When it comes to our sex lives, what works for one couple will almost certainly feel different for another. There are numerous myths about sex. And because sex isn't something we tend to grow up talking about all the time, we don't always find out exactly what is fact and what is fiction.
That's why we've pulled together this list of some of the most common misconceptions about sex. So we can help you to recognize what's true and what's not.
FALSE It's one of the most common sex myths we hear: 'sex isn't sex if it doesn't involve intercourse'. This is 100% untrue. If intercourse becomes unachievable for a time, due to, for example, erectile disfunction or FSIAD - Female Sexual Interest / Arousal Disorder, it may feel like a huge issue, when a little shift in mindset can make a world of difference.
Intercourse is about intimacy and connection. Yes, that will usually involve touch, but that does not have to be intercourse. There are many other things you can do to build closeness. The more we can do to reframe our thinking around this, the better equipped we are if we face any sexual function issues in the future.
You might fancy intercourse, you might want to stick with foreplay. Either is fine, both can be fun. Sex is whatever you and your partner want it to be.
FALSE If we had a dollar for every time we said, "life is not like the movies, you know" we'd be so rich. But wouldn't it be lovely to be swept wildly off your feet by a bronzed demi-god with a dazzling smile and eyes only for you? Unfortunately, life's not like that. Reality is a little more school run followed by a 3-hour con call and a supermarket dash.
But that's OK, as long as you don't let passion take the back seat, and work to prioritize your partner when possible. Even if that means planning sex and creating time for connection. While some people balk at the idea of diarising intimacy, it can be fun. And you might find that the more sex you have on schedule, the more your sex drive calls out for the spontaneous kind.
FALSE If there's one thing we could change about the way people think about sex, it's this idea that orgasm during sex is the be all and end all. And that to fully enjoy the experience you need to orgasm at the same time. It's simply not true. The point of sex is to spend quality time together, to be in the moment and to connect emotionally on a deeper level. It shouldn't matter if one person finishes quickly and the other takes more time orgasming.
Just because one of you orgasms doesn't mean the session has to end. Try spending time on your partner and never make your partner feel like it's taking too long. Instead, relax and enjoy the sensations. The more you can both relax, the more enjoyment you'll have.
FALSE Related to the above, orgasm should never be the 'goal' of sex. Not only will that intense focus put pressure on achieving climax, you'll make it less likely to happen. And you'll lose much of the enjoyment that is there to be had throughout the process. The pleasure, connection and intimacy that can be built through physical touch and time devoted to one another.
Yes it's wonderful to experience orgasm. But there are many other wonderful facets of sexual activity that you might miss out on if you're only engaged in the pursuit of orgasm.
We talk about this more in the article, Does good sex need an orgasm, if you're interested.
FALSE It doesn't matter how long you have been together, you and your partner remain physically and sexually independent. You're not together because you're the same, it's the differences that attract us to a mate. It's what keeps things interesting.
In terms of sexual arousal, it's actually a good thing if you are in slightly different places. It suggests some flexibility. You're not reliant on one another to experience arousal, you can do so individually and together. And remember, rather than spontaneously becoming aroused, some people are more responsive when it comes to sexual desire. That means that while they may not be turned on as soon as their partner is, some gentle encouragement may do the trick.
You can find out more about how your libido works in this article.
FALSE Sex drive changes ALL the time. One day we might feel horny, while the next the idea of a long sex session couldn't be further from our minds. Physiological factors, what's going on in the world, our life stage and stress levels can impact our desire. It's natural to go through phases where the going is good, and dry spells where you might feel like you're beginning to lose some of your connection.
While it's important to keep an eye on what's going on to ensure you don't get out of the habit, don't be too fixated on sexual frequency. Over time, we may experience challenges but the good news is there's always the potential to bring the excitement back.
FALSE There is no 'right' number of times to have sex. In fact, it's unhealthy to compare your relationship to that of another couple. The amount and type of sex that you're having should suit you both, and that's all that matters.
Unfortunately, differences in incompatibility are common. And frequency of sex can be a common issue that contributes to this. If you experience a mismatch in desire or libido, this can cause problems over time. With one partner feeling bitterness and rejection that they're not getting what they need. While the other feels guilt and like there is something wrong with them.
If this is something that resonates with you and you'd like to explore the subject of sexual desire discrepancy, you'll find loads of information and support on our site
FALSE It is normal for erections to wax and wane throughout a sexual encounter. It's certainly not a sign of erectile dysfunction. Unfortunately, watching porn puts pressure on men to reach a level of performance that is unlikely to be achievable.
Sex is about spending time together, focusing on each other and building a connection. And that can happen with or without an erection. Did you know that for women, penile intercourse alone rarely leads to orgasm anyway? Perhaps, when you're experiencing a little down time, it's the perfect opportunity to spend time learning exactly what your partner enjoys and gets pleasure from outside of intercourse.
FALSE Did you know there are two aspects to human sexual arousal? Genital response, i.e. erection or vaginal lubrication, and then the feeling of arousal or desire. When a male has an erection, they are very likely to report feeling aroused, but for a woman the correlation is less clear. Vaginal lubrication does not always equal desire. In fact, several studies have found that men are significantly more sexually concordant that women(1).
But that doesn't mean that every time a male has an erection they want to have sex. People get aroused for a variety of reasons. It doesn't necessarily mean they want sex. Consent is an important part of a healthy sexual relationship.
FALSE There's a much-quoted stat that men think about sex every 7 seconds. We don't believe that. It's actually hard to find any specific studies on the subject. One 2012 study (2) looked at a subset of students at The Ohio State University. In a self-reported study, researchers found that young men thought about sex more often than young women - an average of 19 times per day versus 10 times per day. But they also thought about food and sleep a lot more.
The trouble is, this misconception that 'men always want sex' is unhelpful. It can mean that their sexual partners judge themselves if they are unable to turn their male partner on.
There are many reasons that can prevent people from becoming aroused, most of which are nothing to do with the relationship or individual in front of them. Want to know more? Try our articles on FSIAD - Female Sexual Interest / Arousal Disorder and HSDD - Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder.
So what do you think? Were there any sex myths in there that you didn't know?