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Is your sex life a little too “touch and go,” or are you holding on for a long sexual voyage? Either way, you might be wondering how long sex should last in the first place.
Some of us may want slow, sensual sex comparable to a period TV drama (preferably set in the 18th-century Scottish Highlands). Or maybe a quickie is more your thing. Spoiler: Real sex is not cinema sex, but you can change the duration based on the experience you’re looking for.
Here are some factors that affect the length of a romp and suggestions on how to prolong sex or bust it out in minutes.
The short answer is however long you want it to. Sex doesn’t have time restrictions set by the sex timekeepers. Very few studies have really explored what experts consider a “normal” sex duration, but if you want numbers, some do exist.
In a 2005 survey of 34 members of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research (SSTAR), sex therapists said 3 to 7 minutes was an “adequate” amount of time for vaginal sex to last (in this case, that meant P-in-V sex) and 7 to 13 minutes was “desirable.”
The survey also found 1 to 2 minutes was considered “too short,” while 10 to 30 minutes was “too long.”
However, a lot was missing from this survey. Sex was considered finished at the point of penile ejaculation (no word on the other partners’ Big Os). And the survey left out other types of sexual activity, so it excluded couples that don’t consist of one penis owner and one vagina owner. (How rude!)
A lot of factors go into the duration of sex, and it varies widely from person to person at different stages of life. Our perception of what we “should” be doing matters too.
A 2010 survey of 300 married couples found that female participants wanted penile-vaginal intercourse to last 15 minutes — longer than sex therapists consider typical!
P-in-V sex is not the only way to have sex or reach climax (and vaginal sex doesn’t have to involve a man and a woman).
In a 2020 survey of 230 women, 62 percent said vaginal sex was their most reliable route to orgasm, 48 percent said they relied on external stimulation from a partner, and 37 percent said they got the job done themselves.
Other types of hanky-panky include anal sex, oral sex, masturbation, mutual masturbation, and group sex. (And don’t forget digital-age options like phone sex, sexting, and internet-connected sex toys.)
Beyond 🍆-in-🌮 sex, there isn’t a ton of research on sex duration. In a 2012 survey of 8,656 people, those whose sex sessions included a wider variety of activities (intercourse, kissing, cuddling, stroking, and oral sex) reported longer durations of sex. (Slow clap for oral sex!)
Having a partner who has the same type of equipment as you may also lead to longer sex. A 2014 study found that same-sex female couples reported longer sex seshes than same-sex male couples or couples with one male and one female partner. Same-sex female couples also reported having sex less often.
Simply put, what constitutes sex is truly subjective and how long it should last is up to you. What’s important is that you ask for and receive the type of sex that you want, not what someone else says is normal.
Your age can affect your sex life, and not just because you might throw your back out. A 2008 study of 2,341 people ranging in age from 18 to 93 found that libido decreased with age. Men reported more frequent and stronger sexual desires than women.
Menopause can affect a woman’s ability to get aroused too. Hormone levels drop, and side effects like vaginal dryness and pain during intercourse can occur (although those things can also happen pre-menopause).
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is also increasingly prevalent with age. About 40 percent of men experience ED by age 40, and by age 70 that number goes up to almost 70 percent. The medication Viagra is commonly prescribed to treat ED.
Premature and delayed ejaculation
Sexual dysfunction challenges like premature ejaculation (PE) can cause men to climax earlier than planned and cut sex short. PE is pretty common, affecting about 1 in 3 men ages 18 to 59. It can result from psychological or physical factors and may be temporary or a long-term issue.
Delayed ejaculation can also affect the duration of sex. Those who have this condition may need up to 30 minutes of sexual stimulation to reach orgasm, and some may not get to the Big O at all. The condition may be related to a certain sexual situation or partner, or it may be a sign of an underlying health condition.
The shape of your penis or vajayjay can affect what feels painful and what feels amazing. It might take more or less time to get the level of stimulation you’re looking for. But don’t worry — there are positions for every shape.
How you feel and what you understand about your body might also be a key component of sex duration. A 2010 study of 1,000 women found that prior sex education about vaginal orgasms (not just the clitoral kind) was associated with reaching climax during P-in-V sex.
There’s no official definition of a quickie because the length of time will vary from person to person. But generally a quickie means you get to the big finish ASAP. If short and sweet is what you’re after, try these tips.
Different positions may help different people reach climax sooner. For penetrative sex, try positions that allow deeper penetration. More generally, opt for positions in which both partners can touch each other’s preferred erogenous zones.
Mix up your routine
Variety is the spice of life (and sex). Try changing up the time and place you typically have sex to up the ante. Have sex before work or in a bed-free space. Bathroom sex, anyone?
Don’t take it all off
Sex doesn’t have to involve being naked or nearly naked. Keeping most of your clothes on can increase the heat of the moment and sense of urgency. Try to (literally) squeeze yourself into each other’s jeans.
Be vocal and co👏mun👏i👏cate
Telling your partner what you want during sex is important — and that includes when you’re racing against the clock. If getting a little spank or having your hair tugged will send you over the edge, tell your partner!
Toucha, toucha, touch me
Going solo or having your partner touch a new area can help you climax quickly. You might try:
- rubbing the clitoris
- nipple play
- light spanking
- hip gyration
Two words: Sex toys
Prolonging sex is possible if you try certain techniques. Here are a few suggestions to take your sex from a sprint to a marathon.
Extending your foreplay may help extend your sexy time.
- Make out (a classic!).
- Engage in massage.
- Run ice cubes over each other’s bodies.
- Play with the nipples, anus, testicles, or neck.
- Get spanked or paddled.
Delay the Big O
Orgasm control, also known as edging or the start-stop technique, means being pleasured almost to the point of orgasm but then deliberately delaying the finale. While it can take some practice to master, edging can be a way to prolong sex. (Don’t worry — it’s totally safe!).
The squeeze technique may help delay ejaculation and is a little different than edging.
Here’s how it goes:
- Prior to ejaculation, stop sex.
- Squeeze the end of the penis where the head and the shaft join.
- Hold for several seconds until the urge to ejaculate passes.
- Resume sex.
You’ve probably heard about hippie celebs practicing tantric sex, but it’s available to all. Tantric sex is a more intimate, self-aware sexual encounter that prizes the journey over the endpoint. Techniques can include synchronizing your breathing and engaging all your senses. Tantric sex can also be done solo.
It’s safe to have sex during pregnancy unless you have certain risk factors, and being preggo doesn’t necessarily affect how long sex will last. However, certain positions may feel more comfortable than others as your belly grows.
Also note that if you’re looking to put a bun in the oven, there’s no time requirement to increase your chances of conceiving.
- Some sex therapists say 3 to 7 minutes is an “adequate” amount of time for P-in-V sex to last, while 7 to 13 minutes is considered “desirable.” More research is needed on other types of sex.
- Sex isn’t limited to P-in-V intercourse — it can include a variety of activities and can last as long as you want!
- A lot of factors contribute to sex duration, including age, hormone levels, and health conditions.
- Location, location! A change of space (or timing) can be key for a quickie.
- Foreplay is your friend for marathon sex.
- Try orgasm control or the squeeze technique if you want longer sex.
- Pregnancy shouldn’t affect your duration of sex, but you might prefer certain positions for comfort.