How long should sex last?
How common is it to reach orgasm each time you have sexual intercourse?
These two questions have plagued sexual researchers and people interested in healthy sex lives for decades. In fact, some of the statistics you’re about to see are from the 1940s.
I want to preface this by saying: there is no right or wrong amount of time. Ensuring you and your partner(s) are sexually satisfied is something that is uniquely personal to each situation and individual involved. We’re not talking about times to shame anyone or put the pressure on - these are merely metrics for what is considered “average”.
According to a 2005 survey of sex therapists, 1-2 minutes is “too short” for sex, and 10-30 minutes is “too long” for sex - placing the “adequate” time for sex to be between 3-9 minutes.
Because this was 2005, I wanted more recent findings, so I did some more digging to see if that was really going to hold up in today’s society. Well, I ended up going further back in time, to the 1940s.
According to a 1948 study, we’re improving at a steady pace. Alfred Kinsey originally claimed that “75% of American men orgasmed within two minutes commencing intercourse.” His name should sound familiar to you because he founded the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, where most of our modern sex research stems from.
Other than taking a brief moment to feel sad for 1940s American women, going from 1-2 minute averages to 3-9 minutes is some pretty good progress - even if it took 80 years to get there.
But still, I wasn’t quite content with that - after all, that puts our latest research up to 2005, which is 15 years ago. How have we progressed in the last 15 years?
This 2016 study (of 500 heterosexual couples) had the average roll in the hay being clocked in at just 5.4 minutes of penetrative sex (not including foreplay). Because we appeared to be going in the wrong direction here, I decided to hunt down the most recent statistics I could find in hopes of seeing numbers that were a bit better.
And alas, we’ve reached the year 2019.
According to a 2019 study conducted by popular toy brand Lovehoney, most heterosexual couples are having sex that lasts for an average of 19 minutes (this includes about 10 minutes of foreplay with around 9 minutes of penetrative intercourse).
Now we’re talking!
As for gauging the sexual happiness each person can achieve within those 19ish minutes, I wanted to see what men and women truly felt about their sex lives.
Do the majority of men and women reach climax within that time?
According to that same 2019 Lovehoney study on sexual happiness...
Lasting longer in bed doesn’t have to be this impossible feat or this thing that puts even more pressure on your performance. It can be achieved by implementing some subtle things into your life (even beyond the bedroom) that can help you last longer and experience more fulfilling sex.
These are often things you can do that extend the pleasure for both her and you.
Sex doesn’t just mean penetration.
First of all, we can clarify this: sex doesn’t just mean penetration. Yes, penetrative intercourse is important and often how you end up - but foreplay is oh-so-important for both men and women.
Foreplay is both a physical and oftentimes emotional need - it helps us prepare our bodies and minds for sex. Many people need intimacy, connection or some kind of arousal in order to get in the mood for sex, and foreplay is helpful in adding lubrication to the vagina, which is super important for comfortable (and feel-good) sex.
Masturbation might help you last longer.
While there is no definitive proof this works, many sex experts suggest that masturbation can lead to longer sexual endurance times.
Dr. Evan Goldstein explains in this issue of Men’s Health: “Sometimes ejaculating too quickly is due to the fact that you’re all riled up and haven’t ejaculated recently, which means your prostate is fully engorged. If you masturbate close to when you know you’re going to have sex, you’re essentially having sex a second time, which means it will take longer to climax.”
Of course, you want to make sure the timing isn’t too close together, as it can become difficult for men to climax twice so close together. Depending on how quickly your body “bounces back”, you could masturbate anywhere from the night before to a few hours before your sexual intercourse with a partner in the hopes of improving your endurance during sex.
Speaking of “bounce back” times...get to know your refractory period.
What is that? Well, a refractory period is essentially the time after you climax until you feel able and ready to climax again. Everyone has a refractory period, it’s part of the four stages of sexual response (excitement, plateau, orgasm and refractory).
The timing for this cycle is what varies from person to person, and getting to know your own timing can help you take advantage of the refractory period, timing your masturbation and/or sexual activity for a time when you know you will be aroused and be able to last longer.
Talk about it with your partner.
Having open and honest conversations with your partner(s) about sexual satisfaction can feel very intimidating. Of course, you want to know you’re performing well and you likely want your partner to be happy with the sex you’re having together - and if they aren’t, this can be a bit of a blow to your self-esteem.
But trust me when I say that women will find your effort and openness to be extremely attractive. If you are genuinely interested in her pleasure, this is a huge turn-on for us and you can work together with her to ensure you are both satisfied.
Don’t put so much pressure on yourself...sex is supposed to be fun.
The more you worry, the harder it will be (bad pun intended) to keep an erection and sexually satisfy your partner - this is often referred to as performance anxiety.
Performance anxiety is typically caused by negative thoughts about your ability to perform well during sex. These negative thoughts can trigger your body’s stress response which makes it difficult to achieve and maintain an erection.
Some things you can do to lessen performance anxiety are:
There are toys for that.
As with most things, there’s a toy that can help. While introducing sex toys into your sex life can feel a bit daunting (especially if you already feel stressed about your performance), there are actually sex toys that are designed to prolong and enhance pleasure for everyone involved.
Cock rings: in case you didn’t know, a cock ring is a ring (of course) that is worn around the base of your penis that works to make your erection harder and last longer.
Usually made of flexible silicone or rubber, a cock ring essentially lessens the blood flow to your manhood. You will still get an erection, blood will still be flowing - but just not as much as quickly, meaning it’s more of an even standoff rather than a quick-draw (if you catch my drift.)
Not only will wearing a cock-ring prolong your erection but it can also cause increased sensitivity, which can make everything more pleasurable for you. A bonus? You can purchase vibrating cock rings that add a little extra clitoral stimulation for a female partner.
Focus on her pleasure (make her orgasm first).
Something that can help get you out of your own head is not only focusing on the physical sensations you’re feeling but focusing on what your partner is feeling. Focusing on your lover’s satisfaction can help you remain focused and dedicated to helping her achieve orgasm as well.
Honing in on her breathing, her sounds, her movements - all of this can work as wonderful distractions, making you worry less about performing and allowing yourself to live in the moment.
Edging is all the rage these days.
Edging is essentially bringing yourself super close to climax (to the edge, you might say) and then deliberately delaying your orgasm. This constant build up and then pause of tension can be a great way to extend your masturbation or intercourse time.
Typically, you do what you do (as you normally would) until you’re close to climax, and then you stop (maybe for a minute, maybe only for a few seconds). This allows your body time to slow down and regain some stamina.
The great thing about edging is that you can do this without necessarily making it super obvious by going at it until the going gets (almost) too good, and then suggesting a position change or stopping to put on a condom. This allows you to slow things down without actually telling your partner you need to slow things down.
Of course, communicating with your partner should always be number one, and telling them you want to slow down should never feel awkward. However, with some situations, all you need are those extra few seconds of position changing or the opening of a condom wrapper to regain the time and energy you need.
Speaking of condoms...using a condom can also help.
While condoms may get a bad wrap (bad pun intended, sorry - I couldn’t resist), they are good for more than just protecting against STIs and unplanned pregnancies...they can also help you slow things down a bit, allowing more time for pleasure.
Condoms create an extra “layer” of separation between you and your partner, oftentimes causing the feel-good sensation to feel, well, a little less. You can still have great sex with a condom on and delay your orgasm just long enough for you both to have a great time.
Start with simple sex positions and slowly graduate to deeper penetration positions.
Not only will the time between sex positions help you last longer, but the actual positions you choose can also help.
You both lay on your sides, facing the same direction - your pelvis should be a bit lower than hers. As she bends forward at the hip, you can guide yourself into her. Some lube will make this process really easy and this particular position still feels great (and really sensual) without involving deep penetration which often leads to climax faster.
This position is similar to spooning but instead of facing away from each other, you face towards each other. The woman lifts her leg over the man’s hip and you get into a position that feels comfortable. Together you can rock and grind your way to sensual bliss.
Sitting on a chair.
It’s simple: you sit on a chair and she rides you. She can either face away from you (as if she’s giving you a lap dance) or she can straddle you with you both facing the same direction. This position is great because it’s super sexy but also allows for little “breaks” during which she can tease you, you can switch places to perform oral sex on her...really, anything is possible here.
Manage your breathing.
While most people don’t associate sex with being a mindful experience, it really can be. Incorporating any kind of mindfulness into your sex life (erotic hypnosis, breathing exercises, etc) can transform a regular Tuesday night into a spiritual, sexual, sensual evening of awakening...oh - and it can help you last longer.
According to GQ magazine, deep breathing during sex (breathing in for 8 seconds and out for 6) can help release a bit of the tension you’re feeling down there and delay your ejaculatory reflex. Not to mention breathing through orgasms makes things feel oh-so-good.
The power of exercise.
Kegel exercise, that is.
Men’s Health UK explains the results of two different studies: in one study, 75% of men improved erectile dysfunction after doing Kegels and in the other study, 61% of men were cured of premature ejaculation through kegel exercises.
If you aren’t familiar with Kegels, ask your wife or girlfriend - she will know! Kegel exercises are essentially a workout out of your PC (pubococcygeal) muscles. In other words, your pelvic floor muscles. If you’re interested, this is a great explainer piece on how to properly do kegel exercises.
A good meal makes all the difference.
Did you know what you eat impacts how long you can last in bed? HealthLine has a great article on what to do (and what kind of exercises to do) to increase sexual stamina - but I will outline a few here.
Capsaicin. This is found in chili peppers, sweet peppers, and ginger root.
One of the body’s most important electrolytes can be found in bananas, cantaloupe, spinach, broccoli, and potatoes.
Simple carbs (bread and pasta, for example) are total stamina killers. Complex carbs, on the other hand, help give your body long-lasting energy. Complex carbs are things like oatmeal, yams, sweet potatoes, whole wheat bread, brown rice, quinoa, corn, and peas.
Protein is a great source of long-lasting energy because it takes your body longer to break it down than say typical carbs. Protein can be found in nuts, tofu, eggs, lean red meat, chicken, fish, and some dairy products (like yogurt and cheese).
Along with this list of food to eat, there are also specific nutrients men in particular need to build up sexual stamina, and these include things like L-citrulline (which can be found in watermelon, onions, and dark chocolate), L-arginine (which can be found in red meat, fish and whole grains) and Nitrates, which can be found in carrots, eggplant, celery, and arugula.
The “squeeze” technique people swear by.
Alright, hearing the word “squeeze” when it comes to your manhood might make you tense up a bit - but don’t worry, this doesn’t hurt at all.
According to HealthLine, how this works is that when the going gets good and you feel as though you’re about to cum, stop what you’re doing and squeeze the end of your penis (the area where the head meets the shaft). Your grip should be firm but not too firm (obviously) and the sensation of climax should roll past you so you can continue.
Lasting longer in bed for women isn’t something that’s commonly talked about. It’s a bit of a misconception that just because women can have multiple orgasms that they could just keep going and going.
While multiple O’s are great, not every woman experiences them and women have a pleasure threshold just like men. If you're looking to boost that threshold even higher to give your man more time in the sack, here’s how to do it.
Slow and steady instead of hot and heavy.
Sometimes you’re incredibly horny and want to rip your partner’s clothes off the second they come through the door - you know, get the good times going. However, starting off slow can give you time to build up a wall of tension and let it come crashing down at the perfect moment.
Even better? Slow and steady also means it’s easier for multiple orgasms to take over. Being present with your lover, appreciating every touch, every kiss, every spank (if that’s what you’re into) can not only give you the best sex you’ve ever had but it can also set a good pace for both of you to achieve orgasm together.
There are toys for that.
One of the reasons we want sex to last longer is to give us time to climax. While it’s a bit of a stereotype that women need more time to climax than men do, this rings true for a lot of women out there. And while you can use all these tips and tricks to prolong sex, what you can also do is ensure you’re able to climax when you need to.
Enter toys. Clitoral stimulation, g-spot stimulation, cock rings (for him, obviously)...even nipple clamps, because nipple orgasms are totally a thing now. All of these toys can not only enhance your sex life, making it more steamy and fun, but it can also help you get off within just a few minutes.
A tip: pull out a bullet vibe when your partner is close to climax and with a few well-positioned thrusts you will be moaning in ecstasy together.
Spend more time on foreplay.
Along the same lines as “making sure you’re ready to orgasm when they are”, let’s not forget about foreplay. Foreplay is so underrated if you ask me.
It’s so easy to skip over it or rush through it to get to “the good part” - but I’m here to tell you that foreplay can be (and most of the time is) the good part.
Whether it’s sensual touches and kisses or spanking and facefucking, whatever your foreplay mood is, I can guarantee you it will get you in the mood and ready to climax with your partner.
A tip: take this slow, too. Foreplay doesn’t have to be speedy. Taking time to change positions or slip in a bit of dirty talk can let you set a good pace you’re both comfortable with.
Edging or orgasm withholding can be a fun way to extend the pleasure and last longer.
Edging (in my very biased opinion) is great. You bring yourself close (I’m talking like one breath away) from orgasm and then stop yourself. You can do this once or you can do it a few times - but if you do this, you’re essentially going to experience a giant, bigger, better, more sensitive orgasm when you finally do let it happen.
Talk about worth the wait!
Edging yourself (or letting your man withhold orgasms) during couple’s play is a great way to ensure you and your partner experience erotic bliss at the same time.
A tip: I generally allow myself to orgasm once during couple’s play and then prolong the next orgasm until my partner is ready to climax. This ensures that I don’t get “left hanging” on the edge of orgasm without having had one first.
Don’t let his pleasure distract you from your own.
Of course, you want to be a good lover. Feeling pleasure from your partner experiencing pleasure is natural and healthy - but so often women stop once their man is finished even if they haven’t reached orgasm themselves yet. No more, ladies...no more.
Even if it means taking a toy and finishing yourself while he’s throwing away the condom - you get yours. Don’t be afraid to tell him you’re not quite there or you need more time, there’s no shame in communicating with your partner about these things. In fact, it can even make sex the next time around better because he will know you need more time.
What you eat makes a difference.
If you find yourself riding your man and getting tired 4 thrusts in, you may have to go easy on the pasta next time you’re out on a date. Simple carbs (like pasta, bread, etc) can burn your energy much faster than complex carbs (like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, etc).
Not only that, but there are tons of nutrients and vitamins you could be taking to up your stamina in more than just the bedroom.
This can help stimulate the development and growth of new cells which help fight fatigue and boost stamina. Folic acid can be found in avocado, lentils, dried beans, peas, nuts, broccoli, spinach, and citrus fruits. You can also take folic acid supplements.
Known for keeping bones strong, Calcium is also important for your cells to function properly which is obviously key to maintaining a steady energy level. Calcium is found in skim milk, cheese, yogurt, and salmon.
Supporting bone health and boosting immunity isn’t the only thing Vitamin D is good for - it also helps you maintain a healthy weight and control your metabolism which, in turn, can impact your sleep (and sex) life. Vitamin D is available in tablets from your pharmacy or can be found in egg yolks, shrimp, salmon and orange juice.
Don’t fear the climax.
One of the best parts about female orgasms is that they can come, feel great, leave and then come back. Multiple orgasms are great, but so often we try to force the orgasm to wait in order to make sex last longer.
When multiple orgasms are possible, allow yourself to give in to one as soon as it comes along - this will allow you to build the tension back up quickly after and chase after the next.
In the words of DJ EZ Rock: it takes two to make a thing go right.
Working together to achieve longer, more satisfying sex may take some time and practice, but if you’re on the same page and both willing to put the effort in to make this thing go (very) right, you will both be happy at the end of your (very long) evening together.