How long should sex last? Before delving into the studies and opinions on the acceptable duration of sexual intercourse, let us look at the meaning of the word itself.
Everyone has their definition of it. Sex could be penetrative or non-penetrative, and some may even consider foreplay as the beginning of sex. Heterosexual couples are more likely to define sex in terms of vaginal intercourse. This discrepancy in its definition makes it difficult to round up an average time frame on how long sexual intercourse should go on. Honesty during such studies is also difficult to ensure, as this is a private matter that people may feel compelled to lie about.
Media and culture have set certain standards on how sex is viewed by the general populace. This may result in a difference between how long people expect sex to last and the time that it takes to orgasm. In reality, the time frame could range from half a minute to even an hour. This has led to researchers trying to establish an average ejaculation time for sexual intercourse. Doing so would help identify those who might be struggling with sexual health issues such as premature ejaculation.
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What is the average duration according to statistical findings?
There have been multiple studies conducted to figure out the average length of sex that could be desirable. According to a 2005 Society for Sex Therapy and Research member survey, vaginal sex should typically last from three to seven minutes. Another survey conducted in 2008 in Canada and the USA would consider sex that lasts for more than ten minutes as “too long”. Similarly, if the intercourse lasts for less than three minutes, then it could be a cause for medical concern. In this case, the ideal time would be 7-13 minutes.
A study published in 2008 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine reported the findings of American and Canadian therapists in regard to the ideal duration of intercourse. Anywhere between 7 to 15 minutes was considered ‘normal’. Less than 2 minutes was considered too short, and more than 30 minutes was too long. Another study in 2005 found that the duration of intercourse differed vastly in various heterosexual couples.
A 2020 study, however, found that the time needed for heterosexual women to orgasm was an average of 13.41 minutes. This would fall under the category of “too long”. One must keep in mind that even surveys can be influenced by cultural expectations and norms. Being constantly concerned about sexual performance could lead to further dissatisfaction in a person’s sex life. It is important not to be swayed by the myths and assumptions of the cultural industry.
For vaginal sex, a time frame of seven to thirteen minutes (or anywhere around these two markers) is the generally accepted average. These statistics do not consider foreplay or any other types of sexual activity and are restricted to penis-vaginal intercourse. More research is needed to figure out the average time in a manner that covers all the aspects and types of sexual activity.
Drawbacks in statistical analyses:
We are again back to the major hurdle in collecting and analyzing any data in regard to this issue: how should sex be defined? Currently, the majority of the studies base their results on IELT or intravaginal ejaculatory latency time. It implies the time needed for a person with a penis to ejaculate, specifically during vaginal penetrative sex. But this definition is not universal.
People can ejaculate even when engaged in any kind of non-penetrative contact, oral sex, anal sex, or a combination of these. The data in the above studies do not consider the multiple ways in which intercourse can be defined. Assuming that vaginal sex will always include a partner who has a penis is a flawed concept that will lead to statistical inaccuracies.
Factors that can affect longevity:
Multiple biological factors must be kept in mind when considering the time taken during intercourse. Some of these factors are:
- The shape of genitals: There have been studies that looked into how the shape of the penis may affect intercourse. Basing the theory of competitive evaluation as the reason behind physical changes, researchers have noticed a change in the shape of the head of the penis.
- Age: Age is a very important aspect to consider when looking at the average male ejaculation time. As a person becomes older, it takes more time for them to get aroused. Erections may get more difficult to maintain, and erectile dysfunction may also set in with age. Hormonal changes in the body due to aging can lead to dryness in the vagina or a decrease in sex drive.
- Sexual health issues: One of the obvious reasons that can lead to intercourse lasting less than a minute is premature ejaculation. PE can cause a person to ejaculate faster than usual. Similarly, people with erectile dysfunction or other issues that delay orgasm may find it unable to ejaculate or take a long time to do so.
How to prolong sexual intercourse:
Certain methods can be implemented to increase the duration of sex. For instance:
- Semans’ stop and start method: Also known as ‘edging’, this technique works by stopping stimulation when the person is close to orgasm. Resuming the activity once again after a while will increase the average time it takes to cum.
- Johnsons’ and Masters’ squeeze technique: This method consists of squeezing the penis at the end until the urge to ejaculate subsides. This can be used to increase ejaculatory control and prolong ejaculation.
- Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These are drugs that work by increasing the activity of serotonin in the brain. They block the reabsorption of serotonin into neurons and, thus, increase the time of ejaculation. Medications such as Poxet 60 mg, Super P Force, Tadapox 20 mg, etc., that contain Dapoxetine as the main ingredient are usually prescribed for the treatment of premature ejaculation.
If you are seeking shorter sexual encounters, these strategies could assist in expediting the process. Stimulate yourself: If time is of the essence, self-pleasuring can be a productive means of reaching climax. You are the most familiar with your body, after all! If your partner is already touching you, try focusing on another area. Some possibilities include:
- rubbing your clitoris,
- gently pinching or tugging your nipples,
- gyrating your hips,
- spanking your buttocks
You may also try mutual masturbation, where both of you pleasure yourselves. This can allow for faster orgasms while still maintaining intimacy.
Express your desires to your partner: By communicating your wants to your partner, and vice versa, you can both gain insight into what is required for each other to orgasm. Using this knowledge, you can expedite the process for quicker, mutually-satisfying quickies.
Experiment with orgasm-inducing positions: If you know which positions feel best for you, switch to them as necessary to expedite your climax. This might include positions that encourage deeper penetration or that allow you to manually stimulate yourself or your partner.
Misconceptions and Myths
A lack of sexual education has led to the prevalence of multiple misunderstandings when it comes to sexual health and sexual practices in general. Perhaps the most common misconception would be that sexual intercourse must last for a long time. Another misinformation is that the size of the sexual organ would have an impact on the time needed to ejaculate. When it comes to vaginal intercourse, there is also the assumption that penetration in itself is enough to ensure an orgasm.
What these ideas don’t take into account is the fact that a lot of people with vaginas experience pain and discomfort when having sex. For inexperienced parties, no one is aware of what to do or how to minimize this discomfort. At least 30% of men experience premature ejaculation at some point in their lives. PE is considered one of the more common problems men experience when it comes to sexual health. There is an obvious lack of understanding of what is normal and required when it comes to sexual intercourse. This perception is even more skewed when it comes to penetrative sex.
Intercourse lasting for somewhere between 3 to 5 minutes is not a cause for concern, nor does it signify any underlying medical cause. Statistics can often be misleading as the experience of sexual intercourse tends to be very subjective; each individual has a different body that reacts in different ways.
The time needed to orgasm when it comes to vaginal sex becomes even more complicated as men are not properly taught about the female anatomy.
How frequently do women orgasm?
How long can a woman last in bed? While there’s a gap in how often heterosexual women experience satisfaction during intercourse as compared to men, the solution isn’t to have intercourse for a longer time. Good and effective communication is essential when it comes to healthy and fulfilling sexual relationships.
In a 2015 survey conducted in the US, only 18% of women reported that they were able to have an orgasm due to penetrative sex. It is unreasonable to expect women to have an orgasm without any kind of clitoral stimulation. The study reports that nearly 40% of women found clitoral stimulation a necessity to orgasm. 36% reported that clitoral stimulation enhanced the overall experience of sexual intercourse.
It is important to keep in mind that what is ‘normal’ for one person may not be so for another. The concept of average sex time could be very subjective, and there is no need to strictly adhere to findings reported by any single study or survey. What matters is prioritizing the needs of your partner and listening to the tells in your own body. Effective communication is the key to healthy intercourse.
- Bhat, G. S., et al. (2020). Time to orgasm in women in a monogamous stable heterosexual relationship.
- Blair, K. L., et al. (2014). Can less be more? Comparing duration vs. frequency of sexual encounters in same-sex and mixed-sex relationships.
- Brody, S., et al. (2010). Vaginal orgasm is associated with vaginal (not clitoral) sex education, focusing mental attention on vaginal sensations, intercourse duration, and a preference for a longer penis.
- Corty, E. W., et al. (2008). Canadian and American sex therapists’ perceptions of normal and abnormal ejaculatory latencies: How long should intercourse last?
- Waldinger, M. D., et al. (2005). A multinational population survey of intravaginal ejaculation latency time.
- Debby Herbenick, Tsung-Chieh (Jane) Fu, Jennifer Arter, Stephanie A. Sanders & Brian Dodge (2018) Women’s Experiences With Genital Touching, Sexual Pleasure, and Orgasm: Results From a U.S. Probability Sample of Women Ages 18 to 94, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 44:2, 201-212, DOI: 10.1080/0092623X.2017.1346530