Let’s start by dispelling a myth: Reaching a climax in under 10 minutes doesn’t make you an inadequate lover.

If you’ve ever seen those “male enhancement” commercials when digging through your e-mail spam folder that suggest your erections should last hours, just know that most people don’t last even close to that long.

And if you’re concerned that you really might orgasm too quickly, and wonder whether you’re experiencing premature ejaculation (PE), you’re also far from alone.

One review suggested that 20 to 40 percent of people with a penis experience PE, although this needs to be taken with a considerable pinch of salt.Kalejaiye O, et al. (2017) Premature ejaculation: Challenging new and the old concepts. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5717471/ It’s hard both to define and diagnose, so truly forming a picture of how many people have PE is also tricky.

But whether you’re seeking solutions for PE or you simply want to extend your ability to enjoy sex before reaching orgasm, there are several techniques you can try.

First, let’s look at why you probably need to rethink what your spam advertisements are screaming at you.

So, what do experts even consider finishing too soon?

Well, somewhat unhelpfully, it varies. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), defines PE as ejaculating within 1 minute of starting penetrative sex.El-Hamd MA, et al. (2019). Premature ejaculation: An update on definition and pathophysiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6732885/

According to DSM-5, if this happens during 75 to 100 percent of sexual encounters for 6 months, causes significant distress for the individual, and can’t be explained by another medical or psychological condition, it’s PE.

The International Society for Sexual Medicine (ISSM), on the other hand (no pun intended), highlight that if the amount of penetrative sex before the final splooge dips from a longer period to less than 3 minutes, a person may have acquired PE.El-Hamd MA, et al. (2019). Premature ejaculation: An update on definition and pathophysiology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6732885/

They, too, agree on the 1-minute mark as a measure of PE, and also distinguish between lifelong PE that has always occurred and acquired PE. These are the two most recently updated and widely accepted definitions.

Other authorities have put forward their own definitions, but they’re a little vague.

(There’s a selection of herbal remedies, techniques, and nutrients that may help enhance your stamina.)

You might feel, however, that your sexual encounters are a little on the brief side without causing you that much distress. So, aside from diagnostic definitions, the average duration of sex before ejaculation is 5 to 7 minutes with a huge range on either side, according to the German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care.Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG). (2006). Premature ejaculation: Overview. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK547548/

(Apparently, the people with penises in this study were timed with a stopwatch. It’s surprising and impressive they managed to finish at all.)

The real benchmark is nowhere near as complicated as all of this. Ask yourself two questions:

  • Does it feel good?
  • Is your partner satisfied?

If you feel unhappy about the relatively brief duration of your sexual encounters, work to change it. If you’re fine with it, who’s to say it’s a medical issue for you?

You might instead focus on pleasuring your partner, in which case, knowing their erogenous zones may help.

There have always been plenty of suggestions for how to last longer — some techniques for men to delay orgasm, such as tantric sex, have been around for thousands of years.

A lot of our suggestions don’t have much (or, uh, any) scientific data to back them up, but we think they’re still valuable because of some seriously compelling anecdotal evidence. If they work for you, they work. If they don’t, try something else — none of them are harmful.

“The art of retention begins with the recognition that orgasm and ejaculation are two different functions,” says sex expert Antonia Hall. “By learning to get in touch with what it feels like to not allow yourself to pass the point of no return, you can orgasm without ejaculating — then keep going.”

However, the best way to approach the length of time for which you have sex is being open with your partner. They may not even enjoy 3-hour sex marathons, or may start to hurt or become dry after a certain amount of time themselves.

So even though you feel like you might be falling short of a widely variable benchmark, communication is key to feeling better about the whole situation.

Some people haven’t ever reached orgasm, so they may also need to explore themselves sexually and learn how to get there before you can really click.

To extend the “it’s not the size of the boat, it’s the motion of the ocean” metaphor, it’s not the extended route of the trawler, but how effective it is at catching fish and meeting its targets.

That was a truly terrible metaphor, but you get the picture — different people prefer different things, and you might find you’re pretty close to ideal in bed already for the person you’re with.

If you feel like you want to delay orgasm a little longer, here are some techniques to try.

Any or all of them may be effective. You might find that it could help to talk to a professional sex therapist or primary care physician if you’re experiencing emotional distress and mental blocks.

1. Kegel exercises

Kegel exercise can be practiced by anyone to strengthen their pelvic floor and intensify their orgasms (also great for and strengthening the pelvic muscles after childbirth). But these would not be recommended for those who have an overactive pelvic floor already.

“By strengthening your pelvic floor, you will have the increased ability to control your ejaculation,” House says. And they’re easy to learn.

2. Measured breathing

Keeping control over your breath and heart rate is also an important practice in learning to hold on to your horses, Hall says.

Practice by masturbating to become more familiar with your arousal cycles and take slow, deep breaths through the nose to cool down your rising sexual energy.

Getting your breathing right is essential for maintaining control in all walks of life.

3. Masturbation

“Relieve the pressure and minimize your sensitivity by masturbating a couple of hours before an opportunity to have intercourse,” House says.

Because you have less built-up excitement, you are, by nature, delaying ejaculation.

Plus, your animalistic need to quickly accelerate to orgasmic release is no longer the main focus, and instead, you’re able to spend time on the experience (as opposed to the outcome).

Masturbation has a range of health benefits — whodathunk!

4. Start-stop technique

Relationship expert Laurel House suggests that through a series of ejaculation-control exercises, you may gain the following benefits:

  • becoming more aware of your level of arousal
  • managing your stimulation response
  • extending your pleasure
  • increasing your opportunities to bring your partner to orgasm
  • controlling your orgasm

“Sex will be better for both you and your partner, because the longer that you are able to extend your orgasm, the more deeply intense the final release will be,” House says.

The main takeaway from this point is that it’s not just about how long you spend in the act of sex that matters, and there’s plenty of other ways to get something great from the experience.

5. Pressure points

Look, this is definitely not science of any kind, but let’s just say we have some solid anecdotal evidence for this one: There’s a pressure point just in front of your anus, and it can delay ejaculation.

“It may take some time to feel out the point, but you should be able to feel an indentation when you press on it,” Hall says, giving the following advice:

  1. Use the three middle fingers of your dominant hand.
  2. When you press up, you should be able to feel your urethral tube, which expands as you approach the Big O.
  3. Push on the urethral tube with your middle finger and press on each side of the urethral tube with the other two fingers.

“This may decrease your erection a little, but if you’ve hit the right spot, you will stop ejaculation from occurring,” Hall says. Breathe deeply and try pulling the sexual energy away from the genitals — and toward your brain.

We asked whether masturbation can help enhance your sexual energy.

6. Extend foreplay

“Extending foreplay can help — spending more time on your partner’s pleasure, rather than your own, is a great way to delay your orgasm,” says Evan Goldstein, MD, of Bespoke Surgical.

This one figures. A primary worry about a… brief runtime, shall we say, is the idea that we’re depriving our partner of some sort of sexual pleasure.

However, if they’ve already finished three or four times by the point at which you start penetrative sex, you’ve got robust evidence to the contrary. You can then feel more confident going into sex, and the experience will be better for both of you.

7. Decrease sensitivity

If you’re using condoms, choosing thicker varieties can delay your orgasm, Goldstein suggests.

If you finish quicker than you’d like, these methods may help you pace your loving and improve how comfortable you feel during sex.

However, the “standards” for diagnosing PE vary so wildly, and the “average” duration of penetrative sex so unreliable, that your sexual desires and relationship goals should be the only benchmark of how long you should last.

In extreme cases, PE may well be a standalone condition that affects your ability to function sexually and causes low self-esteem and distress. In these cases, it may be better to seek consultation with an expert.

(We spoke to some sex therapists about the idea of a “normal” sex drive, and they had some very strong opinions.)

Ultimately, though, if you’re happy and you’re partner’s happy, then no other opinions should matter.

Adam Felman is an Editor for Medical News Today and Greatist. Outside of work, he is a hearing impaired musician, producer, and rapper who gigs globally. Adam also owns every Nic Cage movie and has a one-eyed hedgehog called Philip K. Prick.