Sex & Relationships

How Long Should Sex Last?

A new study reveals that most Americans want sex to last twice as long as it does.

Five minutes before sex. Woman's hands holding and showing alarm clock and condom.
Photo Credit: StepanPopov / Shutterstock

Timing can be hard to get down, especially when it comes to sex. According to experts, the average sex session lasts just 3-7 minutes, or roughly the same amount of time it takes your mac 'n’ cheese to come to a simmer.

When a team of researchers over at the Sexual Health Promotion Lab at the University of Kentucky decided to investigate the issue, they were met with slightly more encouraging results. In a survey of over 14,000 men and women, the average sex session was reported to last around 10 minutes. Though the majority of men surveyed said they wished sex would last closer to 20 minutes. Women agreed, indicating that they would like sex to last 15 to 20 minutes or more. 

Of course, it’s always important to be wary of statistics. And as the folks over at Fusion remind us, the study was funded by Absorption Pharmaceuticals, a company that makes sexual dysfunction products, including drugs to treat premature ejaculation. “A study finding that people want longer sex isn’t bad for a company that profits off of premature ejaculation,” Fusion notes.

But the findings of the study are reminiscent of other research done on the subject. In a 2008 sex study conducted by Penn State, participants listed 13 minutes as a “desirable” amount of time to spend having sex. Three to seven minutes was considered “adequate” and one to two minutes “too short.” The researchers also encountered a “large percentage” of both men and women who wanted sex to last 30 minutes or longer. But those individuals may do well to be reminded of the adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Eric Corty, an associate professor of psychology, said, “Today's popular culture has reinforced stereotypes about sexual activity. Many men and women seem to believe the fantasy model of large penises, rock-hard erections and all-night-long intercourse. "

He added, "This seems a situation ripe for disappointment and dissatisfaction."

Back in 1948, Alfred Kinsey found that 75 percent of American men achieved orgasm after just two minutes of sex. If there’s anything to take away from the more recent pool of research, it’s that two minutes doesn't cut it by today’s standards. “Men may be adapting their sexual behavior to better fit the social ideal,” writes Rachel Hills, author of The Sex Myth. “It is no longer acceptable for the sex act to end before one party has even begun,” she adds.

Our stamina certainly has changed since 1948, but perhaps not drastically enough.

In addition to their findings about ideal sex times, the researchers at the Sexual Health Promotion Lab found: 

  • 55% of women and 30.7% of men had faked an orgasm.
  • 64.2% of men reported frustration at least 25% of the time due to early ejaculation.
  • 45% of men wished they had a longer penis.
  • 8.7% of women reported masturbating almost every day
  • 41.5% of respondents said they had never had anal sex. 

Carrie Weisman is an AlterNet staff writer who focuses on sex, relationships and culture. Got tips, ideas or a first-person story? Email her

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