Sometimes waiting for an orgasm can feel like waiting for the oven timer when you’re baking delicious-smelling chocolate chip cookies—you know the bell will go off, but 15 minutes might as well be two hours while you’re waiting. Other times, an orgasm is like a $5 bill that you find in your pocket—you weren’t quite expecting it but you’ll definitely take it. More commonly, people are worried that the wait will never end, and they won’t be able to come at all.
Whether you’re concerned that you’ll be early, late, or not get there, thinking about how long it takes to orgasm is totally normal. But fixating on exactly when you’re going to come can, ironically, get in the way of your Big-O. The key is to focus on pleasure, rather than some kind of epic end result.
Push Back On The Pressure To Have An Orgasm
First and foremost, remember that orgasms are not a necessary part of a sexual experience. Not everyone has orgasms, and not everyone has orgasms every time they are being sexual—alone or with partners. According to some studies, as many as 10-40% of women report not reaching orgasm every time.
Happily, pleasure comes in many different forms! For example, the joy of being intimate with someone you’re attracted to, the comfort of skin-to-skin contact, and the endorphins that come with pleasurable touch are all forms of pleasure that do not involve orgasm. And blowjobs, manual stimulation, and eating pussy are all fun and enjoyable activities even if no one gets off!
Importantly, the pressure to climax often actually makes it harder to orgasm!
No matter the sexual activity you’re engaging in, it’s important to keep in mind that the pressure to orgasm can actually make it harder to finish. And the more time you spend worrying about orgasm, the less time you spend experiencing pleasure, being present with your partner, and having fun! So focus on the moment and all of the incredible sensations you’re experiencing—your partner(s) and your body will thank you.
Average Time To Have An Orgasm
For folks who are still desiring an orgasm during sex, the question remains: “How long does it take?” The short answer is that it depends. In heterosexual partnered sex, women tend to take longer to climax than men, and are less likely to have an orgasm (a phenomenon called the orgasm gap). A study done on heterosexual couples across the globe found that the average duration of penetrative sex is less than 6 minutes. However, while this study recorded the time taken for the male partner to ejaculate, it did not record whether or not the female partner reached orgasm.
Common folklore holds that people with vulvas require an average of 20 minutes to orgasm, based only loosely on research published by Masters and Johnson in the 1960s. Again, this number doesn’t represent the vast diversity of experiences: Most research on orgasm timing (including this study by Masters and Johnson) focuses solely on heterosexual couples and begins timing at the start of penetration rather than at the start of sexual touch.
There is no set amount of time that it should take to reach orgasm.
The truth is, there’s no set amount of time that it takes to reach orgasm. The length of time varies depending on a web of complex context factors like sexual techniques (such as sex position or type of touch); hormone levels; stage of menstrual cycle; medications in your system (blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and birth control can play a role in sensitivity and arousal); comfort with your partners; hydration; and blood pressure.
Across the board, the biggest disruptors of orgasm are stress, anxiety, body shame, lack of arousal, and pain. Identifying and addressing these issues makes orgasm more likely and possibly take less time. Below are even more ways to maximize your pleasure potential:
How To Make Sex More Pleasurable—With Or Without Orgasms
- Focus on pleasure rather than orgasm: An actual orgasm lasts only lasts about 10-20 seconds, but the delicious process of building up arousal can last for hours if you want it to!
- Try to relax. Since stress and anxiety are disruptors to orgasm, finding ways to settle into your body, focus on the present moment, and lower your tension will all help to get you into a more orgasmic state. If you find yourself getting distracted by your thoughts, try paying attention to your senses or your breathing instead.
- Get to know what feels good for you, and tell your partner. Communicating about what you like in bed can help the two of you create pleasurable experiences. Also, talking about your expectations can help take the orgasm pressure off of both of you. An example of how you might phrase it is: "I really enjoy giving/receiving oral, but I don't necessarily need or expect to have an orgasm."
- For people with vulvas, try experimenting with masturbation and different kinds of clitoral stimulation as this is more likely to lead to orgasm (only about 20% of people with vulvas orgasm from penetration alone, so other forms of stimulation are important!).
- Embrace your body. Research shows that body acceptance, including genitalia, is linked to orgasm.
- Get aroused and lubricated. Be sure to take time to build arousal before penetration. Have some body-safe lubricant available to minimize the risk of painful or uncomfortable friction.
- Be playful. What would make the experience more fun? Explore different positions or bring your favorite sex toy to the experience. Sometimes, just taking things a little less seriously can help lower stress and increase pleasure.
- Avoid faking it. Faking orgasms means your partner doesn’t learn what you like and don’t like, and it doesn’t make the experience more enjoyable, either.
Ultimately, however long your body needs to orgasm is however long your body needs to orgasm. Whether or not an orgasm happens, everyone’s pleasure should be equally valued. Try to stop the mental timer; take as long as you want and need—and focus on enjoying the, ahem, ride!