What’s more important, duration of foreplay or duration of intercourse?

Hour glass full of hearts © freedigitalphotos.netWe all know the answer to this, it’s been drummed into our heads, we know it’s all about foreplay. Thing is, we may all be wrong. A study with a very long name, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, found the amount of time intercourse lasted was more important for a woman to have an orgasm during intercourse than was the amount of foreplay. For those of you who struggle with premature ejaculation this study is of no help – sorry about that. For the rest of you…

There are some details not given by the study, and some discrepancies with what is common in the States (the study was done with 2,360 Czech women) so this is not the definitive answer to the issue. However, it is interesting, and it does line up with some anecdotal information we’ve heard a number of times. In the study the women reported an average of 15.4 minutes of foreplay, and 16.2 minutes of intercourse. This would be about the same total time as is found in many studies of couples in the States, but in those there is far more foreplay and much less intercourse. When intercourse lasted 1 to 10 minutes (those lasting less than a minute were excluded), half of the women said they orgasmed “most of the time”. When intercourse lasted 11 to 20 minutes, two-thirds experienced orgasm most of the time. When intercourse exceeded 20 minutes, 72% climaxed most of the time.

If these findings are valid (I’m not doubting they are, but another study finding much the same would help a great deal) what might it mean? Some thoughts based on this study and things we’ve heard over the years

  • Clearly some foreplay is needed for most women most of the time. Sometimes a woman is past ready, but this is the exception. However, if her mind and marriage relationship are in a good place, the needed amount of time may be less than we’ve all been told. For many women 15 minutes, give or take, was plenty.
  • Sometimes too much foreplay can be a problem. Some women sometimes reach a point where they want and need intercourse to start, and if it does not happen right then they find it difficult to get into it and to climax after more foreplay.
  • Duration of intercourse is critical. Those who claim “any woman who will climax by intercourse will have done so by ten minutes” may be very wrong. Going another ten minutes meant another 12% climaxed, and going past that meant another 10% still. If you can go half an hour, do so unless she indicates she is sore or just ready to be done.
  • Much of what we’ve been told about sex is less than accurate, and even what is right for “most” people is not right for some. Please don’t stick to something that is “supposed to work” if it’s not.

Yes, the rates of female orgasm given in the study are significantly higher than what is found in the States. However, the durations of intercourse are also much longer, which may well explain the difference. 

Women’s partnered orgasm consistency is associated with greater duration of penile-vaginal intercourse but not of foreplay – Journal of Sexual Medicine, 6 (1), 135-141 DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.01041.x

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13 Comments on “What’s more important, duration of foreplay or duration of intercourse?

    • Jim – I’ve done a bit of research on this, and apparently it’s not that uncommon.

      The 07/08 Durex world-wide study (Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, UK, USA) put average duration of intercourse at 18 minutes for those 16-24, and 14.5 minutes of those 45-54.

      Apparently this varies a great deal from country to country (same for sexual frequency) . I saw several sources say the average in Brazil is 30 minutes. Or course I’ve seen a variety of information, some conflicting, but I think 15 minutes is not seen as long in many places.

  1. Wow! Really? I have to say that an average of 16.2 minutes of intercourse seems long to me because lubrication would have to remain sufficient for that entire time. Friction wears some of that moisture away. I’m curious to know whether that was an issue with any of the research participants.

    I definitely agree that an intercourse-induced orgasm is more enjoyable for a woman, but the wives I’ve talked to tend to say that they didn’t get there with intercourse until they learned to achieve climax through foreplay first. Over time, vaginal orgasm became easier to reach.

    Great information, Paul.

    • J – Another study may shed light on that:

      Male circumcision and sexual function in men and women: a survey-based, cross-sectional study in Denmark http://bit.ly/Ktvbhs

      “Conclusions: Circumcision was associated with frequent orgasm difficulties in Danish men and with a range of frequent sexual difficulties in women, notably orgasm difficulties, dyspareunia and a sense of incomplete sexual needs fulfilment. Thorough examination of these matters in areas where male circumcision is more common is warranted.”

      The duration study was done in the Czech Republic, where less than 20% of men are circumcised. In the States 91% of men born in the 70’s are circumcised, with rates down to maybe 75% men in their late teens (and 56% for babies born since 2005).

      Several studies have shown that the foreskin reduces friction for the woman, and means less lubrication is needed to have comfortable sex. At least one study found women were more likely to climax with an uncircumcised partner.

      Let the comments fly!

  2. I don’t think I’ve heard you mention the Hitachi Magic Wand as a female orgasm helper on this blog. Though not always required for my wife to orgasm, using it during intercourse (or other times) enables her to always have an orgasm whenever she wants with effectively zero effort and timed as desired. (in other words…like a healthy man, haha). The additional certainty that she will never have to be frustrated, or put effort than desired into avoiding frustration…makes sex that much easier to accept almost every day.

  3. Are there not any women commenting on this post. Come on women speak up. Why does there have to be “studies” done when most women are open to this discussion.
    Most men will say that they perform perfectly fine in bed rather through fore play or in intercourse. Where they feel they lack in one they try to make up for in the other.
    Women are individuals and so there for we are all different when it comes to this topic. I have talked with many women about these things cause that is what us women do. Its sad to say this but it is easier to talk to another women and how to reach orgasm with their man then it is to talk to their men about it. This is because all through time men seem to think they should just know and so we don’t want to either hurt their feelings, make them feel inadequate or upset them where they do not want to do it at all… some of this does come from own insecurities…. Fore play is awesome and unless there was some other form of stimulation ie: he was the sweetest thing all day doing things for her and being very attentive and gifting her with his positive comments all day (you have talked about this before). Fore play is needed in order to arouse her enough and get her wet enough to even have intercourse. Men reading this might be thinking “well there are other ways to make her wet”. well yes there are, but is your intention just to get her wet so you can have an “in” or to get her where she needs to be to so she can have her big O. I would hope it is the later. For lack of softer terms i am just gonna say it. Fore play isn’t just fingering and playing with clit. If this last 11 min straight it will get boring to an extent and you may just over sensitize her that she won’t be able to orgasm with intercoure. She will always be at the edge of it but not able to go over the edeg. Can I say “ORAL” anyways also there is Massaging body, whispering sweet nothings to her, play around the area but never really going there which builds up anticipation. This takes time and i can tell you lasts longer then 11 min. If you are looking or a quicky and she is aware and she wants it to, that in its self will be enough to get her almost there cause her own mind is working in your favor also. Many women (not all) get wet giving the men fore play also. So it isn’t just 11 min with you giving her for play it is 11 min of her giving the men fore play. Rather that is just hands or oral or how ever she wants to do it. IF we are going by statistic in another country then we are already at 22 min of fore play. Now for the intercourse. Lets just say a man can only last 10 min. Majority is true that that would be the case and after 22 min of fore play for most women 10 min of intercourse is enough so men don’t feel bad if you can’t last longer then 10 min. So lets hope you men hold out long enough to get her off, cause she is primed and ready to go and though it sucks for us to always be on top but if it works then so be it. Many women have to be on top to be in control. Not in control of you but in control of her body and how to move it in order to get off…. now keep in mind that there are women who do not know how to get off exactly and who are willing to take this control. It isn’t a matter of a dom and sub it is a matter of being able to guide your own body. Nothing sucks more for a women when she is just about there and the man changes position and then that almost there is gone. Let her be on top let her do what she needs to do it get off…. if you can out last that then you are free to get off your self how ever you want… its a win win for everyone. It won’t get boring cause you can change things up in all other ways. Plus for the women who are more into making you get off, they will want to change it up, want to get off to get there’s so that you change into what ever position you need so that they can give you your big O. Statistics are dumb cause not every man or women is the same and not every position is the same…. was this study shown on all the women and men doing it missionary was there oral included in the fore play, were they being watched (that would be hard to joyfully get off knowing you were a study), were they stimulated in some other ways prior, were their medical issues with her or him say diabetes or thyroid etc, were they all young or older… see to many variables…. Women need to speak up and tell what it is that makes them get there with out the feeling of being embarassed…. that is openingly too not just with her friends. Tell you mate how you feel and what works for you… that is men and women.

    • Kori – I would say a lot of women are NOT open to talk about these things. Those who don’t fit the stereotypes are especially likely to remain quite. That means stereotypes that are way off the mark are having a very negative effect, and need to be confronted.

    • So I am a wife who has always willingly given and initiated plenty of sex and sex acts. I seem to have the higher libido. I was hoping that at some point he might want to make it as pleasurable for me. I have been very forward in telling him what I want. I have gently asked him to go slower.He get’s frustrated and gives up. I ask him for his input and he wants me to ask for more oral. Well i am not to interested in that cause he has gagged and thrown up before (I had just showered so it wasn’t a matter of cleanliness). I have been bold enough once he has finished to ask him to help me. But he has rolled over and gone to sleep. I have asked him if we can improve things and I keep getting the feeling he could care less. So now I am nervous and disappointed and discouraged. Then he wonders why I am not that interested in sex anymore. Do I just keep jumping in hoping that it will get better. We have been married for 10 years. Why doesn’t he care?? I wouldn’t mind longer foreplay or sex. Hubby is a bit of a workaholic and doesn’t really have energy for better sex. Or time for me or the kids or the house. I am so tired of waiting for it to get better. Something has got to give. I think my mind will snap first before any change happens.

      • wahoo mama – My best guess, from limited information, is that he does not feel he has, or want to take, the time to have sex the way it should be. I suspect for him sex is more of a bodily need, like eat or going pee. You do it because you need to, and your body complains if you don’t, but you do it as efficiently as possible so you can use your time for other things.

        If that sounds like it might be right (and you seem to say that at the end), then the issue is not you or sex, but his priorities and what makes him feel fulfilled.

        If you can’t keep doing live the way it is now, then tell him that. Tell him clearly, and keep telling him till he gets it. Tell him what you need that you are not getting, and what you are getting that hurts. Tell him what will happen if nothing changes. Then pray for him to “get it” and do whatever you can to help him see better ways to live.

        Praying for you.

        • What will happen if nothing changes? I have told him I would leave him ( without thinking of divorce necessarily) and he still didn’t get it. I have struggled with depression over this and recently had panic attacks where he seems to get it but life goes on and I can handle things, so to speak, for a little while but that little while is coming to an end again. What you said about him not having his priorities straight and what makes him feel fulfilled seems bang on. Maybe I can take this and use it as a conversation starter. Thank-you.

  4. I was glad to see the comments because I now know that I’m not the only one thinking “16 minutes? I wish.” Truly, I would love to last that long on a regular basis. On the rare occasion that I might be lasting that long (I don’t tend to time it), I’m worn out and can’t continue even if neither of us has reached a climax. Quick last minute question… why would God have his chosen people do something that would make sex less satisfying for both parties? Sounds contrary to everything I know about Him.

    • Mark – By worn out do you mean physically tired? I suspect a lot of men go at it to fast. What’s best for her is shorter, slower strokes at the fullest depths.

      As to circumcision, my best understanding is that what we do today is far more extreme than what was originally done by the Jews of old. There is some debate, but it seems that they removed only a portion of the foreskin, where as we remove all of it. Removing only the end would leave the gliding effect that is thought to make the difference.

      • Thanks. I’ve wanted to ask some advice on this before but it’s not a subject I really want to share too much. She likes the more aggressive deep penetration, but if we try the less short slow strokes maybe she’ll be ready for the rest… and I should be able to last longer, and not get worn out. Really seeing a connection here. Again, thanks.

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