Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 10/17/2021
Ejaculating or “finishing” early is a fear and problem many men struggle with.
From the young and inexperienced men to the older guys out there who sometimes feel like they’re losing their mojo, it’s a common occurrence — and one that can make you feel like your prowess in the bedroom is slipping away.
Controlling your ejaculatory response and lasting longer in bed is something that all men want, whether they’re already in a healthy, mutually satisfying relationship with a partner, or feeling that they’re leaving new partners unsatisfied and disappointed.
Sometimes this is simply a self-confidence issue. Other times, it’s a case of premature ejaculation (PE) that is causing your problems.
While these fears are perfectly common and normal, the fact is that the solutions to the problem are equally common, easy and (if done correctly) effective.
How long are you lasting in bed? Before we talk about how to extend that time, it’s important to look at your current sexual function and performance.
Because no matter what the internet has told you, there is definitely a point where sex can go on for too long.
A 2008 study looked at this exact question. Researchers wanted to see what the typical length of an intercourse session was, and concluded that the average intercourse session lasts somewhere between three and 13 minutes.
What’s more important, though, is that the survey asked women to weigh in on those results. They concluded from those results that sex session of one to two minutes are typically considered too short, that three to seven minutes of sex is considered adequate, and that seven to 13 minutes is considered desirable.
It turns out that anything longer than that — a space of approximately 10 to 30 minutes — is usually considered too long by most participants.
Kinda surprising, no?
However, it’s also worth saying that information like this is worth a grain of salt, in part because sex isn’t a structured activity.
Eight minutes of penetration might be great, but it might include half an hour of foreplay and teasing for some people.
Likewise, 30 minutes might be someone’s perfect amount of penetrative sex — but they want it split into two sessions.
Sex, in other words, is something that no two people enjoy or experience exactly the same way. While seven minutes could be exactly what your partner wants, you might find that 30 minute mark ideal — or visa versa.
Still, studies also show that in some cases the activities fall short of the desired length; one study from Japan found this to be true.
While the recorded ideal length of time for those Japanese women was about 15.7 minutes, the actual sexy time was only about 13.6 minutes — that’s more than two minutes short of their reported desired length of session.
The study did note that because of wide variations, it’s possible that two people could align on desired length well above or below this number.
In fact, those researchers suggested that individuals could find more frequent satisfaction by finding someone whose desired time aligned with their performance.
The problem, of course, is that life isn’t a TV game show, and you can’t just rearrange couples to fit based on an algorithm. Instead, you have to employ a far more complex tool: communication.
Communicating with your partner can address a lot of concerns about whether everyone’s getting what they need.
Of course, it helps if you’re able to perform at optimum levels, and a big part of performance is addressing any underlying issues, like performance anxiety, erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.
In keeping with other types of sexual dysfunction, premature ejaculation is more common than you probably think. In fact, PE is one of the most common conditions that affects the sex lives of men today.
High-side estimates put the number of men with premature ejaculation issues at 39 percent, determined by a list of criteria.
For the World Health Organization, that list includes ejaculating with minimal sexual stimulation or shortly after penetration, doing so before you’d ideally like to and having no voluntary control over it — with all of this causing the sufferer and their partner/s a degree of distress.
Meeting some or all of these requirements is a good red flag to notice, and if you see anything above that describes your situation, it may be time to talk to a healthcare provider about the problem.
From there, they’ll be able to prescribe treatments and techniques to help you wrest some of that control back from PE.
You can read about some of these possible treatments and techniques below.
Controlling your ejaculation is a little bit of mind over matter, but there are some physical techniques aside from those useless “think about baseball” or “focus on the desk lamp” suggestions we’ve all heard before.
Here are a few that real medical professionals have researched.
The start-stop technique is really just stopping and starting as needed at intervals that keep sex going for longer, but not at the expense of you blowing it too early on.
You can probably guess how this works, but the gist is that just before you cross that point where both missile keys have been turned, you pull back, take a few deep breaths and hold still until the urge to fire subsides.
We’re guessing you may have already tried this yourself if you’re having problems, and unfortunately science doesn’t have much more to tell you.
In fact, the most promising study that looked at the start-stop technique (or the stop-start technique, depending on your preference) found that while it may buy you a few minutes, its benefits may be tied to other therapies used in tandem.
We’re not saying don’t use it — just that we wouldn’t bet the farm here.
Pelvic floor exercises are a great way to build control over the muscles that can control your ejaculatory response.
Also known as kegels, pelvic floor exercises train your pelvic floor muscles to hold back the flow of liquids out of your urinary tract, firming up the surrounding muscles in the process.
Since these muscles weaken with age, it may be important to add a few reps to your routine anyway.
A 2019 review examined the benefits of kegels as part of 10 erectile dysfunction studies, and found that most of them did produce improvement and other positive results for people suffering from premature ejaculation.
The review had its own limits, though, including a lack of clarity on the best way to do a kegel — how many reps, how many seconds they should be held for, how often you should do them.
Our best advice is to try not to hurt yourself, but otherwise go with your gut… err, groin… on how they should be done.
Speaking of gym activities, there’s a habit you might want to get into before sex that you should already be in when you’re done using gym equipment: wiping down.
PE wipes typically use a numbing agent called benzocaine, which is primarily employed for pain management but can also be used to manage pleasure.
A randomized study showed significant evidence of increased control of ejaculation, lower distress and higher sexual satisfaction for benzocaine wipe users.
And in a randomized, placebo-controlled study, benzocaine wipes drastically increased users’ times to ejaculation.
Benzocaine is available in a few formats, including a liquid spray that can be squirted as an aerosol or added to a cream.
Just be careful not to employ the wrong strength — the pain numbing stuff is typically around 20 percent in concentration, but for sex, that may be way too much.
You also don’t want to use them immediately before — employing a topical anesthetic a few minutes before sex allows it to work without also risking numbing your partner.
We realize some of these premature ejaculation tips have not-so-creative names, but the squeeze technique isn’t quite as silly as it sounds.
Squeezing the tip of your penis just before orgasm and basically holding it until the urge to orgasm subsides (and your arousal level decreases) is somewhat effective.
You just don’t want to do it so hard that you cut off blood flow.
It probably won’t surprise you that until about 20 years ago, this was basically all the medical community had to offer PE sufferers. There aren’t many peer-reviewed studies these days taking this method too seriously.
Today, in fact, this technique probably seems really dumb, and the conversation with your sexual partner if you suddenly pull out and start gently pinching the tip of your penis might be more awkward than just finishing early.
But in a pinch (yes, pun intended) it is an option.
One of the best “tips” we can give you is simply to speak to a healthcare provider about your concerns.
In addition to clearing up the taboos associated with certain feelings of inadequacy, they’ll actually be able to offer you some help.
That help may include gels or other numbing agents like the wipes we mentioned above, or ones that employ lidocaine.
It may also include antidepressants. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs, have shown some medical validity for fighting premature ejaculation.
In fact, a 2007 study which prescribed men struggling with PE to use an SSRI showed incredible results.
After just four weeks, all 100 percent of the men in the program were showing reduced premature ejaculation symptoms. And a properly functioning penis is definitely one way to help clear up depression.
However, that’s not to say SSRIs don’t come with their own side effects that you should be aware of — and that you should discuss with your healthcare provider before going on them to help with PE issues.
Let’s be clear here: you don’t have to have diagnosed premature ejaculation issues to employ most of these methods.
Likewise, you don’t have to try to “fix” this common condition if you’re not lasting long enough in bed.
But if you want to last longer for the right reasons (satisfying a male or female partner, enjoying more and longer intimacy with someone you care about) then there’s a lot of help out there.
Part of the help might include other treatments for PE — check out our guide for more on that.
But the other part of the help will require talking to a healthcare professional. They’ll be able to discuss your individual concerns and hurdles, and find the right arrangement, treatment or medication to get your game to where you want it to be.
Sexual health isn’t just about orgasms, and bad sexual health can often be a sign of a bigger underlying issue.
Treatment really is out there. It’s not a dream; you don’t have to pinch yourself.