Mainstream Media Says Wham, Bam, Thank You M’am

Here’s something that will probably not surprise and yet still manage to annoy the crap out of you. There is a new study on the desired length of sex for heterosexual couples, as determined by American sex experts. Check this out:

The US study is the first to review what experts believe is the ideal length of time to have penetrative sex, with the random sample of Americans and Canadians labelling seven to 13 minutes most “desirable”.

Intercourse lasting between three and seven minutes was deemed “adequate”, but anything less was considered “too short” and beyond 13 minutes was “too long”.

The study, published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, aims to calm unrealistic beliefs that healthy sex should last a long time.

Dr Jane Howard, a Brisbane medical sex therapist, said there was little data on Australians’ expectation of sex. Anecdotal evidence suggested most women were happy with three to seven minutes, while men were not.

Now, as someone who enjoys sex and generally assumes that large portions of the rest of the population also enjoy sex, a question instantly sprung to mind: in what universe? No, seriously, this America? Three minutes? And wait, men are the ones who want sex to be longer, and women don’t? This is, in fact, contrary to every generalized remark I’ve ever heard about heterosexual practice. Don’t tons of straight women complain about how too many men rush during sex? Are the bulk of American men who sleep with women just really bad in bed, and I’ve somehow gotten through life without realizing it? (I am, after all, married to an Australian.)

It almost seems like they’re leaving something out. Of course, no one openly explains or discusses that the study is only about heterosexual couples — I presume that you were supposed to infer this from all the talk of penis in vaginas and the fact that only men and women are described as potential sexual partners. But, you see, this has nothing to do with prejudice or heteronormativity — this is about facts, people. As it turns out, any two people who do not have one penis and one vagina between them cannot have sex. That’s not even a joke — I’m going off of media characterizations.

Every news story I found on the subject fails to produce an explicit definition of “sex.” Most do use additional phrases like “intercourse” or “penetrative sex.” I assumed that these were just polite euphemisms designed to make the article sound more “professional” — and also to rule out sexual encounters that do not include penetrative sex, but perhaps only manual or oral sex. Considering this, the light bulb flickered on. I found the actual study. And though I didn’t pay to read it, the free abstract made things more than clear enough:

Aim. Quantify the opinion of expert sex therapists as to what are “adequate,” “desirable,” “too short,” and “too long” intravaginal ejaculatory latencies.

That’s right: the study was about “intravaginal ejaculatory latencies.” For those of you unsure about the lingo, this means the moment that a penis enters a vagina to the moment that said penis ejaculates into the vagina.

Which is, of course, what the mainstream media refers to without definition, caveat or qualification as “sex.”

Now the results make some fucking sense.

Let me be clear: I’m not criticizing the study. First of all, I haven’t read it. Secondly, from the abstract, it seems that they set forward with a reasonable, narrow and specific goal: to find out if expectations about how long the particular act vaginal intercourse between a man and woman should last for partners to be satisfied. I agree that things like porn have skewed our view on that subject. It’s not a fascinating topic for research, but it’s a reasonable one.

The problem here is — as is generally the case — the media coverage. You’d think that in 2008, we’d have a more encompassing view of sex than “man inserts penis into vagina, thrusts for X minutes, ejaculates, rolls over and sleeps.” You’d think that we’d understand that acts like oral, anal and manual sex count as sex, as do mutual masturbation, play with sex toys, etc. You’d think we’d realize through this understanding that wow!, men can have sex with each other and so can women! Maybe it’d even occur to people that straight couples engage in these acts, too — and that while many women love PIV penetration, a majority of the female population requires at least one other tactic to actually have an orgasm. In 2008, shouldn’t we be at a point where we realize that the ultimate goal of sex is not a male orgasm, and that a male orgasm should not be seen as the definitive end to anything that we could potentially refer to as “sex?”

Well, we should. But people are morons and we live in a patriarchal and homophobic society. Men are encouraged to resist performing oral sex. Women are encouraged to fake orgasms, expected to need a penis to get off under any and all circumstances and then feel that they or their partner is inadequate when PIV penetration doesn’t “work.” And the number one rule for all people is that you should never, ever stick anything up your butt.

Isn’t it a little early for journalists to be a product of Bush abstinence-only “education” policies?

0 thoughts on “Mainstream Media Says Wham, Bam, Thank You M’am

  1. Kristen

    “beyond 13 minutes was “too long”.”

    Umm…seriously…like…really….Wow…So…90 minutes would be…Okay…I’m just going to slink over in the corner over here.

    “You’d think that we’d understand that acts like oral, anal and manual sex count as sex.”

    Nah…but we that means we can come up with a new name for it…like…”fun” or “joy” or “orgasmic.”

    On a more serious note: I get your point. We should (as a society) have a more serious talk about what sex means. It might clear up a whole lot of issues…and not just the hetero normative ones.

    Reply
  2. Pizza Diavola

    anything less was considered “too short” and beyond 13 minutes was “too long”.

    In the words of one of my boys: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Also, 100% yes to your points on heteronormative discourse. Ugh.

    Reply
  3. Ran

    I can somewhat accept “penetrative sex” meaning “sex that includes insertion of a penis in a vagina” — obviously that’s not what the term really means, but reading the first paragraph you quoted, that’s what I initially assumed they meant. (I guess I have low expectations.)

    But I totally don’t get “penetrative sex” meaning “a period of time during which the penis is inserted in the vagina,” which is what they apparently actually mean. I guess they decided “sexual penetration” didn’t have the same zing?

    Reply
  4. Cara Post author

    I can somewhat accept “penetrative sex” meaning “sex that includes insertion of a penis in a vagina” — obviously that’s not what the term really means, but reading the first paragraph you quoted, that’s what I initially assumed they meant. (I guess I have low expectations.)

    I agree, this is what I thought, too — the key word being “including.” It was clear from the very beginning that the study was only going to be about straight people, and I can’t say that I’m shocked by that, either. What I’m surprised about is exactly what you express — that “penetrative sex” means “only the length of time that actually includes continuous penetration,” as if that’s the only part of sex that counts.

    Reply
  5. Sian

    3 minutes is way too short! But if they’re talking just about penetrative vaginal sex here, then I personally find that after (about-I’m not counting!) 13 minutes I dry up, certainly not going to come if I haven’t already done so by then.. sorry for the TMI! But of course, I completely agree that that’s not the whole part of sex, the so-called foreplay is so ignored so much. I suspect if you were happy for it to be over in 3 minutes then you weren’t having much fun..

    Reply
  6. Jess

    Also, the abstract says their results are based on surveying the opinions of expert sex therapists, NOT asking the average guy or girl on the street. Wouldn’t this make a difference? All they’re saying is that 3-minute-sex is not pathological- they’re not saying it’s what most people desire.

    Reply
  7. finn

    I may be alone here, but sometimes I really wish that penetrative sex took a little less time. If I’m not 100% in the mood I get bored with sex about 5 minutes in…and my guy ends up lasting 20-30 minutes AFTER I’m finished. It’s tiring!

    Reply
  8. Moody

    For my partner and I, the penetrating part of sex usually lasts 5-10 minutes. That’s just because (luckily for us), she orgasms very easily. So after around 10 she says it’s my turn and we finish up.

    Reply
  9. Kate

    Just like you said, I’m not surprised but still irritated as shit that they measure sex by they man’s orgasm. Because, you know, only the man’s orgasm is important and it’s totally up for debate as to whether women even orgasm at all. (Us silly women and our making shit up about our own sexuality) Ass holes. If my husband only lasted 10 minutes, we’d probably never have gotten married cause that aint enough for me.

    Reply
  10. Jenee

    However you may feel about referring to “penetrative sex” as the amount of time from insertion of the penis to the male’s ejaculation, it is my opinion that it was probably defined by the makers of the study as such in order to give them something more concrete to measure. Where foreplay starts or ends is much more subjective than “penis insertion happened at time x and ejaculation happened at time y” and thus is much more difficult to quantify. You can make all the arguments you want about whether or not a study that reduces sex to that is worth anything, but I don’t think that defining the study that way shows any terrible intentions. I, personally, find it to be an interesting bit of information and, for me, it seems to be about accurate.

    Reply
  11. Cara Post author

    You can make all the arguments you want about whether or not a study that reduces sex to that is worth anything, but I don’t think that defining the study that way shows any terrible intentions.

    Well, as I said in the post, my problem isn’t with the study. My problem is how the media took the study’s examination of “intravaginal ejaculatory latencies” and translated that into “sex.”

    Reply
  12. Liz M

    “And wait, men are the ones who want sex to be longer, and women don’t? This is, in fact, contrary to every generalized remark I’ve ever heard about heterosexual practice.”

    This study is talking about PENETRATION, NOT SEX. When women say they want sex to last longer, they are usually talking about foreplay and other activities that focus on them, not penetration. When penetration actually occurs, however, a lot of guys like to prolong that part of it for a stronger orgasm or just because they don’t want it to be over yet, whereas at least in my experience women don’t want it to last ages. You said yourself women usually need a different method to get off – why would they want penetration to last a long time if that’s the case? It’s ironic to me that you seem so baffled by this study and seem to be mixing up penetration & sex even as you criticize the mainstream media for doing so.

    Reply
  13. Cara Post author

    Um, Liz . . . in the part you quoted, I was describing my reaction before I realized that the media was defining “sex” so narrowly. Then, directly after, I said that in order for the results that I was so surprised by to be true, something had to be left out. And proceeded to explain that what they left out was every part of sex that doesn’t include a penis in a vagina.

    I wasn’t mixing up penetration and sex. I read the word “sex” in the media, did not think “penetration and penetration only,” and therefore had a surprised reaction. Then once it was established that the study was only about penetration, I said that the results make a lot more sense in that light. Nothing really ironic there.

    Reply
  14. randomly

    It personally makes me sick. Very very sick.
    Have they ever even considered how the “penetrative” vision of “sex” encourages and propagates ideas of rape? There would be no concept of “rape” if the penetrative vision of sex was not so much and so subtly embedded in social relations.
    But it’s the women who NEED to realise this. ALL women. Understand they CAN decide what sex they want to have. Never GIVE IN to stupid stereotypes.

    p.s. what the hell is “foreplay”? “before” what??!? penetration? oh.. to hell with that!

    Reply
  15. Gromm

    Moody: Just because she orgasms easily doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want more orgasms. 🙂

    For us, 5-10 minutes is “good enough” a lot of the time, but an hour isn’t completely out of the question, and if we’re not too tired it’s certainly not too long for my wife.

    Reply
  16. Andrea

    I don’t know about you guys, but if my partner and I have the time to be intimate for an hour, then we’re gonna take it. Though we both aren’t the types who can be good to go in 5-10 minutes.

    When I read this article, my first thoughts were, a) I’d like to see stats on which of these couples had children, because it seems to me that more children = more work = less time for sex, b) Maybe the people interviewed don’t want sex to last very long because they don’t really like who they’re with.

    I dunno.

    Reply
  17. lauredhel

    But it’s the women who NEED to realise this. ALL women. Understand they CAN decide what sex they want to have. Never GIVE IN to stupid stereotypes.

    Because if only WOMEN would adjust their attitudes, rape would disappear!!1!

    WTF?

    Reply
  18. randomly

    No Lauredhel BUT,
    if people stopped thinking of women as the weaker gender, and of sex as a “natural” consequence of this (where penetration=domination) THEN the idea that I, as a woman, should not walk down the street at night on my own because i could be raped (WTF, i like to take a walk at nightime!).. this misconception would certainly disappear. Violence would stay, sure. But it wouldn’t be as gendered as it is. What i meant to say with my post is that i wish women were a little bit more angry, a bit more PHISICALLY ready to defend themselves instead of (all too often) relying on the presence of a man at their side. Everytime women become more conscious of the physical and psychological powere they have.. things go better. And better. That’s what i meant. Didn’t mean to suggest any “easy” solution. Only to encourage a thinking, which brings consciousness which, on its turn, brings strenght. So it should.

    Reply
  19. Betty Boondoggle

    “Everytime women become more conscious of the physical and psychological powere they have.. things go better”

    I strongly second that. I’m a firm believer that all women should be taught self defense. ALL women – any race, any age, any weight, any level of handicap, ALL women.

    Not so it can be used as a way to blame her for an attack but so that women can stop being and thinking of themselves as easy targets.

    Reply
  20. lauredhel

    Not so it can be used as a way to blame her for an attack but so that women can stop being and thinking of themselves as easy targets.

    Some women _are_ “easy targets”. How can you expect an illegal immigrant in custody to fight back against her custodians? A woman being attacked by 12 men? A drunk woman being pinned down by the rapist’s buddies? A woman with a gun to her head or a knife to her throat? A woman whose baby is being held hostage?

    I have a physical disability that makes me weak and unable to run. My karate and judo training is near-useless. It definitely affects the way I do things, which shits me. Should I just adjust my attitude and stop thinking of myself as vulnerable?

    Self-defence? Great, whatever. Might be useful for a small minority of situations, might be counter-productive in some others. I’m sick to death of it being centralised when rape prevention is discussed.

    Reply
  21. randomly

    “I’m sick to death of it being centralised when rape prevention is discussed.”

    To me it is not centralised enough, not in this part of Europe anyway. Self-defense is more than simply the ability to react physically. It is the fact that i can positively affirm “i am not going to let them think they can attack me just because i am a woman”. This is everyday-life-thinking aimed at strenghtening women’s consciousness, not at ALARMING (as most anti-rape campaigns i know seem to do). What you say is true: SOME “women are easy targets”. One man against twelve men is also an easy target. So is a man with a gun to his head or a knife to his throat. All the examples you mention are valid on the male side. Aren’t they?
    Now, again, i care that you don’t think i am talking “easy”. The problem stays, violence stays, and women must watch out, every single second. But it is so bad for me to hear other women blaming their being woman for not taking the freedoms they want. And going back to the original topic of the post, these are the same women who “submit” to the sexual demands of their male partners simply because that’s what women are supposed to do. It’s disgusting.
    Maybe i am too proud.
    But i am getting stronger.
    And I wish women to be strong critical tools of change.

    Reply
  22. Cara Post author

    It is the fact that i can positively affirm “i am not going to let them think they can attack me just because i am a woman”.

    Well this may be helpful to you, even if it only makes you feel better. So go for it. But it’s hardly a long-term social plan. Even if we encourage every woman on the planet to take self-defense classes, some will always be vulnerable. Children, the elderly, the sick and physically disabled. There are also alawys going to be men (and women) who are stronger than you.

    One man against twelve men is also an easy target. So is a man with a gun to his head or a knife to his throat. All the examples you mention are valid on the male side. Aren’t they?

    Yes. And apologies if I’ve missed it, but I didn’t see you suggest here that men should also be taking self-defense classes.

    The problem stays, violence stays, and women must watch out, every single second.

    Not true. Your chances of being attacked by a stranger are very slim, and it’s ideas like this that are used to terrify women, keep them in line, and not watch out for those who post the most danger. Statistically speaking, I should be more alert and prepared for violence from my husband than from any stranger, and actually probably any other man that I know. Sorry, those are the facts. I’m not opposed to women being able to defend themselves, by any means, but it’s thoughts like these, not those who say that focusing on self-defense as a “prevention” method, that promote the idea that violence is inescapable.

    But it is so bad for me to hear other women blaming their being woman for not taking the freedoms they want. And going back to the original topic of the post, these are the same women who “submit” to the sexual demands of their male partners simply because that’s what women are supposed to do. It’s disgusting.

    It is disgusting, but I really feel as though you’re placing the blame on the women and no the abusive men who make sexual demands and don’t give a shit what their female partners want. They are disgusting. Their actions are disgusting. But you’re talking about what the women are doing, not what the men are doing. It’s awful easy to say “leave” when you’re not the one in the situation. I was a stupid kid and used to say shit like that. Then it was me. And so now I encourage women to leave, because it absolutely is the best option in nearly all cases. But I sure as hell don’t blame them when they don’t and understand the reasons why they don’t.

    Reply
  23. Milly

    Sorry I’m a bit late with this, but just wanted to say thanks Cara for drawing attention to the very real issue of how the only sex that “counts” in the wider media seems to be penis-vagina sex.

    Reply
  24. randomly

    Cara,
    I never blamed women. Why did you say that i did? I talk about women and focus on women’s actions and thought processes because that’s what i care about. if I state that some men are either stupid or bastards what’s that gonna give me? I care about women’s bodies and minds. Don’t really care about saying how bastard a man can be. It is important to state it perhaps sometimes, but i focus on action that comes from reflection. And if you say you “encourage women to leave” you’re doing the same thing. It is not easy at all, i never said that. But if one doesn’t think, one doesn’t realise, therefore one does not get into that “consciousness rising” state of mind that i aspire to. For me and for other women. I fight everyday ideological abuse, from which i believe a huge part of other abuses arises.

    when i said women must watch out every single second i didn’t mention strangers. You mentioned strangers. I simply said they must watch out. From every one, even from those other women who have no consciousness of their being women and therefore don’t care to think and reflect about the politics of everyday life.
    Also, i don’t think what i say is “shit” as you call it. The topic is delicate and we all get passionate about it. But in the end we are fighting the same battle. I hope.

    Reply
  25. Cara Post author

    I never blamed women. Why did you say that i did

    You didn’t. I said that I got the feeling from your statements that you were.

    when i said women must watch out every single second i didn’t mention strangers. You mentioned strangers. I simply said they must watch out. From every one, even from those other women who have no consciousness of their being women and therefore don’t care to think and reflect about the politics of everyday life.

    You were making the statement in the context of self-defense classes. Though learning self-defense isn’t going to hurt you when you’re facing violence against someone you know, it’s not going to hurt you — but there’s a good chance that it’s not going to help, either. If someone, anyone, is abusing you, should you defend yourself? Of course. But I bet you’ll find that when you have feelings towards someone, no matter what they are doing to you, it becomes a lot harder to use violence to physically protect yourself. I can tell you that it’d be much easier for me to take a swing at a stranger posing a threat than at my father, husband or brothers. Even if they all equally deserved it.

    Also, the “shit” I referred to is the mindset of “why doesn’t she just leave? She should leave, and it’s disugsting if she doesn’t.” I was claiming this as a popular mindset, one I used to have, and one that you seemed to me to be suggesting. If it is not what you were implying, then the word “shit” doesn’t apply.

    Reply

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