Sex & Relationships

Men: There's an Obvious, Easy Way to Avoid Losing Penis Sensitivity

Many men lose a certain amount of sensitivity in their penis as they age. Lube can help.

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One of the realities many men will have to face as they age is a loss of sensitivity in their penis. According to WebMD, this can start as early as age 25, but the sharpest decline in sensitivity is seen between the ages of 65 and 75. Some experts suspect that masturbatory habits from the past have helped exacerbate the problem. “They’re rubbing themselves raw,” says sex educator Carlyle Jansen.  

There’s a phrase that sometimes pops up during conversations about male masturbation—the “death grip.” That kind of vigorous up-and-down dance some guys do when jerking off. The Internet has even provided a name for the experience: “death grip syndrome.” Though certainly not a recognized medical condition, death grip syndrome even has its own website, which defines the term as “a condition in which frequent masturbation by hand desensitizes the nerves in the cock, thus lessening the pleasure of jerking off.”

Sexpert Dan Savage is said to have coined the term in his column back in 2003, writing, “If you masturbate in the exact same way every time, or if you hold your cock in a death grip every time, you may find it difficult to climax as the result of other, more subtle sensations.”

In medical circles, this experience is known as delayed ejaculation. It's when it takes an extended period of sexual stimulation for a man to reach climax. 

It should be noted that not everyone blames the experience on rapid masturbation.

Richard Santucci, chief of urology at Detroit Receiving's Center for Urologic Reconstruction told Vice he wouldn’t place the death grip theory in the “first ten things I’d worry about” when encountering patients with ejaculation problems. Instead, he suggests the patient “look into diabetes, medications, low testosterone, anxiety, all that other stuff.”

Santucci lumps the guys practicing the death grip into the category of “idiosyncratic masturbators.” New York sex therapist Michael A. Perelman explained to the publication that the problem might not be the grip itself as much as the specificity. “The idea is to be able to be responsive to more than one kind of stimulation, so that you can enjoy a range of responses.”

So how do you diversify the experience of masturbation? One answer comes in the form of lube. Of course, some guys are hesitant to incorporate the product into even partnered sex sessions on account of the nasty little myth that says those who lean on lube in the bedroom are in some way less sexually competent than those who don’t. (if she’s turned on, she’ll lubricate herself, right? Not exactly.) The idea of incorporating it into solo sex sessions can sound even more foreign.

But lubrication can help provide a welcome interruption to that too-fast method so many men are hooked on. It provides a slippery base that can mediate the friction dry masturbatory methods demand and bring individuals closer to the sensation of real penetrative sex.  

Jansen told us, “Focus on the pleasure; noticing the sensations will sometimes attune you to sensations that aren’t that vigorous thrusting. It may not be as intense, but it still feels good.”

She added, “Try taking away this pressure or this expectation of ‘when am I going to cum.’ Be present.”

Beware of certain products that promise to heighten sensitivity. There’s no shortage of “tingling lubes” on the market, but as Jansen explains, “The way they work for women is that they have menthol in them. Menthol actually irritates the skin, and that’s why you feel more, because it's irritating you."

Jansen recommends coconut oil in particular, noting the ingredient “is awesome for all different kinds of things. For the penis it would be great.”

Carrie Weisman is a writer focusing on sex, relationships and culture.