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What Men Think of When They’re Trying Not to Cum

For 5 percent of them, it’s grandma

A recent study by Zava, a British company focused on sexual health, surveyed more than 1,000 Europeans and Americans to see how people prolong sex and found that 5 percent of men admitted to thinking about their “mom, dad or a grandparent to hold off on coming too soon.” The idea that some dude was thinking about his grandma while I was doing him doggy was too much for me to bear, so I put the call out to my Twitter followers to see what else was on their mind during the deed.

More than 200 men responded, which goes to show how real performance anxiety is for most men. In fact, according to the Zava study, 96 percent of men admitted to trying to delay an orgasm at some point in their lives and “only a small minority can say they’ve never struggled to keep the orgasm at bay.” Basically, men are under immense pressure to avoid being labeled a “quick-shooter” and the shame that premature ejaculation brings with it. “My friend Jimmy has a reputation of getting excited and popping off earlier,” one guy writes. “I think of not wanting to have to live with that shame. Or Pokémon, but mainly shame. Reps matter when you’re single.”

Women, of course, have no concept of what this is like; after all, our biggest challenge is usually of the opposite variety: How do we orgasm before he busts a nut?

But when glimpsing into the depths of the male psyche, clear patterns emerge, and it becomes evident that the lengths men go to delay an orgasm — or the psychological “game of sexual chicken,” as one man puts it — fall on a spectrum from Zen to off-putting with the mundane landing somewhere in the middle.

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As a public service, I’ve organized the top categories in order of popularity.

Baseball

I always assumed “think about baseball” was an urban legend that got passed down from dads to their sons and became a joke in pop culture but didn’t actually exist. “The research into the origins of thinking about baseball to prolong sex for men may be as interesting as your current research,” one man writes.

And he’s correct. Thank you for my next piece, kind sir.

But oh, how very wrong I was about this being urban legend. At last count, 40 of the 200 men who responded listed baseball as their go-to orgasm prolonger and swore by its time-tested effectiveness. That said, everyone seems to have a different approach to thinking about baseball. For some, it’s just replaying starting lineups. For one man it’s “Vin Scully calling a baseball game.” For others, it’s much more specific. “I think about defensive baseball in as detailed a way as I can, imagining where the outfield/infield should line up versus specific batters,” one man shares with me.

Another man confesses, “I think about Pedro Martinez flipping Don Zimmer on his ass. It’s hilarious, and usually buys me a few minutes.”

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Apparently, you don’t even have to enjoy baseball in order for it to work its magic in the sack. “I don’t like baseball, but it’s also very slow, boring and descriptive. There’s a man on first, pitcher is going from the stretch, but he steps off the rubber. Batter is 0–3 today with two strikeouts and 1 for 12 in this series. Pitcher back on the mound, looks off the man on first and throws. Ball one. It works for me.”

But if baseball is so boring that you think about it to simmer down your sex drive, why even bother watching it? When I push men to explain this paradox to me, one guy eloquently responds, “I love baseball, but it also has a way of calming me. It puts me into a place where going the distance is the thing and not throwing away all your pitches/hits at once… so to speak.”

Sports

Baseball was by far the most popular, but sports in general came up frequently, too. Men listed golf shots, “putting in particular,” basketball (“because it sucks”) and questions like, “I wonder who will win the Western Conference Finals?”

“I’m a basketball writer and it really engages my mind very easily so I just think about whatever I’m planning to write next and I completely lose myself lol,” a fellow member of the media confides. That said: “I’ve gone too far and lost my erection before lmao.”

“Trying to think of every sports team from different leagues usually works,” adds another of my Twitter dudes. “Sex and sports are all we think about anyway.”

Truth. Although apparently a lot of you think about math as well…

Math

Not to brag, but I just blew the lid off the gender STEM debate, folks. Men are better at math because according to my very unscientific research (I’m a girl, I’m bad at science) THEY’RE DOING IT THE WHOLE TIME THEY HAVE SEX (or at least a good percentage of the time).

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Honestly, I’m shocked at how prevalent this was, but 25 men claimed math as their faithful fallback to extend their fucking. “Math, combined with a physical event,” reads a random sample. “For me, that means thinking of old phone numbers, then using my foot to ‘dial’ those numbers with each toe (small toe on left is 1, small toe on right is 0). Works like a charm!”

When I ask “why math?,” a research psychologist in training explains, “[It] activates the task-positive network and deactivates the default mode network (the latter is associated with interpersonal connection).”

As for more specifics, my respondents listed everything from multiplication tables, counting “nailheads on the headboard” and solving quadratic equations. Thanks to this field research, I’m never going to not wonder if my man is trying to figure out what the circumference of my butthole is while my ass is up in the air.

Mundane Shit

Or you know, the super boring stuff. For example, “If I’m about to cum too fast, I think of work or something I hate doing.” Other things men hate doing — or better put, things that are only of use and/or interesting when they’re trying not to cum — included: Household to-do lists, cutting grass, doing dishes, “vacuuming or dusting,” building fences and yard work. “I pick something in the room and try and think about how it works,” one guys tells me. “I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out how an alarm clock works…”

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But back to where we started — work. It’s seemingly very much a reliable go-to. “Work, always work,” offers a Twitter respondent. “Biggest problem at work. Great sex can actually be productive.”

One gentleman sums it up perfectly. “It’s ironic: When men are at work, they’re thinking about sex, and when they’re having sex, they’re thinking about work.”

Unpleasant Shit

This is probably the category grandma would fall under. Grandma or otherwise, I’ve never understood this practice. I’m not alone either. One man writes, “I honestly thought the whole ‘think about [sexually repulsive thing] to delay orgasm’ thing was a cultural meme. I didn’t know people actually do it.”

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To me at least, it seems dangerous to link negative experiences or imagery with sex, but that certainly didn’t stop my respondents. For example:

  • Four cite “dead puppies.” Specifically, a man who works at an animal rescue says he’ll think of an abuse case. When I ask him “why?,” he responds that there’s something about the morbidity that would turn him off just enough.
  • Three mentioned “having another kid” or just kids in general “screaming in stores for things they want.”
  • A couple reveal they think about their ex-wife or girlfriend naked. Here’s a pro-tip from me, though: Don’t EVER confess that to your current lover unless you want to add her to the list of exes you’re imagining naked.

  • “Something that annoys me about the other person” comes up a several times, too. Case in point: “I had a friend who said he’d remember their last fight and specifically something shitty she’d said,” one man shares. “I immediately had to say, ‘That sounds like a terrible idea and is probably gonna destroy your mind with chaos and confusion.’ He just said, ‘Yeah, but it really works.’”
  • There’s a litany of roach/spider/worm/snake votes. But there’s just one “lots of frogs getting squished by tires.”
  • Same for: “Old people struggling to walk through deep snow.”
  • And: “I try to remember the God-awful smell of a Brazilian hooker I banged when I was in the Navy. She was foul.”
  • L. Ron Hubbard’s teeth, however, win the prize for the most creative unpleasant thing. If you don’t believe me, check out this awesome picture my follower shared with me.

Switch It Up

According to the Zava study, this was the most popular way men delayed ejaculation but it was a distant fifth or sixth on my extremely scientific list. Either way, it would appear to work. “I don’t delay orgasm by thinking about something,” a gentleman explains, “but I will stop having sex suddenly to delay orgasm. Usually, I’ll change positions so she doesn’t know what I’m doing.”

Another adds, “Just slow down, change rhythm or focus on something about her rather than how it feels down there…”

Which leads me to my favorite category…

Ladies First

Guys, I will say this over and over and over again: It doesn’t really matter how long you take if you take care of her first. Use your hand, a vibrator, or better yet, your tongue. Several men mentioned this tactic, but honestly, not enough. In my humble and very spoiled opinion, the minimum orgasm ratio should be 2:1. I know you’re all good at math, but let me break that down for you: We should be having two orgasms to every one of yours.

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Only one man I heard from — a God among men if I might — seems to understand this unspoken rule: “What I think about during sex to delay orgasm is ‘You first.’ When I have sex, I want the woman I’m with to feel good and have a good time. So I keep telling myself ‘you first’ so that I only cum after she does. Although I usually go down and have her orgasm before penetration so technically mine would come 2nd but I like to try to give her 2 before I have my first.”

Can I get an “AMEN”!?!!!

Get Zen

Because of Sting, tantric yoga and the push for men to get in touch with their feelings, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by how Zen many of the responses were—in both tone and techniques.

But I was.

These motherfuckers sounded like Jedis or something. “I don’t think of anything,” a budding Yoda writes. “I try not to think. I try to use my other senses more. I try to concentrate on the subtle sensations of a caress, the way light looks on her skin or the sounds as she vocally responds to things I’m doing.” This, of course, can be perilous. “Truth be told, that’s usually my undoing, though,” Yoda admits. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, the combination of my thrusts and her moans automatically flips the switch, lol.”

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“I try to make my mind go blank and inhale slowly and deeply (almost trying to channel the sort of post-orgasm mindspace I experience),” another Skywalker-type says. “I can’t say anything about how comparatively effective this is as I’ve never tried the think-of-something-un/anti-sexy. That makes zero sense to me as something I could or would want to do.”

Although finding a “blank mind” and breath-work might be more challenging than conjuring up images of defensive shifts in baseball, they’re probably the healthiest options in the long run. My issue with the “think of something else” method is that you essentially have to detach from what should be an intimate moment during which you’re literally connected to another human being. So the true challenge is learning how to prolong the orgasm and stay in the moment.

Random Silly Shit

Obviously, there were a multitude of answers that belonged in no category. The biggest surprise was that condoms and alcohol, high on the list of the Zava study, were only mentioned once each, although my sampling was a fifth the size of theirs and included no Europeans, which might have something to do with it.

I’m gonna put random people and celebrities here as well. I was shocked to only hear the name Trump once, but that guy is probably on par with thinking about your grandma. Otherwise, Amy Schumer, Rachel Maddow, Hillary Clinton, Lena Dunham (twice), Rosie O’Donnell (four times), Marge Simpson, Babe Ruth and “MARGARET THATCHER NAKED ON A COLD DAY MARGARET THATCHER NAKED ON A COLD DAY” all made the list.

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Other random silly shit that jumped out:

  • “When I was younger, 16–20ish I used to think about Turtles (the cartoon)! And it worked!”
  • “Rocks. Big rocks. Big standing rocks.”
  • “I’ve thought about tomatoes! Not too sure why it works, but it does at times!”
  • “I’ll look my dog in the eye.”
  • “Blue Cheese.”
  • “I think about my sore wrists because I suck at supporting my upper body.”
  • “Crab wars. Literally armies of crabs waging war on one another on a deserted beach. Works 1000% of the time. The more detailed the more efficient.”
  • “I recite the Green Lantern oath in my mind while thinking of the Green Lantern Power Battery.”

As for the man who sent me this, “Funny shit. Never used grandma as a delay tactic. Now I’ll spend the next year trying to get the thought of it out of my mind, though.”

That makes two of us, pal.

You’re welcome.