Yes, I gamified all my shameful orgasms.
Photo via Flickr user bradleypjohnson
"Wait, wait, wait...shit. Sorry."
This is the primal cry of the Premature Ejaculator. The choked plea to wait because I'm about to... A cry to stop that is marbled with a pathetic, pre-emptive apology because everyone involved knows that it's too late. It is a cry I know too well, because it is one I've uttered countless times (countless due to embarrassment not due to unimaginable quantities).
I am one of these quick-draw gunslingers. Premature ejaculation has been my constant riding companion since I became sexually active. The problem has ebbed and flowed, sometimes not happening, often happening, but the fear of it—that dreaded, frayed and swinging rope bridge that I have to cross with every sexual encounter—is always there.
Then my editor asked if I wanted to write about the Premature Ejaculation App (or PEA for short). PEA, available on both Apple iOS and Android, is a training app for masturbating, meant to guide men toward a more enjoyable and longer sexual experience. Yes! Finally, technology has arrived as my salvation from shameful sexual incompetence. And hell, my sex drive had already been reduced to nil from a combination of heartache and technological impediments, so maybe, this would be the thing I needed to become a sexual dynamo. I mean it's certainly better than my plan that age, drink, and apocalyptic dread would take care of the problem.
(But first, a more immediate problem: my lack of a smart phone. Luckily the good people at VICE loaned me one, to which I both say thanks and give my assurances that it has been sanitized. Also, while I'm apologizing, apologies to my roommate, who will never be able to hear the words "I'm going to go work on an article" without shuddering ever again.)
The app's creator, Brennan Belich, a fellow speed demon, thinks that many men develop the problem from teenage masturbation, when we jerked off in the totalitarian shadow of being busted by our parents and hence trained ourselves not only to finish quickly and quietly but to view this act as bad, dirty behaviour.
I agree with Brennan's origin story for this worst possible superhero power. For me growing up in a house where there was no love loss between parents—never mind any intimacy or physical affection—sex was only something that existed on the websites I wasn't supposed to visit and conversations I wasn't supposed to have. I didn't have a girlfriend to help ease into it either. Sex was this dark, taboo secret, that was also simultaneously, the most important thing in my adolescent teen boy life. It became both a tremendous source of anxiety but also this crevice, a site into which I stuffed all my fears, insecurities, and inadequacies. I doomed myself to failure this way, as masturbating both became a relief from this nervous pressure but also guilt-ridden evidence that all my fears and anxieties were justified. Every orgasm became both test and evidence of my inadequacies as a (future) man.
To remove orgasms from the mire of adolescent shame, the app takes a decidedly less-than-titillating aesthetic. This is, quite intentionally, not a sexy experience. Surrounded by soothing, platonic, green-and-blue colors, you are guided through your lessons not by a buxom beauty but by a wisecracking cartoon doctor, who keeps the tone of the instructions at an innuendo-laden PG-13.
The main feature of the app is a three-step maturbation training routine. The good doctor and helpful hints guide you while timers and graphs let you see your results. In the first step, which includes five self-administered boot-knockings, the user is encouraged to masturbatute how they would regularly but with the goal of observing what makes up your "point of no return." This is the moment when pleasure has reached a point where orgasm is imminent and any delay is impossible. In this stage you are encouraged to become a climate scientist for your own pleasure and determine which are positive feedback loops in your own body that happen before your global ice melt. For me, a tightening of the testes and some pleasurable prickling in the upper shaft of my donger were my methane being released from newly thawed soil.
The next step, which also includes five sessions of the dirty hand shuffle, is about elongating the roller coaster of pleasure. The goal is to to learn to enjoy the first part of the roller coaster, the foreplay and the initial arousal. The masturbater is instructed to get an erection but to do so without stroking or jerking oneself and only imagining non-explicit things that turn you on (which for me turns out to be empathic winks). So, yes, in this step you are to told to foreplay yourself, which the app suggests doing by playing with your testes and massaging your thighs. I have to say I did—when I was able to avoid playing with my pubes—really enjoy massaging my thighs. In fact, if I could cum from only massaging my thighs I would totally be on board.
The third and final step, which includes ten sessions of sweeping of your body's curling sheet (that's the equivalent of rounding the bases for Americans), does include five minutes of thigh-massaging foreplay followed by masturbation but the difference is you are told—when you reach your point of no return—to pause your activity, and breathe long and deep until you have backed away from that gooey precipice, after which you may resume frisking yourself. The goal is to a reach a total of ten minutes at first before going as long as you can.
I finished the training sessions of the app with some success, hitting the requisite times, but not much longer than that—and not without some very tense exhales. After you are done the training you are encouraged to go to the education section and read over a glossary of terms to help you further along on this journey. Perhaps the best is Prejack Addiction (about being able to walk away from an ejacualation) because the frequently-used term Prejack makes me think of a hilarious sex romp about a fast-cumming drug kingpin called Pre Jack City.
So does the app work? Is it worth the $2.79? On one level you could get the same experience with a stopwatch and some committed finger puppet work, but for me there was a positive result that can't be argued with. The majority of my orgasms in my life have been accompanied by a flood of (mainly negative) emotions: guilt, fear, shame, immediate sleepiness. This isn't to say that I haven't had good sex in my life, especially with partners who loved me with patience and care, but even with them—if not moreso—every orgasm was haunted by ghosts of inadequacy and identity that I still haven't exorcised. So when I eclipsed the ten minute mark with the help of the app, the orgasm came with a new feeling: pride. Not, "Dude my balls are so powerful," pride but pride that I was able to resist the urge to give in to pleasure, pride that I was able to touch myself with, dare I say, maturity. Now it's been a bit since I've had sex so it's impossible to say whether or not the app worked, but reaching for pride every time I orgasm seems like a better plan than just imagining Jeff Sessions when I want to delay the inevitable.
Also now my thighs are very tender.
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