If you’re a non-scientist, you might have once asked yourself, propped against the bedhead after disappointingly quick intercourse, how long does sex “normally” last?
A scientist, though, would phrase the same question in an almost comically obscure way: What is the mean intravaginal ejaculation latency time?
I know there’s a lot more to sex than putting the penis into the vagina and ejaculating, but the rest is not always easy to define (kissing? Rubbing? Grinding?). To keep things simple and specific, we’ll just focus on the time to ejaculation.
Measuring an average time to ejaculation is not a straightforward matter. What about just asking people how long they take, you say? Well, there are two main problems with this. One is that people are likely to be biased upwards in their time estimates, because it’s socially desirable to say you go long into the night.
The other problem is that people don’t necessarily know how long they go for. Sex isn’t something people normally do while monitoring the bedside clock, and unassisted time estimation may be difficult during a transportative session of love-making.
What does the research say?
The best study we have estimating the average time to ejaculation in the general population involved 500 couples from around the world timing themselves having sex over a four-week period – using a stopwatch.
That is as practically awkward as it sounds: participants pressed “start” at penile penetration and “stop” at ejaculation. You may note this could affect the mood somewhat, and might perhaps not exactly reflect the natural flow of things. But – science is rarely perfect, and this is the best we’ve got.
So what did the researchers find? The most striking result is that there was a huge amount of variation. The average time for each couple (that is, averaged across all the times they had sex) ranged from 33 seconds to 44 minutes. That’s an 80-fold difference.