9 Misconceptions About Sex, Debunked By Sexperts
There are a lot of misconceptions about sex out there. This is a result of a lot of different societal factors — like the fact that only 13 states in the U.S. require their sex ed to be medically accurate, and that there's a lot of shame surrounding open communication about sex. There's also sexism, homophobia, and heteronormativity to blame for a lot of myths when it comes to LGBTQ+ sex and women's bodies. No one can blame you for not being totally up to date on what's true and what's not.
When I first became sexually active, I had no idea that people with vaginas should pee after intercourse. As a result, I got a super painful urinary tract infection. I was upset that I didn't know something so important about sex that everyone else seemed to know instinctually. I later realized that plenty of people are in the dark about important sexual health information, which is why it's important to debunk some of the most common myths so that you can start having better, safer sex. Because the only thing that should be "tall, dark, and mysterious" about sex is your date — not your sexual health.
1. Pulling out from penetrative sex prevents pregnancy.
Pulling out refers to when the partner with a penis "pulls out" before they reach climax and ejaculate into the partner with a vagina. This method is also known as the "withdrawal method." According to sex therapist Dr. Stefani Threadgill, "Pulling out is not an effective method of birth control." However there are plenty of other options to try when it comes to contraceptive methods like condoms, female condoms, the Pill, and numerous others.
Pulling out can be effective if done perfectly every single time; however, that is an extremely difficult feat. According to Planned Parenthood, about 22 out of 100 women who use this method get pregnant every year — that's about one in five.
This method also fails to protect you from sexually transmitted infections. The good news is that pairing two methods — like condoms and withdrawal — can increase their effectiveness exponentially.
2. Queer sex between two women only includes oral sex.
There is a lot of mystery around sex in general, but queer sex between women is shrouded in even more misunderstanding. We have heteronormative pop culture representation to thank for this.
A common myth that I've heard very frequently in my own life is that queer sex between two women is limited to oral sex only. According to Dr. Threadgill, this is completely false. She explains, "Sex is a term that is defined individually for each person." That's an important concept to remember — sex is not limited to one specific act, and therefore, sex between two women can definitely include penetrative sex (with fingers or toys), anal sex, mutual masturbation and so much more.
3. Female ejaculate is actually just urine.
A popular misconception is that female ejacualtion, also known as "squirt", is simply urine. Dr. Threadgill debunks this myth by explaining, "Female ejaculate is a milky-white fluid that comes from the Skene’s glands (think female prostate) and released through the urethra during G-spot stimulation." The ejaculate is released through the same place you pee, but it's not the same thing as urine — it has a different texture, color, and smell.
4. Having vaginal sex with multiple people makes you looser.
Many people with vaginas have heard this widely-circulated myth. It's unfortunately based on slut-shaming ideology that encourages people with vaginas to have sex with fewer partners. The good news is that it's not true! Dr. Threadgill explains, "The vaginal walls relax in preparation for penetration and naturally tighten afterward. Vaginal muscles can fatigue and weaken as women age; however, Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles that surround the vagina, and can help to create the sensation of tightness."
That means that muscular looseness isn't caused by having multiple sexual partners, and that it's also a treatable problem.
5. It's gross to have sex on your period.
It's no wonder that period sex is sometimes cloaked in an element of mystery; people need to be more comfortable talking frankly about bodies. However as long as partners are consenting and comfortable, period sex is not shameful or gross at all. Sarah Watson, LPC and certified sex therapist, deems this myth false. "If you are not comfortable with this, then I wouldn't recommend it," she says. "If you are and just trying to please someone else by saying this, you might want to really consider your own feelings and figure out how to express them to your partner."
Overall, sex on your period, if you are comfortable, is totally normal, healthy, and even sexy (think: extra lubrication).
6. There's no way to have safe sex when both partners have vaginas.
There's an element of truth to this myth. There are fewer forms of barrier protection (think: condoms) for people with vaginas than there are for people with penises. According to Kate Moyle, psychosexual and relationship therapist, everyone can practice safe sex, regardless of their orientation.
Despite having fewer options, there are definitely still ways to practice safer sex with your partner. According to Moyle, If you and a partner are interested in barrier protection methods, dental dams and finger condoms are solid options. Dental dams are small sheets of latex or polyurethane used as a barrier between the mouth and genitals or anus which can act as a barrier to prevent the spread of infection. They can be ordered online or picked up from your nearest sexual health clinic or Planned Parenthood.
Moyle says, "If you are using sex toys, then make sure that they are cleaned between each use, and that they are cleaned before use with a new sexual partner." This is an important note because it's easy to forget that sexual health and protection methods extend beyond your body. Sex toys, like strap-ons or vibrators, are great additions to your sex life but they also need regular, thorough cleaning. (Here's how to clean your sex toys.)
Moyle says regular sexual health checks and STI testing are an integral part of safe sex. Sexual testing can range from symptom evaluation, urine samples, blood tests or cheek swabs. If you are worried about the medical professional being LGBTQ+ friendly, you or a friend could call in advance and ask about their practices. You can find specific STI testing clinics near you on Planned Parenthood's website.
7. Using a vibrator can de-sensitize your clitoris.
It makes sense to worry that what you do on your own could have an effect on the sex you have with a partner. However, when it comes to worrying about being de-sensitized by your vibrator, Watson explains, "It's just not true. It can be a heightened or different experience but you cannot de-sensitize your clitoris."
In case you were wanting more explanation for this myth, Moyle explains that your body can become adjusted to the sensation of a vibrator but it ultimately does not decrease sensitivity. She also explains, "It's a good idea to mix it up in terms of clitoral stimulation — with and without lube, using fingers, using a sex toy, partner’s touch, or oral sex." The reason that varying what you use for stimulation is good practice is to ensure that you understand how your body works and what best allows you to climax. It's also important to communicate with your partner about what works best for your body and to let them know that climaxing is something you want them to be invested in.
8. You can't have anal sex without pooping on your partner.
Anal sex is cloaked in a lot of mystery and taboo. And the myth of transferring fecal matter onto the penetrative partner is common. Albeit, the myth is common because it's partially true. While you can transfer fecal matter onto a partner, it doesn't mean you will every time or that you will poop on them. And there are definitely ways to do it that makes it safe, pleasurable and clean for everyone involved.
Moyle explains, "There are measures that can be taken to make anal sex a little less messy, but what’s important to understand is that where you are having anal sex is just the anal passage, so any fecal matter will just be residual but can still be transferred." Moyle also notes, "It's useful to empty your bowels before anal sex or you can use an anal douche or enema to rinse out the anal canal."
So yes, things could get a little bit messy but Moyle explains this distinction between pooping on your partner and a slight amount of residue.
9. You can't get pregnant during your period.
Last but not least, though it was debunked that period sex is definitely not gross — it won't prevent pregnancy. Watson says, "Sperm can live up to five days in your body. So depending on when you have penetration and when you start your period, you could get pregnant."
Moyle adds, "You aren’t at your most fertile when you are on your period, but that doesn’t mean that getting pregnant is impossible. This is because even with women who have very regular cycles there are windows of fluctuation so if sperm is present in the body, pregnancy could occur."
So there you have it. Nine myths that simply aren't true. There's always room to learn more about sexual health. These experts have shown us that one of the best ways to have better sex is to educate yourself on the subject.
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