Men's Health Sexual Health / STDs Women's Health / Gynecology

Sex: How long does it last?

No set time is fixed for how long sex can last. Based on desire and a number of other considerations, such as what an individual considers sex to be, it may vary considerably.

Sex is described differently by individuals. One individual may consider it to require only penetrative intercourse, while another may consider having sex to begin with the beginning of foreplay and last until the orgasm of each participant.

It’s difficult to gather proof of how long sex continues to last, particularly anecdotally. An individual may feel pressure to lie if the sexual length varies from established cultural norms for them.

There is also a difference between the period of sex and the amount of time other people believe it can. Some findings indicate that, for example, penile-vaginal intercourse takes less time on average than women in monogamous, “stable” heterosexual marriages do to achieve an orgasm.

How long is average?

Happy couples
Factors affecting the duration of sex include what counts as sex, external constraints, sexual orientation, and age.

There’s very little study done on how long sex usually lasts. Current studies have major limitations — most, for instance, found sex to be only penile-vaginal intercourse, or involved only heterosexual couples.

A 2005 multinational study of heterosexual couples describing sex as penile-vaginal intercourse asked participants to time sex from male ejaculation penetration.

The team found that the observations varied from 33 seconds to 44 minutes under their very narrow boundaries, with the typical session lasting 5.4 minutes.

Other researchers sought to determine what a “normal” period is by questioning people who are diagnosing and treating sexual disorders.

In a 2008 report, sex workers in the United States and Canada were asked to measure the mean length of sex in various groups.

The therapists responded that sex:

  • lasting under 3 minutes warrants clinical concern
  • lasting 3–7 minutes is “adequate”
  • lasting 7–13 minutes is “desirable”
  • lasting 10–30 minutes is “too long”

However, a 2020 study assessing the heterosexual women ‘s time to orgasm found that the average was 13.41 minutes. This suggests that sex that satisfies many heterosexual females would last “too long” for the therapists polled in 2008 would consider.

Cultural norms can influence sexual expectations, including guidelines from medical professionals, and play a role in sexual dissatisfaction.

The findings of a 2010 study also suggest a longer period of having a vaginal orgasm correlates with having penile-vaginal penetrative sex.

Sex may have numerous health benefits. Learn more here.

What can affect how long sex lasts? 

A range of factors can contribute to the duration of sex, including:

  • What counts as sex: Some people define any sexually stimulating contact as sex. Overall, people with a broader definition may consider their sex to last longer.
  • Sexual practices, goals, and norms: The goal of sex, such as one orgasm for each partner, can influence the duration.
  • External constraints: For example, new parents might sneak a quick sex session while their baby takes a nap, or they might arrange for a night away, when they can spend hours on foreplay.
  • Sexual orientation: A 2014 study found that females in same-sex couples have sex that lasts longer, compared with the sex of other types of couples.
  • Sexual function and overall health: Pain during or after sex and premature ejaculation are just a few examples of issues that can limit the duration of sex.
  • Age: The duration may decrease with age, due to factors affecting health and stamina.
  • Location: The multinational 2005 study found that heterosexual couples in Turkey have the shortest sex, lasting, on average, 3.7 minutes. This may speak to cultural norms, conditioning, and the study’s very limited definition of sex.

Ways to make sex last longer 

If this is an aim, the following strategies may help:

  • When one partner is approaching orgasm, they might take a break and focus on pleasuring another partner.
  • Continually communicate about sexual needs and desires. This can help each partner enjoy sex more.
  • If a female is involved, prioritize the female orgasm, by offering manual clitoral stimulation or oral sex, for example.
  • Focus on foreplay before penetration. This may extend the length of the interaction and boost pleasure for everyone involved.
  • Use visualization exercises and deep breathing to delay orgasm.

Summary 

There’s no correct or incorrect sex duration — no common definition of what’s natural.

People should express what makes their sex feel comfortable and rewarding, and organize their experiences around that. Continuous free contact and an emphasis on the enjoyment of each person will usually enhance sex.