How Long Should Foreplay Last?

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How Long Should Foreplay Last?


When it comes to sex, folks can feel a lot of pressure to do it “right.” It can feel like you are working towards delivering just the right kinds of stimulation for exactly the right amount of time and basically, you know, winning at sex. Now, sex is not a competition, and there is no universal right answer for a lot of the questions that come with it.Today, we are going to try to tackle one of the big questions that come up about being good in bed. How long should foreplay last? 


What is foreplay?

Foreplay tends to be defined as any sexual activity leading up to penetrative intercourse. It can include kissing, massage, breast and nipple play, adult sex toys, manual stimulation (stimulating the genitals with your hands), and oral sex. 

That said, there is a lot more to sex than just penetration. Remember, a satisfying sexual experience can come from any of those activities, even if you have no plans to explore penetrative sex. Specifically, manual stimulation and oral sex get lumped in with foreplay when, for many folks, they are the sexual main event. It all depends on what the sexual encounter in question looks like; who does it involve? What do they enjoy? 


“How long do girls want foreplay?”

When I hear this question, I assume it’s being asked by someone whose sexual partner has a vagina. Working from that assumption, let’s remember that vaginas do not come with an owner’s manual that dictates the correct stimulation time that must precede sexual intercourse. Not only does every person has their own sexual wants and needs, but vaginas are also complicated. To expand your vagina knowledge, read about how to tighten vaginal walls and how deep is a woman's vagina?  How long foreplay should last depends on what works for the partner in question and what other activities they want to engage in. 

There are a couple of things that you can keep in mind regarding the vagina and the arousal process. When someone with a vagina becomes aroused, the labia and clitoris can become swollen due to the increased blood supply (much like how a penis becomes erect). Additionally, the vagina and vulva can become lubricated, and the vaginal canal can expand. Those last two things are important if you plan on engaging in vaginal penetration because the lubrication and expansion of the vagina go a long way towards making penetration comfortable and pleasurable. Lubrication doesn’t always happen though. If you’ve struggled with a lack of natural lubrication, you could do some research into what causes vaginal dryness? With that in mind, it’s a good idea to at least provide the stimulation that can trigger those responses. As for how long to focus on foreplay, multiple studies have shown that it can take folks with vaginas between 10 and 45 minutes to become fully aroused. 

Also, be aware that the absence of these responses does not necessarily mean someone is not excited or into what is going on. There are multiple physical and mental factors that can stand in the way of the physical arousal process. Don’t take it personally. Take your time, check-in with your partner, find things you both enjoy, and have fun with it!


What is a normal amount of foreplay?

This is another time when there’s not really a universally correct answer. That said, the Journal of Sex Research conducted a study of 152 heterosexual couples where they looked at the amount of time they spent engaging in foreplay and sexual intercourse, as well as the duration of time they wanted to devote to foreplay. In that study, both men and women said they wanted foreplay to last about the same amount of time: 18 to 19 minutes. But as researchers found, foreplay typically lasts about 11 to 13 minutes. 

With that in mind, you can safely consider 11 to 20 minutes to be a “normal” amount of time to devote to foreplay. Forget about the numbers, though! Have fun with your partners. Explore things that turn both of you on, and that feels really good. As far as I’m concerned, your best bet for doing foreplay “right” is to focus on doing stuff that you both enjoy and that makes you feel comfortable. A tip for boosting your own sexual health and comfort is learning more about how to make your vagina smell good. 

Want a complete guide on how to foreplay? Looking to take your foreplay to the next level with a fun new toy? Find all the right kinds of adult sex toys for every taste at PinkCherry – because when it comes to fun and pleasure, we have one of the widest selections on the internet.


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Written By: JoEllen Notte

JoEllen Notte is a writer, speaker, sex educator, and mental health advocate whose work explores the impact of depression on sex and relationships. Since 2012 she has written about sex, mental health, and how none of us are broken on her award-winning site The Redhead Bedhead as well as for Glamour, The BBC, Bitch, PsychCentral, and more. JoEllen is the author of The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression, and the Conversations We Aren’t Having.