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Advice: How long should intercourse last?

Anna Pulley, @annapulley

RedEye's sex columnist

12:07 PM CDT, August 27, 2013

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I read recently that the average length of time for intercourse is three minutes. I think most girls like sex for more than three minutes. But then other times my female friends complain about guys lasting too long (though I don’t know exactly how long “too long” is). Is there a sweet spot? What should I be aiming for here?--Three Minutes of Your Time

When it comes to sex, we’ve all heard the adage: Length matters. Of time, that is. If you haven’t, then you should really be “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” which is where I conduct the bulk of my research for this column.

Kim & Ko. are preoccupied with weightier issues at the moment, but thankfully, a slew (50) of America and Canada’s finest (members of the Society for Sex Therapy and Research) took matters into their own hands, and by that we don’t mean literally.

Researchers at Penn State Erie conducted a survey of the aforementioned members (pun not intended) on intercourse duration that included psychologists, physicians, social workers, marriage/family therapists, and nurses who have heard all about your penis problems and have thus set the bar for all of us as follows. This is for intercourse alone, not foreplay. Based on the average therapists’ responses:

3-7 minutes = “adequate”
7-13 minutes = “desirable”
1-2 minutes = “too short”
10-30 minutes = “too long”
If you are wondering about that three-minute overlap between “desirable” and “too long,” let’s just blame Canada and move on with our lives, ayy?

While we’re on the subject of adages, size also matters. But not in the way you’re thinking. According to researchers in Turkey, men who had a higher body mass index (BMI) tended to last longer in bed than their thinner peers. Before you go celebrating with a Bloomin’ Onion though, note that the heavier men lasted an average of 7.3 minutes. Thinner guys, it should be noted, lasted an average of 108 seconds. The reason, the researchers postulated, was due to prevalence of the female hormone estradiol, which blocks male hormones and delays climax. On the upside, it’s also probably the most scientifically accurate description of “cock block” to date. “You’re being a real estradiol, Jenny!”

Though sex therapists claim that boning for half an episode of “How I Met Your Mother” is “desirable,” past research also indicates that people WANT to have sex for 30 minutes or longer. These unrealistic expectations of endurance can no doubt be traced back to porn, rom-coms, and every single from the Boyz II Men canon.

Since opinions vary and stopwatches are so exciting as to be distracting, here’s my tried and true method: Spend more time on foreplay and less on intercourse itself. If that doesn’t work, then you might see if Canada is hiring.

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