In an ideal world, how long is sex supposed to last?
That is the age-old question.
The socially desirable answer would probably be the longer the better.
Of course, it’s not the easiest thing to measure. If it’s good enough, you can lose track of time all together. Not to mention, for many couples, the length of their sexual encounters goes up and down as much as their bodies do.
But, as highlighted by Brendan Zietsch of IFL Science if we’re using scientific terms, the length of your sex refers to your intravaginal ejaculation latency time, or the time to ejaculation. A study involving 500 couples from around the world asked participants to time themselves having sex over a four-week period. They literally used a stopwatch to do so, pressing “start” at penetration and “stop” at ejaculation (because that’s not going to kill the mood at all).
Not surprisingly, the researchers found a massive amount of variation between the couples. The average time for each couple ranged from 33 seconds (perhaps they just really love quickies?) to 44 minutes. That obviously represents a major difference, reinforcing the fact that there is no one “normal” length of time to have sex.
The average (median) time among all couples was 5.4 minutes.
A somewhat surprising fact was that the use of a condom didn’t noticeably affect the time. Other findings revealed that it didn’t make a difference whether or not the men were circumcised or what country the couple came from. That is, unless they were from Turkey. Researchers found that couples from Turkey tended to have sex for shorter periods of time than couples in the other countries. These included Netherlands, Spain, the UK, and the US.
Another finding was that the older the couple, the shorter the sex.
Zietsch questioned why sex has to last any time at all, aside from the fact that it’s fun and feels good. He highlights that evolution favours function over fun, and only “designs” things to be enjoyable if they aided our ancestors in passing their genes to future generations.
As it turns out, it may have something to do with the way that the penis is shaped. Zietsch points to 2003 research that used artificial vaginas, artificial penises, and artificial sperm (corn syrup) to show how the ridge around the head of the penis actually scoops out pre-existing syrup from the vagina.
What does this mean (aside from the fact that we’re never eating pancakes again)?
It suggests that the repeated thrusting of men (as opposed to a one-shot deal) might function to displace other men’s semen before ejaculating to ensure their own sperm have a better chance of reaching the egg first. This also explains why it becomes painful and difficult for a man to continue thrusting after ejaculating, as doing so would risk scooping out his own semen as well.
So, what does this all mean for you?
Well, nothing really. Except that you probably don’t want a stopwatch to be your latest sex accessory. And that as long as you’re over 33 seconds, you’re doing better than some people.