You and your partner have intercourse pretty often, and in general you’re happy with your sex life. Well, except for one thing. Most of the time, it never quite feels like it goes on long enough. How long is sex supposed to last, you wonder? What’s normal?
This is the very question that Australian researcher Dr Brendan Zietsch talks about in a recent article on The Conversation. But answering it is easier said than done.
What’s more, if you ask people for an estimate, they’re likely to guess that they last longer than they actually do. After all, the best lovers go on all night, don’t they? Well, that’s the stereotype.
All this means that there just isn't a lot of research out there on how long intercourse normally lasts. But there is one study from 2005 that has helped shed some light on how long people spend having intercourse.
Between 33 seconds and 44 minutes?
The study looked at intravaginal ejaculation latency time. Sounds romantic? It means how long intercourse lasts from when the guy puts his penis in his partner's vagina to when he ejaculates.
Five hundred couples from Spain, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Turkey took part in the study. With the help of a trusty stopwatch, the couples were told to hit start and stop every time they had intercourse over a period of four weeks.
So how long did sex normally last for these couples? About 5½ minutes was the median – that means that half the couples lasted longer and half finished in less time. But that doesn’t tell you so much, actually.
There’s no normal!
The thing is, there was a huge range in how long they had intercourse for. When the researchers took the average of all the times each couple had sex during the four weeks, intercourse lasted between 33 seconds and 44 minutes. So as Dr. Zietsch put it, "It’s clear there’s no one ‘normal’ amount of time to have sex."
How long sex lasted didn't depend on whether the couples were using a condom or the guy was circumcised, the study also found. There didn’t seem to be a difference from one country to the next, with the exception of Turkey, where the median length of sex was the lowest, at 3.7 minutes.
So what's the take-home message from this study? It's normal for sex to last as long as it does for you and your partner. And if you're worried it's going on for too long – or not long enough – talking about it to him or her is definitely a good idea.
For one thing, who puts on a timer when they have sex? Most people haven’t a clue how long sex lasts. In the heat of the moment, you’re not usually keeping track of time.
Source: A Multinational Population Survey of Intravaginal Ejaculation Latency Time. (2005). J Sex Med. 2:492-7.
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This article was first published on May 21, 2016.