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Nobody should judge their sex life by a kitchen timer. But if the period between the start of your erections and cuddle time is shorter than the heat-up time for a PopTart®, you might be wondering whether or not you’re measuring up..
The question of how long sex should last is a complicated one to answer, in part because there isn’t much research on the topic. Also, experts don’t fully agree on what constitutes sex — and you may not, either.
Below, we’ll lay out the current data (and its limitations) and share some ways to last longer for the guys who want sex to last as long as possible.
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Let’s get this right from the beginning: There’s no medically agreed-upon “correct” duration for sex. All the scientists in all the land can’t tell you and your partner what amount of time spent doing the deed is right or wrong.
That said, we have some data to construct a potential framework for identifying the optimal duration of sex among all humans — more on that in a moment.
First, some context. How long sex “should” last isn’t really something we can answer. Why? Partners don’t always have the same needs, preferences, warm-up times or expectations. (And let’s be honest: Not everyone has endless time to spend on sex.)
With penetrative sex among heterosexual couples, for instance, the receiving partner may need longer to finish — but they might also experience more discomfort the longer sex lasts.
Likewise, the penetrating partner might be inclined to achieve orgasm sooner but delay to please their partner.
That’s just for penetrative sex — other acts can have entirely different time frames.
In one study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, sex therapists found that intravaginal ejaculation latency time (IELT) — the duration of a typical intercourse session — lasts three to 13 minutes on average.
Once they had their average time range, the study’s researchers looked at satisfaction among both partners. They concluded that two minutes or less is considered too short (bummer), three to seven minutes is adequate for most (cool), seven to 13 minutes is desirable (sweet), and 10 to 30 minutes is too long (ouch).
When it comes down to it, some guys just don’t last that long during vaginal intercourse — a point confirmed by a Japanese study of vaginal penetration in couples.
For the women interviewed for the study, the average desired time was 15.7 minutes, but the estimated average time spent having intercourse for most couples was only 13.6 minutes. For the math guys in the room, that’s more than two minutes short of the desired click of the stopwatch.
The researchers noted two caveats to their data. First, some couples are simply mismatched, with varying desires for each partner. Also, they didn’t have any medical advice to offer those experiencing frequent dissatisfaction.
Of course, not everyone experiences sex in the same way. While 13 minutes could feel great to some, it might become painful for others — or not even get them started.
Several prominent variables can affect a person’s ideal duration for sex.
We all get that a “quickie” is supposed to be quick. But we don’t always agree about whether to include the sexting, flirting, teasing and foreplay that comes before it. This is why it’s crucial to discuss not just longer sex but the definition of sex itself.
Sexual intercourse is typically defined as penetrative vaginal sex — but this definition is mostly limited to heterosexual couples. Sex therapists and experts in the field will immediately remind you that sex isn’t just about what intercourse.
You and your partner can experience plenty of pleasurable sexual activity without ever doing that specific deed. Sex toys, oral sex, mutual masturbation, foreplay and a long list of other activities can give everyone the satisfaction they crave without intercourse ever technically occurring.
To make matters worse, many people don’t separate “everything else” from the penetrative part. In other words, when you hear someone talking numbers at a party, you’d have to ask creepy follow-up questions to actually glean useful information.
While you may expect age to be a factor in how long sex lasts, you might be surprised to learn that being older doesn’t actually reduce your average duration — old guys don’t get faster on the trigger, so to speak.
In fact, there’s lots of evidence suggesting that premature ejaculation is a younger man’s affliction — but we’re not going to get into that today.
We’ll leave it at this: although the old guy may have trouble getting the rocket to achieve liftoff, he’s far less likely to have it explode before it hits the atmosphere.
Sexual encounters are sometimes cut short due to a medical condition known as premature ejaculation (PE). It’s one of the most common sexual dysfunction issues affecting men, along with erectile dysfunction (ED).
Some estimates put the rate of men affected by PE as high as 39 percent. But we can more safely state that shame, social stigma and other factors probably prevent accurate data from being compiled — because it’s a hard problem to own up to.
Science is still unsure how PE happens, but research suggests prostate issues, abnormal hormone levels or serotonin issues could be risk factors.
Likewise, depression, anxiety, unrealistic performance expectations, stress and lack of confidence can contribute to sexual dysfunction. The same goes for body image issues, internalized guilt, a history of sexual abuse or repression.
The desire to deal with premature ejaculation is totally valid.
Sadly, there are no known PE “cures” to speak of. However, research has some modestly encouraging data to support a few medications, techniques and other strategies for lasting longer.
Here’s what might help:
Topical treatments. Benzocaine wipes, sprays and other topical numbing solutions can be used to reduce sensitivity in your penis and help you last longer.
SSRI medication. Taking SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) might delay ejaculation for some men. These antidepressant medications were shown to successfully improve PE problems over a four-week period in one study.
The start-stop method. The start-stop technique can help you achieve better sex without medication. It involves doing the deed right up until orgasm, pausing before you ejaculate, then continuing on.
Kegel exercises. Kegels can build stamina and control by strengthening pelvic floor muscles.
The squeeze technique. This method involves literally squeezing the tip of your penis when you’re about to finish and continuing to do so for 30 seconds until the desire to orgasm subsides.
Open communication. Communicating with your partner can involve discussing desires during and outside of bedroom activities or just admitting your fears. It can also help you both get the satisfaction you crave.
A mixed bag of tricks. Seriously, everything from oral sex and extended foreplay to vibrators and numbing creams for PE can help you run out the clock just a little longer.
There are various premature ejaculation treatments that can extend your sex session for a few extra minutes or more. But while sexual function is an important part of satisfaction, we’re still pretty sure communication is number one.
Want to make your partner’s sex life better? Here’s what to talk with them about when you bring up this topic:
There’s no official average time sex should last because sex is a collection of experiences that often extend beyond penetration.
Still, communicating with your partner about what you each do and don’t enjoy is essential to great sex.
Medication, techniques, numbing topicals and toys are all great ways to fudge the numbers, get your partner off and take the focus off your stamina.
If you’re suffering from occasional or frequent non-starter sexual experiences, you might need to face ED head-on. Erectile dysfunction can be a serious problem, often signaling bigger issues with your weight, blood pressure, emotional well-being and overall health.
Make no mistake: Better, longer-lasting sex is yours to be had. You just have to take the actions to get it. Explore our sexual health platform to see what your options are.
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]!
Dr. Martin Miner is the founder and former co-director of the Men’s Health Center at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. He served as Chief of Family and Community Medicine for the Miriam Hospital, a teaching hospital of the Warren Alpert Medical School, from 2008 to 2018. The Men’s Health Center, under his leadership, was the first such center to open in the US. He is a clinical professor of family medicine and urology at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence and has been charged with the development of a multidisciplinary Men’s Health Center within the Lifespan/Brown University system since 2008.
Dr. Miner graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Oberlin College with his AB in biology, and he received his MD from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Upon receiving his MD, he completed his residency at Brown University. He practiced family medicine for 23 years, both at Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and in private practice.
Dr. Miner presently holds memberships in the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Urological Association, and he is a fellow of the Sexual Medicine Society of North America. He is the former president of the American Society for Men’s Health and the current historian. He is the vice president of the Androgen Society, developed for the education of providers on the truths of testosterone therapy. Dr. Miner has served on the AUA Guideline Committees for erectile dysfunction, Peyronie’s disease, testosterone deficiency, and early screening for prostate cancer. He has served on the testosterone committees of the International Consultation on Sexual Medicine. He has presented both at the NIH and the White House on men’s health initiatives and has authored over 150 peer-reviewed publications and spoken nationally and internationally in multiple venues. He has co-chaired the Princeton III and is a steering committee member and one of the lead authors of Princeton IV, constructing guidelines for the evaluation of erectile dysfunction, the use of PDE5 inhibitors, and cardiac health and prevention.
Dr. Miner was chosen as the Brown Teacher of the Year in 2003 and 2007 and was recognized by the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Award as achieving the most significant contribution to Men’s Health: 2012.
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