Sex Ed
Sex Ed

When Does Sex End?

Unpacking cultural expectations

When Does Sex End?

When DOES sex end? Have you ever wondered about that? It may seem like a strange question but how we answer it makes quite a difference to the sexual satisfaction of some people. Our perceptions about what is the climax and completion of sexuality activity play a big role in what feels right to us. It also sets our expectations. Those expectations play a huge role in the interest people have in sex as well as how satisfied they are with sexual activities they participate in.

Depending on the gender and sexual orientation of partners involved with each other, the answer to this question may also differ quite dramatically. In many cultures, sex is seen through the heterosexual lens and driven around penile pleasure. Sexual activities and duration are based on the sexual stamina of the person with the penis. A lot of people see sex being over when a penis ejaculates. The focus on penile pleasure sometimes is driven by the belief that vulva people don’t enjoy sex and therefore there is no need to go beyond satisfying the penis person’s needs.

Timing & Focus of Penile-Vaginal Sex

The average penis person takes anywhere from 2 to 5 minutes to orgasm. Their bodies are producing, on average, higher levels of testosterone and other hormones. These higher levels of hormones are connected to having a higher sex drive. Social norms encourage men from a young age to be interested in sex and physical gratification. Society still celebrates them for their sexual conquests and prowess.

Vulva people, in contrast, take an average of 20 minutes of stimulation they find pleasing to reach orgasm. Many people’s beliefs censor women’s sexuality. Societal standards in many cultures shame them for any interest they show in sex. Society also constantly reminds women of the many consequences they face if they choose to engage in sex.

The two different messages have contributed to the idea that vulva people don’t enjoy sex. This creates a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. People feel that women merely wish for sex to be over. Most heterosexual couples are spending less time on foreplay and are cutting intercourse immediately after the man ejaculates. When vulva people don’t experience any pleasure during intercourse, their interest in sex may continue to decrease. The decreased interest reinforces the belief that vulva people don’t really enjoy sex. The truth is that vulva people can and do enjoy sex! They often just require more foreplay and other activities geared towards their pleasure.

Does Sex End With Orgasms?

Taking away the focus on penile ejaculation, many people look to orgasms to signal the end of sexual activity. When people are alone and masturbating, many stop after they’ve achieved orgasm. Seems like this may be a reasonable way to decide when sex is over when everyone involved has had an orgasm.

What brings someone to orgasm can be complicated. The ability to orgasm can be affected by health, stress, exhaustion, hormones, mood, attraction, distraction, tension, environment, intoxication, or any other number of things. Sometimes a combination of a few of these things can block someone’s ability to reach an orgasm despite their desire to do so. Most people hope to experience the rush of endorphins from orgasm but this isn’t always possible. Putting too much focus on orgasm as a goal of sex adds to the frustration and disappointment of not being able to get there. The person unable to orgasm may feel they are letting their partner down. They can also feel like they are lacking in some way. It can also add pressure to a partner or make them feel inadequate if they can’t bring their partner to orgasm every single time.

Sex is really about connection and pleasure we experience being with someone. We are often wanting the climax and intensity of orgasm but that doesn’t mean that it always needs to be. Placing our focus on the connection and intimacy we can experience with our partners is key. Doing this will help us find satisfaction even if we aren’t able to get to that wonderful orgasm.

So When Does Sex End?

In a perfect world, sex ends when everyone involved is perfectly satisfied and ready for it to be over. Reality doesn’t always happen this way. The real answer to this question is what we make it. Our expectations of how things should go play a significant role in when we think things are done. This is going to vary from person to person.

Choice also makes a difference here. Like the consent that starts sexual activities, consent has a big say in when they end. We have to decide when we are ready for sex to be over. If our partner decides they are ready for it to be over before we are, we need to respect that. Consent is an important and ongoing part of all our sexual activities.

Enjoying Every Part of Sex

Try not to stress about how long sex should go on for or if your partner is feeling done. If you wish to know how they’re doing and you aren’t sure, then ask. One of the keys to fantastic sex is good communication. The more we practice this with our partners, the more we will start having the kind of sex we’ve always wanted.

sexual wellness
Teela Hudak
Teela Hudak
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Teela Hudak

Teela is a Vancouver-based Sex Educator & Relationship Expert. Learn more at:

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