There have been a lot of studies about how long sex lasts on average — but most of those studies focus on the length of P-in-V sex between a cis man and a cis woman, whereas we know that sex can encompass a lot more. When it comes to studies looking at how long sex — including foreplay, outercourse, oral sex, and any other kind of non-P-in-V sex — lasts on average, for people of any gender and sexuality, we have less data to go by. But even if we did have exact data, those numbers don’t really matter. Because the only real answer to “How long should sex last?” is “A length that you and your partner are happy with.”
In fact, studies and averages are “a comparison trap,” says Megan Fleming, PhD, a sex and relationships counsellor who practices in New York. “It’s really more about what works in your relationship.”
Sex therapists generally consider someone with a penis to be experiencing premature ejaculation if they are ejaculating after less than two minutes of penetrative sex, Dr. Fleming says. The Mayo Clinic’s definition of premature ejaculation adds an important caveat: “Premature ejaculation occurs when a man ejaculates sooner during sexual intercourse than he or his partner would like.” If both partners are happy with how long sex is lasting, then it’s not something to be concerned about — there’s a lot more to sex than penetration, after all. “How much does [the partner] enjoy penetration?” Dr. Fleming asks. “Maybe they already had an orgasm first because of foreplay, oral, or manual stimulation.”
But if both partners — no matter their gender or genitalia — want sex to last longer, they can try some different tactics to make that happen. Dr. Fleming divides these strategies into two groups: the physical and the psychological. On the physical side, there are masturbation exercises. In particular, people with penises can “learn to stay in the safe zone before the point of inevitability, which is ejaculation,” says Dr. Fleming. If sex isn't lasting long because one person is experiencing pain or discomfort, see a professional who can see if there's an underlying health condition. If you'd like sex to end more quickly, masturbation exercises also apply. And whether you'd like sex to last longer or end more quickly, you should be using lube — it helps reduce friction, makes sex feel more comfortable, and feels great. Try experimenting with different amounts lube, or trying different kinds of lube, to see how that feels.
There's also the psychological side of sex. Along with trying out positions and types of sex, “that might mean including fantasy, or talking dirty,” Dr. Fleming says. It can also mean reframing what you think of as sex to include sexual activities outside of penetration — and if there’s a cis man in the couple, it can mean rethinking the idea that sex ends when he has an orgasm.
Dr. Fleming also suggests trying new sexual activities more than once — even if the first time you try a new position doesn't have an effect on how soon your orgasm happens, that might be different the third time you try it. “When you try something new, you want to try, try again,” she says. She refers to the safe word system of red, yellow, and green, where red means "stop," green means "go," and yellow means "slow down" or "give me a moment." “If it’s awful, ‘red light,’ then obviously don’t” try it again, she says. “But if it’s more like a yellow, then hang out and see if it turns green. Sometimes we have to do things enough to really be present and relax, and relaxation is the foundation of arousal.”