20s and both have pretty high sex drives, and I, personally, would usually like to have even more than we do now. The problem making me shy away from initiating sex more frequently is the insensitive penis issue. My SO has confided in me that he has reduced feeling in his penis, which makes intercourse difficult. Apparently, he has experienced this issue for as long as he can remember, so it isn't just with me. Aside from that data point, he is a good size (ahem) and I am pretty tight. He can only achieve orgasm inside me in one or two positions, and certain positions that I really love (like cowgirl) don't really work for him, presumably because there isn't enough friction on his end. He will often end up just sort of jackhammering, if you know what I mean, which can hurt on my end. It also can sometimes take him a very long time to come, to the point where it seems difficult for him, it stops being fun, and I get tender and have to ask him if we can switch it up to manual or oral (which do work for him, with a lot of pressure and prolonged work on my part) to satisfy him. So, while we have plenty of good foreplay, these factors can make sex frustrating.

I love my SO very much, and while (lucky me) he is giving and talented at other, less penile-focused ways of satisfying me, I really love penetrative sex a whole lot, and if there's anything we can either find to deal with the insensitivity or work around it to improve this part of our sex life, I want to know what it is. This isn't a relationship deal breaker--everything else is good--but it is something that I would like to be able to share with him with less discomfort or difficulty and more mutual enjoyment if possible.

I don't know what the cause of his reduced sensitivity is, but after having done some research, I have read that frequent masturbation can sometimes reduce sensitivity in the penis. (Because he is a sexy, sexy man, I know he likes to masturbate fairly regularly. I also know he tends to use a lot of pressure.) What's more, to my alarm, I found medical research advising that reduced sensitivity in someone so young can sometimes indicate something like a potential neurological condition. This makes me very concerned for him and his well-being, and is obviously a lot more important than perfectly satisfying both of us in the sack.

Bottom line here is that I clearly need to talk to him and ask things like:

Primarily, should he see a doctor just to get things checked out; secondarily, after that's taken care of, how often is he satisfying himself on his own (which I am usually very much in favor of), and is this maybe making pleasurable, orgasm-friendly penetrative sex hard for him? Usually, our communication is excellent and open, but I am fully aware that this is a sensitive issue for him (no pun intended), that other ladies have been less than kind or understanding about it, and that it has caused some insecurity in the past, and I want to tread lightly and protect his feelings when discussing it. So, now that you've waded through this very long and hopefully not-too-incoherent post, my questions:

- How can I bring up my concerns/desire to get this sorted/questions over whether he might want to see a doctor in a way that does not make him feel criticized or inadequate?
- Have you dealt with this particular circumstance yourself, either with a partner or on your own? How did you work around it or improve it to have mutually-satisfying penetrative sex?
- Do you know of any good resources on this condition or associated conditions online? I've searched some major medical databases and the internet at large, but would love more info if available.

Thanks, everybody. Throwaway email for questions is
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Tell him to slow down and be, ah, "less deep." Dudes are way more sensitive at the tip, and gals are tighter at the entrance... so if he's just "jackhammering" away deeply like you say, he's likely not accomplishing much for himself.
posted by carlh at 9:34 AM on January 3, 2010

He can only achieve orgasm inside me in one or two positions, and certain positions that I really love (like cowgirl) don't really work for him

Do cowgirl until you are satisfied and then switch to something else. Let him know that this position is for you (so please no jackhammering) and that you'll switch to one of his favorites for him to finish. My hubs and I do this all the time. Mutually satisfying doesn't necessarily mean one position gets you both to the finish line, and it's not really that disruptive to switch especially once you both get used to the idea and work out a few basic sequences of positions that work the best.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:51 AM on January 3, 2010 [5 favorites]

You don't mention birth control. Is he using condoms? I would say I'm somewhat less sensitive than most. Condoms make sex almost ALMOST not fun. It feels hugely different with the pill or an IUD. 100% no joke totally different. And much more sensitive.

I think masturbation can reduce sensitivity but also I think sometimes it has no effect. Also I think sometime the effect can be more a mental block ("this feels different than I'm used to").

The other thing is that I think a lot of men can only climax in a couple of positions. That's sort of his business. Just because you enjoy cowgirl or whatever, doesn't mean he does. And vice versa. You should not expect him to get off in any position, and there is the chance that you might have passed judgement on the way that he gets off, and he's now a little sensitive about asking you to do the thing that he needs.

I think that's one of the ironic things about sex, that men and women get totally different amounts of sensation from the same position. Some are more pleasurable for the woman, some for the man. Some are about equal. At least that's how it is for me.
posted by sully75 at 10:03 AM on January 3, 2010

You mentioned that he masturbates a lot and uses a lot of pressure. That has to stop. He's suffering from the grip of death. He needs to take a serious break from masturbating for a while. When he continues, he'll need to use lotion and very little pressure at all. If he goes back to pressure, the problem just gets worse.

That alone will make the problem much less difficult. It may be a bit difficult to approach this issue, and it may sound a bit cruel for him to cut out masturbation entirely for a month, but the results are very well worth it.

It's a lot more common than you'd think. If that doesn't work, then it might be time to see a doctor. Most likely, it's just that he's choked his chicken into a coma and needs to give himself a break.
posted by Saydur at 10:10 AM on January 3, 2010 [3 favorites]

What saydur said - There's nothing wrong with whacking off, but using a death-grip (and no lube) while you do it is, well, death. He needs to stop doing that, and things will more than likely get better.
posted by deadmessenger at 11:06 AM on January 3, 2010

Thirding the "ease up on the death grip." That's why he's not sensitive. He'll have to train his penis to be more sensitive by masturbating less frequently and more gently. Lots of guys have this problem as they leave the exclusively masturbatory realm of early adolescence and begin to experience real penetrative sex and find that it's not nearly so intense. So: some abstinance, and some gentle finger/tongue play.

Stay away from those "sensitising" gels. Odds are they'll just hurt like hell.
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:41 AM on January 3, 2010

You should take the hard line on the death grip. Having dated many men who were virgins at a late age or had long dry spells, I've had to broach this uncomfortable issue many times. I simply asked them to do a trial, say a week, of no masturbation, to see if the problem gets better. It always has. Don't make them feel bad for masturbating, just frame it as an experiment. When masturbation resumes I usually gentle recommend they invest in some lube and take it a little easier.

But in the end some positions just aren't as pleasurable for some men. Cowgirl seems to be a common position that men are kinda meh about and woman like. Compromise by starting off cowgirl and eventually moving to another position.
posted by idle at 11:57 AM on January 3, 2010

Response by poster: Have him not masturbate for a week and see what happens at the end of it. It's probably "Grip of Death" as other posters have said. If you used some crazy high-powered vibrator to get off your entire life, you probably wouldn't be able to come through normal human-powered means either. He's doing the equivalent.
posted by Anonymous at 12:13 PM on January 3, 2010

You should take the hard line on the death grip.

Don't take a "hard line" on anything regarding sexual dysfunction. Treat him as an equal, not a person whose needs are to be put second to you.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:16 PM on January 3, 2010

He should absolutely see a urologist, first of all.

Second of all, try some of the experiments suggested here. Also, lube. If you're getting sore, that's your hoo-ha telling you you need to use more/better/different lube.

Third of all, if the experiments don't work, maybe seeing a sex therapist might help.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:51 PM on January 3, 2010

Sounds like textbook death grip syndrome. Usually, the solution is an absolute cessation of high-pressure masturbation (if he does masturbate, it's gotta be with an absolutely feather-light touch) and a reduction in orgasming in general until his penis wakes back up and starts responding to more gentle stimulation. A partner who is kind and patient and willing to work with her fellow through his recovery is also a great help - you sound like a caring and conscientious mate, so I'm certain you're equal to the task. Don't get frustrated - just think! You're the gal who gets to resurrect his dick!

Sounds like his numbness problem is compounded by some insecurity fostered by former partners - and no doubt, there's nothing more fatal to a properly functioning boner than insecurity and anxiety. So I'd advise you to not treat him like he's broken or doin it wrong or whatever, and it doesn't sound like you're the type, so hooray. Instead, treat this as a fun experiment, a fun journey you can take together with the end result of more exciting, satisfying sex for the both of you! You guys are probably going to have more than a few sessions where he doesn't orgasm, and that's part of the recovery. Instead of switching into "jackhammer" mode when it just ain't happening, just go ahead and call it a night for the moment and don't proceed into sex that's just a drag for both of you. When his cock doesn't get the bludgeoning it's used to in order to be stimulated to ejaculation, it's more than likely going to start figuring out other ways to come in a hurry.

So see what happens after a couple weeks off of masturbation and jackhammering. I'd warrant that his sensitivity is bound to increase once he stops getting overwhelmed with sensation. If that don't do it, then it's probably time for a trip to the doctor.

Check out Dan Savage's column and podcast archives for lots, lots more on this subject. Very common problem, usually with a very easy (and fun and sexy) fix.

Good luck!
posted by EatTheWeek at 2:44 PM on January 3, 2010

Everyone is deathgrip, deathgrip, deathgrip. I'm serious, condoms for some people take almost all the fun out of sex and make it very difficult to finish.

In addition to trying a different form of birth control, you should try some different brands of condoms. Opinions definitely vary. In my experience, trojans of any kind are terrible. Durex, the red and purple ones are really good.

The other sucky thing about condoms, if your friend is a little wider than normal, they can be pretty damn tight. Probably a good thing but not so comfortable. The Durex I think might be a tiny bit bigger, at least the two I mentioned.

And also very, very important with condoms is to put a bit of lube on the end of the penis. It seems like it would make the condom come off --it hasn't for me -- but it makes the head of the condom move against the head of the penis and that helps increase sensation considerably.

I read somewhere where someone was criticizing the Dan Savage Death Grip article as being unproven scientifically. I can't remember where. I take it with a grain of salt though.
posted by sully75 at 5:06 PM on January 3, 2010

Mod note: From the OP:
OP here. In response to a few good questions I've gotten via email:

- This issue is much more pronounced when using a condom, to the point where sex becomes difficult; since we're 100% committed, monogamous, both clean, and I'm using an alternate (effective) birth control method, we go condomless as a rule.
- My SO is circumcised.

Thanks for all your replies so far. It sounds like this might, in fact, be a case of the deathgrip, so I will try gently asking him if he can try this temporary change in pace/pressure with me as an experiment. I just want to make sure I phrase this in a totally supportive, non-critical way that will keep him feeling good about himself, because he totally deserves to. This is a hard conversation to have when it's something that has been rough for the person you love, so it is really vital to me that I hammer out a positive, good way to phrase it. Thanks, also, to the folks reminding to preserve that supportive approach--so important.

As I think I've tried to get across, I know my needs aren't more important than his, and this is something that I know has been hard for him, too. The emphasis here is to hopefully get to the bottom of this so we both can have more fun than we already do and this can stop being a sensitive or difficult thing to work around. This is an "us" thing, not just a "me" thing.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:59 PM on January 3, 2010

He can only achieve orgasm inside me in one or two positions, and certain positions that I really love (like cowgirl) don't really work for him...I really love penetrative sex a whole lot, and if there's anything we can either find to deal with the insensitivity or work around it...

You've had a lot of useful feedback on increasing his sensitivity. May I suggest that the framing, i.e. his penis as problem to be solved or worked around, is less than optimal? Though a health check is always a good idea, it sounds like his penis is working in the intended manner. It gets hard, and it comes. Frequently. Mazel tov to both of you.

You two get off from different means of stimulation. So what? Vive la difference! The gauntlet has been thrown down! You two gleefully accept this delicious challenge to your erotic creativity! Imagine a month in which you two compete to find clever new ways to get off based on all that each of you has learned about the other's sexual uniqueness. Maybe he adds a dildo into the action to prolong the penetrative fun for you. Maybe you play Mistress Anon and "order" him to masturbate with only fingertip touches while you put on juicy visual show for him. Maybe he uses an ice cube to do some fun temperature play on you, while incidentally reducing your sensitivity so it's more closely matched with his. Etc.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 9:37 PM on January 3, 2010

Another hint: if you are very wet, it can end up overlubing him. Sometimes using a tissue to dry him off (don't dry you off) will help increase sensation significantly.
posted by sully75 at 5:06 AM on January 4, 2010

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