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Sex + Relationships

A Sexual Health Expert on the 5 Sex Myths You Need to Stop Believing

Sex is everywhere. It’s in the books you read, the shows you watch, the juicy stories you swap with friends, and it’s easily accessible on the internet. It’s easy to feel dazed thinking about the ins and outs of sexual activity, especially when culture is saturated with rumors and portrayals that might make the mechanics a bit confusing. Regardless of your level of sexual experience, education and knowledge is an invaluable tool that allows you to take control of your health and feel empowered. So, take a moment to get informed as I walk through five common sex myths.

Myth 1: Women don’t masturbate

Some people treat masturbation like a weird habit women just shouldn’t talk about. This is the perfect opportunity for a record scratch, because masturbation is not weird or gross. It’s a normal activity, and it’s actually pretty good for you. According to Planned Parenthood, masturbation reduces stress, releases tension, and it can even improve the quality of your sleep at night. Dr. Ramani Durvasula, a licensed clinical psychologist and health expert, says masturbation has a few additional benefits. “It gives a woman the opportunity to learn about her own body, experiment with arousal, and feel more in command of her sexuality,” she says. Whether you masturbate once a day, once a week, or once in a blue moon, remember that it is perfectly normal and there is nothing to be embarrassed about.

Myth 2: Sex is painful

Sex is not supposed to be extremely painful, even if it’s your very first time. The hymen, which is the thin tissue near the opening of the vagina, stretches open when a person has sex, and it may cause some discomfort the first time around. But let me say it again: There shouldn’t be any teeth-gritting pain when you first have sex. When a person is in pain during vaginal penetration, a sexual dysfunction is often at play, in which case, you should speak to your OB/GYN to work through the problem.

Sometimes, a lack of arousal is the culprit, and there’s an easy fix for it. Just be sure to engage in plenty of foreplay prior to penetration, and use lubricant if need be. It’s also important to only have sex if you feel ready, as anxiety surrounding your first time can contribute to pain during sex. “Issues like lubrication, relaxation, and feeling comfortable with being able to communicate can all enhance the first experience [and] minimize discomfort,” explains Dr. Ramani. 

Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

Myth 3: You can tell if a person is a virgin 

A tear in a person’s hymen doesn’t necessarily indicate that they’ve already had sex, because the hymen stretches open during many types of exercise or even when using a tampon. Honestly, who started this rumor? There is no way to definitively “prove” someone is a virgin.

Another thing: Virginity means different things to different people. Dr. Ramani says the “typical” definition of virginity is not the only definition. “People equate it with a first experience of insertive sexual intercourse. But so many of these definitions are heteronormative — not accounting for the first sexual experience a woman may have with another woman.” Although some people believe vaginal penetration is the only way to lose your virginity, others no longer consider themselves virgins after engaging in oral or anal sex.

Myth 4:  Some people are “too big” for condoms

No penis-owner is “too big” to wear a condom, no matter how big they claim to be. According to a study conducted by Indiana University, the average penis length is 5.57 inches, which is an inch shorter than the standard condom length. Also, consider the fact that a condom has enough stretch to fit over someone’s head or arm. If someone insists on not wearing a condom because they’re too big, or because sex feels better without one on, you have every right to not have sex with that person.

Myth 5: You can’t get pregnant if you have sex during your period

Pregnancy occurs when sperm comes into contact with an egg and fertilizes it, and this can technically occur at any stage of a menstrual cycle. While ovulation generally occurs about one to three weeks after the end of a person’s period, some people ovulate much sooner than that. Sperm can live for up to five days inside a person’s body after intercourse, so if someone begins to ovulate within those five days, they can possibly get pregnant. Even if you’re on your period, your best bet is to take preventative measures, such as using a condom or other forms of birth control, in order to prevent pregnancy.

When it comes to sex, knowledge is power. And no matter your sexual history, being able to discern the truth from the lies about sex will enable you to make the right decisions for your body.

Becca is a senior at Emory University studying English and Political Science. When she's not writing or stressing over homework, she can be found reading, rowing, or listening to Ed Sheeran on repeat.
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