We’ve long heard of premature ejaculation in men as a significant sexual dysfunction that many men experience. Premature ejaculation is when the man orgasms before he intends or wants to (for instance, long before the woman has had a chance to get close to her own orgasm).

Researchers from Portugal wondered if some women experience something similar, since nobody seems to much talk about this issue in female sexuality. Could there be such a thing as a premature female orgasm (or in scientific terms, “female premature orgasm”)? If so, how prevalent is the problem?

Here’s what they discovered.

The researchers were intrigued by the fact that very little has been written or noted about women who experience a premature female orgasm. Yet in a 2005 University of Chicago study (Sadock, 2005), nearly 10 percent of the women felt they had reached orgasm too quickly (e.g., before they had intended).

The study’s sample consisted of 510 Portuguese women between the ages of 18 and 45 with medium to high education levels. Subjects filled out a customized questionnaire designed for this study, focusing on questions of premature orgasm, feelings of loss of control with the orgasm, relationship difficulties and distress surrounding their orgasm. Fifty percent of the sample were single at the time of the study, while 40 percent were married.

Nearly 17 percent of the sample said that premature orgasm occurred often or always, and nearly 14 percent complained about a feeling of a lack of control over the timing of their orgasm. However, a significant minority — 41 percent — said that premature orgasm only occurred occasionally or rarely, and 44 percent felt no lack of control over the timing of their orgasm.

According to the researcher’s criteria, only 3.3 percent of the subjects met the full proposed criteria for premature female orgasm. But 41 percent of women have occasional or episodic premature orgasms — once in awhile. And 14 percent of women fall somewhere in-between these two groups.

Premature female orgasm isn’t just a theory. It is a concern that affects a majority of women at one point or another in their lives, although only a small percentage of women experience it in the extreme, full-blown disordered manner. For most women, it’s not a serious problem:

Some of these women report that this is due to the fact that they are in a good relationship with their partner, are in a very excited [state], or feel too excited with the sexual act by itself, with very intense desire or [it’s just been a] long time without having sex.

In other words, for most women, it’s not something that is too bothersome, unlike in men (where it can lead to future performance issues, or anxiety regarding the sexual act itself).

But for a small portion of women, it is more than bothersome — it’s as serious a concern as it is in men. To date, however, there is no known treatment for premature female orgasm.