As someone who’s written about sex for more than three decades (yes, that old!), I find it rather depressing that some of the sex myths that were kicking around when I was studying psychology at university are still widely believed today.
Here’s six, stubborn commonly believed ‘facts’ about sex that have absolutely no basis in reality at all.
Good sex is spontaneous and happens naturally
Nothing makes me more annoyed when people say to me, “Sex should be spontaneous and happen naturally. If you have to plan things and make an effort, you’re with the wrong person”.
This type of thinking isn’t just naïve and immature, it makes people question perfectly good, happy relationships.
When you’ve been living with someone for ten years, it’s highly unlikely you’ll suddenly pass them on the stairs, be overcome with spontaneous lust, rip their clothes off and have your wicked way right there and then. Good sex in long-term relationships is very often planned sex with both partners making a huge effort.
These couples make time for sex, put it top of the priority list not bottom, are curious about sex and open to finding new things to do together.
They compliment each other sexually, know exactly how their partner likes being touched but also that preferences change in a heartbeat, so it’s essential to be able to talk and read body language.
‘Making an effort’ is a decidedly unsexy, dreaded phrase. But if you do make an effort, the result is seriously good sex.
Sex is much better when you’re young
Ask Dame Helen Mirren for her opinion on this one.
At 72, she describes her sex life as ‘great, just wonderful’ compared to the ‘paranoid and empty’ sex she had when young.
One Relate survey found during our supposed ‘peak’ sexual years – our 30s for women (based on peaking estrogen levels) – most couples are so busy dealing with kids, mortgages and careers, sex is largely ignored or a source of stress rather than pleasure.
Sexual confidence, according to this and other surveys, truly appears to peak between the age of 60 and 69. Another 2015 study found around 54 percent of men and 31 percent of women in their 70s and 80s have sex at least twice a month.
Not just for the young then.
People stop watching porn once they’re in a relationship
I get a lot of emails from people saying they’re deeply upset that their partner is still watching porn and masturbating when they could have “the real thing”.
But watching porn in private – often indulging a ‘secret’ turn on that perhaps we don’t want to share with a partner – is something lots of people enjoy as well as sex with their partner.
They are two different experiences, both enjoyable.
So masturbating solo doesn’t mean your partner’s not completely satisfied with the ‘real’ sex you’re having together.
Lots of people also satisfy a higher sex drive through masturbating rather than hassle their partners for more sex than they want to have.
Men feel like sex all the time
Society gives a nod to female desire fluctuating throughout the month, partly to do with hormone changes and menstruation.
But both men and women have certain times of the day, week or month when they feel like sex more – or not at all.
What he’s eaten, how much sleep he’s had, his general health, stress levels, how well you’re both getting on, low self-confidence, medication, how much he’s had to drink: the same factors that affect our libido, affect his as well.
Sex should be great every single time
Some people are sexual perfectionists, waiting for the perfection conditions to have good sex (both free, both horny, both having great hair and body days, no kids around, one glass of wine in, both relaxed etc) and expecting perfect performances every time (both adoring every single thing you do to each other, both having an orgasm, preferably together).
A healthier, more realistic model for sex looks like this.
For every ten sex sessions, it’s likely four will be OK, four will be good, one will be fantastic and one boring or even disastrous.
If you’re not having the odd disaster in bed, say sex therapists, you’re not challenging yourselves by trying new things.
Stop putting the pressure on and stop counting orgasms.
Instead, simply aim to connect physically and give pleasure to each other.
There must be something wrong with you if you can’t orgasm during intercourse
US Sex therapist Vanessa Marin says she ‘absolutely despises’ the way we talk about female orgasm as a society.
“Women are made to think our bodies are weird and hard to figure out. But the main reason why female orgasm can seem harder to attain than male orgasm is because we expect women’s sexuality to work the same way men’s sexuality does.”
In short, we expect women to orgasm from penetration when the best (and often only way for a great majority of women) is through clitoral stimulation.
This is how we’re built but women are made to feel there’s something wrong with us for not being able to orgasm during intercourse.
It’s the equivalent of giving men a hard time for not being able to climax using a vibrator.
What works for men doesn’t work for women and it’s frustrating why something we’ve known for more than 2000 years (it’s made clear in The Kama Sutra) still isn’t widely accepted.