How to Last Longer in Bed—Without Stressing Yourself Out

Sex doesn’t always have to be a slow, tantric-inspired session, but two minutes isn’t exactly enough time for most women to get to the good stuff. It has a lot of women and their partners wondering how to last longer in bed?

There’s no scientific definition of the “ideal” length of a sex session but a survey of sex therapists published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine three to seven minutes is “adequate” but seven to 13 is “desirable.” Of course, sex has a lot more to offer than just an orgasm (not that orgasms should be discounted…): connecting with your partner, exploring his or her body, enjoying your own body. Why rush it? We asked the experts how to last longer in bed when you’re craving more connection, more intimacy, and of course, more orgasms.

1. First things first: Don’t get too preoccupied with pulling an all-nighter.

“Women are supposed to want hour-long sex,” says relationship and sexuality educator Logan Levkoff. That’s great if that’s what you want—but if you don’t, that’s okay too, she says. Personally, every time I see a rom-com with a classic post-coital comment like, “Wow didn’t get any sleep last night,” my first thought is: How? Why? What about chafing? Making sex last longer doesn’t need to mean turning it into a marathon. “What someone wants—whether it’s shorter or longer—is very individualized and also very contextual based on the relationship and partnership,” Levkoff says. Having a conversation before going into sex about what each person wants to get out of it—including duration!—is step one, she says. Plus, once you take the pressure off to win gold in the all-night sex Olympics, it may naturally go longer—probably because you’re less preoccupied with goalposts and more focused on enjoying your experience.

2. Remember, sex isn’t all about penetration.

“Sex shouldn’t simply be about something being in someone else’s body for a particular period of time,” says Levkoff. Translation: Penetration doesn’t have to be the final destination. In fact, Jenni Skyler, a sex therapist at the Intimacy Institute in Boulder, Colorado, refers to sexual encounters as the Cheesecake of Pleasure when her patients need help mixing up their routine. Perhaps you start with a bite of graham cracker crust, next the cheese filling, a bit more graham cracker, some blueberry compote, cheese again—you get the idea. (See also Friends episode “The One with Phoebe’s Uterus.” Seven, seven, SEVEN!) In other words, sample the sexual menu.

3. Foreplay can be the main event.

“Women’s sexual response cycle varies from the average men’s sexual response cycle in that their arousal patterns tend to rise, fall, and plateau before a climax,” says Sari Cooper, a certified sex therapist and founder and director of the Center for Love and Sex in New York City. Take advantage of those fluctuations: “Two women can take full advantage by playing with their partner’s arousal levels through stimulating their more erogenous areas that heighten and increase arousal to a 7 or 8 (out of 10) then focusing on stimulating less erogenous areas to bring the arousal down to a 4 or 5.” Think of this kind of foreplay as its own thing, not just the opening act. This kind of play is more realistic for going all night long, Cooper says.

4. Hold a Sexy Q&A.

Talking counts as foreplay, too. In fact, Levkoff recommends it: “There are so many great conversations that take place when we’re about to be intimate,” she says. Try a sexy Q&A to get you both in the right mindset before you even touch each other. Levkoff recommends starting with the basics: What are the things that turn you on visually? Your go-to masturbation fantasy? The first movie or book you remember feeling turned on by? The back and forth can be “really fun and exciting,” in addition to slowing down the tempo from ripping your clothes off to making eye contact and listening—a whole new layer to connection.

5. Try new positions.

If and when you do ultimately go for penetration, don’t stick to just one position from beginning to all-too-soon end. “Switching positions and trying different types of stimulation can provide continued arousal but maybe not to the point of orgasm,” says Laurence A. Levine, a urologist and the chief medical officer of Promescent, maker of an FDA-approved topical spray that helps men last longer. If you typically take longer to reach orgasm than a male partner, this can help him pump the breaks while you enjoy the slow build.

6. Delay the orgasm.

When a male partner feels like he’s about to ejaculate, he (or you) can grab his shaft right below the head and gently squeeze for 5 to 10 seconds. The pressure on his urethra and the constriction of blood flow will help repress his orgasm. This kind of tactic is a common practice for edging, where the goal is halt an orgasm (for men or women) just before climax, take a moment to calm down, and then start back up again, leading to an incredibly intense orgasm eventually.

7. Be good to your body.

How you treat your body can dramatically impact your ability to enjoy a nice long session between the sheets. Regular exercise promotes better blood flow (for women and men), Levine says. “Both of you will feel healthier, and you get the bonus endorphins and stamina to mix into your couple time.” Quitting smoking and limiting drinking can also help improve stamina—especially for men. “A healthy vascular system is essential if a man wants to have a reliable and strong erection,” Levine says. “Smoking does nothing but slow both of you down.” A drink or two is fine, but remember: Alcohol is a depressant; imbibe too much, and it can impact your sexual appetite.

8. Use a condom.

Not only are condoms vital for preventing STIs, they can also help you make sex last longer. For most guys, a condom decreases penis sensitivity—the thicker the condom, the less he’ll feel and the longer it will take him to orgasm. Condoms come in all different thicknesses, ranging from 0.05 millimeters to 1 millimeter. If you’re looking for a thick condom to decrease sensation, try Lifestyles Extra Strength. (Never, however, double up on condoms. That is a recipe for condom slippage and tearing.)

9. Strengthen your pelvic floor.

Kegel exercises—basically squeezing your pelvic floor muscles as you would to stop peeing midstream—can help heighten your arousal. The stronger your pelvic floor muscles, the stronger your orgasm. Men can do their own version of Kegels. “Studies show that Kegel exercises can help men improve the strength of their erection and help with premature ejaculation,” says Levine.

10. Cheer yourself on.

You’ve been going at it for an hour. Your hair has never been more tangled, all your mascara has somehow left your eyelashes and flaked on to your cheeks, and the lacey bra you so carefully picked out is just a heap on the floor. How do you keep going when your pre-coital look has clearly fallen apart but you’re not quite ready to throw in the towel? Do a little mental cheerleading with yourself. Take a moment to check in with your body regardless of how it may look, and remember: you were sexy before and you’ll be sexy after. In fact, right now, you’re doing great—mascara flakes and all!

11. Take a breather.

Remember when Michael Scott ate a whole bowl of fettuccine Alfredo to prepare for a race? Don’t do that. Do, however, take water breaks—or cuddle/massage/chat/shower breaks during sex. Intimacy and sensuality mean a lot of different things to different people. “Maybe that’s explicit sexual acts or maybe not,” says Levkoff. A shower, for example, doesn’t have to mean sex is over—it can be a part of the ongoing sexual experience, a steamy break before orgasm number two.

12. Make the time to really enjoy sex.

We get it: Sunrise yoga, 9-to-5 job, cocktails with friends, and catching up on season three of The Handmaid’s Tale all in time to get a full night’s sleep takes energy and dedication. Maybe you can pencil in 10 minutes for sex between cocktails and Hulu, but probably not. The bottom line is: If you want sex to last longer, make time for it. “Create a large enough window to relax. Most people leave way too little time for a juicy exploratory encounter,” says Cooper. She recommends stimulating new places on your partner’s body and experimenting with varying levels of pressure—both things that require time and intention.

13. Fantasize about it after the action is over.

Who says Sunday’s romp can’t be Tuesday’s fantasy? This way, that one time she surprised you with a new move won’t just be exciting in the moment, but for weeks to come (no pun intended).

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