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How Long Should Sex Last?

How long should sex last? What’s the perfect time to spend in the act before orgasm? 

It’s a question that has fascinated mankind for quite a while.

The “how long should sex last” question has been covered to death in magazines, on talk shows—and has provided centuries of fodder for stand-up comedians. 

We get it: Men can sometimes finish too quickly.

But sex isn’t about running out a clock, and people of all genders will agree that sex shouldn’t go on forever. It can become painful, unpleasant and difficult if it goes on for too long.

If you’re looking for an exact time—as in minutes and seconds, well, that’s not possible to say. 

But if you’re trying to get a better understanding of how time plays a role in optimizing your enjoyment, below are some clues. 

How Long Sex Lasts on Average

How long “should” sex last is a complicated question to answer, because partners don’t always have similar needs, preferences or expectations. 

With penetrative sex, for instance, the receiving partner may need longer to finish, but also experience more discomfort the longer the sex lasts. 

Likewise, the penetrating partner might be inclined to achieve orgasm sooner, but delay to please their partner as well. 

That’s just for penetrative sex—and other acts can have entirely different time frames.

One study found that the typical intercourse session lasts between three and 13 minutes on average. 

Further, the study’s researchers concluded that one to two minutes is considered too short, three to seven minutes is considered adequate, seven to 13 minutes is considered desirable and 10 to 30 minutes is considered too long.

Of course, not everyone experiences sex in the same way, and while 13 minutes could feel great to some, it might be painful for others. 

Not Long Enough

There are several variables when it comes to an individual's desires. 

Some women may want hours-long, multi-session sexual escapades, for example, while others may want to squeeze in a quickie during a commercial break. 

Some men may want to see the sunrise, while others may want to wrap things up before SNL starts.

For better or worse, men sometimes don’t last long enough during vaginal intercourse.

One study conducted in Japan found that there was dissonance between the actual and desired durations of vaginal penetration in couples. 

For women, the desired time was approximately 15.7 minutes, which doesn’t sound all that long—but the actual time spent during intercourse was only 13.6 minutes—more than two minutes short of the desired goal.

The study was quick to mention that these numbers can vary widely from person to person—and perhaps some of the couples were simply mismatched. 

Researchers posited that perhaps with the right partners, individuals could find more frequent satisfaction. 

But rather than play mix and match with adult relationships, the study determined something more intelligent (and less reminiscent of a reality TV show) as a solution: communication.

Solutions for Longer Lasting Sex

One of the most effective ways to lengthen your sexual encounters is to address problems like premature ejaculation, which is one of the most common conditions affecting men (another is erectile dysfunction). 

As many as 39 percent of men suffer from some degree of it, according to estimates.

Science is still unsure of an exact or central cause behind PE, but prostate issues, abnormal hormone levels and/or serotonin issues may be factors. 

Psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, stress, unrealistic performance expectations and lack of confidence can also contribute to erectile dysfunction, as can body image issues, guilt, a history of sexual abuse and repression. 

There are no known PE cures, but there are several methods to treat the problem.. 

The start-stop technique can be oneway to train yourself to better sex. 

Likewise kegels (when you isometrically squeeze your pelvic muscles) can be done outside of the bedroom to strengthen pelvic floor muscles. 

You could also try the squeeze technique—which involves literally squeezing the tip of your penis until the desire to orgasm subsides. 

Typically, this is done for 30 seconds, and may have to be performed several times. 

One study performed on men showed that antidepressant SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) were successfully shown to improve PE problems over a four-week period. We offer sertraline for premature ejaculation

It may or may not surprise you that solid communication can truly help sex last. 

It’s helpful to note that communication can take a lot of forms, from discussing desires during and outside of bedroom activities, to simply talking to your partner about issues of concern..

Communicating can also mean adding new things to the sexual menu, like positions you’d like to try, discussing what feels good, and letting your partner know when something is uncomfortable. 

These are all great ways to increase pleasure for both parties.

 It can be helpful to remember that sex that’s too short can leave one partner satisfied and the other disappointed, but the reverse can also  be true. 

Taking SSRIs or other antidepressants, for example, could delay ejaculation too long for some men. 

This brings us back to communication again, because communicating these issues as concerns to your partner will go a long way to not making anything become an elephant in the room—and gigantic trunk-bearing mammals are not something many people want nearby during sex (no offense if that’s your thing).

Finding Good Sex: The Takeaways

Whether you’re reading this because you’re self conscious about how quickly you finish, or because you don’t finish at all, one question you might be asking yourself is:  “Am I doing this right?”

As the above can show, the definition of good sex can vary wildly from person to person. Some may like a longer session, some may prefer things to be done more quickly. 

Some folks may like breaks, while others  prefer sessions to be quick and intense. 

Know, too, that just because the length of your sex sessions may not be what ‘seems’ ideal, that doesn’t mean you’re not having great sex. 

When it comes to how long sex should last, ultimately the number can depend on you. 

It’s important to note that the above research relates almost exclusively to heterosexual partnerships and penetrative (mostly vaginal) sex. 

So that’s not necessarily reflective of everyone’s experience. 

What’s important, then, is that the sex you’re having is good and pleasing for you and your partner. If it’s not, that’s what you should address. 

One issue touched on above but not fully addressed is that of no sex—that is, not being able to get it up in the first place. 

If you’re suffering from occasional or frequent non-starter sexual experiences, erectile dysfunction can be a serious problem that can signal bigger issues with your health, weight, blood pressure and more. 

You can learn more in this Erectile Dysfunction Guide, and/or connect with a healthcare professional to discuss your options. 

Make no mistake about it: Better, longer-lasting sex is yours to be had. You just have to take the actions to get it.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.