In part because many people don’t receive any kind of comprehensive or meaningful sex education, myths about sex are rampant.
People believe things they see in porn, or hear from friends, or read about on social media, and there’s never a proper occasion for these mistruths to get fact-checked.
Which, unfortunately, can have serious consequences, because the decisions we make around sex can have lasting physical and psychological effects.
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In order to help debunk some all-too-common sex myths, AskMen turned to a handful of sexual and medical experts. Here’s what they had to say:
Myth: Sex Positions Impact Your Chances of Pregnancy
For some reason, people seem to believe that your choice of sex position can have an impact — positive or negative — on the outcome of vaginal penetration sex leading to a pregnancy.
„You absolutely can get pregnant in the cowgirl position, and any other position in which a penis is in a vagina, for that matter,“ says SKYN Condoms‚ sex and intimacy expert and author Gigi Engle. „Sperm swim whether you’re straddling your partner, standing up, or doing somersaults.“
In fact, she notes, sperm „can live inside the body for up to five days.“
On the flip side, says Justin Dubin, MD, a South Florida-based urologist and men’s health specialist at Memorial Healthcare System, as well as a co-host of the Man-Up Podcast, there aren’t positions that increase your chances, either.
„Often with couples trying to conceive, the process of timed and scheduled intercourse can cause the act itself to be more stressful and less fun,“ he says. „Throwing another wrench in like forcing upon yourselves a specific position just isn’t ideal.“
Then, Dubin notes, „people engaging in sex who think a specific position increases chances of conceiving may avoid that position altogether because they don’t want to have a child at that time. No reason to deprive yourself of that position and sexual experience, because at the end of the day, the truth is that no sex position increases chances of conceiving.“
Myth: Men Have More Sexual Urges Than Women
Gender is not the most useful way to break down sexual desire. Women’s desires may not get the same amount of airplay that men’s do — and they may feel compelled to keep quiet about them due to the „slut-shaming“ mentality that many societies still have — but that doesn’t mean they don’t experience intense and meaningful sexual desire.
And the flip side, of course, is that men also experience periods of low desire, and some men — for instance asexual or demisexual men — experience little to no sexual desire or attraction at all.
„Though many men would have you believe they’re ready to go 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the truth is that men experience daily fluctuations in libido, as do women,“ wrote the urologist Dr. Barry Buffman in a prior version of this article. „A man’s readiness to hop in the sack can be impacted by many of the same factors that impact a woman’s level of desire, including diet, sleep, health, stress, medical conditions, self-confidence, and relationship disharmony.“
Myth: Penetration is a Necessary Requirement for Sex
For many people, the word „sex“ means „a penis going inside a vagina.“ It’s understandable, but that leaves out an incredible amount of the sex that actually goes on between humans, from anal sex to handjobs and fingering to cunnilingus and blowjobs, to things like sexting, video sex, mutual masturbation and more.
„This ignores the many many ways to sexually engage with your partner(s) beyond penetration,“ says Stephen Quaderer, CEO of ThotExperiment and creator of Headero, „many of which (like oral, or playing with toys or fingers) can yield more satisfying orgasms than penetrative sex (particularly for people with vaginas).“
The myth that sex necessitates penile penetration, Quaderer says, “ originates from a patriarchal understanding of sex — namely that penis-in-vagina sex is synonymous with sex — because it privileges the pleasure of the person with the penis.“
Myth: Vaginas Get Loose if You Have Too Many Partners
If you pay attention to people discussing sex, there’s often a focus on the „tightness“ or „looseness“ of women’s vaginas, where having a tight one is seen as a better thing, and having a loose one is a product of having been stretched out from intercourse with too many penises.
„This is completely untrue,“ says Engle. „An article from Psychology Today describes female anatomy in an excellent visual way that I cite on the regular. Think of it as ‚a hand towel stuffed inside a thick sock squeezed by two hands,‘ where the sock is the vagina, the towel is ‚the folded muscle tissue of the vaginal wall,‘ and the hands are the pelvic floor muscles surrounding the vagina. Vaginal muscle tissue is very elastic, and no penis is going to make it ‚looser,‘ as some slut-shamers like to claim.“
Myth: Penis Size Matters
Speaking of which, part of the reason that myth remains popular is because men have a fixation on penis size. There’s the perception that in order to please your partner, you need to have a big penis, and that having a big penis means you’re a real man or a great lover. But taking into account the fact that most people with vaginas orgasm from clitoral stimulation, not penetration by itself, that’s all false.
„Even if every guy you know can probably tell you exactly how big his penis is, size is not a barometer for manhood,“ wrote Dr. Buffman. „As anyone with sexual experience knows, true sexual enthusiasm far outweighs any gifted parts. And contrary to another popular sex myth, the size of your member has nothing to do with the size of your hands or feet.“
Myth: Masturbation is Harmful to Your Health
You might not have been told the once-popular outlandish claims that masturbating would make you go blind, or cause you to grown hair on your palms, but if you’ve ever heard of „No Nut November“ or the „NoFap Challenge“ then you’re familiar with the myth that masturbation can be bad for you.
This „is an old-school sex myth that’s made an unfortunate ‚comeback‘ in recent years,“ says Quaderer. „According to this myth the ‚reasons‘ that masturbation is harmful run a wide range, from reducing sexual sensitivity (it doesn’t — quite the opposite, studies show) to encouraging ‚antisocial‘ behavior.“
„In fact, multiple clinical studies have shown that masturbation has a multitude of health benefits — including reduced stress levels, benefiting our sleep, and keeping our sexual organs in tip-top shape (including reducing the risk of prostate cancer).“
These days, people seem to think practicing semen retention „will improve your testosterone levels, your hair, your skin, and your focus,“ says Dubin. „This is completely incorrect. There is no data supporting any of these claims. In fact, ejaculation has many benefits, including reducing stress and you should not deprive yourself in hopes that your health will benefit from it.“
And regardless of whether you ejaculate or not, „masturbation makes orgasms better, not worse, because they put you in touch with your body and teach you what turns you on,“ says Engle. „If you don’t know what makes you come, how can you expect your partner to figure it out?“
Myth: Having Sex Can Impact a Sports Performance
Perhaps one of the reasons people propagate myths about masturbation is the feeling of post-coital relaxation — a feeling of tiredness or drowsiness that comes after orgasm. It can feel weirdly vulnerable to lose all your energy like that, even though it’s a temporary feeling that typically only lasts very briefly.
Undoubtedly, however, that factor plays into the myth that sex can impede your performance in other areas of life.
„We always hear about athletes telling reporters that they hold off on sexual activity when training,“ says Dubin. „The story usually goes that the athlete didn’t have sex for at least a few days or weeks before they have to play with the goal of maximizing their energy and focus.“
However, he notes, „holding off on sex isn’t going to make you train better or perform better, no matter if your activity requires aerobics or strength.“
„Of course, timing is everything,“ Dubin admits, „and when I say no impact before a performance I mean within reason — I would not recommend you engage in sex within two hours of your sport event; it does take energy and you still need time to recover. But overall, no need to deprive you or your partner of sex while training for a sports event.“
Myth: Great Sex Comes Naturally
„The physical chemistry you see on TV and in the movies suggests that when two lovers meet, sparks fly and mind-blowing sex naturally follows,“ wrote Dr. Buffman. „In the real world, it’s not always that easy. The human body doesn’t come with an instruction manual. The ‚tricks of the trade‘ that pleased a former partner do not always translate with someone new.“
„Good communication is the key to good sex,“ Buffman added, „as is a willingness to be open to trying new techniques and positions to find out what each partner finds pleasurable. It can be a little awkward at first to over-communicate during sex, but think about the outcome: a partner who knows how to do it right every time.“
Myth: Most Sex Workers Are Troubled
„It’s a common belief that most sex workers are troubled and dissatisfied with our careers“ says Mia Lee, escort, sex worker and CFO of Petit Mort magazine. „In fact, it’s uncommon for most civilians (what we call non-sex workers) to even conceptualize sex work as a career. Furthermore, the conflation of sex work with sex trafficking and the portrayal of all sex workers as victims of some sort is certainly a myth.“
„Sex workers are not a monolith, just like women, bankers, doctors, or janitors,“ Lee says. „Some of us are highly paid and highly fulfilled with our careers (such as myself). Some of us are working just for the money, and while considering the work fully consensual, do not enjoy our work. It’s a job at the end of the day, and many many people dislike their jobs.“
To put it in perspective, Lee says, it’s worth considering that she „had many days, weeks and months during my 12-year finance career where I hated my job and did not want to go to work. But I needed the money and experience, and if I wasn’t a victim then, working 80 hours a week, I’m certainly not a victim now, working 30 hours a week.“
Myth: P.E. and E.D. Are Age-Related
„Some men do find that premature ejaculation begins at the onset of sexual maturity, but plenty of men also find it to be an issue later in life,“ Dr. Buffman wrote. „In fact, premature ejaculation affects 30% of men at sometime in their lives. Often, early ejaculation in men who are in their 30s or older is a co-symptom of erectile dysfunction or fatigue, poor cardiovascular conditioning, depression, anxiety, or neurological symptoms.“
Myth: After a Certain Age, Sex is No Longer Important
You might not see it in movies — or porn — or hear about it, if you’re still a younger guy, but yes, older people do have sex.
„Sex is an important aspect of physical and emotional health and well-being for adults of all ages, even those in their golden years,“ Dr. Buffman wrote. „While some people believe that a decrease in libido is a natural part of aging, a loss of sexual desire can be related to a number of other factors, including hormone deficiencies, depression, anxiety disorders, side effects of medication, changes to a relationship, communication barriers, or loss of a spouse or partner.“
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