Ask Debby Herbenick | Did Prince Albert really have a pierced willy?
Tell me about what a Prince Albert is.
Q: I have a question about a penis ring device called a Prince Albert that I heard about on Six Feet Under. Did Queen Victoria really make Prince Albert wear such a device? I had never heard of such a thing!
A: The Prince Albert is a popular penis piercing; it goes through the urethra and out by the frenulum (underside of penis, below the head). Unfortunately, there's been little research related to genital piercing and factors related to sexual function, condom use, genital sensitivity or the long-term risk of infection. This history of the Prince Albert piercing is unclear and any ties to the real Prince Albert (and to his wife, Queen Victoria) may be more myth than reality. I've never heard the story about her making him wear a penis piercing; the versions I've heard are that he wore the piercing to (1) hook his penis onto his trousers (tight ones were apparently fashionable at the time), thereby avoiding an unsightly bulge, or (2) pull back his frenulum to keep things sweet-smelling for the queen. However, I've read statements by historians of the Victorian era who say they've never found such evidence. Some people believe that a piercing advocate named Doug Malloy made the whole thing up. Whatever the case, it's an entertaining story and it at least gets people asking about two sensitive areas—genitals and genital piercing.
Q: I am dating a man who is 35 (I'm 27) and we have been together for a year. For the past few months, whenever we have sex, he hardly ever is able to have an orgasm. I am getting frustrated trying to turn him on and not having any effect. How many guys are not turned on by a naked woman on top of them kissing and rubbing them? I would love to have sex at least twice a day, but our sex sessions have been becoming few and far between. When we do have sex, he is extremely attentive—making sure that I am completely satisfied in whatever way I want, but I am starting to feel frustrated and inadequate about him not being able to have an orgasm. I have tried everything! He is able to orgasm during masturbation. Is this common? And what can I do? Help!
A: The fact that men sometimes find it difficult, if not impossible, to orgasm or ejaculate is a well-kept secret, which is a shame. Since it's rarely discussed, men sometimes feel like a sexual failure and often their partners—like you—feel frustrated, inadequate or unappealing. There's so much pain around this particular problem that, whenever I write about it, e-mails pour in from men or their partners who have felt alone in their experience for months, years or even decades. Clinicians have named the delay or absence of male orgasm following sexual excitement "male orgasmic disorder," though it's also been referred to as inhibited ejaculation (which I prefer) and even "retarded ejaculation" (retarded as in delayed, not IQ level). Some suggest that about 3 to 7 percent of men regularly experience this delay or absence of orgasm, though there's little research on the topic. If you include men who only sometimes find it difficult to orgasm, the numbers would jump.Medical conditions are rarely the cause, but checking in with a urologist or other health-care provider is a great first step. Side effects from medications—such as those prescribed for depression or anxiety—can cause problems with orgasm and ejaculation, as can stress or anxiety. For example, it may have started because he was stressed out at work but now—even though the work stress is a thing of the past—perhaps the problem persists because of other worries (that he won't orgasm or that you'll be upset with him). Your boyfriend's refractory period may be changing, too (it happens with age), making it more difficult for him to ejaculate as frequently. If you're aiming for sex twice a day or if he's masturbating ahead of time, that second go-around may be a no-go. Other men find that a fear of impregnating their partner keeps them from going all the way. If your partner wants to work on this, sex therapists can often help. They often suggest "sex homework"—exercises that you can practice together at home—as part of treatment. You can locate a certified sex therapist at the website of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors, and Therapists (www.aasect.org). They may work with you, too, to help you understand more about men's bodies so that youdon't take his sexual performance so personally. This may have nothing to do with you. Just because he doesn't always ejaculate during intercourse doesnot mean that he isn't turned on by you. He may find you beautiful, sexy and stimulating, but men are rarely in full control of erections or ejaculation.You're fortunate to have someone who's so atten-tive of you and your needs. Now it's your turn to find out how you can be more attentive to him. He may not need an orgasm every single time, and removing that pressure may help him enjoy sex more—and perhaps even ejaculate. Or maybe he'd be up for thrusting for a while, then withdrawing his penis and masturbating while you kiss him or lick certain hot spots. Instead of asking, "What can I do to make you come?," consider asking, "What can I do to make our sex play more fun?" The answer may have nothing to do with intercourse or his penis, which can be liberating if you let it. Finally, I recommend reading Orgasms for Two: The Joy of Partnersex (Harmony, $20) by Betty Dodson, which offers incredible ideas for exploring your sexual relationship. Keep me posted.
Send letters to Debby Herbenick, MPH c/o Time Out Chicago, 247 South State Street, 17th floor, Chicago, IL 60604, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.