We asked a professional sex expert what sex myths students still get wrong.
Even though we’re adults with access to the internet, sex still seems to be a subject that holds tightly onto its taboo roots. So I went ahead and did the embarrassing work for you.
I asked Dr. Robin Milhausen, sexuality researcher and Associate Chair of the Department of Family Relations and Applied Nutrition at the University of Guelph what she thought about some common misconceptions. And more importantly, if she could set the record straight.
Not surprisingly, she has some very useful advice for all of us.
1. You can’t get pregnant on your period.
First of all, yes, having sex on your period is completely acceptable. And many professionals encourage it if you feel comfortable.
However, having sex while on your period does not completely eliminate the risk of pregnancy.
If you had a shorter cycle than usual, or you have a shorter cycle on average, you might be ovulating very shortly after your period.
Dr. Milhausen states, “It’s not likely that you would get pregnant if you had sex while you had your period, but it is possible. Ovulation occurs ON AVERAGE on day 14 of a female’s menstrual cycle. Your period takes place starting day 1 and might continue to day 7. If you had a shorter cycle than usual, or you have a shorter cycle on average, you might be ovulating very shortly after your period. And given sperm can live anywhere from 3 to 5 days – it’s conceivable that the sperm and the egg could meet and fertilization could occur.”
So if you want to have sex while on your period, use other forms of birth control, like condoms.
2. Condoms ruin sex.
No matter what anyone claims to feel, condoms should not, when used properly, prevent pleasure for any party involved.
“Based on thousands of participants, there was no difference in the pleasure rating for sex,”
According to Dr. Milhausen, “Results from two national studies, one in the US and one in Canada, asked participants a host of questions about the last time they had vaginal sex, including whether or not they used a condom and how pleasurable the encounter was. Based on thousands of participants, there was no difference in the pleasure rating for sex, depending on whether or not a condom was used.”
So there you have it, condom use is a safe, stress free, and pleasurable way to enjoy sex. Dr. Milhausen also explained that condom technology has come a long way, and many are now actually being designed with pleasure in mind.
She also feels it’s important to note that bad sex should never be blamed on the condom, but rather a multitude of other factors. Make sure you’re comfortable with your partner(s) and engage in foreplay to provide the best experience for everyone involved. Dr. Milhausen also notes, “The piece of mind that comes from having condom-protected sex can actually free people up to have better sex with less worry.”
3. It will always hurt the first time a woman has sex.
The simple answer for this one is, “hell no.”
The myth that women have some mysterious barrier to break the first time they have sex has been circulating for as long as I can remember. The fact of the matter is that pretty much everybody is awkward the first time they have sex, and it probably won’t be the mind-blowing experience that porn makes it out to be. But by no means should you expect to be in pain.
It comes from a longstanding history of discouraging women from being sexually active.
In A Hymen Epiphany written by Farrah Jarral, the myth of the hymen breaking, bleeding, and pain during a woman’s first sexual experience is broken down. It comes from a longstanding history of discouraging women from being sexually active. In the beginning of the article, Jarral states, “Despite the significant anatomical variation in the hymen and no guarantee that rupture or bleeding will occur at first coitus, it has come to hold major cultural significance around the world as a perceived biological indicator of virginity.”
If you haven’t had that first sexual experience yet, don’t be afraid of it. Make sure you’re comfortable with your partner, engage in foreplay, and use condoms. It takes effort from everyone involved to ensure that your sexual experience is pleasurable.
4. You should reach orgasm every time you have sex.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this probably won’t happen. Whether you identify as a man, woman, transgender or non-binary, it is very highly unlikely that you will reach orgasm every single time you have sex. In a perfect world, this could be true for everybody, but it’s not.
What does Dr. Milhausen think of this? “This would be wonderful and it’s lovely if you do. But research suggests that about 25% of women have an orgasm every time they have sex. The number is higher for men. Though I advocate for orgasm frequency and equality, I am also concerned about people having goal oriented sex. And worry about having an orgasm definitely becomes a distraction from focusing on pleasurable sensation and can then reduce the likelihood of orgasm happening at all.”
So when you’re embarking on the adventure of sexual activity, consider enjoying the journey rather than worrying about reaching a destination.
5. Shoe size and hand size correlate with penis size.
This one is false on so many levels. There is absolutely no scientific evidence to back this up, yet this myth still seems to circulate. Your penis size has nothing to do with your hand size, or your shoe size.
These are just the cold hard facts. Truthfully, the size of someone’s penis is nobody’s business but theirs. So it’s probably best if we stop guessing someone’s genital situation based off their public appearance.
6. Penis size matters.
While we’re on the topic of the penises, size does not affect someone’s ability to provide pleasure during sex. If you communicate with your sexual partner(s), you will be able to figure out what works for you.
Oral sex and sex toys are just a couple of examples.
And in the end if you feel like you’ve tried every possible position you can physically achieve, at every pace, and you’re not creating a pleasurable experience, there’s plenty of other options. Oral sex and sex toys are just a couple of examples. But it’s important to remember that whatever sexual experience you choose to create for yourself, it’s just as normal as everybody else.
7. Sex only counts if it’s penetrative.
To continue my above point, sex is sex.
At the end of the day, if you’re exchanging bodily fluids with someone, you’re passing a lot of bacteria back and forth.
Whether the sex you’re having is penetrative or not, it counts, and it’s a real sexual experience. It’s also important to note that just because you’re having sex that isn’t penetrative, doesn’t mean there’s no risk. At the end of the day, if you’re exchanging bodily fluids with someone, you’re passing a lot of bacteria back and forth. And you should always strive to have the safest sexual experience possible.
Do whatever works best and is most pleasurable for you and your sexual partner(s). Oral sex, manual sex, sex with toys, it’s all intimate, it’s all valid, and all of it can be amazing.
8. Men want/like sex more than women.
I’m sure we’re all familiar with the idea that men are known to be sex-crazed far more than women are. But this is not always the case. Dr. Milhausen states, “Men tend to report having higher sexual desire than do women. However, there are a lot of reasons for this. Men are socialized to express their sexual thoughts and desires. Whereas the sexual double standard leads to women being evaluated negatively for the same thoughts and actions.”
“Adopting gender-based stereotypes about sexual desire doesn’t actually help anyone.”
It’s likely that because of these long standing social constructs, this myth can still hold some truth. However, according to Dr. Milhausen it’s important to keep in mind that, “the gender difference may be true, on average. But there are many women with high desire and many men with low desire. Adopting gender-based stereotypes about sexual desire doesn’t actually help anyone. Better to talk it through with your partner on a one on one basis.”
9. Vaginas can “stretch out” from having a lot of sex.
The vagina is made up of muscle tissue, and holds up its elasticity.
It’s some bullshit the patriarchy came up with.
The myth that vaginas become “loose” when someone has a lot of sex is just designed to discourage women from having as much sex as they want. It’s some bullshit the patriarchy came up with. When you’re aroused, your body adjusts to prepare for expectant intercourse. Your vagina will naturally lubricate. The clitoris, vaginal opening, and labia become swollen. And after you have sex, your body naturally comes down off this high and returns to its original state.
So have as much sex as you want, because your vagina will be just fine.
10. Sex is/should be like porn.
Listen, porn is great, and it’s no surprise that people enjoy watching it. However, don’t forget that the people that you see on the screen are actors.
The sex that happens in real life doesn’t have an entire team dedicated to making sure you and your partner(s) look perfect.
As much as there’s likely some pleasure involved, being a porn actor is a job. And part of the job is playing up your experience so it translates on screen and turns other people on. The sex that happens in real life doesn’t have an entire team dedicated to making sure you and your partner(s) look perfect. You won’t get all of the angles right. It won’t be the amazing, erotic, cinematic experience that you’re expecting. It’s okay if you have sex that’s different from porn, because so does everybody else.
The only thing that matters is that your sex is safe, consensual, and pleasurable for you and your partners. Nobody is perfect, and things can definitely be awkward, embarrassing or uncomfortable. Always be comfortable talking about things with your partner(s), and with your doctor. If you’re unsure about anything, just ask.
*Opinions expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Student Life Network or their partners.