Sexual Health Q&A

How long should sex last?

There is no official rule on how long sex should last. The duration of sex varies from couple to couple and can depend on many factors, such as:

Their preferences. Some couples want sex to be fast. Others like to take a slower pace.

Their circumstances. Young, busy parents might have short sexual encounters when they have time. Couples relaxing on the weekend may spend the entire day in bed.

Their age and health. As people get older, they sometimes need more time to become aroused and reach orgasm.

Their definition of “sex.” If couples define sex as the time spent in penile-vaginal intercourse, then sex might last just a few minutes. But if they include foreplay and other sexual activities (massage, oral sex, etc.), it could be much longer.

Scientifically, duration of sex is often associated with the intravaginal ejaculation latency time (IELT). This measurement begins when the penis first enters the vagina and ends when the man ejaculates.

In 2005, a study of 500 couples in five different countries found that the median IELT is 5.4 minutes. But that assumes a definition of sex as heterosexual intercourse. Couples – both heterosexual and homosexual – may have different views.

For some couples, duration of sex isn’t a choice. Men with premature ejaculation finish more quickly than they wish to. Those with delayed ejaculation take longer to climax or might not reach orgasm at all. In these cases, talking to a doctor or a qualified sex therapist can help both men and their partners.