How Long Is Sex Supposed to Last?

How Long Is Sex Supposed to Last?
Timing is everything (Courtesy: Unsplash)

Sex is a lot of things to a lot of us and it’s been that way since the beginning of time. In the film Annie Hall, sex was found to be “the most fun you can have without laughing.” Mae West pondered that “sex is an emotion in motion.” And Billy Crystal noted that “Humans love sex, we need sex, it’s how we connect, it reminds us we’re alive, it’s the third most basic human need, after food and good movie popcorn.”

And John Barrymore once quipped: “Sex: the thing that takes up the least amount of time and causes the most amount of trouble.” The reality is that sex can be a brief encounter or a lengthy endeavor. So how do we come to consensus on how long it should last?

Go All Night?

The real answer to the question is this that it depends. It matters how you define sex and who you ask. Admittedly, the answer is nebulous at best as our notions of sex are complex and determined by personal beliefs, mutual desires, societal messaging and fantasy models. And please don’t forget to factor in issues like age, erectile dysfunction, ejaculatory disorders, and performance anxiety. We also really need to examine the endpoint: Is it male or female climax or both that matters most? Or is the apogee of activity simply satisfaction or achieving a modicum of pleasure?

Stopwatch Studies

Sex therapists admit that average penetrative intercourse activity is deemed “adequate” from 3 to 7 minutes; “desirable” from 7 to 13 minutes; “too short” from 1 to 2 minutes; and “too long” from 10 to 30 minutes. In one of the few studies of sex in the wild, 500 couples from 5 countries used a stopwatch to measure the time from penetration to male ejaculation: it ranged from 33 seconds to 44 minutes and averaged a shade over 5 minutes. Another stopwatch study assessed time to female orgasm among 564 heterosexual couples and found it to average 13.4 minutes. Rarer still are studies that assess sex duration in non-heterosexual or non-penetrative situations. In one of the only studies of its kind on same sex and mixed sex couples, it was observed that female same-sex couples reported significantly longer sexual encounters than men and women in mixed-sex or than male same-sex relationships.

The bottom line from research on the topic is that good sex lasts for minutes and not hours and is best when it lasts as long as involved partners want it to. As Sarah Nader once said about sex: “Some of the best moments in life are the ones you can’t tell anyone about.”