Few of us learn much about sex in school or from our families, so instead, we grow up taking in a bunch of myths about sex either from porn, from the media, or from people around us who are just as uneducated. By the time people end up going to sex therapy, these myths have often caused problems in their relationships. So, sex therapists perhaps know better than anyone else what myths are out there that need debunking.
"Basic anatomy and sexual health information is severely limited amongst many clients, which dramatically impacts intimacy," Angie Gunn, LCSW, sexuality expert at Talkspace, tells Bustle. "How long does it take the female genitals to become erect/engorged and aroused? Can a non-erect penis reach climax? Where is the G-spot and what is squirting? These and many more important questions speak to a lack of basic sexuality education and information that can dramatically improve sex."
I asked sex therapists about the biggest sex myths their clients bring into their offices. Here are their responses, as well as some information that will hopefully correct these misconceptions and help people base their sex lives on accurate information. Knowledge is power, as they say — and it's also necessary for a great sex life.
1. Sex = Penis In Vagina
Penis-in-vagina intercourse may be the first act that comes to mind when you think of sex, but it's only one of many.
"The most common myth I hear about sex is anything other than penis insertion into a vagina isn't sex," LGBT expert and sex and relationship expert Kryss Shane tells Bustle. "Not only is this heteronormative, it is dangerous. Discounting the sexual experiences of same-sex pairs creates secretive actions and it underlines to the partners that they are not accepted, which can result in internalized homophobia. In addition, not identifying sex correctly can cause individuals not to act with full awareness of the risks they are taking emotionally and physically."
2. Everybody Else Is Doing It
It always seems like the people around you are having more sex than you... but they could be thinking the same thing about you. "I will hear from my clients that they feel that everyone around them is having more sex than they are, when in reality, many people are not honest about their sex lives generally, let alone how often they have sex," licensed mental and sexual health therapist Erika Miley tells Bustle.
3. The Longer Sex Lasts, The Better
Based on all the last-longer-in-bed products and articles out there (and all the songs that rave about having sex "all night long"), you'd think everyone always wanted hours-long sex marathons. In reality, that can get really tiring really fast, and plenty of people are satisfied with shorter sessions.
"Not everyone wants to last longer in bed," Astroglide's resident sexologist Jess O'Reilly tells Bustle. "The average duration of intercourse, for example, is only a few minutes — you don’t have to have marathon sex every time. Research suggests that men who have sex with women tend to desire longer duration of intercourse than women, and this may be tied to their perception that their female partners want it to last longer. Porn may play a role in shaping this perception, and it’s important that you get feedback from your partner — you may believe they want you to last longer during intercourse when in fact, they may not."
4. "Vaginal Orgasms" Are Superior To Clitoral Ones
Women are made to feel that if they don't orgasm through vaginal penetration, they're not only abnormal — they're missing out on the pinnacle of sexual pleasure. But neither of these things are true. Only about a quarter of women orgasm through penetration alone, and many actually report preferring clitoral orgasms.
The kicker is that there's not even such a thing as a purely "vaginal orgasm" because you can't stimulate the vagina without also stimulating the clitoris.
"Vaginal orgasms are not invariably distinct from clitoral ones, and there is a great deal of overlap between these interconnected erogenous zones," says Jess. "The vagina and clitoris are not only close neighbors, but are, in fact, connected by a number of nerve pathways and muscular structures. The corpora cavernosa of the clitoris, which are two sponge-like tubes that form the erectile tissue of its body. are located around the vaginal canal." That means every orgasm is a clitoral orgasm.
5. First-Time Intercourse Has To Be Painful
Sayings like "pop her cherry" make first-time intercourse sound physically painful for those with vulvas, but it doesn't have to be. Painful sex is usually the result of things you can prevent, like tension, inadequate arousal, or overly deep penetration.
"Sex should feel good (unless you want it to feel painful, which is fine, but that’s a whole other topic) regardless of whether it’s your first or 50th time," says Dr. Jess. "If you’re having penetrative intercourse and it’s painful, I suggest you stop, pull back, and get more turned on so that your muscles relax and your mind is more at ease before trying again. You’ll also want to use as much lube as you’d like to keep things nice and slippery."
6. Men Want Sex And Women Want Love
This stereotype isn't only sexist; it's untrue. "Research suggests that men desire affection, cuddling, and foreplay as much as women," says Dr. Jess. "They're happier in their relationships when they cuddle with their partner more frequently, and sexual satisfaction rates are higher in committed relationships. ... They may be less likely to express emotions due to cultural prescriptions entrenched in gender expectations, but research with brain activity and other physiological responses suggests that their experience of emotional response is just as intense."
7. Porn-Viewing Is A Slippery Slope To Addiction
Cultural fear-mongering around porn has led to the misconception that it's addictive, when in reality, it's rare for someone's porn usage to actually reach destructive levels. "Folks constantly contact me about 'sex addiction' and 'porn addiction,' thinking it is a recognized diagnosis when they definitely are not," sex researcher and Liberos founder Nicole Prause tells Bustle. "Usually, it is an accusatory my-horrible-spouse presentation, which, to me, shows the damage that myth is doing to relationships."
8. You And Your Partner Have To Want The Same Amount Of Sex
Adam & Eve's resident sex therapist Jenni Skyler tells Bustle that discrepancy in sex drives is the most common issue she comes across. However, it rarely spells the end of a relationship. "Most couples have a desire discrepancy," says Skyler. "For healthy couples that communicate well, this is a simple negotiation."
9. Once You Get Aroused, You Should Stay Aroused
Some people feel embarrassed if they stop getting hard or wet in the middle of a sexual encounter. But the truth is, people aren't microwaves you can turn on for however long you want with the push of a button. "Arousal naturally ebbs and flows," says Skyler. "Blood flow to the body, to the nipples, chest, and genitals vacillates throughout foreplay and even in more definitive erotic activities. Sometimes we get interrupted by a phone, a dog, a kid, or a noise. It's normal for arousal to ebb and flow versus climb exponentially."
If these are all myths, then what's the truth? That varies from person to person, so the only real way to know is to talk to your partner about their personal desires, preferences, and boundaries — and share your own with them.