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How Long Should Sex Last?

Chances are you’ve asked yourself this question at least once since the time you’ve first started having sex. We all have. I mean, it’s not like we enter the world of sex and we’re showered with rules and timing and info on how long should sex last. And in this case, that’s not the fault of flawed or even non-existent sex ed, as it is in many other cases. No, this is is much more a personal preference, although there are some desired thresholds a lot of people like to stick to.

Yeah, lucky enough we live in a time when there’s an answer to almost any question you can think of. What’s more, there’s also a chance scientists have thought about going into it. Like the question of how long should sex last, which in sciency terms would be called “intravaginal ejaculation latency time” or IELT. It basically describes the time a man takes to ejaculate during vaginal intercourse. The problem with this, as you can maybe already see, is that it’s a very limited, albeit very common, definition of straight sex. 

What’s more, IELT varies a lot from man to man, and also in the life of the same man as well. As one grows older, this latency time tends to decrease. 

Of course, sex isn’t only about placing your penis in your partner’s vagina. But, since this is a mostly guys-oriented blog, and since guys come through ejaculation most of the time, I’ll stick to this very common (but narrow) definition of sexual intercourse. Of course, I’ll also mention the women’s perspective on the preferred duration of sex and see how much they would want it to last. 

How Can You Measure the Duration of Sex? 

Measuring the ELT (ejaculatory latency time) is a funny business. It’s not like you can just ask couples how long they take to come during sex. Why? Well, first of all, because people are biased and usually won’t be able to tell you (not necessarily deliberately) the truth about it. That’s because to say that you last longer in bed is more socially desirable than to say you take only a couple of minutes. 

And the other reason is that it’s just not sexy watching the clock while you have sex, without the help of scientists, that is. 

So what do scientists do to come up with the average IELT? They accompany you in your bedroom with a stopwatch, of course! 

Let’s take a look at a very relevant study from two universities in the Netherlands conducted on 500 couples coming from five different countries (the US, the Netherlands, UK, Spain, and Turkey). All of the couples were in a “stable heterosexual relationship for at least 6 months, with regular sexual intercourse”. What’s also important is that the men participating weren’t picked based on their absence of comorbidities and any potential sexual dysfunction. So, the point of the research was to include the average heterosexual couple. 

What they did was they recorded the number of “sexual events”, as they call them, and used a stopwatch to measure the IELTs in 4 weeks. They also took note of condom use and whether the man was circumcised or not. 

The average IELT is very, very varied between men

The results? Well, taking all five countries into account, the median IELT was 5.4 minutes, with a minimum range of 0.55 seconds and 44.1 minutes of sex that the participants engaged in. Older participants had a decreased median IELT, so men in the 18-30 group came in about 6.5 minutes, while men older than 51 came in 4.3 minutes on average. Another interesting find was that the median IELT was different from country to country (Turkey having the lowest median of 3.7 minutes). Also, men who were circumcised came a bit later than the ones who weren’t – 6.7 minutes as opposed to 6.0 minutes. According to the study, condom use didn’t affect the median value of IELT. 

How Much Do Women Prefer Sex to Last? 

Now, to answer this question, I want to show you another survey conducted jointly by researchers at the Indiana University, Bloomington and the hailed internet project aimed at increasing women’s pleasure OMGYes.com. In it, women answered different questions about the way they like to be touched for maximum pleasure and the best ways to achieve an orgasm. There’s also a part in the survey about the duration of sex. As it turns out, women don’t care as much about the duration of sex. They reported having better orgasms when they and their partner spend time “building arousal”, and they also noted the importance of “partner familiarity, and emotional intimacy.” 

In fact “fewer than one in five American women indicated that “sex that lasts a long time” made orgasms feel better.” 

It’s worth noting that 36.6% of the 1,055 women in the survey, aged 18 to 94 years old, reported that they needed clitoral stimulation to achieve an orgasm during intercourse. Another 36% “indicated that, while clitoral stimulation was not needed, their orgasms feel better if their clitoris is stimulated during intercourse.” Only 18.4% of women said that intercourse without any other genital touching was enough for them to have an orgasm. 

Final Thoughts 

As you can see, longer sex doesn’t necessarily mean better sex. Simply said: it depends. On the mood, on the time you have to spend, on your personal preferences, on your health condition, on your bodies, on your age… As well as the type of sex itself, and the way you define sex in the first place. 

So my advice is, focus less on the numbers and the ticking on the clock, and more on the experience itself. Listen to your partner. Talk to her and ask what her preferred way of achieving an orgasm is. That way you both get to have more fun, even if you think it may last a short time, in your case. I mean, who cares how long it lasts as long as you’re both happy about it. Heck, you can always have at it again and again and again and again!

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