Men have been raised to be “strong” which, according to societal interpretation, means we should keep everything bottled up lest we communicate and be vulnerable. Since there is no physical act more vulnerable than sex, you can imagine how tight-lipped men become concerning their sexual insecurities.
The issue here isn’t necessarily porn, though. It’s that porn has become the default for education due to a poor sex ed curriculum and a generally sex negative society. The reality is that porn is entertainment, with every facet idealized. Just as Hollywood has us believe that the average human looks like Brad Pitt, porn makes us believe that sex lasts for hours, that our penises are the size of forearms, and that they will always be rock hard and able to climax on demand.
As a sexual health professional and sex columnist, I’m fortunate enough to have secured myself as a safe space for people to express their sexual concerns, and I’ve taken the three insecurities I’ve heard most and offered data and solutions that I hope will help below.
A major concern for men is how long they last during sex. The average, according to a study that asked 500 couples to time themselves having sex over a four week period, is 5.4 minutes. Keep in mind that the timer began as soon as the penis entered the vagina and did not account for foreplay.
Like penis size, people tend to exaggerate how long they last in bed, so there is a good chance that even this number is a tad generous. However, it’s important to note how vast these figures were, with romps ranging from 33 seconds to 44 minutes. The 5.4 minutes represents the median.
So what is ideal? Research published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine surveyed sex therapists who said that sex between one to two minutes is “too short” and sex between 10 to 30 minutes “too long”. What does that mean? The average duration is in a sweet spot nestled between the two.
Of course, it’s important to note that penis-in-vagina intercourse is not how everyone defines sex, and the only thing that really matters is that everybody enjoyed themselves. But if you’re looking to last a little longer, there are a few solutions you can try.
First, if you find yourself close to climax, try changing the pace and stimulate your partner with your tongue or fingers until you feel the sensitivity dissipate. Since only about 18 percent of people with vaginas can orgasm from penetration alone, spending some time in other areas like the clitoris is a good idea regardless of how long you last.
Edging is a way to train yourself to last longer. Edging is when you repeatedly bring yourself close to climax and stop stimulating yourself. The solution is to become comfortable and knowledgeable about your sexual arousal so you can prevent early ejaculation. Not to mention, the culminating orgasm is said to be much more intense.
By far the most cited concern is about penis size. Which makes sense, since research shows 45 percent of men wish they had a bigger penis. While there are a few procedures that can increase the girth of a penis, the results are either temporary or come with great risk. They’re also quite expensive.
The only solution in this case is to look at credible stats on the subject, not what people are telling you, because the average penis is actually much smaller than most are willing to admit.
While research has found people believe the average penis is six inches, the reality is that it’s nearly an inch shorter. As one of the first to only examine measurements taken by healthcare professionals, the average erection, after examining data from over 15,500 men, was 5.1 to 5.6 inches long, with a girth of 4.6 to 4.8 inches. These measurements when flaccid were 3.6 and 3.6 inches respectively.
The majority of previous research relied on self-reported measurements, which were inaccurate as people tend to lie about the size of their penis. A study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that only 26.9 percent of men self-report their penises being less than six inches, while 30.8 percent self-reported lengths of seven inches or more, and 10% self-reporting eight inches or more.
Despite the fact that over 50 percent of men suffer from some form of erectile dysfunction (ED) in their lives, we’re expected to have penises that perform with perfection every time. While this number increases with age, more than 25 percent of men under 40 experience some form of ED, and psychological ED (mostly caused by anxiety) affects about 90 percent of teenagers and young men.
It’s important to note that occasional erectile issues are no cause for concern. In fact, experts say that it’s “normal” to have trouble getting or keeping an erection for up to 20 percent of sexual encounters.
Fortunately, there are a number of solutions for folks who think they might have ED, from diet, exercise, substance use, and porn. We’ve written about this topic extensively. These are mostly physical solutions.
If you’re feeling stressed prior to intercourse, try doing something relaxing beforehand. Go for a run, take a long bath, have a drink. Another thing you can do is stray from goal-oriented sex. This means taking orgasm completely off the table and instead just enjoying yourselves without pressure and expectations. Speaking of expectations, you might also find communicating beforehand useful. Let your partner in on what your expectations and boundaries are, it might put you both at ease.