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When discussing the duration of sex, time only seems to exist in the most hyperbolic of senses; either ‘we went at it all night’ or ‘he came in 5 seconds flat.’ Of course not all sex (not even all sex between the same people) lasts the same amount of time, but the gulf between the two extremes is pretty wide.

Most people aren’t timing it (or if you are, you’re probably not paying attention to the task at hand) but still there are probably some of us who have a little bit of anxiety of taking too long or finishing too quickly. We took a look at the numbers to see exactly how long sex is ‘supposed’ to last.

Defining ‘Sex’

Just like ‘the ideal duration of sex,’ the definition of what sex is and isn’t is fairly subjective (not to mention usually cis- and heteronormative). While we don’t usually limit the definition of sex in this way,  for the purpose of this article, we’re going to use ‘sex’ to refer to penetrative sex of the vagina/anus-plus-a-penis variety because that is how it was defined in the study. Oral and manual (read: hand stuff) sex in this case is being categorized as foreplay.

The Science

American physician Dr. Irwin Goldstein conducted a survey in 2005 of 1,500 couples to determine the average duration of their “lovemaking sessions.”

The result: 7.3 minutes (lending credence to the whole ‘7 Minutes in Heaven’ thing).

In 2008, Penn State Erie researchers Eric Corty and Jenay Guardiani that someone needed to investigate exactly how long couples actually wanted their sex (from first penetration to ejaculation) to last.

They received the following data from the psychologists, physicians, social workers, marriage/family therapists and nurses who have collectively seen thousands of patients over several decades as part of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research:

   Between 1 and 2 minutes: Most people agreed that this is too short a time.

   Between 3 and 7 minutes: They judged this length of time as ‘satisfactory.’

   Between 7 and 13 minutes: This was deemed ‘desirable.

   Over 13 minutes: Couples began thinking that the whole thing has been going on a little ‘too long.’

Can I Plug My Solution Into Your Equation?

Let’s look at some other orgasm facts and numbers. While people often think that those who are assigned-female-at-birth take longer to orgasm, studies have shown that not exactly be true: during masturbation it takes everyone between 2 and 4 minutes to come.

It’s just during partnered sex where the difference becomes greater, with it taking about 10-12 minutes for the first group to reach orgasm, and 7-14 minutes overall for men-assigned-at-birth overall, but only 2-3 minutes after penetration. (No word on whether this was tested with subjects masturbating with quality sex toy or not).

Now, no matter what the sex or gender of you and your partner, all of this really speaks to averages; you and your partner can take different amount of time to climax that doesn’t correspond to them at all, but it is likely that you take different amounts of time. We might shoot for simultaneous orgasm, but a more realistic goal is ‘sort of around the same time,’ because let’s face it; our bodies are wired to make us less interested in sex right after we come.

Focusing and switching around from different erogenous zones on our partner’s body is a good way to prolong sex if you’re trying to slow yourself down, and clear communication what feels good (and what toys, dirty talk, etc could make it better) is the best way to bridge the gap with a partner who comes more quickly than you.

Conclusion

With ten to 30 minutes of foreplay in addition to between seven and 13 minutes of sex, the “ideal” length of time spent having sex anywhere between 17 and 43 minutes, depending on your penchant for foreplay and how linearly you view ‘doing the deed.’

We hope reading this quelled any concerns you might have about how long sex with your partners is lasting; or at least gave you some real life (read: non porn or erotic fiction) perspective on how long sex lasts. In fact; this is why the above studies were conducted, not so much to offer a fun statistic, but to help people who might be seeking medical attention for a ‘problem’ that might not be a medical problem at all, just a problem with how society tends to talk about sex in unrealistic terms.

We perceive time is pretty relative in any case; from moments of intense intimacy where time seems to stand still, to whirlwind romances that seem to have been far too short. If you’re still really curious about how long your sex sessions are lasting, we definitely recommend timing with yourselves with a sex playlist rather than a stopwatch, because 2 and a half minutes of bumpin’ beats makes for a way more enjoyable ‘science experiment’ than the ticking of a clock.

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