What Women Really Want From Sex

Updated 05/15/19
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There are better ways to validate really great sex than with a stopwatch, but for heterosexual couples who are curious to see how their time clocks in, consider this: Lovehoney, an online retailer of sex toys, surveyed 4,400 of its customers and found that most hetero couples have sex that lasts for an average of 19 minutes. That total is broken down, on average, into 10 minutes of foreplay and 9 minutes of intercourse. Of the couples who participated in the 2017 survey, 52% said they were satisfied with their typical length of intercourse, but when asked if they'd like sex to last longer, more men raised their hands than women (23% and 15%, respectively).

That's an interesting bit of data considering that, according to the survey, three-quarters of men (75%) climax every time they have sex, compared to only 28% of women. Could it be that men wish to last longer so that they can experience a shared orgasm, which according to 57% of the men surveyed, takes the cake as the "peak sexual experience"? Quite possibly. But men should note that less than half (46%) of the women surveyed were as gung-ho about sharing a climax with their partner. Moreover, only 35% of the women stated that an orgasm is their main goal during sex.

What is the goal, then? The question could get millions of answers and still be a mystery, but according to Osmo Kontula, a research professor at the Population Research Institute in Helsinki, Finland, this much is true: Women place a higher value on their partner's orgasm than their own. In his 2016 study of the female orgasm, Kontula analyzed the responses from six sex surveys conducted between 1971 and 2015 to determine that, among the 8,200-plus Finnish women who responded, at least 70% of women responded "rather important" or the weightier "very important" when asked how important it is to produce an orgasm in their partner during love-making. (The study isn't specific to a single sexual orientation.) On the flip side, while 60% of the women considered having their own orgasm at least "rather important," less than 20% of women rated their orgasm as "very important."

This was the trend across each relationship status presented in the study: single, in a relationship but not cohabiting, cohabiting, and married. And if you think one-night stands are orgasm central, think again: Women in Kontula's study reported an increased "orgasmic capacity" when in a happy relationship with "good sexual communication." This suggests that a deeper connection (read: more than just physical attraction) plays a key role in a woman's ability to climax. What's more, the female O is linked to a woman's sexual self-esteem, her willingness to articulate her sexual desires, and her ability to focus through external distractions such as stress, according to the study.

Data aside, what these two studies tell us is something that many women—and men—already know: When it comes to great sex, it's all about quality, not quantity. The intimacy, connection, and technique of sex are more important than the number of orgasms or how long intercourse lasts.

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