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How Long Can the Average Man Stay Erect?

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown, MD

Written by Geoffrey Whittaker

Published 10/28/2020

Updated 04/13/2024

From your penis size to your stamina in bed, when it comes to sex, it’s easy to spend time stacking yourself up to other men. Healthy? No. But normal? Absolutely.

From "how many times day guys get hard" to length and girth, the reality is there’s no one-size-fits-all “normal” when it comes to most things sex-related, including erection duration. For some guys, an erection lasts for a few minutes. For others, it can sometimes feel like they're the Lance Armstrong of boners.

If you have trouble getting or maintaining an erection for long enough to have sex, it may be a sign that you have erectile dysfunction (ED), a common condition that can affect men in a variety of different ways.

The good news is that there are numerous ways to make getting an erection and maintaining it during sex easier.

Below, we’ve explained:

  • The biological process behind getting an erection

  • The different factors that could affect the amount of time that you stay hard during sex

  • What you can do to stay harder for longer.

Read on to learn the facts about erectile duration, as well as some treatments — from changes that you can make to your lifestyle to evidence-based treatments for erectile dysfunction — that can make getting and maintaining an erection an easier, less stressful process.

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Erections are a lot like birthday balloons — they’re fun to play with, but they don’t last forever.

The good news is that the ideal erection time is all subjective. It’s an intimate conversation that needs to happen between you and yourself, as well as you and each of your sexual partners.

It’s also important to manage expectations about what real erection times actually look like. We’ve all seen movies, watched porn, heard songs or read advertisements about “going all night” or whatever, but the reality is that the ideal erection time is however long it takes you and your partner to walk away satisfied from an intimate sexual moment.

But before we get into the weeds on all that, let’s cover some anatomical basics about how erections work.

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Although getting an erection might seem simple, there’s actually a complex process that occurs whenever you start to feel sexually aroused.

Erections start with sexual stimulation. It could be an image, a scent, a touch, a scenario, a person, a place — whatever. It all starts with something tantalizing your turn-on button.

  • When you feel sexually aroused, your nervous system sends a signal to increase blood flow to your corpora cavernosa — a pair of soft, elongated, sponge-like bodies of erectile tissue located inside your penis.

  • As blood flow in increases and blood flow out decreases, the corpora cavernosa become larger and firmer, creating an erection that’s suitable for sexual activity.

Our guide to What Is an Erection goes into more detail about the process of getting and keeping an erection, as well as how certain factors may affect your ability to stay hard.

Because erections are dependent on proper nerve function, hormones and blood flow, anything that affects these processes can potentially play a role in erectile dysfunction.

Potential causes of ED include physical health issues like:

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart disease

  • Diabetes

  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

  • Low testosterone

  • Injuries to the penis and surrounding area

  • Having overweight or obesity

  • Unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking excessively or using illicit drugs

In some cases, ED can occur as a result of psychological conditions that reduce sexual arousal or desire, such as:

Our guide to the causes of erectile dysfunction discusses these problems, as well as the impact that they can have on your erections and general sexual function.

Although all erections might look and feel similar, there are three distinct types of erections, each with a different cause:

  • Psychogenic erections

  • Refloxogenic erections

  • Nocturnal erections

Let’s dig into what makes each of them tick.

Psychogenic Erections

Psychogenic erections develop as a response to audiovisual stimuli or fantasy, which triggers a series of impulses from the brain to the penis.

You may develop a psychogenic erection after seeing a sexually stimulating image or talking with your partner about a sexual topic. Even short thoughts about sex or a quick recall of a sexual memory (like that one weekend for that one Valentine’s Day a couple years ago…) can potentially trigger this type of erection.

Reflexogenic Erections

Reflexogenic erections develop in response to physical stimulation of your genitals, such as the act of your partner touching your penis.

You may develop a reflexogenic erection in response to physical touch, oral sex or other forms of tactile stimulation, known scientifically as, “hanky panky.” This type of direct, physical stimulation activates your nervous system and stimulates blood flow to your penis.

Nocturnal Erections

Nocturnal erections develop while you’re sleeping, resulting in the morning wood erections that many guys experience when we wake up from a peaceful night’s rest.

Research shows that most nocturnal erections occur during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, a sleep phase that typically involves dreaming. There’s also evidence that testosterone levels in men are linked with the frequency of nocturnal erections.

Choose your chew

As we mentioned earlier, when it comes to sex, there’s no precise definition of what’s “normal” and what isn’t. This is especially true when it comes to erections.

There’s no specific length of time that an erection should last. The amount of time you stay hard can vary widely based on your level of sexual stimulation, your mood, how long it typically takes for you to ejaculate and a long list of other factors. We feel we should note that this is also true regarding how many erections per day you can get.

How Long Does the Average Man Stay Erect?

Although there’s little research on average erection duration, over the years, researchers have looked into the amount of time for which men are able to have sex before ejaculating.

Commonly referred to as intravaginal ejaculation latency time (IELT), this measures the amount of time that passes between initial vaginal penetration and intravaginal ejaculation — the point at which a man reaches orgasm and ejaculates.

In a 2005 study involving 500 couples in five different countries, researchers found that IELT varied from as little as 33 seconds to more than 44 minutes, with a median  IELT of approximately five minutes.

According to research published in the Asian Journal of Andrology, nocturnal erections typically last for at least 10 minutes and occur several times throughout the night.

Now, this doesn’t mean that every erection you get should last for five, 10 or 44 minutes. However, if you often lose your erection during sex before you ejaculate or simply find it difficult to stay hard for more than a few minutes at a time, you may be suffering from some form of erectile dysfunction.

Erectile dysfunction is common, even in younger men. In fact, a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2013 found that one out of every four men seeking treatment for ED was below 40 years of age.

Surprised? Good.

While the IELT range is under a minute to the 44-minute mark, prolonged erections that cause pain or discomfort are not normal.

If you develop an erection that feels painful or doesn’t go away within four hours, it’s important to seek medical care as soon as you can. In fact it can be so dangerous they have a name for it.

Painful erections that last for four hours at a time are referred to as priapism, and are a serious medical emergency. These erections can develop when blood is able to flow into your penis, but can’t flow out due to a blockage of the outflow channels.

When left untreated, certain forms of priapism, such as ischemic priapism, can potentially lead to permanent damage to the tissue inside your penis.

You may be more at risk of developing priapism if you have a blood disorder such as sickle cell disease, or if you use vasoactive drugs such as ED medications.

Our guide to priapism goes into more detail about what priapism is, as well as how it can occur and the potential tissue damage that priapism can cause.

So you want to learn how to make your erection last longer. Say no more. There are several steps that you can take to improve your erectile health and your sex life with your partner/s.

  • Using ED medications

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

  • Communicate

Seems simple, right? Well, it’s not a trick, fellas.

Consider Using ED Medication

Contrary to popular belief, ED medications aren’t just for middle-aged and older men. If you’re in your 20s or 30s, it’s common and normal to use medication to treat erection issues and improve your sexual performance.

Oral ED meds belong to a class of medications referred to as PDE5 inhibitors. These medications work by improving blood flow to your penis, helping you get and maintain an erection when you’re sexually aroused.

Medications in this class include:

They come in tablet form (and some in chewable form) and can be used around one hour before sex (or, in the case of tadalafil, on a daily basis).

There is also an injectable medication for ED, alprostadil, that works a different way. And there is a recently FDA-authorized topical gel for ED.

There’s no “best” ED medication for maintaining erections. However, ED medications can vary in half-life (the amount of time the medication remains active within your body) and their risk of side effects, which may make one medication a better choice for you than others.

We’ve explained more about how ED medications function and what you can expect from using them in our guide to the most common erectile dysfunction treatments.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

If you’re falling flat in the bedroom consistently, it may be linked to other neglected areas of your body. Your cardiovascular health plays a huge role in your ability to get and maintain a normal erection.

So… No erections? Two words: lifestyle changes.

Try practicing the following healthy lifestyle habits to promote strong blood flow throughout your body and reduce your risk of experiencing erectile dysfunction:

  • Stay active. Regular exercise can help to promote optimal blood flow around your body — yes, including to your penis. Fun fact: it’s also a good way to increase your stamina and improve your general health and sexual performance.

  • Treat high blood pressure. High blood pressure is one of several physical factors that are linked to erectile dysfunction. It’s also highly common, with almost half of all adults in the United States affected by it in some way, according to the CDC.

  • If you smoke, make an effort to quit. Smoking can harm your blood vessels and affect the flow of blood to your penis. Research shows that quitting can improve erectile dysfunction in many smokers, in addition to the numerous non-sexual health benefits that can occur after you kick the habit.

  • Maintain a healthy body weight. Having overweight or obesity is associated with a higher risk of developing erectile dysfunction, as well as other health conditions that could affect your sexual health. There’s no need to look like a D-1 soccer player or anything, but staying active and healthy (and maintaining a healthy diet) definitely supports a fulfilling sex life.

  • Limit your alcohol consumption. It’s okay to enjoy alcohol in moderation, but drinking frequently or drinking to excess is linked to an elevated risk of sexual dysfunction, as well as a chance of temporarily dealing with our favorite side effect of alcohol consumption, “whiskey dick.”

Our guide to naturally protecting your erection shares other habits and techniques that you can use as part of your daily life to promote healthier, more consistent erections.

Talk to Your Partner

Feeling anxious before sex? Performance anxiety is a common cause of sexual performance issues, including ED. It’s also something that you may be able to overcome through clear and open communication with your partner.

Although talking to your partner about ED might not be the simplest thing to do, it’s far from an impossible task. Our guide to talking about erectile dysfunction with your partner explains how you can broach the subject without making the conversation too awkward.

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There’s no two ways about it, detective — asking how long you can stay hard is a bit of a red herring. Lasting long enough is less about a physical number or time frame, and more about your partner and your shared erotic ecstasy.

If you’re failing to make it to the last quarter of the game, there are ways to improve your stamina, but before you go running off to a monastery to train with the masters, consider these takeaways:

  • Good sex is about more than numbers. People’s sexual preferences and performance can vary drastically, meaning there’s no exact amount of time that an erection should last.

  • Erectile problems are solvable. If you often lose your erection during sex, you may be able to stay hard for longer and improve your sexual performance by taking steps to improve your cardiovascular health, talking to your partner and using medication to treat erectile dysfunction. For erection problems like premature ejaculation (PE), you might also talk to your provider about antidepressants.

  • We can help. We offer a range of ED medications online, following a consultation with a healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

Interested in learning more about successfully dealing with ED? Our detailed guide to erectile dysfunction covers everything from common causes of ED to early warning signs, risk factors and techniques that you can use to improve your erections and sexual health.

16 Sources

  1. Erection Ejaculation: How It Occurs. (2020, November 27). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/10036-erection-ejaculation-how-it-occurs
  2. Panchatsharam, P.K. Durland, J. & Zito, P.M. (2022, May 8). Physiology, Erection. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK513278/
  3. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  4. Dean, R.C. & Lue, T.F. (2005, November). Physiology of Penile Erection and Pathophysiology of Erectile Dysfunction. The Urology Clinics of North America. 32 (4), 379-v. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1351051/
  5. Waldinger, M.D., et al. (2005, July). A multinational population survey of intravaginal ejaculation latency time. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 2 (4), 492-497. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16422843/
  6. Zou, Z.J., et al. (2020). Consecutive nightly measurements are needed for accurate evaluation of nocturnal erectile capacity when the first-night laboratory recording is abnormal. Asian Journal of Andrology. 22 (1), 94-99. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6958982/
  7. Capogrosso, P., et al. (2013, July). One patient out of four with newly diagnosed erectile dysfunction is a young man—worrisome picture from the everyday clinical practice. The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 10 (7), 1833-1841. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23651423/
  8. Silberman, M., Stormont, G., Leslie, S.W. & Hu, E.W. (2022, July 17). Priapism. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459178/
  9. Preventing Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/prevention
  10. Gerbild, H., Larsen, C.M., Graugaard, C. & Josefsson, K.A. (2018, June). Physical Activity to Improve Erectile Function: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies. Sexual Medicine. 6 (2), 75-89. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5960035/
  11. How High Blood Pressure Can Affect Your Sex Life. (2022, March 4). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/health-threats-from-high-blood-pressure/how-high-blood-pressure-can-affect-your-sex-life
  12. Facts About Hypertension. (2022, July 12). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm
  13. Pourmand, G., Alidaee, M.R., Rasuli, S., Maleki, A. & Mehrsai, A. (2004, December). Do cigarette smokers with erectile dysfunction benefit from stopping?: a prospective study. BJU International. 94 (9), 1310-1313. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15610111/
  14. Skrypnik, D., Bogdański, P. & Musialik, K. (2014, February). Obesity—significant risk factor for erectile dysfunction in men. Polski Merkuriusz Lekarski. 36 (212), 137-141. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24720114/
  15. Arackal, B.S. & Benegal, V. (2007). Prevalence of sexual dysfunction in male subjects with alcohol dependence. Indian Journal of Psychiatry. 49 (2), 109-112. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917074/
  16. Alcohol Use and Your Health. (2022, April 14). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

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. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown, MD

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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