Debunking Common Sexual Myths and Misconceptions [2022 Data]

In this article, we’ve compiled all interesting facts about sexual myths (debunked some of them), where did it start, & some common misconceptions. Read on!

sexual myths

Sex myths have been around since the dawn of time and have had a long-term impact on our perception of sex. Myths about pregnancy, libido, size, and desire are all pervasive and commonly believed, even by those with great education.

In this article, we’ve gathered some of the most common sex myths, statistics, and facts in one place:

Top Sexual Myths You Should Know:

  • Sexual myths frequently come from Roman and Greek thoughts on sex, which were taken as gospel in Europe for hundreds of years.
  • 68.9% of men said their first source of information was their friends – independent of their educational level.
  • 73.1% agreed with the myth that “Men always want sex and always ready for sex.”
  • Myth: The longer the sex, the better. The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that both men and women prefer shorter sex (7 to 13 minutes) over longer sessions (13 minutes or more).
  • Myth: Bigger is always better. A large penis doesn’t necessarily mean his partner will enjoy sex. Compatibility of size between partners is much more important. Also, a large penis can be painful if the woman has a smaller vagina.
  • Myth: Guys are never virgins. According to a Psychology Today survey, men estimated that 1% of their peers were virgins when 22% actually were.
  • Myth: Girls can’t get pregnant the first time they have sex. In reality, women can get pregnant every time they have unprotected sex with a man.
  • Myth: Everybody’s “doing it.” Nationally the percentage of high school students who have ever had sexual intercourse has decreased from 54% to 47% percent between 1991 and 2013.

Sexual Myths: Where Do They Start?

The origins of many sex myths are unknown, but some of the most common ones come from the teachings of ancient physicians, philosophers, or religious texts.

  • Sexual myths frequently come from Roman and Greek thoughts on sex, which were taken as gospel in Europe for many hundreds of years. (Bustle, 2015)1
    • Physicians and thinkers like Pliny the Elder and Galen were treated as utmost authorities for thousands of years.
    • So myths stamped from legitimate medical practices in Europe persisted for a very long time.

Some of these myths that stem from ancient Roman and Greek thoughts on sex include: 

Myth: Female Orgasms Are Needed To Create A Baby

  • This was promoted by the Roman physician Galen, or Claudius Galenus, who published many works on medicine.
  • Galen thought that humans were at the top of the evolutionary food chain because they produced the most “vital heat” from their bodies. He believed that this inner heat, in both men and women, was the key to getting pregnant.

(Bustle, 2015)1


Myth: You Can Have Sex In The Afterlife

  • The ancient Egyptians believed you could continue to have sex long after your physical form was dead.
  • One Egyptian idea about the creation of their gods was that they came from the sperm of the masturbating god Atum.

(Bustle, 2015)1


Myth: A Dead Lizard Drowned In Urine Can Dampen Lust

  • This came from a class of “anti-aphrodisiacs” that the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks collected.
  • Both cures for impotence (such as pomegranates, fennel, and lettuce) and things to dampen lust were sought wildly in these cultures.

(Bustle, 2015)1


Myth: Flatulence-Inducing Foods Will Arouse You

  • The mandrake plant was sought in medieval Europe due to Biblical interpretations of what would increase sexual pleasure.
  • It was thought to inspire female fertility and arousal and is referred to in the Bible several times as a way to produce lust and pregnancy in ladies.

(Bustle, 2015)1


Myth: Binding Your Feet Tightens The Vaginal Muscles

  • Binding feet often resulted in feet that were barely a few inches long. 
  • These were known as “golden lily” or “lotus feet” and resulted in a “lotus gait,” a faltering walk that was meant to make a woman more sexually powerful because she’d develop stronger, more sensitive vaginal muscles.

(Bustle, 2015)1


How Sexual Myths Affect People’s Perceptions Of Sex

Myths about sex and sexuality are commonplace and can have a significant effect on people’s perceptions of sex. These myths often spread through word of mouth between friends, inaccurate depictions of sex in porn, and more. Here’s what studies have found:

  • In a study on sexual myths of 167 men between 18 and 67 years of age (The Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences, n.d.)2:
    • 68.9% of men said their first source of information was their friends – independent of their educational level.
    • 16.1% said their first information sources about sex were erotic/pornographic films or magazines.
    • 13.2% said they learned about sex from newspapers and television.
    • 1.8% said they learned from their parents.
  • 26.8% of the participants did not want to answer questions about masturbation experiences in one study. (The Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences, n.d.)2
    • 27.5% did not want to answer questions about their first sexual experience.
    • 34.7% did not want to answer about their first sexual relationship.
    • 3.6% did not want to answer about their age of first sexual intercourse.
  • Of men who answered the question about with whom they had their first sexual intercourse experience (The Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences, n.d.)2:
    • 62% said that they had this experience with a prostitute.
    • 20.7% with their wives after getting married
    • 17.4% with their girlfriends
  • Of the 65.3% of men who were asked whether they had any problems with this first sexual intercourse and answered, 12.8% said that they had an erection or ejaculation problems.
  • Of the 83.2% of men who answered the question about their first masturbation experiences, 81.3% stated they had masturbated before.
  • Most of the men who participated in the study agreed with the following myths (The Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences, n.d.)2:
    • 77.8% agreed that “Every man should know how to satisfy every woman.”
    • 73.1% agreed that “Men always want sex and always ready for sex.”
    • 70.1% agreed that “Sexual intercourse is the main goal of good sex.” 
    • 66.5% agreed that “Erection is always a sign of sexual arousal.”
  • Men who experienced problems during their first sexual relationship agreed with the following three myths significantly less than men who stated no problem (The Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences, n.d.)2:
    • 50.5% vs. 14.3%: “All physical contacts should go into sexual intercourse.”
    • 34.7% vs. 7.1%: “When an erection occurs in a male sexual organ, he should ejaculate as soon as possible.”
    • 53.7% and 7.1%: “Bigger male sexual organ arouses women more.”

Most Common Sexual Myths

Here are some of the most common sex myths for both men and women:

Men

  • Myth: Size matters!
    • In reality, penises and testicles come in various sizes and shapes. Penises appear to be quite different in size when not erect, but when they’re erect, most are similar in size.
  • Myth: Men are always ready and willing to have sex.
    • Both women and men don’t feel like having sex sometimes and don’t want to get “in the mood.” 
    • Even though most men may like sex, and some men like sex a lot, almost everyone at one time or another won’t feel like being sexually active.
  • Myth: Very few men are virgins.
    • Men can be less than truthful about how much sex they have had. 
    • More than half of men have experienced sexual intercourse by the time they are 18, but this number appears to be going down, and men are increasingly delaying sexual intercourse.
  • Myth: Sex is over when the man has an ejaculation.
    • Sexual activity involves two people, and the sex should continue until both partners are satisfied and ready to stop. 
    • Good sex involves ongoing communication and connection between the partners to ensure they are doing what is mutually comfortable, exciting, and pleasurable.
  • Myth: Using alcohol or marijuana is a stimulant.
    • Alcohol and marijuana may increase desire and reduce inhibitions but can also increase the risks of doing something you’re uncomfortable with. 
  • Myth: Sex requires an erection.
    • This myth has become more widespread due to the increased availability of Viagra and other impotence drugs. 
    • In reality, sex involves a wide variety of activities.
  • Myth: All orgasms are “explosive, mind-blowing, and earth-shattering.”
    • Orgasms vary in intensity and character and aren’t always incredible.
  • Myth: Men in relationships don’t masturbate.
    • Men tend to masturbate less frequently when they are in ongoing relationships, but many men and women masturbate when their partner isn’t available or may do so for their own pleasure.
      (Planned Parenthood, n.d.)3
  • Myth: Guys always want sex.
    • The “men think about sex every seven seconds” statistic isn’t accurate.
    • There’s no conclusive evidence that men think about sex constantly or think about it more than women.
  • Myth: Guys always prefer sex to relationships.
    • “The Casanova myth is so deeply ingrained that people are convinced that boys who claim to want relationships rather than casual sex are either incredibly rare or full of crap,” – According to Wake Forest University psychology professor Andrew Smiler, who says physical and emotional intimacy is more important to men than people think.
  • Myth: If a guy’s turned on, he can get it up.
    • Men frequently get erections in non-sexual situations – ex: morning erections are generally not the result of sexual dreams.
    • Sexual arousal in men manifests in a variety of physical and psychological ways beyond an erection, including increased heart rate and heavy breathing.
  • Myth: Good sex means a guy orgasms every time.
    • “For many men, orgasm without ejaculation enables a man to be multi-orgasmic, to maintain consistent sexual energy, desire, and confidence, and to magnetically attract interested partners. Once men learn to orgasm without ejaculation, they rarely want to go back to ejaculating every time,” according to psychologist Deborah Taj Anapol.
  • Myth: The longer the sex, the better.
    • The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that both men and women prefer shorter sex (7 to 13 minutes) over longer sessions (13 minutes or more).
    • “A quickie is a form of intimacy. It is giving intense, sudden sexual access without asking for motivation or justification,” says sex therapist Pepper Schwartz, according to Women’s Health.
  • Myth: Bigger is always better.
    • A large penis doesn’t necessarily mean his partner will enjoy sex. Compatibility of size between partners is much more important. In addition, a large penis can be painful if the woman has a smaller vagina.
    • The biggest issue with smaller penises may be men’s perception of them.
  • Myth: Bigger is always better.
    • A large penis doesn’t necessarily mean his partner will enjoy sex. Compatibility of size between partners is much more important. In addition, a large penis can be painful if the woman has a smaller vagina.
    • The biggest issue with smaller penises may be men’s perception of them.
  • Myth: Guys like taking control in the bedroom.
    • “Most guys feel like they are always the initiator, and that sets up disequilibrium on the passion scale in the relationship,” according to Les Parrott, a psychology professor at Seattle Pacific University.
    • “There are few things hotter than a girl who knows what she wants, and there are a lot of different ways to communicate that to a guy. It doesn’t mean you have to bust out whips and leather restraints and boss us around (but you could). It could be something as simple as pushing us down on the bed and pinning our arms down over our heads while you’re on top.”
  • Myth: Guys are never virgins.
    • According to a Psychology Today survey, men estimated that 1% of their peers were virgins when 22% actually were.
    • Men had a median of seven female sex partners, and women had four male sex partners. However, mathematicians have pointed out that the logic of those numbers doesn’t make sense.
      (MIC, 2015)4

Women

  • Myth: Girls can’t get pregnant the first time they have sex.
    • In reality, women can get pregnant every time they have unprotected sex with a man.
  • Myth: If a girl douches right after having sex, this will wash out all the sperm, and she won’t get pregnant.
    • Douching is one of the least effective methods of birth control. This is because it does not get all of the sperm and may push sperm farther up in the reproductive tract.
  • Myth: A girl knows when, during the month, she can’t get pregnant.
    • Although women often learn a lot about themselves and their menstrual cycle, no woman can know for certain when she won’t get pregnant.
    • Women are at risk of getting pregnant every time they have unprotected sex with a man.
  • Myth: Once you’ve had gonorrhea (or any other bacterial infection) and have been cured, you can’t get it again.
    • People can become re-infected every time they have unprotected sex with another person who is infected.
      (Planned Parenthood, n.d.)3

Sexual Myths Among Young People

Young people have some of the most pervasive and, in some cases, dangerous myths about sex, according to these studies:

  • Myth: Everybody’s “doing it.”
    • Nationally the percentage of high school students who have ever had sexual intercourse has decreased from 54% to 47% percent between 1991 and 2013.
    • 34% of students reported being sexually active in 2013 (having had sexual intercourse within the past three months), down from 38% in 1991. 
    • Fewer teens are sexually active now than in the past two decades.
  • Myth: Kids today start having sex at much younger ages than in the past.
    • The median age people had sex first was 17.8 years old for females and 18.1 for males.
    • Young people today wait longer to start having sex than they have in the past.
    • The median age of first-time sex has not fallen below 17 at any point over the past 50 years.
  • Myth: “Hooking up” with casual acquaintances is more common for teens than sex within romantic relationships.
    • By age 18, over 80% of adolescents have had some dating experience.
    • Only 16% of female teens and 28% of male teens had sex for the first time with someone they had just met or were “just friends” with.
    • The phrase “hooking up” means different things to different people, and 97 percent of young adults assume it involves a sexual experience of some sort. However, there is no consensus about the specific behaviors (e.g., kissing, oral sex, intercourse).
  • Myth: Teens are poor users of condoms and contraceptives.
    • 86% of sexually-active teenagers said they or their partner used a condom or other contraceptive the last time they had sex.
    • Nearly 60% of students nationwide said they or their partners used a condom during their last sexual intercourse. (Child Trends, 2015)5
  • Common “Can I get pregnant if…” myths:
    • Myth: You can get pregnant from floating semen in a pool or hot tub.
      • Experts say there is no way for water-bound semen to swim its way into a vagina.
    • Myth: You can get pregnant from oral sex.
      • Ingesting sperm cannot lead to pregnancy.
    • Myth: You can get pregnant from someone ejaculating anywhere except in or very close to a vagina.
      • If the sperm is not in or near a woman’s cervix, you can’t get pregnant.
    • Myth: You can get pregnant from pre-cum.
      • Pre-cum (the small amounts of ejaculate that a man can emit before ejaculation) does contain sperm. Getting pregnant from pre-cum is possible but unlikely if you have unprotected sex, but a man doesn’t ejaculate inside the vagina. So pulling out before ejaculation is almost as effective as the typical use of a condom. (Mashable, 2018)6
  • Common “you CAN’T get pregnant if…” myths (you can get pregnant despite all of these things):
    • Myth: You can’t get pregnant if you have sex in a jacuzzi or hot shower.
      • Yes, you can get pregnant. Water, heat, or chlorine will not neutralize or wash out sperm.
    • Myth: You can’t get pregnant if it’s your first time.
      • Yes, you can get pregnant if it’s your first time.
    • Myth: You can’t get pregnant if you’re having sex on your period.
      • It’s less likely because ovulation usually occurs in the two weeks after your period, but it is still possible.
    • Myth: You can’t get pregnant if you stand up after sex.
      • You can still get pregnant. Standing up after someone ejaculates inside of you will not stop sperm.
    • Myth: You can’t get pregnant if you shower or wash after sex.
      • You can still get pregnant, and washing does not prevent sperm from impregnating you.
    • Myth: You can’t get pregnant if you have not had your first period yet.
      • Women ovulate for the first time before their first period. If you have sex before your first period, there is a small chance that you could become pregnant.
        (Mashable, 2018)6
  • Myth: Condoms aren’t effective
    • The media has portrayed ripped condoms as far more common than they actually are. This is also worsened by abstinence-only sex-ed programs, which falsely claim that condoms don’t work.
    • Condoms are 98 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. (Mashable, 2018)6

Sex Myths Encouraged by Porn

Porn can spread myths about sex, and there are many myths about porn that simply aren’t true:

  • Myth: Porn makes society worse. 
    • Data shows that sexual crimes are lower in areas with greater access to porn.
  • Myth: Porn creates objectification. 
    • Objectification is focusing on a body part and making it an object of sexual gratification without considering the person it belongs to.
  • Myth: Porn creates relationship problems. 
    • Porn can be an easy and convenient way to avoid problems in the relationship, but it doesn’t create relationship problems on its own.
  • Myth: Porn causes erectile dysfunction. 
    • This view is often promoted by anti-porn campaigns but is inaccurate and unscientific. It is often referred to with the acronym PIED: Porn Induced Erectile Dysfunction.
  • Myth: Porn negatively rewires the brain, so the brain needs to be rebooted. 
    • This myth has no basis in science, the brain is not a computer, and there is no reboot button – it continuously develops over time.
  • Myth: Watching porn leads to sexual violence towards women. 
    • Watching porn and masturbating are not pathological and do not indicate psychological problems or cause men to abuse women.

  • Myth: Porn is addictive. 
    • This myth is based on moralistic opinions rather than science. “Pornography addiction” has been consistently rejected by all medical and psychological bodies, and there is no clinical evidence of addictive properties to porn. (Psychology Today, 2021)7


Conclusion

Some of the most common myths about sex seem to be about pregnancy – either what can get you pregnant or what can’t. These myths can be particularly damaging if it causes those who believe them to avoid contraception in favor of a myth. One of the best ways we can prevent these myths from spreading is to continue to expand sex ed worldwide.

For more interesting sex studies and statistics content, check out this article.

Footnotes

  1. Bustle, 2015. An article on the historical myths about sex.
  2. The Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences, n.d. A study of 167 men between 18 and 67 years of age.
  3. Planned Parenthood, n.d. A compiled statistics on popular sexual myths
  4. MIC, 2015. An article on 8 Harmful Myths We’re All Spreading About Men and Sex.
  5. Child Trends, 2015. An article on 5 Myths about Teen Sex.
  6. Mashable, 2018. An article on 9 sex myths that teens — and adults — are still asking about.
  7. Psychology Today, 2021. An article on 7 Major Myths About Pornography.
Dainis Graveris

Dainis Graveris

Over last 4 years Dainis have helped millions of people through his advice on this site (200+ guides and 1M+ visits/monthly). His work & advice has appeared on sites like: Healthline, Vice, Cosmopolitan, Men's Health, WomensHealthMag, MindBodyGreen & more. Read More

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