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How Long Sex Lasts for Most Couples

A new survey has found the average length of both foreplay and intercourse for people in relationships.

(Top photo: Pixabay, via)

How long do you spend having sex? Probably varies, doesn't it. Probably depends on how wound up you are, or how much you've had to drink, or how much the guy you're having sex with has had to drink, or a pre-existing ejaculation issue that means everything's over as quickly as it started. It's a game of chance, is what I'm saying. 

But let's talk averages: Lovehoney, an online sex toy retailer, has surveyed 4,400 of its customers and found that sex for most heterosexual couples lasts 19 minutes, consisting – on average – of ten minutes of foreplay and nine of full intercourse sex. Fifty-two-percent of couples surveyed were happy with that, but 23 percent of men and 19 percent of women said it wasn't long enough. 

Maybe it's because those surveyed are customers of a sex toy retailer, and therefore ever so slightly more sexually enlightened, but compared to other recent studies these men and women are already spending longer in bed than the average. A 2008 study, for example, found that sex considered "adequate" – objectively the worst adjective to describe sex ever – lasts anything from three to seven minutes, while seven to 13 minutes was considered a "desirable" duration. 

In 2016, Dr Brendan Zietsch from the University of Queensland surveyed 500 heterosexual couples having sex over a four-week period, asking them to manually time how long their intercourse lasted with a stopwatch. The results were pretty varied: 44 minutes was the longest, 33 seconds the shortest. But on average couples clocked in at 5.4 minutes. That's not including foreplay, but it's still considerably shorter than the duration enjoyed by respondents in the Lovehoney survey.


WATCH: 'The Digital Love Industry', our documentary about sex in the digital age.


Dr Zietsch also found that condom use, nor circumcision, nor country of origin affected the duration – unless the respondents were from Turkey, where the length of intercourse was significantly shorter (3.7 minutes) than elsewhere. He did, however, find that age affects the number: the older the couple, the shorter the sex.

Importantly, Zietsch's study measured duration from the moment of penile penetration to the moment of ejaculation. So fairly male-enjoyment-centric – which isn't really a surprise, considering the duration of heterosexual sex tends to be measured by how long it takes the guy to finish. The Lovehoney study put this into perspective, finding that 75 percent of men climax every time they have sex, compared to just 28 percent of women. A shared orgasm, where both partners climax together, happens around a third of the time, the survey found.

The whole thing is part of a Lovehoney campaign called Mind the Gap, which aims to help more couples share orgasms. The study found that a shared orgasm is the peak sexual experience for 57 percent of men, but only 46 percent of women – partly because climaxing during sex can be more difficult for women, with 61 percent saying they sometimes find it hard to climax during any sexual activity, compared to just 24 percent of men.

If you're a guy in a heterosexual relationship and want to do your bit to shift that statistic, according to sex expert Jess Wilde you just need to "hit exactly the right spot to stimulate the G-spot during penetration – this is at 27-degrees". There's also plenty of other stuff you can do, but I don't want to get too Cosmo here, so I'll just leave that to you and your partner to figure out yourselves.

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