sex math

Should You Really Have Sex 16,000 Times a Year?

Legs entwined bed.
Photo: AzmanJaka/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Have you ever wished you were having more sex? Okay, but have you ever wished you were having sex several dozen times a day? (Haha. Come back!)

On Monday, the New York Times published a widely shared op-ed about smartphone dependency, stating that Americans with smartphones are on them 1,460 hours a year — a figure which author Paul Greenberg contends is much too high. Greenberg then goes on to argue that these Americans could use that time better elsewhere, by, for instance, planting trees, reading, lobbying for voter reform, or, most importantly, having an obscene amount of sex.

To make a case for the last of these, Greenberg cites two studies about the negative relationship smartphone use and intimacy: one that concludes “smartphone dependency is significantly linked to relationship uncertainty,” and another that says 29 percent of Americans would rather give up sex for three months than let go of their smartphone for a week. To illustrate just how much our phone addiction has impacted our sex life, Greenberg imagines a world without them and attempts to entice you with an exhausting conditional: If you stopped using your phone for an entire year, you’d have enough free time to have sex a whopping 16,000 times.

At first blush, this number seems unreasonably high; when you do the sex math, it gets even worse. The Times doesn’t do a very good job of showing their work here, and would thus receive only half credit from most high-school math teachers, but here’s how they got that truly horrifying number: 1,460 hours a year = 87,600 minutes. 87,600 minutes/5.4 minutes (the average “lovemaking session” duration, apparently) = 16,222.22 instances of sex a year.

How can you fit all that in, you might ask? (Heh.) Let’s get a daily average.

16,000 instances of sex / 365 days = having sex 43.8 times every day of the year. So how much time would this take out of your day? According to the Times, the average American’s “lovemaking sessions” (gross) last approximately 5.4 minutes, not including the amount of time dedicated to foreplay, let alone the time needed for clean-up, basic survival needs, and periodic trips to the pharmacy to pick up UTI and yeast infection medicine from the constant intercourse you’re having. So, if you follow the Times’ suggestion:

43.8 daily rounds of sex x 5.4 minutes = 236.52 minutes, or 3.9 hours in which you and another person rub your chafed, raw genitals against one the other’s until … ??? How exactly are we determining the end of sex, here? Especially after nearly four hours??

Let’s go back to that 5.4 minutes figure — the amount of time “most Americans” have sex. We grew suspicious when we noticed that “not including foreplay” caveat, and the study that figure originally comes from confirms it: this only refers to the average duration of straight, P-in-V sex (or, as the study puts it, “intravaginal ejaculatory latency”), which finishes when the man does. Sad.

While the scientific establishment doesn’t know as much about non-heteronormative sex as P-in-V sex (about which, we’d argue, we know too much), a 2014 study found that women in sexual relationships with other women averaged 30 to 45 minutes a session. (Nice.) If we honor the Times’ mandated 43.8 sex rounds per day, that means those women would need to have sex between 1,315 and 1,971 minutes, or between 22 and 32.9 hours, every day, the upper end of which is impossible in our current time-space continuum. Which is honestly a relief, because having sex 16,000 times a year is way too many times. Not even John Mayer could keep up with that.

Should You Really Have Sex 16,000 Times a Year?