Sex Doesn’t Actually Have to Last That Long

There's plenty to be said for keeping it short and sweet

April 5, 2022 7:00 am
A shadowy image of a couple having sex in the background, a clock in the foreground.
Relax, no one's timing you.
Viacheslav Peretiatko

A few years ago, when “delay sprays” promising to extend sexual intercourse by essentially numbing your dick started taking over the sexual wellness space, my initial reaction as a straight woman was, “Ugh, who wants sex to last longer?” 

Just kidding (kind of), but it is my professional opinion as both a woman who has sex with men and a woman who writes about sex for the internet that the emphasis on a man’s sexual endurance has been greatly exaggerated. In short, longer sex does not necessarily equal better sex.

Yes, there is definitely such a thing as premature ejaculation, which can certainly inhibit sexual satisfaction for all parties involved. But beyond a diagnosable sexual dysfunction, there’s no reason to feel that your sexual performance is lacking based on endurance alone. 

For one thing — and I can’t speak for all women, but as always I will — I’m never really keeping track of how long any given sex session is lasting. I tend to think the ideal sexual encounter is one in which everyone involved is so wrapped up in the experience that you lose track of time, so to speak. I’ve rarely been in a sexual situation and thought, “Yikes, that was fast.” Something I — and, I would tentatively argue, many women — have thought far more frequently is, “This is taking a long time, I’m bored.” 

Moreover, if a man comes relatively quickly, I usually walk away from that experience thinking, “Wow, I’m so hot and extremely good at sex,” whether or not that’s true. If, on the other hand, a man is taking his sweet time about it, I tend to eventually reach a point where I assume he thinks I’m ugly. Is this fair? No. But the reality is that everyone gets off on getting their partner(s) off, to some extent, and doing it more quickly tends to intensify that gratification. Think about the last time you went down on a woman — which, unfortunately, is usually one of the only hetero sex acts in which a woman’s orgasm is prioritzed. If she came relatively quickly, you probably thought, “Wow, am I a GOD of sex?” But if she took a while and had to keep telling you to go “a little more to left — no, down — no, that’s too far,” then you probably had a moment where you thought, “Shit, am I bad at this?” 

None of this is to suggest that communicating helpful feedback during sex is a bad thing, that the amount of time it takes any given person to reach orgasm is necessarily reflective of their partner’s skill level, or that anyone should have to worry about “taking too long” to orgasm. Rather, it is merely to suggest that if you’re worried about your sexual stamina as a man, you probably shouldn’t be — despite what society may have told you. 

As our societal understanding of sex gradually progresses beyond dated, heteronormative structures, we’re slowly starting to question and unlearn outdated ideas about what makes sex “good.” Good sex doesn’t have to involve a big penis or an extended amount of time. It doesn’t even have to involve penetration — and if it does, that probably shouldn’t be the primary focus of any given sexual encounter. 

Historically, “sex” has typically been defined as penetrative vaginal intercourse that begins with penetration and ends with a male orgasm. For example, if you were a teenager and had given a blow job but hadn’t had vaginal sex, you’d probably say you hadn’t gone “all the way,” because while you’d had a penis in one orifice, you hadn’t had one in the orifice. In recent years, however, sex educators and scholars have pushed for a movement away from such a rigid, heteronormative and frankly sexist definition of sex to one that is more inclusive of female pleasure, as well as other sexual orientations, gender configurations and sex acts. Today, a definition of sex that includes foreplay, outercourse and other forms of play that don’t set such a high priority on penetration and male orgasms are becoming the accepted norm, one that applies to both straight and queer experiences.

Putting a priority on male sexual endurance as defined by erection duration, then, only seems to reinforce these dated, heternormative notions of what sex is and should be. If sex isn’t defined by a penis in a vagina, then why should it matter how long a penis is in a vagina? Spoiler alert: it doesn’t. There’s a lot more that goes into being a good lover than being able to stay hard long enough to jackhammer a woman into oblivion.

Speaking of jackhammering a woman into oblivion, it is, at this point, well documented that the vast majority of women do not orgasm from penetrative stimulation alone. So while part of the male desire to stay harder longer may be a well-intentioned wish to please a female partner, the reality is that staying inside of her for longer probably isn’t getting you to your goal any more effectively. If anything, she’s probably just getting sore and bored. Focusing instead on oral sex, foreplay and other forms of outercourse are probably more likely to result in a satisfying sexual encounter for a female partner.

Moreover, it’s also worth noting that this movement away from sex as defined exclusively by vaginal penetration isn’t just meant to be more inclusive of women and queer people, but to improve sex for everyone — including, yes, straight men. It’s all part of a greater movement away from what is often referred to as “goal-oriented sex,” or sex that prioritizes orgasm as the be all, end all of a “successful” sexual encounter. Sex, rather, should be about pleasure, which doesn’t necessarily have to end in an orgasm — yours or anyone else’s. You know what’s probably not very pleasurable? Numbing your dick to decrease sensation or thinking about baseball to try to “last longer.” You should feel comfortable experiencing and enjoying your own pleasure, and not on any specific timeline. No one’s timing you, and if they are, then they’re the weird one.

In short, no one needs you to rock their world all night long. That sounds painful and boring. There are plenty of things you can do to please a partner that have absolutely nothing to do with how long you can penetrate them. There are a lot of things that go into being a good lover, but numbing your dick probably isn’t one of them.

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