Sex Question Friday: How Long it Takes to Reach Orgasm, the Sexuality Spectrum, and the Sexual Double Standard

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Every Friday on the blog, I answer a few burning sex questions submitted to me by actual college students. This week, we’re going to talk about how long it takes men and women to achieve orgasm, whether sexual orientation exists on a continuum, and the societal double standard applied to women who are sexually promiscuous.

What is the average time for female orgasm?

As you probably already know, it generally takes women longer to reach orgasm than it does men. But just how much longer are we talking about? In the classic sex studies conducted by Masters and Johnson in the 1960s, they found that the average man was able to reach orgasm in about four minutes, whereas most women took ten to twenty minutes [1]. More recent studies have reported similar numbers. However, keep in mind that there is significant variability in how long it takes people to climax, with some men and women experiencing premature orgasm and others taking much longer periods of time.

Do you think that there is a spectrum of sexuality/orientations?

Although many people think of sexual orientation as comprising just three discrete categories (i.e., gay, straight, and bisexual), there are others who believe sexuality should instead be viewed on a continuum, with varying degrees of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Alfred Kinsey was among the first to propose such a sexuality spectrum with his famous Kinsey Scale [2]. This scale ranges from 0 to 6, with 0 being exclusively heterosexual [3], being equally heterosexual and homosexual, and 6 being exclusively homosexual. The numbers in between essentially reflect differing states of bisexuality. The nice thing about such a scale is that it does not attempt to put everyone into a neat little box—it allows for a lot of individual variability, and there’s certainly a lot of that when it comes to sex! For instance, although somewhere around 7-8% of the population identifies as something other than heterosexual, the percentage of people who have ever had a same-sex encounter is much, much higher [3]. By looking at sexuality on a spectrum, we wouldn’t automatically categorize the latter individuals as “straight”; instead, we could place them on the continuum in a way that more appropriately reflects their sexual history. Thus, there’s a lot of value to adopting such an approach to the study of sexual orientation.

What’s the data on men’s views on women having multiple partners vs. women’s views?

A significant amount of research has found that both men and women judge female promiscuity more harshly than male promiscuity [4]. This is the case in most societies around the world—women who sleep around are typically condemned and looked down upon, whereas men who engage in the same behaviors are subject to far less criticism. However, I should note that research in this area has not been entirely consistent. Some studies have found no sex difference in endorsement of this double standard, whereas others have shown that men and women vary in terms of the degree to which they buy into it. Any way you look at it, though, female sexual behavior tends to be judged more negatively than male sexual behavior.

For previous editions of Sex Question Friday, click here. To send in a question for a future edition, click here.

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[1] Masters, W. H., & Johnson, V. E. (1966). Human sexual response. Boston, MA: Little, Brown.

[2] Kinsey, A., Pomeroy, W. B., & Martin, C. E. (1948). Sexual behavior in the human male. Philadelphia: Saunders.

[3] National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior (NSSHB). Findings from the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, Centre for Sexual Health Promotion, Indiana University. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7 (Suppl. 5).

[4] Crawford, M., & Popp, D. (2003). Sexual double standards: A review and methodological critique of two decades of research. The Journal of Sex Research, 40, 13-26.

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