Myths about sex are everywhere: how we can keep ourselves safe, how we can obtain the most pleasure, how we can prevent getting unexpectedly knocked up… the only problem is, sometimes it’s hard to know what’s fact and what’s fiction.
To help separate rumor from reality—and to figure out which misconceptions we might have about conception—we talked to some relationship experts so they could give us the scoop on common sex myths.
Myth #1: Size Matters
The lie: It seems as if everyone is always going on about big penises and how much better they are. The bigger the male organ, the greater the pleasure… right?
The reality: Though genital size is often associated with manliness, the majority of women don’t consider penis size to play a—ahem—big role in their satisfaction. According to Seth Meyers, a psychologist, relationship expert and author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription, “most women aren’t overly concerned with a man’s penis size. …Sadly, guys who have small penises worry more, often fearing that once a women goes to bed with him, she will feel frustrated by his size inadequacy.”
Amber Madison, a trained therapist, relationship expert and author of Hooking Up: A Girl’s All-Out Guide to Sex And Sexuality, believes that the size of the guy’s manly appendage isn’t even all that important when it comes to getting pleasure. “Most penises aren’t actually that different in size,” she points out. “And especially because many girls have orgasms through clitoral stimulation, getting off isn’t so much about the penis as what the fingers and tongue are doing as well. Where size does actually matter is if a guy is too big—then it can really hurt.”
The bottom line: When it comes to sexual pleasure, technique plays a much bigger role than size.
Myth #2: “Pulling Out” Works
The lie: Pulling out, or having your partner take his penis out of your vagina before he ejaculates, makes sense on the surface. If none of your guy’s little swimmers get deposited inside of us, then you can’t possibly get preggo.
The reality: What we often don’t consider is the sperm a guy releases before he ejaculates, and those sperm are just as eager to fertilize your egg as the sperm he releases during his orgasm. Not to mention that if a guy is slow to pull out, he starts to ejaculate before he has completely removed his penis, which can spell major trouble for your lady bits.
With room for error everywhere, Madison made it clear that withdrawal is not the best form of birth control. “Pulling out is not a very reliable form of contraception,” she says. It may work on occasion, but having your partner “pull out” still contains a high risk of pregnancy. For every 100 women whose partners use withdrawal, four will become pregnant each year if they always do it correctly. Of those 100 women whose partners use withdrawal but who don’t always do it correctly, 27 will become pregnant.
Myth #3: The Morning-After Pill is the Only Contraception You Need
The lie: A pill that undoes the potentially life-changing effects of unprotected sex? Problem solved!
The reality: While emergency contraceptive pills can decrease your chance of getting pregnant, that doesn’t mean they guarantee you won’t be pregnant. These pills are never 100 percent effective, as their effectiveness depends entirely on when in your cycle you take it, and, if taken after ovulation, their effectiveness is reduced considerably. As the Plan B site states, seven out of every eight women will avoid pregnancy… which means one of those women will still become pregnant.
“Emergency contraception is for just that… emergencies,” Madison says. “Not only is it less effective than other methods of hormonal contraception, it’s likely more expensive and is more likely to have side effects, like nausea.”
The manufacturer of an emergency contraceptive pill identical to Plan B also recently announced that the drug doesn’t work on women who weigh more than 176 pounds and it begins to lose effectiveness in women who weigh more than 165 pounds. It’s best to stick to a regular routine of birth control to prevent pregnancy.
Myth #4: You Can’t Get Pregnant if You Have Sex on Your Period
The lie: Logically, if your egg breaks apart during menstruation and your new egg has yet to be released, those pesky sperm will have nothing to impregnate.
The reality: Sure, this might work—if your period is regular and your ovulation is predictable. In a normal 28-day cycle, ovulation occurs two weeks before your next period. However, what many collegiettes don’t consider is that sperm can survive inside of you for up to seven days. If your period is irregular and you ovulate closer to your period, the egg and sperm transit times can cross—which can lead to a hot cross bun in your oven.
“It is actually possible to get pregnant on your period, especially if your period is irregular,” Madison says. Unless you and your partner both know your cycle very intimately, it’s best not to take your chances.
Myth #5: The Tighter a Condom Fits, the More Protected You Are
The lie: The tighter the condom, the less likely that sperm will seep out or that the condom will slip off during sex.
The reality: The tightness of a condom also affects its likeliness to rupture during sex. “You definitely don’t want to be having sex with [a] baggy condom,” says Madison. “But if a condom is too tight, then it’s more likely to break.”
Unless you want your guy’s rubber to rupture piñata-style during intercourse, it’s best to leave a little extra room for comfort.
Myth #6: The More Condoms He Wears, The More Protected You Are
The lie: More layers means more protection from those eager little sperm.
The reality: Just like with a too-tight condom, double-layering condoms makes them all the more likely to break during sex. The friction caused by the rubbing of those extra layers will weaken the fibers of the condom, leaving you far less protected than you would be by just using one.
If you’re concerned about the effectiveness of using a condom alone for protection, Madison suggests using other methods of contraception in addition to condoms. “If you want to double up on birth control, use condoms and a hormonal method,” she suggests. That way, you’ll feel more secure–and you won’t sweat the risk of condom breakage!
Myth #7: Oral or Anal Sex is Safer Than Vaginal Sex
The lie: No vaginal penetration, no risk of pregnancy. It’s simple!
The reality: We may not get pregnant from these acts, but babies aren’t the only thing we should we worried about contracting from a partner.
“…Anal sex actually puts you at even greater risk for STDs than vaginal sex,” Madison says. “And it’s possible to contract an STD from oral sex, too.” Just because a sexual act doesn’t have the risk of pregnancy doesn’t mean it’s safe.
It’s also widely believed that oral and anal sex aren’t as emotionally significant as vaginal sex. “…All sex acts can make you feel crappy if you’re doing them in the wrong situation,” Amber points out. “You can feel just as used and vulnerable having oral sex with a guy in the wrong situation as you would having sex sex with him. All these things are still sex, and they still count physically and emotionally.” Think oral and anal sex aren’t a big deal? Think again, collegiettes!
Myth #8: Great Sex Comes Naturally
The lie: We see it in movies and in television, and we read about it in magazines… we know what it takes to have great sex, don’t we?
The reality: Not at all! As Madison explains, “…Many women say they don’t start having good sex until later on in their 20s or even their 30s. The more in touch you are with your body, the better sex will be.” Like anything, sex requires practice, both with your partner and with yourself.
Meyers agrees that satisfying sex takes work. “When adults are young, great sex is (sadly) often fueled by alcohol or other substances or lust, which rarely turns into love,” he says. “When adults are more mature, great sex comes from practice and from a true emotional connection.”
Myth #9: Sex is Always Emotionally Significant… Especially Your First Time
The lie: Sex is the most intimate act you can share with another person, and it should therefore only be done with someone you love.
The reality: Yes, sex is powerful, sex is intimate, but you don’t necessary have to be in love to have sex. Though it’s great to do it with someone you really care about, sex should be fun, too, and it’s okay to share that experience with someone you’re not necessary head over heels for. However, it should be something you want to do and enjoy!
Madison left us with these words of wisdom for having great sex: “Remember that your enjoyment matters too, and it’s not just the guy who should be having a good time. The more you focus on your experience and the less you focus on his, the hotter the sex will be for both of you.”
When it comes to sex, being informed is crucial to stay safe. Stay skeptical and read up on the facts so you can have sex that’s both pleasurable and protected, collegiettes!