The best long-term lover I ever had (let’s call him R), was pretty damn incredible. We would literally spend 4 hours on foreplay. Seriously. It probably helped that we lived 2 hours apart, but even my less involved lovers, if you will, have usually lasted about an hour or two. Sex wasn’t a thing you just did with R. Quickies were seen as unworthy. He was fond of telling me about some study that he read that said the average couple spent only 4 minutes having sex, and I was horrified but not surprised.

See, the sex we had was an experience with no beginning and no end. While I understand that spending hours getting it on is not always an option and that people in relationships do fall prey to routines from time to time, I do think that if two people are present enough to enjoy the journey just as much as (if not more than) the destination (read: climax), time is less than an after-thought.

So how long do you spend having sex? And was R’s intel right when it comes to how long the average couple spends getting their freak on? 

Timing sex

Online sex toy retailer Lovehoney surveyed 4,400 of their customers and found that sex for most hetero couples lasts 19 minutes, consisting of about 10 minutes of foreplay and 9 of full intercourse. 52% of couples surveyed were cool with all that, but 23% of men and 19% of women said it wasn't long enough. First of all, how do you separate foreplay from sex like that? Second, I find it interesting that the guys were less satisfied. And third, 19 minutes is better than 4, right? It could very well be because those surveyed were sex toy customers, and thus slightly more focused on pleasure-making.

Bad news: compared to other recent studies, the Lovehoney lot were above average. A 2008 study found that “adequate” sex lasts anything from 3 to 7 minutes, while 7 to 13 minutes was considered “desirable.” Say what? Um, if we’re not on this planet to enjoy our bodies, why the funk are we? Just my 2 cents…

A 2016 survey asked 500 hetero couples to manually time their intercourse with a stopwatch. The results varied wildly from 44 minutes to 33 seconds. But on average couples clocked in at 5.4 minutes, not including foreplay. The study was deeply problematic in that it defines sex as the time it takes for a man to ejaculate, full stop. Dr Brendan Zietsch, the dude behind the (NOT) brilliant survey had this to say: “I know there's a lot more to sex than putting the penis into the vagina and ejaculating, but the rest is not always easy to define (kissing? rubbing? grinding?) To keep things simple and specific, we'll just focus on the time to ejaculation.” Um. Kissing? Rubbing? Female pleasure, maybe? Female climax/ejaculation, perhaps? WTF. I feel so…erased.


A 2005 study also found that sex lasts 5.4 minutes on average. But guess what, this hard-earned data also fails to take into account foreplay, female orgasm, or non-heterosexual pairings. No biggie, right? (note my sarcastic tone).

Fun historical fact: Alfred Kinsey's 1948 research found that 75% of American men ejaculated within the first 2 minutes of sex. 

The Orgasm Gap

Why am I getting my back up, you may wonder. The problem, as I see it: society as we know it is obsessed with both climax and male pleasure—both together and apart. How convenient that women take longer to reach climax in our climax-obsessed world, and yet even in 2017, often do not. The Lovehoney Survey found that 75% of men surveyed climax every time they have sex while just 28% of women do. According to Cosmopolitan's 2015 Female Orgasm Survey, 1 in 3 women have trouble reaching orgasm, and only 57% of (straight) women usually have orgasms when they have sex with a partner. The same women said their male counterparts orgasm 95% of the time. Add to this the fact that even though it takes longer on average for a woman to orgasm (some experts say up to 20 or even 40 minutes), the status quo understanding is that sex ends when a man comes. Hello deeply entrenched misogyny, how are you doing today? 


But why??

So are men just selfish and lazy and impervious to their privilege? While I would say, yes, indeed many are, others deal with premature ejaculation issues caused by a host of physical and emotional issues. Note: “premature” here, refers to intercourse that lasts less than a minute or 2. I guess anything more than 2 minutes is gravy, right? The problem is, when men have trouble controlling their ejaculation time (and believe me, some are blessed with impeccable control), they need to do something, as opposed to nothing, to fix it. Otherwise, they continue to be crappy lovers who leave their ladies feeling empty and unsatisfied, am I right?

Express yourself

As women, I think the best we can do if we are unfulfilled with the length of time sex generally lasts (and/or the quality of sex/foreplay), is communicate our true feelings, without worrying about hurting his feelings. Think of all the women who will come after you, who deserve not to have to demand more time and attention in the sack. Personally, I’m one of those women who expect to come every time, “like a man,” and I make it happen. They gotta know. Whether you’re like me in this regard or have less stringent criteria, express yourself. No bad can come of it, trust me. The truth will set you (and him) free and has the power to unleash the untold joys of your potentially-much-more-fulfilling sex life.


Cover Image: Matt Crump