Sex education doesn’t stop after you’ve graduated. While Sex Ed for teens is often prioritized by institutions, many full-grown adults could also benefit from comprehensive sex education, as many misconceptions are born from a lack of knowing enough about this vital topic. It turns out many folx have notions of what’s what when it comes to sex, but we’re here to talk about sex myths everyone thinks are true — and what the reality of the situation actually is.
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Sex Myth: Women want relationship sex, men want casual trysts
Women simply can’t enjoy sex for sex’s sake without getting their emotions all tangled up in the mix, while men have no issues pursuing hedonistic bliss.
The reality:It’s been more than 23 years (*gasp*) since Sex and the City and Samantha’s sexually-liberated libido finally put this myth to bed. Let’s settle on the fact that this was never actually a thing — as comforting and convenient as it may have been for some (men) to believe. While some research has indicated that men may be more receptive to flings, a deeper dive revealed that women were as up for no-strings-attached sex as men, provided that they felt safe in the situation and that they judged their partner to be competent. Because here’s the rub: men know they can orgasm even if the partner leaves halfway through the encounter, whereas women orgasm only 35 percent of the time with a first-time fling. High risk, and low reward makes this a logical outcome.
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Sex Myth: Being good in bed comes down to what you do during sex
To be deemed good in bed, it’s all about that bag of tricks you can pull out, in situ.
The reality:Sex and intimacy are about so much more than the actual act of penetration (in whatever form you prefer). It’d be a huge disservice to yourself and your partner(s) to sidestep all the things that prime us for the act itself — be it setting the right atmosphere, flirting or sexting in the lead-up — or whatever else lifts your luggage. Most people require at least these three things to be in the right mindset for sex: high trust, low stress and high affection. The best partners know that foreplay often starts long before any actual physical touching happens.
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Sex myth: You are either gay or straight
As each generation becomes increasingly educated, this binary way of thinking people are either straight or gay is finally starting to fade. This very heteronormative way of thinking is changing in many countries around the world.
The reality:There’s a whole spectrum of human sexuality and a popular method of describing it is The Kinsey Scale. While some folks identify as exclusively heterosexual or exclusively homosexual, research has proven there are many people that fall somewhere in between the two extremes. Gender and sexual orientation identity continues to evolve and understanding that can help make the world just a little more inclusive.
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Sex Myth: Chocolate and oysters are natural aphrodisiacs
Eating all manner of naturally occurring ingredients, from chocolate to pistachios and oysters can liven our libido.
The reality:This might be a mind-over-matter issue: no studies confirm oysters are aphrodisiacs, even if they do resemble our bits. Chocolate, on the other hand, may lower blood pressure, leading to cardiovascular health — which may indirectly help with erections. However, being turned on by these may also simply be a Pavlovian response to erroneous associations we’ve nevertheless made. In the end, whatever works.
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Sex Myth: On average, men think about sex every seven seconds
Men’s minds naturally wander to steamy thoughts every seven seconds — that’s an average of over 8,200 thoughts during a waking day.
The reality:The reality is actually far less stimulating... sexy thinking pops into men’s heads only about 19 times per day on average, according to one Ohio State University study. Note this was for students aged 18-25. To put this in perspective, thoughts about food occupied the mind 18 times. As for their female counterparts? Women reported an average of about 10 sexy thoughts per day, while they thought about food 15 times a day... This, however, may be due to the fact that females experience greater societal pressures to diet and struggle more with body-positivity.
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Sex Myth: Blackouts, storms and pandemics lead to a baby boom 9 months later
Guess what’s free, doesn’t require high-speed wi-fi or even electricity? Sex, of course! And so this myth was born. In times of social strife (COVID-19, we’re looking at you), people find other ways to keep the good times rolling. And, well, on the other end of those nine months, you get a little bundle of baby. Simple math, right?
The reality:Wrong! The so-called “Blackout Baby Boom” is a myth, according to a Duke University study. This is an urban legend that goes back to the New York blackout of 1965. However, what it fails to account for the many other circumstances that account for baby booms, including contraception, and the peak periods of the month when women are fertile, as well as the fact that even if a couple did conceive, not every pregnancy would result in a baby.
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Sex Myth: Sex burns major calories
Who needs actual cardio workouts when you can just bang it out? Celebs such as Khloé Kardashian include sex to be part of her fitness routine — and everything the Kardashians say is fact-checked gold, right?
The reality:Shockingly enough, sex burns significantly less calories than cardio activities like running. According to a study by the University of Montreal, dudes burn more than 100 calories — while women burn 69 calories during sex. Compare this to a half hour light run — where findings suggest women burn about 213 calories during a jog — more than double the calories burnt from sexy times. But, let’s be honest, rolling around with a lover is still a sweet way to burn some calories still — you’re just not burning quite as many as you’d like to be.
See also: The pros and cons of joining a threesome.
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Sex Myth: Sexting is just for horny college kids
Only kids send sexy messages, sultry selfies and other dirty digital acts. This is exclusively a post-secondary student thing — grown ups are mature and don’t participate in this kind of childish behaviour.
The reality:Sexting is real — and exchanging sexy messages and photos, digitally flirting and steamy video chats are a thing and anyone with access to the technology may take part in. But never forget: files are forever, while relationships can end. More importantly, receiving a sext or sexual seflie of/from anyone under 18 is generally illegal (and not OK). But engaging in sexty behaviour is cool between two consenting adults. It can make the work day move along quicker too.
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Sex Myth: Having a much-younger lover means mind-blowing sex
Getting it on with those much younger than us means they have energy and endurance — and this will result in earth-shattering sex.
The reality:While some folx are down for that sweet age gap love — there is no promise that having a younger lover will yield the positive results celebs like Priyanka Chopra Jonas may benefit from. Chemistry can vary from couple to couple — and it has little to do with how long someone has been on the planet. In fact, good sex has a lot to do with communicating — bettering both sex and the relationship as a whole.
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Sex Myth: Breakup sex is a terrible idea
It’s called a breakup because it’s broken and once we call it quits, we should not jump back in the sack with our ex. It’s a bad idea.
The reality:According to a study in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, breakup sex isn’t such a big deal — researchers found that the sexy act post-relationship didn’t actually hinder folx from moving on from their ex lovers. The Wayne State University’s study’s lead author suggests that even if you have residual feels for the ex and you hook up — it’ll have zero effect on your ability to move on.
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Sex Myth: A penis needs to be large in order for your partner to have a satisfying sexual experience
Size matters — and a big penis promises a super satisfying experience in the sack. That’s the key to an awesome sexual experience.
The reality:Not only can it be complicated to deal with a bigger-than-average penis, but there is no promise that your sexual experience will be satisfying one. Let’s be honest, for women, the formula involves the right amount of friction and stimulation of the clitoris — which doesn’t even require a phallic device. Good sex is about intimacy, great chemistry and doesn’t hinge on specific genitalia. While intercourse can lead to different kinds of orgasms, there is no promise that size will be a benefit. But never forget: studies suggest lesbians orgasm more than straight women. So, no penis, big or small, is necessary for a satisfying sexual experience.
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Sex myth: You can get pregnant in a hot tub without having sex
Without intercourse involved, rumours suggest it’s possible to get pregnant in a hot tub. Some believe that if a cis-male ejaculates in a small pool of water (like a hot tub), that the tiny sperm may travel to reach the vagina and result in pregnancy. This myth has been debunked by Planned Parenthood and was even brought up in the first season of Glee when Finn believed he got Quinn pregnant by kissing her in a hot tub.
The reality:The result of pregnancy is not only highly unlikely — in most cases, it’s not even at all possible. The temperature in a hot tub is too high for the lil sperms to even survive. Having intercourse in a hot tub or any body of water, however, presents possibility...
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Sex myth: All women experience orgasms through intercourse
And it may be exactly this kind of thinking that speaks to why so many women don’t have orgasms. Many studies focusing on heterosexual relationships have found that while about 95 per cent of men report orgasms in sexual encounters, only 50 to 70 per cent of women get there.
The reality:While vaginal intercourse can lead to orgasm (enough clitoral stimulation from friction) for some women, many need more attention on and around their clitoris. While orgasm-inducing nerves are on the head of the penis for cis-men, those nerves live in the clitoris for women — and intercourse doesn’t always provide enough stimulation for cis-women. Many men have it in their head that their performance during intercourse should result in a female orgasm when the reality is many women require more stimulation. Pro-tip: hands, cunnilingus, vibrators and other devices to stimulate the clitoris will help more women achieve the female orgasm.
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Sex myth: Saying “yes” once to sex means always yes
Some believe by giving consent to a partner once means you’re contractually bound to always engage in sexual acts. If you can believe it, there are also folks that think just because you’re married, you’re required to say yes to sex.
The reality:No, no, no — this is not a thing. Every sexual encounter requires consent. Consent is freely given, it’s reversible, it’s a personal decision and it needs to happen every single time for sex to be consensual. “Without consent, sexual activity (including oral sex, genital touching, and vaginal or anal penetration) is sexual assault or rape,” explains Planned Parenthood. No means no. Yes is specific. If you’re not sure, you need to ask. Consent is sexy.
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Sex myth: All lesbians scissor
The sexual act is also known as “tribbing” — and people sometimes make the mistake of assuming that all lesbians partake in the activity. While some lesbians do enjoy the act that has been made popular by television shows like South Park and Glee — other shows like Orange is The New Black call out the fact that scissoring isn’t always a thing.
The reality:We’ve talked about stereotypes before and understand that an oversimplified way of explaining a complex group of people is always problematic. While some lesbians are down with scissoring — not all lesbians do the thing.
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Sex Myth: Having sex while pregnant will cause you to go into labour
While this is a common tactic recommended to full-term patients even by midwives and obstetricians, it doesn’t necessarily bear weight (see what we did there?) The argument goes that an orgasm triggers a rush of feel-good hormones, including oxytocin — which plays a role in social bonding and putting your body on notice that it’s got a freeloader to evict (however cute they may be).
The reality:Here too, a recent study from Ohio State University Medical Center shows that expectant women who were sexually active carried their babies slightly longer than those who weren’t having sex — a total of 39.9 weeks versus 39.3.
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Sex Myth: Sex will affect your sports performance
Coaches have been known to warn against players having sex before big games or competitions. The idea behind the myth is that pleasures of the flesh would subdue athletes' focus and aggression (even testosterone), post-coitis. The myth has ancient origins and can be traced to Ancient Greece and Chinese medicine. By contrast, the lack of sexy time would increase frustration and boost energy.
The reality:A recent meta-analysis (study of other studies) debunks this, and even concludes sex can do the body (and your sport spirit) good.
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Sex Myth: Women take longer to get aroused than men
The analogy that women are like Crockpots, men are like microwaves when it comes to getting turned on has been tossed around for some time. The idea is that men are always ready to go, while women 'need to be in the mood'.
The reality:There is absolutely no difference in how quickly the genders respond to foreplay as a generalization, according to a study out of McGill University. The researchers relied on thermal imaging to determine peak arousal, rather than self-reporting. Being “in the mood” is linked to stress and is as much psychological as it is physical, so for those finding it hard to get - ahem - into it may mean learning how to shift your focus onto things that get you going mentally.
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Sex Myth: Sex and intercourse mean the same thing
You haven't had sex if there was no penetration.
The reality:Intercourse at its core simply means penetration. Sex, on the other hand, is a broader term that includes a wide variety of sexual acts, and can hold an emotional component. Confusing these two can be detrimental to couples who are facing additional challenges, such as painful sex, past trauma or erectile dysfunction. You can, in fact, be having sex without penetration, and yes, it counts.
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Sex Myths: You should be able to tell if someone has an STI
The belief is that someone who has a sexually transmitted infection would have visible symptoms.
The reality:This myth is just one more reason sex education is so critical early on; some sexually transmitted infections are not reversible, and the fallacy of this belief can have lasting and life-altering consequences. (STIs is a broader term than sexually transmitted diseases.) Many STIs do not show outward symptoms (HPV, gonorrhea, chlamydia) in a carrier, or may only show up down the road, so don’t make the mistake of thinking your ocular pat-down is enough to protect you. This stands true even when you’re in a committed relationship. HIV and STIs were in fact two of the most common health concerns in Canada for 2019.
See also: Celebs known for having the best sex lives.
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Sex Myth: A woman’s vagina can reveal how many partners she’s had
If a woman has a broken hymen she is no longer a virgin, and the looser her vagina, the more partners she's had.
Reality:This myth is so problematic, it can be difficult deciding what to tackle first, but let’s start here: the virginity test. In our not too distant past (and even present), when a to-be-bride’s virginity needed to be vetted before she wed, someone (often a man) would check for a broken hymen (the skin covering the vaginal opening). This is based on the flawed assumption that it can only be broken by sexual intercourse. Such arbitration would hold consequence on the female in question, for all the wrong reasons. By extension, still today, a common misconception is that a ‘loose vagina’ has seen a lot of action. How tight or loose a vagina feels depends on each woman’s genetics and the fit between her and her partner. This organ is incredibly elastic (as evidenced by its ability to accommodate the passing of a baby).