A Genetic Cause?

If you want to offer your partner the best excuse yet for not being able to control yourself when it comes to the bedroom antics, try quoting the latest research from Holland. It might all be in your genes!

The investigators looked at almost 200 men from Holland and compared those who reached orgasm too quickly during sex with those who lasted longer in bed.

Investigators discovered that the men who could be described as premature ejaculators had a particular type of one gene that influences the level of the hormones serotonin in the brain.

They discovered that men with this particular version of the gene ejaculated on average twice as quickly as the men who did not have this genetic configuration.

The researchers worked on the assumption that serotonin levels have a major influence over the speed with which a man reaches orgasm during sexual intercourse, and may therefore be a significant cause of premature ejaculation.

This study, reported in the Journal of Sexual Medicine by Doctor Marcel Waldinger seems to suggest that genetics may play a role in the duration of a man’s lovemaking abilities.

The men in this study had always experienced premature ejaculation for as long as they could remember, in other words they had “primary premature ejaculation”, and from their first sexual experience onwards they had identified themselves as men who came too quickly.

(One of the methodological points that may be open to question is that the length of time for which these men were able to engage in sex before reaching orgasm and ejaculating was determined by their female partners measuring the length of this time with a stopwatch. This is not exactly the most scientific methodology, and it may be the least romantic!)

Assuming that the methodology is in fact adequate, comparing the results from this group of men compared with an equal number of men who had no history of rapid ejaculation reveals that in the men who came too quickly, serotonin somehow was less active or potent in its effect on neuronal transmission in the region of the brain that appears to control ejaculatory reflexes.

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Doctor Waldinger claims that the low activity of the hormone serotonin means that nerve impulses do not transfer as quickly and these men as they do in others.

This leads to the conclusion that premature ejaculation is therefore physically-based rather than psychologically based. This is a big assumption, for it makes no reference to the possibility that the mind has an influence over the body as well as the other way round.

Indeed, many men with rapid ejaculation would admit to a high level of anxiety around sex, so research needs to demonstrate that the premature ejaculation is the effect of the serotonin and not the other way round.

Indeed, despite claims that premature ejaculation is in large part physically-based, the evidence actually remains very thin on the ground.

It’s also been claimed that men with premature ejaculation fast reactors in other fields: for example, they have quick reflexes and can respond rapidly to tennis shots or the moves in a computer game.

This is all highly speculative, although it does fit in with the medicalization of premature ejaculation, and the desire of the pharmaceutical companies to produce a compound which will regulate serotonin levels and so delay ejaculation.

Dapoxetine in particular has been fingered as a likely candidate for slowing down men’s reactions in bed: very unfortunate, then, if it also happens to slow down their reactions in the rest of their lives – perhaps not just in a tennis game or in bed but while driving a car?

Certainly the research does not deserve to be dignified with the heading “Premature Ejaculation Gene Found”. It proves nothing of the sort.

PE May Be In The Genes

In a study conducted in Holland, just under 100 men with premature ejaculation were recruited alongside 92 men who had never had premature ejaculation.

The object was to investigate the variables which might contribute to premature ejaculation. The men’s partners were asked, perhaps slightly bizarrely, to time the period between intromission and ejaculation with a stopwatch.

Whether or not this could give a fairly balanced view of the men’s performance as lovers is slightly questionable, but that was the way the researchers established their data.

The results revealed that men who were unable to delay their ejaculation showed lower levels of serotonin than men who did not, a significant finding in view of the fact that serotonin is responsible for the control – or at least exerts significant influence over – the processes of ejaculation, sexual activity, aggression and appetite. A low level of activity of serotonin means that nerve activity will be lower.

Apparently, the study showed that a particular gene (5-HTTLPR for those with a fanatical interest in detail) which is responsible for levels and activity of serotonin in the brain has three forms in the human body, named LL, SL and SS.

The men whose genetic constitution carries the LL version of the gene are primed to ejaculate faster than those who carry the other variants – twice as fast, in fact.

What’s revolutionary about this, of course, is the fact that we have mostly seen lack of control over premature ejaculation as a psychological issue up till now.

This strongly contradicts that idea, and suggest that at least part of the problem is physiological. It remains unclear how significant this finding is in terms of practical application: gene therapy specifically to deal with premature ejaculation would seem to be both unethical and unlikely.