Academic journal article
By Smith, Anthony M. A.; Patrick, Kent; Heywood, Wendy; Pitts, Marian K.; Richters, Juliet; Shelley, Julia M.; Simpson, Judy M.; Ryall, Richard
The Journal of Sex Research , Vol. 49, No. 5
Pitts, Marian K.
Shelley, Julia M.
Simpson, Judy M.
There has been only limited research investigating the amount of time people spend in sexual encounters and whether the occurrences of particular sexual practices are associated with this duration. Most research to date has exclusively focused on time taken to reach orgasm or ejaculation, with large differences often reported between studies. In view of this, little is known about the relationship between what actually happens in a sexual encounter and the duration of the event.
Studies on the duration of sex have predominately investigated the length of vaginal intercourse (Jern et al., 2009; Waldinger et al., 2005), with only a few exceptions. The National Health and Social Life Survey conducted in the United States in 1992 investigated the duration of the most recent sexual encounter. Looking at short sexual encounters (defined as 15 minutes or less) and extended sexual events (defined as lasting one hour or more), the average duration was found to be a function of age. Increasing age was associated with an increasing likelihood of shorter sexual events and a declining likelihood of extended sexual encounters (Laumann, Gagnon, Michael, & Michaels, 1994). Another study investigated foreplay (type not specified) and intercourse durations for women with sexual dysfunction (Huey, Kline-Graber, & Graber, 1981). No differences in duration of foreplay and intercourse between orgasmic and anorgasmic females were found. Differences in duration were, however, found between marital status groups, with married women reporting significantly shorter intercourse durations than single, divorced, and cohabiting women.
Reports of the mean duration of sexual encounters have varied greatly among studies. Research in the 1940s and 1950s by Kinsey and colleagues (see Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948; Kinsey, Pomeroy, Martin, & Gebhard, 1953) found the majority of married women reported foreplay of four to 10 minutes (36%) or 11 to 20 minutes (31%), although some respondents, especially those with higher levels of education, reported regular foreplay lengths beyond 20 minutes. Foreplay techniques included simple lip kissing, deep kissing, and manual and oral stimulation of the male and female genitalia and of the female breast. For vaginal intercourse duration, Kinsey and colleagues (see Kinsey et al., 1948; Kinsey et al., 1953) speculated that three-fourths of men reached orgasm within two minutes. In a recent cross-national market research online survey, sexual encounter duration varied depending on age and marital status, with the average length of foreplay (type not specified) and "sex" being 36 minutes (Durex[R], 2007). Finally, a survey of male university alumni and their partners in Canada found, on average, that foreplay (type not specified) lasted for 11 to 13 minutes and vaginal intercourse for seven to eight minutes, with both men's and women's ideal length of foreplay and intercourse being longer than that which they experienced (Miller & Byers, 2004).
A sexual encounter usually lasts longer than the time it takes to have vaginal intercourse, yet little is known about the relationship between what happens in a sexual encounter and the duration of that encounter. Studies have shown that, although many different sexual practices can be included in any one encounter, most sexual encounters are comprised of only a narrow range of repertoires (Messiah, Blin, & Fiche, 1995). The Australian Study of Health and Relationships (Smith, Rissel et al., 2003) investigated what occurred in respondents' last heterosexual sexual encounter, and found vaginal intercourse was practiced in over 95% of encounters. Oral sex, however, was present in less than one-third of encounters, whereas manual stimulation of a partner was practiced in nearly 80% of encounters. Two combinations of sexual practices for both men and women described roughly one-half of encounters. For men, the combinations were vaginal intercourse plus mutual manual stimulation; and vaginal intercourse, mutual manual stimulation plus oral sex. …