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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Women protest at the rape and murder of Jyoti Singh
tvReview: It's a tough watch, but the details of the brutal gang rape and murder of medical student need to be shared if we want to strive for global gender equality
Life and Style
Living for the moment: Julianne Moore playing Alzheimer’s sufferer Alice
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
Arts and Entertainment
Jeffrey Archer holds up a copy of 'Kane and Abel', a book he says was ripped-off by Bollywood
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager - Salesforce / Reports / CRM - North London - NfP

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and reputable Not for Profit o...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers