All of us have been through the awkward pubertal experience of imagining sex as less of an intimate coupling of people who value and trust one another, and more of an indulgent performance that validates and even measures the quality of our masculinity. This is to say, many men think how long they last make them better or worse than others.
However, as we grow older and more experienced, we come to realize that the misconceptions fed to us by pornography, entertainment media, and the gossip of our equally inexperienced peers were largely unaligned with reality. Sex is a practice between two (or more) people whose quality is much more dependent on attention, care, and communication than it is on the exact time frame or the particular ways that your partner expresses their pleasure.
Nonetheless, growing up surrounded by this sort of messaging shapes us, and the fears and insecurities that these messages can instill within us can be difficult to shake. So, in an effort to assuage these fears, let's go ahead and take a look at the most common of these misconceptions: how long does sex normally last, how important is the exact duration, and what can you do if you are unhappy with your sexual stamina?
The Statistics of Sex
The average penetrative sex act between adults lasts anywhere from three to fifteen minutes depending on the specific parameters of the study cited. Interestingly, while we do have these averages, the range of timings submitted for average sex durations varies so greatly between couples that it's difficult to declare any particular duration abnormal.
The most widely lauded and comprehensive study on the subject is one that was done by researchers from the Netherlands who surveyed hundreds of couples across five different countries back in 2005, and the average sex durations its subjects submitted ranged from 33 seconds to 44 minutes -- an incredible diversity of norms.
Now, of course, the variation of these results is due to the great number of variables that come into play to determine how long sex lasts, but you might be surprised to learn that media sex duration was largely independent of condom usage, and in one country, they were even independent of circumcision status. In fact, age appeared to be a far more impactful factor than condom use, as older couples averaged much shorter sex durations.
It's important to note that this is specifically penetrative sex -- encounters can of course last longer than that and often involve more than just that (especially when proper foreplay is factored in). The data for entire sexual encounters is a bit more difficult to summarize due to varying operational definitions both as used by the researchers performing these surveys and the couples answering them.
All that said... any experienced adult knows and understands that sex durations is going to vary greatly between couples, and if you're reading this article, you're likely looking for a single specific number that might give you a better idea of what most people are likely experiencing. Well, the aforementioned study reported a media sex duration of 5.4 minutes. That's still a flawed figure, but it's about as close as we can get for now.
What Affects Sex Duration?
So what actually determines how long sex lasts? Well, sex duration is a function of a complicated mixture of psychological and physical factors in their nature, and many of them can be entirely obscure to us.
Far as physical factors are concerned, age and fitness are far and away from the most impactful variables at play: Couples who are older generally experience significantly shorter sex durations, and couples that are healthier and in better shape tend to be able to last longer both where sexual stamina and physical endurance are concerned.
Influential psychological factors are a bit more difficult to pin down, but studies have nonetheless consistently shown that the male level of arousal plays a dominant role in the matter because more aroused men tend to ejaculate sooner (though this is a general rule more so than a universal law). How long couples have been together also factored in, with couples that have been together longer and thus know each other's preferences better tend to finish sooner. Finally, there are the emotional elements defining the relationship: unhappy or unstable relationships tend to finish faster, for example.
Is Longer Sex Always Better?
As was mentioned in the beginning, some people – especially in their youth – believe that sex should last for a long time in order for the man to have done his job. Put bluntly, unless the deed is done in under a minute, that simply isn’t true. There is no “correct” length of time for sex. What is important is that both partners are enjoying themselves and that they each pay attention to the other’s wants and needs and are sure to communicate. Bad sex is bad due to a lack of communication, not because it didn’t pass a certain minute mark.
How To Change Your Sex Duration
If you are nonetheless unhappy with how short your encounters are, then rest easy knowing that there are ways to try and prolong the experience.
For one, studies have found that switching up positions frequently during sex can do the trick, and so can taking strategic breaks when close to climaxing during which you can attend to your partner in more creative ways to keep the mood going.
Pelvic floor exercises have also been found to improve control on that front, though not for everyone. Finally, if all else fails, conditioning yourself to avoid audible sounds of pleasure has been shown to result in a less intense sensation.
Many men find that simply having sex more often decreases the chance of early ejaculation, so that may be another avenue to explore. This is because the more frequently you have sex, the more your body becomes accustomed to the sensation and the more control you may have. It is also a psychological issue for some men, so simply being more comfortable and confident with your partner may also help.
Condoms tend to desensitize the experience somewhat, so that may be another tool in your arsenal. Cock rings can also help, as they constrict blood flow and prevent premature ejaculation.
Lastly, there are some medical treatments available if you are still struggling, such as local anesthesia or numbing creams, but these should only be used as a last resort after you have tried all of the above methods, and only with a doctor's recommendation.
This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical or other professional advice. Your specific circumstances should be discussed with a healthcare provider. All statements of opinion represent the writers' judgement at the time of publication and are subject to change. Phoenix and its affiliates provide no express or implied endorsements of third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products, or services.