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When it comes to sexual stamina, it’s time to stop pressuring men to last longer in bed.

I have rarely slept with a man who didn’t later feel compelled to offer some sort of post-coital apology for the brevity of the session. While I’d like to take this trend as a personal compliment, I’ve come to suspect it has less to do with me and any sexual prowess I hoped it may signify, and much more to do with still-pervasive stereotypes and detrimental rhetoric surrounding male sexuality.

It’s a classic gag common in movies and TV: The woman remarks, “That was fast,” followed by her humiliated costar’s defense of “This never happens.” So, it’s no wonder the exchange has become all but unavoidable in real life, too. Apparently, this tired joke is still good for some laughs, but it starts to lose its shine when you consider the real impact these stereotypes have on men and their sexual confidence.

According to a study cited in “Women’s Health,” 30 percent of men report being dissatisfied with how long they last in bed. Women may have the monopoly on victimization at the hands of unrealistic standards, but men are struggling against their own set of stereotypical attitudes and unfair expectations.

These stereotypes don’t just come from tongue-in-cheek references and sitcom punchlines. From porn to sex columns, media aimed at both men and women touts sexual stamina as the ultimate measure of virility, and both men’s and women’s magazines offer countless articles on “How to (Make Your Man) Last Longer in Bed.” Increasing duration is the holy grail for men that weight loss is for women, and just as there is no end of fad diets and detox smoothies marketed at women’s insecurities, men face a constant influx of tips, tricks and supplements that promise to prolong their sessions.

Between the media and big pharma, men are all but encouraged to feel inadequate in bed, and, by all accounts, it seems to be working. This rhetoric is harmful, outdated and, in the midst of the sex-positive movement, simply unacceptable. Rejection of this tired stereotype is long overdue, and it’s time to get some of this insecurity out of the bedroom.

Gym Class Isn’t the Most Stressful PE Anymore

That is not to say anxieties about sexual stamina are entirely the result of a toxic societal Kool-Aid of unrealistic standards and capitalist greed. Premature ejaculation is a real condition, of course, which only makes the “That was fast” gag in movies and television all the more deplorable.

However, according to the same “Women’s Health” article, most of the men who reported dissatisfaction with their stamina did not actually meet the criteria for premature ejaculation. According to the magazine, “This could point to the fact that even healthy men may wish they lasted longer in bed.”

While there is nothing wrong with a man wanting to “enhance” his sexual performance for the sake of his partners’ pleasure or his own, it becomes a problem if men are consistently walking away from sexual encounters with feelings of guilt, shame or inadequacy, particularly if their sexual ambitions are motivated more by societal expectations or perceived notions of normalcy than their own desires.

Slow and Steady Doesn’t Always Win

I don’t know who started the rumor that long sex automatically equals good sex. As the introduction to “Cosmopolitan’s” sex stamina training guide admits, “amazing-and-short sex is almost always preferable to awful-but-long banging.”

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While that “Cosmo”-fession does some work to subvert the stereotype, women preferring shorter sessions in bed isn’t always just a matter of wanting to get it over with. Some women legitimately prefer the wham-bam experience, for a variety of reasons. Whether they get off on the ego boost of making a guy lose it as quickly as possible, they’re focusing on his orgasm and don’t want him waiting for them or they’re just busy and happen to be squeezing him into their schedule during a thirty-minute lunch break, there are all kinds of women in all kinds of scenarios who may be looking for a sprint, not a marathon.

Like pretty much everything in sex, there is no one-size-fits-all regulation when it comes to duration, no matter how helpful that would be. As always, it comes down to what a specific partner wants in a specific situation. Everyone and every sexual encounter is different, and while you may not always hit the mark every time, there’s no reason to automatically assume your partner was expecting, or even hoping for, a longer session.

If You’re Worried About Being Selfish, You’re Probably Not Selfish

A related stereotype that men face in the bedroom is the pervasive accusation of selfishness. Yes, the orgasm gap is a real thing, but it may have a lot less to do with “selfishness” and a lot more to do with biological differences between male and female orgasms. Basically, men and women just come differently. According to “Cosmo,” some experts estimate that up to 70 percent of women can’t orgasm from penetration alone. For many women, no amount of banging is going to get them there, no matter how long a guy can last.

Again, sex is all about communicating and balancing your partner’s needs with your own. If a woman tells you sex just isn’t going to do it for her this time, go ahead and have your orgasm, then let her help you figure out how to repay the favor. Any woman who accuses you of being “selfish” for getting off before her is just plain rude, especially if you’ve shown concern for her pleasure as well.

Unrealistic standards in the bedroom are nothing new, but often, women are thought to be the ones made to feel inadequate. It turns out that men aren’t immune to insecurities between the sheets either. Hey, they may be living in a patriarchal society of their own making, but it doesn’t make them immune to its pressures, which include detrimental notions of virility and masculinity.

Buzzwords aside, sex would be better for everyone if they left their insecurities at the door before climbing into bed, and unless you’ve hurt or offended your partner, there’s no need to apologize after sex. Nice guys finish first, last and sometimes even in sync with their partners, according to some urban legends.

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Kayla Kibbe

Connecticut College

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