Leto RA

Sexuality in Conversation

It's Never Mattered How Long You Could Last in Bed

A new vibrating device called Prolong, which users hold under their penises to masturbate in accordance with a “six-week training program,” aims to help men last longer in bed. Guys are instructed to hold it there until they feel like they’re about to come, then take it off, and repeat this process twice more before they let themselves orgasm. They need to complete this exercise three times a week.

“Great sex is like great comedy. Timing is everything,” claims SmilingDick.com, a sexual health website that launched alongside the product. “P.E. ultimately means less pleasure time,” it warns. “And in some cases, that has some pretty negative personal consequences. From avoiding sex and intimacy to anxiety and depression.”

Prolong is part of a large industry profiting off men’s insecurities around how long they last in bed. Promescent, an anesthetic penis spray, claims to increase women’s likelihood of orgasm by delaying men’s. Moods Condoms created “All Night Climax Delay” condoms, and the Amazon description reads, “Be the man she wants you to be.” An herbal supplement called PrematureX touts wild testimonials like “I feel I just can’t get rejected anymore,” “now I'm able to last over half an hour easy,” and “he lasts all night long.” Anyone else’s vagina hurt just reading that last one?

I never understood products like these. Like three quarters of women, I don’t regularly orgasm through intercourse alone. In fact, I never do. So, I prefer that my partner just worry about himself during intercourse and worry about me before or after. The only time I care how long sex lasts is when it takes more than five minutes. Then, I start to get sore and bored.

If anything, products to help men last longer in bed make me feel ashamed. If erections really are the key to women’s pleasure, I’ve wondered, what am I missing? What’s wrong with me that I could have intercourse for hours and still not come?

In reality, nothing. I’m not an anomaly. To the contrary, many women regularly try to speed up their partners’ orgasms. For a study published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, University of Central Lancashire and University of Leeds researchers asked 71 women when they vocalized during sex. While the women’s orgasms most often occurred during foreplay, they vocalized most often during intercourse, right before or while their partners orgasmed. Sixty-six percent said they did this to help their partners climax.
I’m pretty baffled by why there’s such an emphasis in heterosexual sex on penetration when there’s a heck of lot more things that a female and male body can do than just insert Part A into Slot B.
Curious whether others felt the way I do, I asked for women’s opinions on intercourse duration on Facebook and Twitter. Here are some responses I got.

“I just want to have foreplay in every iteration for forever and then PIV for like five minutes tops. I'm queer, so I've never centered my sexual encounters around penetration, and certainly not specific kinds of penetration. I get pleasure from a variety of different things, so that's how I approach sex as well. I don't think it only ‘counts’ as sex if the intercourse part lasts forever or if it happens at all.” — Laura, 28

"I'm in the ‘please hurry up’ crowd—unless it's oral. Then, it's ‘please take your time, on me.’” — Breezy, 38 "I guess I’m pretty baffled by why there’s such an emphasis in heterosexual sex on penetration when there’s a heck of lot more things that a female and male body can do than just insert Part A into Slot B that make ‘staying power’ a moot point." — Diane, 53

“Post-orgasm, penetration feels significantly less pleasurable—even uncomfortable at times. Physiologically, my vulva just doesn't lubricate the same way as it does pre-orgasm. So honestly, if we can both be ‘in and out’ in under 10 minutes, everyone leaves satisfied, and I'm not low-key annoyed that I only enjoyed a portion of the penetration part of sex.” — Colby, 34

“I can usually orgasm if my partner is going fast (especially in certain positions) because it puts a lot of pressure on my G-spot. Slow and steady doesn’t win the race for me, and after I cum a few times, I’m a little spent and want to be done with it. I’ve been in situations where the sex went on for too long, and I just get uncomfortable, a bit bored, and it starts to hurt. So, for me, fast and quick = orgasm, anything else is just not as pleasurable.” — Irina, 32

“I love the vinegar strokes but the rest gets painful and annoying. Sometimes, a guy will try to avoid it to last longer, and in doing that, also I have to last longer. Except if I get disappointed too many times, nothing gets me excited again until the actual vinegar strokes, and it’s too late to get my turn then. I wish he would just let there be quickies instead of being so interested in making it last because I’d come more that way.” — Vanessa, 48

“I don’t have any specific complaints about this, but I would if my husband took more than five minutes.” — Angela, 52
I had an ex who constantly bragged to anybody who would listen about how amazing he was in bed, but what that meant was totally half-assing anything other than penetrative sex.
Echoing many of these women, in a survey of 4,000 American and Australian men and women, Prolong found that 81.1 percent of women care more about the quality of sex than how long it lasts, and 59.4 percent care more about foreplay than intercourse.

Still, some women do seem to care about longevity. Prolong’s survey also found that 46.1 percent of women wished their partners lasted longer. That’s a minority, but it’s something. However, University of Florida psychology professor Dr. Laurie Mintz, the author of Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters and How to Get It, believes this number would be lower if we could get away from the notion that intercourse is the main event and instead put more weight on other ways of pleasing women, like oral sex and fingering. (Mintz is also skeptical of a survey conducted by a climax-delay device. A Prolong rep tells me subjects were recruited via the newsletter for the survey firm Censuswide).

“I also think that women are influenced by unrealistic porn images,” says Mintz. “Through such images, many women come to believe they should orgasm during intercourse. I might even venture to guess that some women who say [duration] is important to them aren’t currently orgasming from intercourse and might mistakenly believe they would if only their partner would last longer, which is a false belief. They’d orgasm more if their partners focused on clitoral stimulation.” The data backs this up: One 19,000-woman study in the Journal of Sex Research found that 90 percent of women who received manual and oral sex during their last sexual encounter orgasmed, compared to 49.6 percent of those who only had intercourse.

Some women probably do prefer extended intercourse over oral or digital sex, but prolonging one’s erection as a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t helpful, since there are also lots of women who like quick sex. “Despite this industry, many women worry about just the opposite—men lasting too long and therefore getting sore,” says Mintz.

Beyond doing little to please women, teaching men to last longer in bed contributes to a major myth hindering women’s sexual pleasure: that they should orgasm through penetration. “It’s putting men’s focus on the wrong place for their partners and therefore diminishing their partners’ enjoyment,” Mintz explains.

But the pressure to last longer in bed isn’t just bad for women. It’s bad for men, too. Prolong’s survey found that men are experiencing serious distress over it. Nearly 54 percent of male respondents had avoided sex because of anxiety about how long they lasted. Nearly 40 percent of those who self-identified as experiencing premature ejaculation had lost sexual confidence because of it, and 69 percent felt ashamed.
It may be a wound to men’s egos to be told their endless humping is in vain. But it also could be liberating for those who are insecure about their longevity.
A whopping 49.5 percent of men in Prolong’s survey said they at least sometimes suffered from premature ejaculation, which they defined, on average, as lasting 3.21 minutes or less. But that duration is actually perfectly normal. One study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, during which hundreds of couples in five countries used stopwatches to time themselves having sex, found that intercourse lasts for 5.7 minutes on average. An analysis of studies by urologist Dr. Harry Fisch found that 45 percent of men finish sex within two minutes. (Before you take that as evidence of how different men and women are, know that the same percent of women orgasm within three minutes of masturbation, according to Alfred Kinsey’s research).

“Likely due to unrealistic porn images of men lasting a lot longer, many men think they’re coming too quickly—when in fact, they are well within the average range,” says Mintz. “In fact, I am on a sex therapist and educator listserv, and there has been discussion of many men calling therapists for self-diagnosed premature ejaculation when they don’t really have this problem at all. This industry is both creating and preying on male sexual insecurities. And, importantly, performance anxiety leads to a lot of sexual issues, including not enjoying sex because of the anxiety, and it is one of the major culprits in lost erections.”

In fact, straight men appear more concerned about their sexual longevity than their partners. A 2004 study in the Journal of Sex Research found that men report a longer ideal duration of sex than women. “Both men's and women's perceptions of their partners' ideal duration of foreplay and intercourse were found to be more strongly related to their own sexual stereotypes than to their partners' self-reported sexual desires,” the authors wrote. Given women’s relative indifference to intercourse duration and men’s insecurities around it, it seems that the biggest driver of the last-longer-in-bed industry is not the female sex drive but the male ego.

“I had an ex who constantly bragged to anybody who would listen about how amazing he was in bed, but what that meant was totally half-assing anything other than penetrative sex, and then just eternal joyless humping in a rotation of three or four different positions,” remembers Tessa, 34.

“Some guys think sexual prowess depends on longevity, and that makes it all about their ego,” agrees Angela, 52. “I had a boyfriend many years ago who was so mortified and desperate about his premature ejaculation, he would secretly snort heroin before we had sex because it helped him prolong.”

It may be a wound to men’s egos to be told their endless humping is in vain. But it also could be liberating for those who are insecure about their longevity (or their penis size, for that matter) to learn that the keys to women’s pleasure are actually their mouths and hands (especially if they’re holding vibrators)—body parts that don’t lose their stamina as easily.

“If more men knew about and valued clitoral stimulation as the most reliable route to orgasm for women, they could give a woman the stimulation she needs to orgasm before [or] after intercourse—[or] encourage her to use a vibrator or her hands on herself during intercourse,” says Mintz. “They could then focus on their own sensations and enjoy their intercourse-based orgasm more. Everyone would be happier and more orgasmic.”

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