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Shifting sexpectations: In defense of quickies

No matter what Hollywood tells you, sex is not always a wild, hair-pulling marathon session. Here, Dr. Laura Berman explains how real-life sex — with its flaws and variations — can be better than what's on the silver screen.
/ Source: TODAY contributor

What do you expect from sex? If you are like most people, you probably have a few unrealistic expectations from watching too many flawless Hollywood sex scenes.

New research has found that when it comes to sex, most of us are keeping it simple. According to a survey led by U.S. and Canadian sex therapists, most people believe that 7 to 13 minutes is the “desirable” amount of time to have sex, 3 to 7 minutes is “adequate,” and 10 to 30 minutes is “too long.” Thus, despite what we see reflected in silver-screen love scenes, real-life couples seem to appreciate the art of the quickie.

As they should. Quickies can be a healthy and important part of a couple’s relationship. Hardly anyone has the time or energy for marathon sex sessions every night of the week. Between full-time careers and child care responsibilities, quickies are sometimes the only way couples can have any intimate time. As long as couples still make time for the more extended and adventurous sex sessions at least once or twice a month, quickies can be a surefire way to keep the intimacy in the relationship alive.

Additionally, quickies not only fit into our schedules, they also fit into our physical gratification time frame. Research has found that most men take 7½ minutes on average to reach orgasm, while women take 20 minutes, so a quickie can be used to address each partner’s desires.

However, couples should beware not too place too much importance on the orgasm itself. The goal of sex is not necessarily to reach orgasm, and in my own national sex research I have found that most women are satisfied with intercourse if their emotional needs are met — regardless of how many orgasms they had or did not have.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that only 30 percent of women reach orgasm from intercourse alone. Most women need additional stimulation, either in the form of manual or oral stimulation, or even a little self-love. I always tell my clients that “an orgasm is an orgasm is an orgasm” and not to get caught up in the mechanism of how the orgasm was achieved. As long as both partners are having fun and enjoying the moment, there is no reason to feel pressure to achieve orgasm in a certain way.

No matter what HBO might tell us, sex is not always a wild, hair-pulling marathon session, especially for long-term, busy couples. As infatuation fades away and couples move into a committed, comfortable relationship, the urgency and intensity of intercourse naturally tends to decrease.

This doesn’t mean that couples should fall into a rut or let their sex lives become stale. However, it does mean that they should not always feel pressure to create fireworks each time they are intimate. A great sex life doesn’t require couples to try new moves every time they have sex.

A large portion of intercourse between long-term committed couples is “maintenance sex.” Maintenance sex is the type of sex couples have when it is the middle of the week, the kids are finally in bed, and they just want to be intimate quickly before they get some much-needed rest. Often times it isn’t the most romantic or mind-blowing sex, but it keeps both partners intimate and close with each other, and it allows for a quick release of stress and tension before bed.

Of course, this shouldn’t be the only type of sex couples have. When there is more time and privacy to devote to sex (such as on a date night when the kids are with a sitter), couples can devote more time to foreplay, explore new positions and be a little more adventurous.

A healthy sex life consists of a happy medium — quick, purposeful sex on those nights when it is a quickie or nothing else, and spicy, passionate sex on those nights when anything goes. And, remember, never base your sex life on the scenes you see in the movies. Hollywood might make sex look flawless and glamorous, but real couples have sex lives that are much more complicated and exquisite.

Dr. Laura Berman is the director of the in Chicago, a specialized health care facility dedicated to helping women and couples find fulfilling sex lives and enriched relationships. She is also an assistant clinical professor of OB-GYN and psychiatry at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University. She has been working as a sex educator, researcher and therapist for 18 years.