I’ll admit when I envisioned this blog, it included a chart with numbers and percentages indicating norms for how and how often – among other things. What I found as I began gathering statistics on the subject is that “normal” really doesn’t apply when it comes to sexual behavior. According to Sunny Rodgers, a contributor to The Sex Ed:
“As a certified, professional sex coach, I am frequently asked what is ‘normal sex.’ Here is the truth— our sexuality is as unique as our own fingerprints.”
Many people name the missionary position to describe normal. Yet the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior found that more than 40 combinations of sexual positions and acts were reported by participants. That’s a lot and obviously goes well beyond missionary position. And, think about it, these are the 40 “positions and acts” that people in the study admitted to.
Harvard Medical School conducted a study that found “women have varied ways of showing sexual arousal, leading some to believe that there may be no ‘normal’ for the complex female sexual response”.
I’m not so sure that we needed a study to tell us that our sexuality is more than meets the eye. Right? Still, it’s nice to know that the scientists at Harvard Medical School are on the job when it comes to studying what lights our respective fires.
First of all, measuring sexual encounters on an annual basis seems odd to me, but that’s how they conducted their survey at the National Opinion Research Center. According to their findings, people between the ages of 18 and 29 have sex about 84 times per year (a little over 1 ½ times per week). By the time they’re in their 40s, the number decreases to around 63 times a year – that’s once a week plus birthdays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, 4th of July, 1st Day of School, one romantic night in, one romantic night out and twice on National Orgasm Day. They also found that people age 70 and older have sex about 10 times per year.
Their stats left out people in their 50s and 60s. However, AARP’s did not. They commissioned a study that found sex is very important to people over 45 and 36% of the study participants reported having sexual intercourse at least once a week. That’s 52 times per year!
How Long Should It Last?
Yes, they do surveys that tell us the average number of minutes people engage in vaginal sex. They say it’s 3 to 5 minutes. We also know from surveys that vaginal sex that lasts 1 to 2 minutes is considered “too short,” and vaginal sex that lasts 10 to 30 minutes is considered “too long.” That math is confusing to me, but I think it’s safe to say that there is no normal to pinpoint here. I like the way Isadora Alman, MFT, CST said it in an article for Psychology Today:
So, of course, the answer to the question of how long sex should last is “as long as we are both enjoying it, and not one second longer."
At this point, I hope it goes without saying that sex goes well beyond vaginal penetration. Timing becomes something else altogether when you’re in the moment and not restrained by convention. But that’s a blog for another day. For now, let’s carry on knowing that we get to make the rules when it comes to our own sexuality – no matter what everyone else is doing or how long it’s taking them to do it.