Premature Ejaculation

How Long Should Sex Last on Average?

September 1, 2021

Fun and pleasure – that's what most of us think of when we hear "sex." But despite the obvious, there can be a lot of pressure when it comes to having sex, particularly with new partners. Nobody wants to end sex prematurely, but going on for too long (tick tock, tick tock) can be an issue, too.

So, how long should sex last? 

What Is the Ideal Amount of Time For Sex?

There's no precise length of time that sex should last, for obvious reasons. Everyone's idea of a good time is different! As long as both people are enjoying the experience and having fun, sex can go on for as long as they like. Additionally, it can also depend on what your definition of "sex" is. If you're defining sex as any sex- or intimacy-related activities, including touching, making out, or various foreplay activities, then sex can last for quite a while. For scientific purposes, sex is typically defined as beginning at penetration. 

For couples, the ideal amount of time after penetration can vary, but studies suggest it’s somewhere around 5-10 minutes. 

For example, one study had sex therapists place a numerical value in minutes on the following four categories of sex timeframes: too short, adequate, desirable, and too long. 

The results were as follows:

  • Sex lasting one to two minutes was deemed “too short”
  • Sex lasting three to seven minutes was deemed “adequate”
  • Sex lasting seven to 13 minutes was deemed “desirable”
  • Sex lasting 10 to 30 minutes was deemed “too long”

Keep in mind that these results were not what couples actually experienced during sex; rather, what these experts considered an ideal time frame. 

According to the authors of this study, "the average sex therapist believes that intercourse that lasts 3 to 13 minutes is normative and not worthy of...clinical concern."

Another study on the actual time in which sex lasted after penetration involved over 500 people from countries around the world. They were tasked with using a stopwatch to measure the duration of their sexual activities over the course of four weeks. Starting from vaginal penetration and stopping when ejaculation occurs, the participants had sex times ranging from 33 seconds all the way to 44 minutes. 

Neither of these outliers were the norm, as the average ejaculatory time was found to be five minutes and 24 seconds

5:24 appears to be a normal, average ejaculatory or penetration time from one of the larger scientific studies done on the common question, "How long should sex last?"

What Are Some Reasons For Quick or Delayed Ejaculations?

The study listed above is one of the leading pieces of research that has been done on sex and how long it lasts. While most of the participants fell within a similar margin, it raises the question why some sex times were so different from the average? 

The couples that reported sex duration of 33 seconds, and the one reporting 44 minutes, are both far from the average of just over five minutes. What could be the cause of these wildly different times? 

While there may be a few factors at play that could lead to such results, it may be explained partly due to premature ejaculation or male anorgasmia. 

What Is Premature Ejaculation? 

Premature ejaculation is a medical condition in which a man climaxes and ejaculates too quickly during sex, before he or his partner have experienced adequate or satisfactory pleasure. It’s perfectly common to experience this from time to time, especially for men who haven’t had sex in a while; however, when it becomes the norm instead of a rarity it might be due to premature ejaculation.

Some estimates are that as many as 20 or 30 percent of men have experienced premature ejaculation, but in the strict medical definition required for a diagnosis, it's likely closer to only 4 percent. Often men think that they are climaxing too early when they're actually well within the normal range for sex duration. 

In order to be diagnosed with premature ejaculation, men typically must meet the following criteria:

  • Ejaculation always, or almost always, occurs within one minute of penetration and is completely uncontrollable
  • It has been happening for longer than six months
  • It is causing distress and other emotional strife 
  • There are no medical conditions that have been identified as an underlying cause

What Causes Premature Ejaculation?

When it comes to scientific research on the cause of premature ejaculation, the results are somewhat inconclusive. PE is often multifactorial, without a single cause.

There seem to be several biological factors at play, such as inherited traits, genetics, an overly sensitive penis, hormonal imbalances, or nerve conditions. There are also several psychological factors involved too, such as relationship problems, performance anxiety, and stress.

A combination of these physical and psychological factors can compound each other and increase the frequency or severity of the issue. 

A guy experiencing premature ejaculation generally has one of two types of PE:

  • Primary: Premature ejaculation is a lifelong experience and has been an issue since their very first sexual encounter.
  • Secondary: Premature ejaculation is an acquired issue and wasn’t problematic in the past or during previous sexual encounters. 

In some cases premature ejaculation might be the result of erectile dysfunction. When a man has difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection for a long period of time, he may inadvertently condition himself to rush into ejaculation as quickly as possible, before the erection fades. 

How Do You Treat Premature Ejaculation? 

While there is no single, permanent cure for premature ejaculation, there are several treatments available:

  • Stop-start technique. During sexual activity, if you feel that you're close to ejaculation, stop all activity and stimulation. Resist the urge to climax and, once the feeling has passed, resume sex.
  • Squeeze technique. Similar to the stop-start technique, stop all stimulation at the earliest signs of ejaculation. Instead of simply stopping, you or your partner then grab the tip of your penis, just below the head, and squeeze until the urge to ejaculate has faded. It shouldn’t cause discomfort or pain, but can help to condition your penis and brain to last longer before ejaculation.  
  • Kegel exercises. By strengthening your pelvic floor muscles you may be able to better control erections and ejaculations. These muscles are the same that you use when trying to cut off urination midstream. All you have to do is tighten them and hold for a period of three to five seconds. Perform 10 repetitions to make a set and perform two to three sets daily to improve your pelvic muscle strength. 
  • Wipes. These products look like moist towelettes, but premature ejaculation wipes include topical numbing agents like benzocaine or lidocaine. By simply wiping your penis or penis head, these substances help to reduce the sensitivity of your penis, helping you to last longer during sex. 
  • Prescription medications. Some prescription medications can help to reduce the severity of PE. Serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are typically used in the treatment of depression and more, are often used off-label to treat the symptoms of PE, with great success in many cases.

What Is Male Anorgasmia?

Anorgasmia, also known as Coughlan’s syndrome, is a medical condition in which men have difficulty achieving orgasm and might not be able to orgasm at all. It's at the other end of the spectrum from premature ejaculation.

While this particular issue is more common in women, it can happen to men too. The primary causes appear to be psychological, but it can also be the result of an issue with the prostate or treatment for prostate conditions, a loss of penile sensitivity, nerve damage, a hormonal imbalance, or as a side effect of certain medications. 

Just like premature ejaculation, there are two types of anorgasmia:

  • Primary: A lifelong issue with achieving orgasm
  • Secondary: An acquired issue with achieving orgasm

How Can You Treat Male Anorgasmia?

In terms of treatments for anorgasmia, there are no prescription medications currently approved by the FDA; however, by identifying the cause of the anorgasmia and treating the underlying issue, you may be able to reduce its severity. 

Some potential treatments include:

  • Changing medications. One of the most common side effects of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) is anorgasmia. In fact, SSRIs such as sertraline are commonly prescribed as a treatment for premature ejaculation. In the event that you're taking this medication as an antidepressant and have trouble reaching orgasm, talk with your doctor about trying something else.
  • Hormonal therapy. Getting a blood test may be able to answer if your anorgasmia is the result of a hormonal imbalance. If your testosterone or prolactin levels are atypical, or you have an issue with your thyroid, your doctor may prescribe medications to normalize these hormones.
  • Penile vibratory stimulation. In the event that anorgasmia is the result of a loss of sensitivity in the penis, you could try this vibration therapy. By applying a vibration-inducing tool to the tissues near the end of the penis, this therapy can help to induce orgasm. One study had 30 guys with primary anorgasmia use this therapy, and 26 of them were able to achieve orgasm.  
  • Sex therapy. Many cases of anorgasmia stem from psychological issues relating to sex. Therapy and treatment for depression, anxiety, or stress may help to make achieving orgasm easier. Partners' sex therapy could help you and your partner to achieve a deeper understanding of each other's desires or needs in the bedroom and make sex more pleasurable for both of you. 

The Takeaway

While there is no correct answer for how long sex should last, the average time that sex lasts is about five and a half minutes. This time can vary dramatically from person to person, but sex therapists consider it a normal length of time.

More important than how long sex lasts is that both partners are adequately satisfied and their needs are met. If you're having trouble with reaching orgasm faster than you might like, it may be time to consider treatment for premature ejaculation. Rex MD can help, with both over-the-counter and prescription medications for PE available online. Our consultations are free, shipping is free, and they come in discreet packaging right to your door. 

Click here to learn more and get started.


Delayed Orgasm and Anorgasmia

The treatment of anorgasmia in males

Premature ejaculation: A review

Kegel Exercises | NIDDK

Premature ejaculation: Overview - - NCBI Bookshelf

Canadian and American Sex Therapists' Perceptions of Normal and Abnormal Ejaculatory Latencies: How Long Should Intercourse Last?

A multinational population survey of intravaginal ejaculation latency time