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Has the Rise of Premature Ejaculation Technology Come Too Soon?

From electronic ‘taint Band-Aids’ to bossy fuck tubes, sex tech is hoping to provide solutions for premature ejaculation the way it did for ED. But maybe — just maybe — we’ve been thinking about sex and pleasure all wrong

If you follow the world of men’s sexual wellness tech, you can’t go a month without stumbling upon someone promoting a “new and revolutionary approach” to dealing with erectile dysfunction. In the decades since Pfizer got ex-presidential candidate Bob Dole to open up about his ED issues and shill for Viagra, the condition has come out of the shadows and fully into the mainstream where it’s become one of the only sexual issues guys are comfortable discussing amongst themselves and their doctors. 

Thus, while men — especially straight, cis ones — are notoriously reluctant to buy most types of sex toys, they’re usually happy to throw down for ED items. These are acceptable, respectable, medicinal purchases in their minds, so for sex tech entrepreneurs, it makes sense to tap into the established and accepted desire for ED solutions rather than to dip a toe into the less charted waters of other sexual issues, many of which are still fraught with harsh taboos. 

That’s why it’s so interesting that, over the last year or so, a handful of high-profile sex tech ventures have dedicated themselves to helping men deal with premature ejaculation, or PE. (Many sexual health experts prefer to call this condition “rapid ejaculation,” which they define as the experience of distress when someone with a penis consistently orgasms within a minute of penetration).

The sexual wellness startups Morari Medical and MYHIXEL have had particular success with this, garnering a fair amount of attention in recent months. The former is developing a wearable perineum patch, which commentators have dubbed the “taint Band-Aid.” It sends electrical signals to the nerves associated with ejaculation, which run along the perineum. Those signals can tone down the messages nerves send to the brain, functionally increasing the amount of genital stimulation needed to trigger an ejaculatory reflex. 

A few beta testers have said the device helped them, and described it as just a slight tingling sensation on their gooch. However, Morari just enrolled couples in a study to test the patch’s efficacy, so there are no clear numbers on exactly how much more time the average man may get out of the unnamed wearable. Yet even though they’re still playing around with its design, Morari’s pushing to get the device — which links up to an app that allows users to dial its signals up or down at will — on the market this year.

Meanwhile, MYHIXEL sells a Fleshlight-like penis stroker and an app that guides users — over the course of few weeks — through exercises that use the device to simulate penetrative sex. Its soft masturbator sleeve self-heats up to body temperature and vibrates slightly. 

Theoretically, the MYHIXEL system acclimates users to sexual sensations to slow down their ejaculatory responses during partnered sex. They claim that their product helps men last up to seven times longer in bed, but they never set a baseline endurance time for that claim. (Is it one minute up to seven minutes? Fifteen seconds up to just under two minutes? What?) However, while some pro sex-toy reviewers have given the quality of the stroker and program “one thumb up… because the other was busy,” user reviews on sites like Amazon have been far more mixed, complaining about device fragility, grip and noise issues. 

These are hardly the only players on the scene. Virility, an Israeli company, is also developing a wearable patch, and a few other biotech firms are exploring ejaculatory interference ideas as well. 

Interestingly, this surge of PE-centric sex tech isn’t the result of any major technological revolutions. Morari says that its wearable is a novel application of established technologies — it’s basically a mini TENS unit. And although MYHIXEL founder Patricia Lopez claims her device uses “a revolutionary scientific innovation,” it draws on existing cognitive behavioral techniques, and experts say it bears similarities to some earlier, low-tech sensory acclimation training practices. “There hasn’t been a lot of innovation in the premature ejaculation treatment space for close to 20 years,” notes sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson. “It’s a neglected area of sexuality.” 

Likewise, the surge doesn’t reflect any shift in PE dialogue or awareness. None of the experts I spoke to have seen any real change in the way we talk about this condition, either. So, then, what does explain sex tech’s sudden spike of interest and investment in PE solutions? 

Premature ejaculation has always been a tempting target for sex tech entrepreneurs. At least 30 percent of men struggle with the issue for at least a portion of their lives, and urologist Ryan Terlecki suspects the condition is underdiagnosed because men are often afraid to talk to doctors about sexual health issues. (People even lie on anonymous surveys about their sex lives). Sex tech firms’ research also suggests that over 75 percent of men want to last longer, even if they don’t have clinical PE. Sex therapists like Paul Nelson tend to blame that on porn, which often depicts penetrative sex that lasts for at least 10 minutes, while global averages for most couples sit between five and six.  

There are already a ton of options on the market, both for people with diagnosable PE and those who just want to last a little longer. Doctors can prescribe various antidepressants, which can inhibit users’ sexual responses and sensations, while sex therapists help people to get in touch with their bodies, understand why they might rush during sex and learn to manage sensations. They also detail quick and easy in-the-moment endurance tricks that anyone can try, at no cost, ranging from start-and-stop techniques to deep breathing exercises. Some people also swear by acupuncture, meditation, yoga and similar general wellness techniques. 

Sexual health companies even make extra-thick condoms and numbing agents to dull penile sensations, though some sex stores like Good Vibrations refuse to sell numbing products, because, as staff sexologist Carol Queen, says, “cutting down on sensation shouldn’t be a goal in sex” for most people. Finally, for those willing to take a gamble, there are all of those LAST LONGER! supplements hanging by the registers in corner stores nationwide. 

Of course, gas station dick pills are unregulated and sometimes dangerous, so they’re never a good idea. There isn’t much research on the efficacy of most supplements or lifestyle practices like yoga on PE, either. Thankfully, though, research suggests that the rest of these solutions are fairly effective for at least some men — PE stems from a number of different psychological or physical causes, so no one solution will help in every case. 

However, they all come with drawbacks. Pills can have side-effects ranging from headaches to lowered libido. Sex therapy can be costly, and may take time to yield results. In-the-moment control techniques can take you out of moments of pleasure. Thus, when you consider the potential gains, drawbacks and limitations of products on the market, it becomes clear why urologist Stanton Honig concludes that “we just don’t have good treatment options” for PE. 

That’s what makes the condition especially juicy to sex tech innovators, says urologist Sriram Eleswarapu. “Physicians haven’t adopted a go-to treatment, and there is no ‘silver bullet’ tech yet. Millions of men would be interested in out-of-the-box solutions that go beyond therapy or pharmaceuticals,” he says. 

A handful of entrepreneurs, drawn in by this allure, have been pecking around PE tech solutions since at least the mid-aughts. A $269 device called Prolong, a frenulum vibrator that comes with a basic multi-week start-and-stop sensation acclimation training guide (and a bottle of lube), has been on the market for years, garnering some attention in men’s lifestyle outlets.

But the PE tech landscape only really started opening up in the late-2010s, though no one I spoke to was entirely sure why. Eleswarapu thinks the gradual shift had something to do with the rise of trendy, direct-to-consumer male sexual health services like Hims and Roman, both founded in 2017 and heavily advertised ever since. These companies and others like them chipped away at some of the last major roadblocks and stigmas for the average consumer looking to get their hands on some ED drugs, and got them to explore well-packaged anesthetizing wipes and other PE solutions, as well. That’s helped to fuel healthy growth in the PE product sales over the last few years — growth that has turned big retailers’ heads and spurred entrepreneurs to find ways of tweaking or rebranding old, or building new, solutions that cash in on the trend.    

Most of the companies that started making regular headlines over the last year were founded right in this time frame. Morari founder Jeff Bennett says that in 2018, about a year after he got his operation up and running, Procter & Gamble invited him to their booth at a trade show to talk about their taint Band-Aid. “For them to embrace this idea, to me, says that society is ready now,” he says. “Amazon recently called us, and said, ‘Hey, we read about you and we want to work together, because sexual health and wellness is one of our fastest growing categories.’”

None of this guarantees that new PE tech will succeed, of course. Honig says he’s always happy to see new treatment options on the market, but these companies have just conducted a few tiny studies. Terlecki suspects the big claims PE innovators are making about their tech’s ability to delay orgasms much longer than extant products are more bluster than anything. “I’ll bet you a steak dinner their initial findings and claims wouldn’t hold up in a true clinical trial,” he says. 

They’ll probably sell regardless of their apparent efficacy or user reviews, though. “If there’s something new, and the risk profile is low, like it is with these new products, then people are going to try them,” Honig adds. It doesn’t matter that most of these new products are still pretty pricey — MYHIXEL’s run between $239 and $299; Morari is still settling on a price point, but Bennett says they’re looking at a razor-blade model, where you buy their core control unit once and then pay $10 to $15 for every single-use adhesive patch you need. “Many men shell out thousands of dollars for even bogus cash-only sexual therapies offered by so-called men’s health clinics, like testosterone and platelet-rich plasma injections,” Terlecki points out.  

“But unless these products can show people that they work, they’re not going to make a whole lot of money,” Honig explains, and lackluster sales could blunt the surge of PE tech.

If this nascent wave of new PE sex tech does prove to be effective, or at least profitable, that’ll be a mixed blessing for men. “If all we deliver is a chance for couples to have conversations about their sexual relationship that they’ve never had before, that’s still a win,” argues Bennett. 

However, sex researcher and psychologist Justin Lehmiller says such conversations don’t necessarily correspond to rising willingness to go to medical professionals and talk through sexual health issues with the experts. In fact, sex educator Lawrence Siegel worries that at-home tech solutions will only encourage men to try to handle all of their sexual health issues on their own. He also fears that the “obsessive performance focus” baked into a lot of sex tech marketing will just reinforce “the shame, the self-consciousness, guys feel about not performing at the level they think they’re ‘supposed’ to.”

Most of the sexual health experts I interviewed stressed that men don’t necessarily need to jump through hoops and burn cash to last longer. Their partners may not even want them to. Sex involves far more than just penetration; if anything, partners may find other activities just as satisfying, if not more so, than solid pumping. To that point, it’d be great to see a tech training program that helps men work through why it is that they feel distress about their penetrative endurance, what they and their partners really want out of sex and how to act on those insights to achieve true sexual growth and satisfaction. 

Maybe innovators will bring us tech that’s nuanced and constructive, if the PE market takes off and investors open up to funding more and more complex projects. But for now, we have to hold out long enough to see what this rising tide of training toys and taint patches can actually do.  

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