I hope you can help me with a very personal issue that's been causing me and my wife some frustration. I've been married for a few years now, and I love my wife dearly. However, I've noticed that I have difficulty lasting very long in bed. It's not only affecting my confidence but also our intimacy. I am never able to last long enough to help her reach her climax. I want to provide my wife with a more satisfying experience, but I'm not sure where to start. Are there any tips or techniques you can recommend to help me improve my stamina in the bedroom?
Dear Concerned Husband,
I want to take a moment to thank you for reaching out with this question. Sexual stamina is a taboo topic, especially for men. As a society, lasting long in bed is often equated with masculinity and sexual prowess, but that is not always the case! Let’s debunk some common misconceptions first. For the sake of this article, I will assume you are a cis man and cis woman in a heterosexual relationship.
Bliss is brief
If you’ve ever watched a porn video, you’re probably expecting intercourse to last for at least 30 mins – 1 hour. You’ve probably even fast-forwarded through some parts of the video because they are just so long. If that’s your yardstick, you are likely going to be disappointed.
Studies show that people with penises only “last” (i.e. stay erect) 5-7 minutes1 during intercourse! I’ll pause for your gasps. Yes, 5-7 minutes.
Re-centre pleasure in your intimate experience, beyond penis-in-vagina or anal intercourseShutterstock
While the average is small, the overall range is wide — the time a cis man stayed erect ranged from less than 1 min to greater than 30 min. But it’s also important to note that studies might be skewed to show overestimations since they are often self-reported. Many social and cultural factors may make cis men more likely to report an inflated amount of time than may be real.
As you may already know, people with vulvas/vaginas may need much longer to reach orgasm. A 20-country study2 showed that people with vaginas take an average of approximately 14 min to reach orgasm, in a range of 6-20 mins. But the more pressing problem, for monogamous women in heterosexual relationships is that many of them don’t reach orgasm at all.
In other shocking numbers, 75-94% (depending on which study you reference) of cis women require some type of clitoral stimulation to orgasm and cannot orgasm from penis-in-vagina sex alone!
Let’s break it down further. Only 4% of people with vaginas orgasm from intercourse alone, 34% need only direct clitoral stimulation, and 43% need both clitoral and internal stimulation3.
There is clearly a mismatch in terms of how long it takes for a person with a vulva to reach orgasm and how much time a cis man takes to ejaculate, and our expectations from penis-in-vagina intercourse.
Move beyond PIV
One of the key steps to helping your wife experience pleasure will be to re-centre pleasure in your intimate experience, beyond penis-in-vagina or anal intercourse. Figure out what can help you both experience pleasure that doesn’t centre around the performance of your penis — how can you bring in more room for pleasure to her clitoris?
The clitoris is the “female” version of the penis; its only job is pleasure. Can you find more ways to ensure your partner is enjoying stimulation to or around her clitoris using your hands, fingers, mouth, sex toys (massagers) or anything else you may find brings her pleasure. Don’t get fooled by the term “foreplay”, because you can do this before, during and after sex. Read our article on how to better communicate with your partner about what brings them pleasure.
Performance anxiety and stress can come in the way of sexual functioning for people of all gendersShutterstock
Take the pressure off
Performance anxiety and stress can come in the way of sexual functioning for people of all genders. For cis men, sexual functioning can be deeply interlinked with sex-related anxiety stemming from body-image (including around penis size), worries around performing well or lasting long in the bedroom and other life-related stressors.
Diversifying the types of sex you engage in can help in taking the pressure off your penis (and your mind) to perform. If you find your thoughts are too intrusive and keep coming in the way of your performance, you can also explore speaking with a sex therapist.
Start-stop to savour
Some people find “edging” or the “start-stop practice” helpful in increasing the amount of time they can stay erect. Edging involves engaging in intercourse until you are very close to climax, stopping or taking a breather right before you hit climax, and resuming stimulation after a few minutes when you feel less close to the edge. This can be a fun way to tease your partner and can help you develop self-awareness about when you are going to climax as well.
First is the worst, second is the best?
A super simple technique that works for some people with penises is also simply going for round two. When you’ve ejaculated once already, if you take a break and cool off, and resume intercourse after your refractory period, you may have more success lasting longer. The more rounds of intercourse you engage in, the longer it might take you to ejaculate the next time around.
There are several tools available in the market to assist you with lasting longer in bedShutterstock
Viagra, delay sprays and long-lasting condoms
There are several tools available in the market to assist you with lasting longer in bed. Pills like sildenafil (known more popularly under the brand name of Viagra) are designed to increase blood flow to the penis and can help with erectile dysfunction. Please speak to a doctor about side effects before taking this prescription medication. Additionally, many sprays and “long-lasting” condoms are available, often coated in lidocaine. Lidocaine is a local anaesthetic agent which is used to reduce the degree of sensation you feel on your genitals; please keep in mind that your partner may also experience the numbing effects of these sprays and condoms.
Tried it all?
If you’ve tried all the techniques above, or if you are feeling overwhelmed, you may want to explore speaking to a professional sex therapist or even a urologist. Typically, “premature ejaculation” is a diagnosis given to people who ejaculate in less than one minute of intercourse. If you fall in that category, or if you are worried about nothing working for you, please seek medical advice.
All in all, please remember, sex is all about having fun. Sometimes you and your wife may orgasm, and sometimes you may not. Try to focus on experimenting to find what works for you, and you may find an answer in unexpected places.
1. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Premature ejaculation: Overview. 2019 Sep 12.
2. Bhat and Shastry, “Time to Orgasm in Women in a Monogamous Stable Heterosexual Relationship”, 2020.
3. Dr. Laurie Mintz, “Becoming Cliterate: Why Orgasm Equality Matters--And How to Get It”, 2017.
Karishma Swarup is a Kolkata-born and raised sexuality educator, Instagrammer (@talkyounevergot) and works at a global consulting firm. She busts myths about sex, pleasure, intimacy, orgasms, periods, and all things related to sexual health.
If you have a question you would like Karishma to answer, send an email on firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line ‘Questions for Karishma’ or DM/comment on our Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.