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Your sex life is supposed to be about pleasure and intimacy, but as many of us know, it can also be a source of anxiety and self-consciousness.
For example, you might feel embarrassed if you’ve experienced premature ejaculation (PE)––but don’t be. PE is considered one of the most prevalent sex conditions, affecting as many as 3 in 4 men at some point in their lives.
If PE is affecting your performance, here are some tips on how to last longer in bed.
What is the average ejaculation time?
You might wonder if the time it takes you to ejaculate is “normal.” But there really isn’t a solid answer to what an average ejaculation time looks like.
One study gathered information from men in five countries to assess the average time ejaculation time. They found the majority of men ejaculated after four minutes or more from the moment of penetration. Another study in 500 couples found that the average time until ejaculation for vaginal sex was 3–7 minutes.
Of course, these numbers don’t capture the whole picture. The studies only examined heterosexual couples, meaning a whole range of other demographics weren’t surveyed. The time also only measured penetrative vaginal sex and didn’t take time spent on foreplay into account.
Even if you last an “average” amount of time but have a hard time enjoying sex, there are strategies to help you last longer.
Tips for lasting longer in bed
To find the right strategy, you need to identify the root of your concern. Some methods will focus on you, while others address your partner’s pleasure.
1. Use more foreplay
If you’re worried about your partner’s satisfaction, adding in or increasing foreplay is a good strategy. Switching sex positions to ones they enjoy is another tactic. This is especially true for heterosexual couples, since there tends to be a gap between how long it takes men and women to finish.
Women require more direct clitoral stimulation to orgasm, and often find it more difficult to finish from penetrative sex alone. One survey of over 50,000 people found that only 18% of women reported experiencing an orgasm from vaginal penetration.
Starting with fingerplay, oral sex, or asking your partner what they love is a great way to bridge the orgasm gap and improve sexual satisfaction.
2. Try edging
Edging can help extend the time it takes to orgasm, though it takes some practice to get right. What is edging, you ask? This technique is when you get very close to ejaculation, but then stop until the feeling has passed. These pauses can calm things down and keep your sex session lasting longer.
There are a few different methods for edging. You can try the stop-start method, which is when you pause sex or masturbation until you no longer feel like you’re going to finish. There is also the squeeze technique where you or a partner squeezes the head of your penis until you calm down.
3. Bring sex toys into the bedroom
If there’s a gap between when you finish and when your partner does, using a toy they like can help close the gap. The great thing about sex toys is the endless variety. You can try using a vibrator during sex or foreplay to focus on getting your partner to that sweet spot before intercourse.
4. Masturbate before sex
This option may take some experimentation to get right. Try to find a time for masturbation close enough to sex so you’re not too worked up before it starts, but still leaves enough time for you to get excited and enjoy sex as you should.
5. Use thicker condoms
Thicker condoms create a more significant barrier, which may decrease the intensity of sensation during sex. If what you’re feeling is less intense than usual, it could take you longer to ejaculate. That’s why this type of condom is commonly marketed as extended pleasure.
There’s little research to back up this method, but it may be worth a try. One study including men across five countries found no connection between condom use and time to ejaculation, but it wasn’t looking at people with PE. They also didn’t ask participants to use thicker condoms.
Though studies don’t prove thicker condoms work, there’s little risk in trying it since condoms are cheap and protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
6. Strengthen pelvic floor muscles
There is a physical component to PE that historically hasn’t gotten much attention. Those would be your pelvic floor muscles, and strengthening them could help improve PE.
Kegels are a good pelvic floor exercise and aren’t just for women. To perform Kegels, focus on lifting and pulling in your pelvic floor without using your back or butt muscles to help. Squeeze the muscles down there like you’re trying to hold in pee or prevent yourself from passing gas. That squeeze you feel is your pelvic floor muscles contracting.
Repeat that squeeze 10–15 times, holding each for three seconds and relaxing for three. Do this at least three times every day. It’s okay if you can’t do a full set of 15 Kegels on your first day. Keep at it and work your way up.
7. Try benzocaine wipes
These wipes use benzocaine as the active ingredient, which has a mild numbing effect. Benzocaine wipes are generally used on the most sensitive parts of the penis like the frenulum, the connective tissue on the underside of the penis that runs between the head and shaft. You use these wipes about five minutes before sex. Be sure to allow the substance to dry before sex so it doesn’t transfer to your partner.
Preliminary research on these wipes is promising. In one study, the average time to ejaculate doubled for participants after two months of using them. Participants also felt less performance anxiety and better control over their orgasms.
8. Use numbing creams or sprays
Like benzocaine wipes, there is a wide range of other desensitizing products out there. Promescent is a topical desensitizer spray used on your penis that delays how long it takes to orgasm.
Creams are also available. These mild numbing agents decrease sensitivity so orgasms don’t come as quickly. The main active ingredients in these products are lidocaine and benzocaine, which are both mild anesthetics used for the treatment of PE.
9. Consider medication
Prescription medication may be necessary to treat PE for some people. Although there are no FDA-approved medications specifically for PE, some providers prescribe PDE5 inhibitors. These include popular erectile dysfunction drugs like sildenafil (brand name Viagra, see Important Safety Information).
What is PE?
Premature ejaculation (or PE) is the most common form of sexual dysfunction among men, and roughly one in three people with a penis experience it. PE is a sexual dysfunction in which a man ejaculates sooner than he or his partner would like. Occasional PE is usually nothing to worry about, but if you regularly come sooner than you would like and is causing you significant distress, you can speak with a healthcare provider to explore the various treatment options available.
Causes and risk factors of PE
We don’t yet fully understand the causes of PE, but we do know its risk factors.
One is low levels of serotonin, a hormone responsible for stabilizing mood. Medical experts theorize that low serotonin levels can quicken how fast you ejaculate. This is why SSRIs can be used as a treatment for PE since they raise serotonin levels.
Other risk factors include abnormal hormone levels and prostate inflammation. But mostly, PE seems to be psychological. This sexual dysfunction is often associated with other psychological conditions like anxiety, depression, and stress.
Everyday mental health stressors can also affect sexual stamina. These include poor body image, low confidence, and relationship problems. A history of sexual abuse can also increase your chances of experiencing PE.
Lifestyle changes for PE
If you think you have PE, the best thing to do is to have an open conversation with your healthcare provider. These conversations are essential to getting the proper treatment and improving your sexual health. Together, you will decide on the best way to treat your premature ejaculation. The most common way to treat PE are anesthetic wipes containing the numbing agents lidocaine or benzocaine. Your healthcare provider may also recommend certain lifestyle changes, such as practicing stress relief techniques, and more exercise, to help treat PE.
Can diet make a difference to performance?
When it comes to erectile dysfunction, we know that maintaining a diet that supports a healthy heart and improves blood flow can help bolster your erections. But does the same apply to premature ejaculation? Are there foods that help you last longer in bed?
The answer is that food alone won’t work the same way medications (such as lidocaine wipes) do, but a healthy diet may help prevent diseases that can contribute to sexual dysfunction, including PE. For example, magnesium may play a role in male sexual health, and people with premature ejaculation have been shown to have less magnesium in their semen. While the role vitamins and minerals play in PE is not well understood or established, getting enough of it can’t hurt. The best way to increase your magnesium intake is through diet, by eating foods rich in magnesium, including leafy vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole-grain cereal.
It’s never too early to get medical advice if you’re regularly experiencing PE––especially if it’s affecting your sexual experience. A healthcare professional can suggest behavioral therapies like working with a sex therapist, or move on to medication if your symptoms don’t improve.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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Felix Gussone is a physician, health journalist and a Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.