At First Blush


By Jennifer “Dr. Jenn” Gunsaullus, PhD

Dear Dr. Jenn,
How long should sex last? My girlfriend says that our five minutes is too short, and that a guy should be able to go 20 to 30 minutes. Is that true?

-Five-minute Man, Pacific Beach

Dear Five-minute Man,
There is a myth that sexual intercourse should last for hours, and that women pine for this kind of lovemaking. Not true. You could have a long session of sexual foreplay, but intercourse is generally a much shorter part of that.

Intercourse generally lasts from three to 13 minutes. Gently ask your girlfriend why she thinks it should go 20 to 30 minutes. Is that what she was told is normal? Or is she trying to orgasm through intercourse and needs, or thinks she needs, that amount of time? Does she love the feeling and want it to last as long as possible? Understanding her motivation can help bridge this gap.

Logistically, many women don’t enjoy longer intercourse because they become sore, tired, bored or just know they won’t orgasm. But if you both want longer sessions, slow things down. Play with other sexual activities, different positions and changing tempo to prolong your ability to last.
-Dr. Jenn

Dear Dr. Jenn,
My boyfriend is frustrated and hurt that I don’t initiate sex. I DO want sex, but feel ridiculous when I try to initiate. How can I be more comfortable?

-Scared to Initiate, Poway

Dear Scared to Initiate,
From your boyfriend’s point of view, it feels good to be desired by another. He feels attractive, worthy and sexy. But if he’s always the initiator, and is sometimes turned down, he can feel vulnerable, rejected and undesirable.

If you grew up a “good girl” in America, you probably carry some shame around sexual expression and initiation. As uncomfortable as it might be, ask your boyfriend how he likes to be “seduced.” Get details about areas of his body, types of touch, what to wear, things to say and time of day.

Then create a plan in your head, outlining the first few “moves” you’ll make. It’s okay if it feels awkward initially. Try to be playful and not so serious. After a few tries, it will feel more natural, and you can make it your own. It can also feel more natural if you arouse yourself ahead of time and don’t fake your own sexual feelings. So touch yourself, fantasize or read erotica to get your juices flowing.
-Dr. Jenn

Jennifer “Dr. Jenn” Gunsaullus, PhD, is a sociologist, sexuality speaker, and relationship and intimacy counselor. Read more at