Men seek a lifeline on sex: Geraldine Bedell on the male anxieties revealed by a BBC advice service

MEN ARE perplexed about what women want from sex, puzzled about how to give them what they want, and stumped about where to go for advice, according to the producers of the BBC Radio 1 programme Talk About Sex.

For the past three weeks, a free telephone helpline has been on offer during and after the Wednesday evening programme. Eighty per cent of the calls (which came in at the rate of 120 an hour) were from men, mainly worried about their performance and how to please their partners. 'Sexual problems aren't the sort of thing you can talk about down the pub or the rugby club,' said David, a psychiatric nurse. 'Straight men with straight friends can't get straight answers about what is normal.'

In a converted warehouse in Acton, west London - home to Broadcasting Support Services (BSS), an independent charity - 20 counsellors sat round half a dozen tables, facing sandwiches, juice cartons, and telephones.

The strip lights and white walls lent a purposeful, even clinical atmosphere, but the fragments of conversations were often bizarrely colourful. 'All your attention is focused on your own penis,' was one. 'You don't know where it is? Buy a book, with diagrams,' was another.

The counsellors were from the National Aids Helpline, rape crisis centres, the Beaumont Trust (which works with transsexuals and transvestites), lesbian and gay switchboards and other counselling services - but what they really needed, it turned out, was expertise in premature ejaculation.

This week's Talk About Sex, the last of three, focused on rape, teenage pregnancy, and abuse; but overwhelmingly the calls came from men, and overwhelmingly they had the same worry. David spent 15 minutes counselling Simon, a 34-year-old who said he had always suffered from premature ejaculation. 'There was a time when a man would have thought 'So what?' but not any more,' David says. 'Men are desperately concerned now to satisfy their partner.'

David reassured Simon that he was not abnormal, which seemed to help considerably. 'I suggested various things he could do: think about other things, like, um, painting the ceiling; stopping and starting - breaking off to watch television, trying delay creams and squeeze techniques.'

Depending on which counsellor callers got, recommendations for premature ejaculation varied. Bill, who worked for the Beaumont Trust, suggested changing positions, and breathing techniques. The others on his table showed great interest in the breathing techniques. Jenny from the National Aids Helpline was keen to remind callers 'that sex can be a good laugh'. Alison didn't want to discuss what people actually meant by premature ejaculation - 'I didn't want to get into the realms of what is normal'.

David, however, had spoken to a man who thought he had premature- ejaculation problems because he couldn't go on after an hour.

Talk About Sex's producer, Charlotte Blofeld, says that the helpline had attracted people who had never sought help before - particularly men aged 16 to 25 and from social classes C2, D and E. Liz Rowlands, who was running the London end, (there were four lines in Glasgow and 10 in Cardiff) thinks men find talking on the phone easier than writing letters, or seeking face-to-face help. 'There's clearly not very much provision for men to talk about sex. A lot of calls have been asking for very basic information: what are sexual positions, how do you do it?'

One 32-year-old man rang in: what was he supposed to do to clear up the mess? A counsellor suggested tissues, condoms, and removing clothes. A 16- year-old was worried about penis size, and, more perplexingly, angle, and just needed reassurance.

'The picture I'm picking up is that a lot of men are having a rotten time and don't know how to get out of it,' said Jenny. 'They're trying to crack this mystery about sex and they don't have very good communication skills. The poor little moppets want to do better, but don't know what to do.'

Bill thought many callers' worries were wholly unfounded: 'They want to know why their wife doesn't have multiple orgasms, or about the infamous G-spot. They worry, and that causes problems.'

Bill spent a long time talking to Dean, who was in his late twenties and had no trouble with premature ejaculation when masturbating but went to pieces with his girlfriend. Again, breathing techniques were recommended, plus some details on how to move.

Then Bill talked to Clive, whose wife was always passive; Clive said he sometimes wanted to lie back and think of England.

'Emancipation doesn't seem to have got into the majority of bedrooms,' Bill said. 'Women want help in the house, but in the bedroom they want a dominant man. So feminism has made things quite hard for men; women are also more aware of their sexual needs, and men have come to see that as very stressful.'

Broadcasting Support Services will send a report on the calls to the Department of Health. This is certain to focus on the lack of provision for young men to seek advice about sex; on their ignorance, uncertainty and confusion.

'The days when men could go to bed, have sex and roll over and start snoring are long gone,' Bill said. But, said Jenny, if they ask what they are supposed to do, they feel they are confessing to inadequacy, to having a problem. 'They feel they should know already. But why should they? No one's told them.'

Coverage of the helpline was allowed only on condition that the confidentiality of callers be respected.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Dynamics CRM Developer (C#, .NET, Dynamics CRM 2011/2013)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Dynamics CRM D...

Web Developer (C#, ASP.NET, AJAX, JavaScript, MVC, HTML)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Web Developer ...

C# R&D .NET Developer-Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET,MVC

£50000 - £67000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NE...

C# Developer (Web, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, JS, Visual Studios)

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor