Wednesday, February 19, 2014

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

Via After Hours LifeHacker, this is an interesting compilation and debunking of myths around sexuality. Most of them were familiar to me, a couple are new.

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

Perhaps you've heard that size matters, women are naturally more bisexual than men, or that tantric sex means everlasting orgasms. The fact is, none of these things are quite true. Sex has been around forever, but we're just starting to understand it. Today we're debunking 10 of the most common sex myths to set the record straight.

I like sex as much as the next guy, but I'm not going to pretend for a second that I'm an expert. To help get to the bottom of each myth on our list, I requested a little help from some top sexologists: Dr. Debby Herbenick (research scientist at Indiana University, sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, and author multiple books including Sex Made Easy), Dr. Lindsey Doe (doctor of sexual health and host of Sexplanations), and Dr. Amy Marsh (clinical sexologist and sex counselor). Let's get down to business and find out what we do know.

Myth 1: Penis Size Matters

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

Men seem to care a lot about the size and shape of their penises, but do women—or even other men? And how much does it actually affect performance in the bedroom? Some argue larger penises can create a more intense orgasm during penetrative sex. Others presume that men with smaller members make up the difference with added effort. So is it all a wash in the end? Debby argues it can depend on the person but ultimately has more to do with a psychological connection than anything else:
To some people, size does matter. They may wish their partner were longer or shorter or thinner or thicker. The bottom line, however, is that research consistently finds that sexual satisfaction is more influenced by psychological connection, intimacy, and relationship satisfaction–not just the size or shape of a person's genitals. In our study of more than 1600 men, we found the average erect length was about 5.6 inches, with most men hovering around that average. How two people connect through sex is typically more important than the size of the parts, however. A great book for better technique? "Great in Bed."
Amy agrees, and notes some men might underestimate what they've got and that there's no one-size-fits-all when it comes to genitalia:
Size matters to those who let it matter, and that includes men and women. People have and inflict too much body shame about genitals. Some even worry when they are "average." For example, men who look downward at their penises (or who have belly fat) may see them as smaller than they actually are. Sometimes a larger penis may be "too large" for oral sex, but just right for penetration. Or a smaller penis may feel just right for oral sex, as it can be taken more completely into the mouth. Motion, rapport, depth of intimacy, lovemaking skills, and/or positions often have more to do with partner satisfaction than size.
So what should you do if you're unhappy with the size of your package? Stop worrying so much about what you're working with—whether too large, too small, or too average—and figure out how you can use it to please your partner. Any partner worth your time won't reject you solely based on the size of your penis, and if they really want something different from time to time you can supplement your sexual regimen with toys.

On the other side of the issue, if you have a partner who struggles with his size, be supportive. If the sex is good, let him know. When it isn't, make suggestions that will increase your pleasure. It may be his insecurity, but good partners should help each other.

Myth 2: Men and Women Reach Their Sexual Peak at the Same Time

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked1

When do men and women reach their sexual peak? Some believe men get there sooner in their late teens and early twenties while women experience similar results a little later in life. Debby believe there's no real way to know for sure:
I hear this all the time and everyone means something different (frequency of sex, enjoyment of sex, ease of orgasm, etc). But however I look at it, I can't make full sense of it. Do men have easier erections at 18 than age 70? Sure, but the sex may be more meaningful and satisfying at 70 than 18 (generally speaking). Enjoyable sex can happen at any age. It's rarely all physical or all emotional. Sex is this fascinating place where our bodies and emotions and past experiences and future hopes collide, and that can result in something pretty spectacular at any age. If you think you've reached your peak, forget it. The best may still be yet to come.
The same advice goes for those who haven't reached their peak. You shouldn't worry about it. So long as you're comfortable with who you are, understand your own body, and remain reasonably open to new experiences, you should have no problem enjoying a satisfying sex life. Whether a "peak" comes or not doesn't matter much if you're having a good time.

Myth 3: Most Women Can Achieve Orgasm From Vaginal Sex Alone

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked2

Wouldn't it be easy if orgasms resulted from simply following instructions? Just insert Tab A into Slot B, move it around for awhile, and enjoy. Perhaps because it more often works that way for men, this unfortunate myth arose for women. Most don't achieve orgasm from vaginal sex alone even though it's possible—anatomically speaking. Debby explains:
It's not that simple to determine who "can" have an orgasm from a certain type of sex (after all, whether someone has an orgasm during sex depends on more than just their ability, but also on how they feel about their partner, their partner's technique, etc). And when women have orgasms from penile-vaginal intercourse, it's not always clear-cut how exactly the orgasm came to be. After all, the clitoris has inside parts and outside parts and intercourse stimulates both. The vagina, including the G-spot area, is also stimulated during intercourse as are nerves around the cervix, including the vagus nerve, which is one pathway to orgasm.
Continuing on that theme, Amy notes that orgasms can occur in all sorts of ways:
Human beings can achieve orgasm in all kinds of ways. Mary Roach, author of Bonk, found a woman who could think herself to orgasm and another who orgasmed while brushing her teeth. However, the persistent emphasis on vaginal orgasm at the expense of clitoral stimulation is incredibly damaging. It's more more accurate to say that the "majority of women" will need some kind of consistent clitoral stimulation in order to experience orgasm. And we should also remember what sex researcher Mary Jane Sherfey asserted as long ago as 1966: "the clitoris is not just the small protuberance at the anterior end of the vulva."
So how do most women achieve orgasm? Debby breaks it down:
What we do know very clearly is that women and men experience orgasm through diverse sexual behaviors. According to data from our 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, most women (about 2/3) have orgasms when they have sex, and this could be from vaginal, clitoral, breast or other kinds of stimulation. And yet in another study, nearly 1/5 of women reported preferring oral sex in order to have an orgasm.
We can hash out statistics all day, but ultimately we still have a problem: orgasms are less common for women than men. For women who have difficulty achieving orgasm, Debbie recommends reading Sex Made Easy and Becoming Orgasmic for a little help.

Myth 4: Men Can't Have Multiple Orgasms

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

Men are known for shutting down and going to sleep post-ejaculation (for biological reasons), so the idea of multiple orgasms sounds almost ridiculous to many people. That said, it happens. Some men can do it naturally, but most have to work pretty hard. Amy explains:
Men can, but it's usually learned skill involving Taoist or Tantric techniques which include breath control and making a distinction between ejaculation and orgasm. You can find these techniques in books like Mantak Chia and Douglas Abram's account of Taoist sexual practices, The Multi-Orgasmic Man. It's interesting to note that sex researchers William Hartman and Marilyn Fithian said that 12% of men they'd studied were reporting multiple orgasms.
Debby notes that there are some men who can ejaculate repeatedly, however:
There are the rare men who can ejaculate over and over again, kind of how many women can orgasm repeatedly. Why this differences occurs is not well understood – and there's no sense it can be taught (these men seem to have some physical differences from other men).
While some men can ejaculate more than once, most can't and never will. That said, men looking for more than a single orgasm can teach themselves to achieve them.

Myth 5: Women Are Naturally More Bisexual

10 Stubborn Sex Myths That Just Won't Die, Debunked

Females are generally considered a more fluid gender in regards to sex, but does that mean men are less likely to be bisexual? According to Lindsay, the answer is pretty straightforward:
Nope. While there is no consistent data on how many people identify as bisexual, we do see stats where there are twice as many bisexual men as there are women. Sexual orientation is natural, and no more for one gender than others; it may be more socially acceptable and therefore easier for women to express more flexibility or fluidity with their sexualities but this does not equate to their identities nor does it exclude the men who experience attraction for their sex and other sexes.
Debby concurs, citing a few studies of her own:
Sizable minorities of women and men have had sex with same-sex partners. For example, in one of our national studies, we found about 15% of women had had oral sex with another woman and about 11% of men had had oral sex with another man. Far fewer women and men identify as gay or lesbian or bisexual. Research suggests that both women and men may be somewhat "fluid" in their sexual feelings and behaviors.
Why is this myth so prevalent? It might have to do with higher amounts of "lesbian" pornography aimed at straight men, or a perceived cultural preference towards homosexual sex with women rather than men. While a number of factors may have contributed to this misinformation, it all started with a 2005 New York Times article that argued bisexual men do not exist. More recently, that study was finally debunked. Bisexual men have known this for years that they exist, but now science is finally backing them up. Tell your friends!
Read the rest of the article to see the other five myths.

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