Trying to establish ideal canons for sex, which can aspire to be considered more or less universal, is very difficult . It is something deeply personal and intimate, so the preferences of each person (which are, after all, what matters) can vary enormously; this happens, for example, when trying to define how long it should last.
Thus, it is not possible to give a definitive answer to that question. As we said, the time that should ideally be dedicated to sex ultimately depends on the preferences of each one. And, although some scientific research has tried to find some kind of evidence, they have run into problems such as that even the precise definition of sex is not clear.
What do we understand by sex?
It may seem like a joke, but it is genuinely difficult to pin down what this term comprises. Does it refer only to penetration? Or does it also include other forms of physical contact such as oral sex or mutual masturbation? And what about solo masturbation? The reality is that different people are going to answer these questions differently, and of course this is going to have a decisive influence on how long they think sex should last.
In this sense, we find many of the limitations of the existing scientific literature on the duration of sex (which have tended to exclusively study penetration, especially vaginal penetration). In other cases, the studies may have considered only heterosexual relationships, or omitted sex between more than two people.
Also, especially in those works made from interviews and surveys, it is necessary to recognize the possibility that the subjects have lied to conform to social conventions, something that is especially probable if we take into account all the taboos around the question. Therefore, it is important to be prudent and critical when interpreting these investigations.
How long vs how long it should last
Taking all of the above into account, the two main approaches to digging into the question so far have been to measure how long ‘sex’ lasts (remember that different jobs use different definitions) or to try to figure out how long people think it should last .
In the first group, we have for example a 2005 international research published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine that asked a group of heterosexual couples to measure the duration of their sexual relations from first penetration to male ejaculation. With these parameters, the responses obtained ranged from 33 seconds to 44 minutes, with an average duration of 5.4 minutes.
On the other hand, a 2008 study published in the same medium asked a cohort of sexologists and sex therapists from the United States and Canada for an estimate of the healthy duration of heterosexual vaginal intercourse. From their responses, they deduced that a duration of less than three minutes is “cause for clinical concern”, that between three and seven minutes is “adequate”, that between seven and thirteen minutes is “desirable” and that between thirteen and thirty minutes is “excessive”.
This clashes with other work, also published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2010 and 2020 respectively, which found that the time it takes for heterosexual women to reach orgasm through vaginal penetration by a man is, on average, longer than what 2005 research found vaginal intercourse tends to last in heterosexual couples and what therapists considered “desirable” in the 2008 study. That is, at least a good portion of heterosexual women would not reach orgasm for those means if we stick to those answers.
Gay female couples have longer encounters
This is precisely what the results of a 2014 article published in The Journal of Human Sexuality (2014) seem to influence, which determined that couples of homosexual women tend to have much longer sexual encounters than heterosexual couples or male homosexual couples, although less frequently.
However, it should be noted that this research, carried out through surveys, does not provide a specific definition of sexual encounter, so it could have been affected by the conceptions and definitions of each of the participants.
Another noteworthy aspect is that, by measuring the sexual satisfaction of the different groups, he found that it was related to both the frequency of sexual encounters and their duration, with no noticeable difference in this regard between the three groups.
So how long should it last?
What this disparity of results throws up is the difficulty of concluding an ideal duration for whatever we consider to be sex. There are many factors that can influence how long our sexual relationships last and how long they should last (as we have seen, sexual orientation is one of them; others would be the specific circumstances of the concrete encounter, the sexual and general health of each person, the age or geographic location).
In the end, however, the only ideal duration is one that fits the preferences of each person involved for that particular encounter; the necessary, in short, to obtain maximum satisfaction.