How Long Should Sex Last? However Long You Want It To Last

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle
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Confession: I have a vagina and I hate when sex lasts long. By "long" I mean more than five, 10 minutes tops. Based on magazines and movies, you'd probably predict I'd want it to last as long as possible. But I find these ideas about how long sex should last super problematic.

Study after study keeps coming out about how long people spend having sex (5.4 minutes according to one; 7.3 minutes according to another). So clearly, people are pretty curious — and perhaps anxious — about this topic. Indeed, there are numerous articles online about how you can last longer in bed. Heck, there's even a penis spray that claims to increase guys' endurance. The message is clear: The longer you can last, the more of a rockstar you are in bed. Finishing quickly is considered an embarrassment.

I view this very differently. Honestly, once sex exceeds five minutes, my parts start to get worn out. It actually becomes a bit painful. I'll usually get some lube and keep at it for my partner's sake, but I'm not in it for me at that point. Now that I think about it, though, partners have probably thought they were doing me a favor by continuing. And this is why we need to start talking about sex and stop assuming things based on mainstream porn.

Ashley Batz/Bustle

Why do we have this idea that the longer a penis can last, the better? I think we have a number of sex myths to thank for this. The first is that the longer someone with a penis can last, the more likely a partner with a vagina is to orgasm. But most people with vaginas don't orgasm through intercourse anyway. By focusing on how to make intercourse last a long time rather than how to do things that would actually bring a vagina pleasure, we're encouraging a heteronormative, penis-centered view of sex.

"If you want to optimize a woman's pleasure, giving her plenty of time to enjoy oral or manual stimulation would be a much better bet than trying to elongate intercourse."

The idea that cis men can become amazing in bed by drawing out penetrative intercourse also plays into the fantasy that their penis is the one thing that can make their female partners feel better than they ever have, when in fact, they'd probably get more pleasure out of their hands or mouths (and perhaps even more out of their own hands — or their favorite vibrator).

"It's important to keep in mind that intercourse is not the sexual act that feels best for most women," sex therapist Vanessa Marin tells Bustle. "We don't have a ton of nerve endings in our vaginas. Plus, intercourse rarely stimulates the clitoris, which is the main pleasure center for most women. Of course every woman is different, so it's important to ask your partner what her preferences are. But in general, if you want to optimize a woman's pleasure, giving her plenty of time to enjoy oral or manual stimulation would be a much better bet than trying to elongate intercourse!"

Instead of trying to figure out how to make sex last as long as possible, we should be asking ourselves and our partners how long we want any given session to last.

Then there's the idea that once someone with a penis has an orgasm, sex is over, so we have to figure out ways to delay it. This idea is also incredibly penis-centered. There are many, many ways to have sex without an erect penis, like oral sex, manual sex, mutual masturbation, and using sex toys, to name just a few.

Beyond that, we need to take the emphasis off orgasm altogether. After all, it's just a few seconds of a much larger experience. If sex only lasts long enough for one partner to finish, it can still be good sex. Even if it nobody finishes, it can still be good sex.

Andrew Zaeh for Bustle

Instead of trying to figure out how to make sex last as long as possible, we should be asking ourselves and our partners how long we want any given session to last — because it can vary from person to person and from moment to moment. We shouldn't feel pressure to prolongate one specific sexual act if it's not actually one we're particularly fond of. And as long as we're still making some effort to please our partners, we should be free to stop whenever we get tired — not keep going because of some ridiculous idea that you can measure the quality of a sexual encounter by its length.