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How Long Should Sex Actually Last ... Really? 

When it comes to minutes, here's the magic number for most couples.

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I love a long, hot shower, and I prefer to chew gum whose flavor is sure to stand the test of time. A 90-minute massage is always more enjoyable than a 60-minute one. and let’s be honest, three-day weekends trump the measly two-day ones. Some things are just MUCH better when they last longer.

I can’t help but wonder: Is sex one of these things?   

I recently started sleeping with a man whose stamina is well above average, and it left me with all sorts of questions. Prior to Mr. Stamina, sex for me would last about 15 minutes — and I am talking the full experience from foreplay to the finale. Many of the men I slept with were of the wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am variety; I became accustomed to sex being a race, a fleeting experience that was over almost before it began, and one that left me thinking, That’s it?    

Now, at 42 — and thanks to Mr. Stamina — I am having sex that lasts well over 45 minutes. I have to say, I freaking love it. The longer time allows me to be more present, and it most definitely increases the level of intimacy.

There is no pressure to hurry up and climax, and more often than not I have more than one orgasm. It doesn’t get much better than that. I think back to partners past and wonder if I was settling for mediocre sex. Was I naive and ignorant? Can a woman rightfully expect sex to last a certain amount of time? Does longer sex equal better sex? I reached out to women, men and some experts alike to get answers to my questions. Here’s what I learned.   

9 (minutes) is the magic number 

After asking my girlfriends, sisters and male friends, the only real conclusion I was able to make is that there is no consistent or predictable answer to the question “How long should sex last?”  There is, however, a study that offers some expert insight. The Journal of Sexual Medicine published a study (in 2008) in which Canadian and American therapists suggested that penetrative sex is too long when it lasts between 10 and 30 minutes; anything under two minutes is considered too quick (ya think?). These same experts concluded that sex lasting between three and seven minutes is “adequate,” and anything between seven and 13 minutes is “desirable.”  Of course, this study does not take foreplay into account and focuses only on the act of penetration. If nothing else, these stats offer food for thought and a great topic for your next girls’ night — so go ahead and discuss among yourselves. You are sure to have a great roundtable discussion!  

Quickies can be great 

Quickies have a lot of benefits that should not be overlooked. Dainis Graveris, a certified sex educator and relationship expert at Sexual Alpha, shares that quickies are great because they encourage you to be creative and spontaneous, and they “are ultimate stress relievers; when you have quick sex, your body releases a hit of your feel-good hormones, oxytocin.” Quickies also strengthen your intimacy with your partner, as they “allow you to reconnect on hectic days. You can enjoy each other’s company at a moment’s notice.” The drawbacks to a quick roll-in-the-hay? It is less likely for women to climax without proper foreplay and adequate time for stimulation. With less time for foreplay, too, women may not produce enough lubrication, which can create great discomfort. Don’t be afraid to break out a supplemental lubricant when time is of the essence.   

Marathon sex has its drawbacks 

There is no doubt that long lovemaking sessions can be great for both parties. Graveris says that longer sessions “allow you to explore and get to know each other’s bodies. You have more time to get to know your pleasures and make the overall experience more enjoyable.” When you take your time and really slow things down, it is more likely that both parties will have more powerful orgasms — and who doesn’t want that?  

He adds that “longer sexual satisfaction also means more feel-good hormones and endorphins. Endorphins have sedative effects that make you feel sleepy and more restful. And a restful sleep means you’ll feel renewed and invigorated the next day.” The main drawback to having sex that lasts longer is the physical toll it takes on your body.

While you may be well-lubricated, you are sure to experience some vaginal soreness if you stay at it for too long. Graveris says “it can be physically demanding for you and your partner. It’s no surprise that you feel wiped out at the end or even halfway through your sexual marathon.” Longer sex, then, may mean less frequent, because your body (and vagina) may very well need a long rest.   

The bottom line? Great sex is timeless. Sex is best when you are fully in the moment and hours can feel like minutes and minutes hours. If you focus too much on the time, you just may miss out on the pleasure of the here and now. 

One final piece of wisdom from Graveris: “The length of sexual sessions is not as important as the satisfaction that you’re getting from the sexual activities themselves, regardless of duration. You and your partner’s pleasures should be your priority.” Just like everything else in relationships, communication is key.

So, if you are secretly fantasizing about longer sessions or quickies in the car, share those thoughts with your partner — and together you can make your sexual dreams a reality.