Sex is complicated and both its definition and meaning varies from person to person. But that doesn’t stop us from making generalizations and buying into sex myths that ultimately wreak havoc on our relationship and experiences of pleasure. It’s no surprise, of course, because comprehensive, inclusive sex education simply isn’t the norm in most schools and we aren’t born with sexual expertise.
A big part of my job as a sexologist entails debunking some of the sex myths that impede us from enjoying authentic sex including the following:
Men just want sex and don’t need as much love, attention or affection. They’re always ready to go.
Men are complex beings and you can’t make sweeping generalizations about billions of people. Some want a lot of sex and some want none at all. Research suggests that men desire affection, cuddling and foreplay as much as women.
They’re happier in their relationships when they cuddle with their partner more frequently and sexual satisfaction rates are higher in committed relationships. One study which analyzed the results of 197 scientific research projects found that factors positively correlated with high sexual satisfaction include intimacy, strong communication, assertiveness and personality similarities between partners.
When it comes to sex, men also desire build-up and appreciate investing time in the experience. A study at the University of New Brunswick revealed that men and women desire an average of eighteen and nineteen minutes of foreplay respectively. When it comes to desired length of intercourse, men report wanting it to last an average of eighteen whereas women would cap it at fourteen.
When it comes to emotional needs (a core component of romantic gestures), some research suggests that men are more responsive to emotional stimuli than women. They may be less likely to express emotions due to cultural prescriptions entrenched in gender expectations, but research with brain activity and other physiological responses suggests that their experience of emotional response is just as intense.
Myth: Sex should last 20 minutes or some other arbitrary length of time.
There are many types of sex, but oftentimes we get hung up on the duration of penis-in-vagina intercourse. If this is how you define sex, the average session doesn’t last 20 minutes. We have limited data on how long sex actually lasts, as most people aren’t concerned with timing themselves during an out-of-lab sexual experience. And once you put them in a lab or ask them to set a timer, it likely skews the results (e.g. they might try to last longer than normal and focus on duration as opposed to pleasure).
Multiple studies suggest that intercourse only lasts a few minutes. Some research suggests that it lasts about 7 minutes on average and other research suggests that approximately half of all intercourse experiences last two minutes. I speak to people all around the world and what I’m hearing (anecdotally) is that intercourse lasts 3-4 minutes and most of these people report being satisfied with their sex lives.
All women want sex to last longer.
It’s important to note that not everyone wants to last longer in bed and you don’t have to have marathon sex every time. Research suggests that men (who have sex with women) tend to desire longer duration of intercourse than women and this may be tied to their perception that their female partners want it to last longer. Porn may play a role in shaping this perception and it’s important that you get feedback from your partner — you may believe they want you to last longer during intercourse when in fact, they may not. They may be perfectly satisfied with duration, but desire other types of sex to complement intercourse — the only way to know what they want is to ask and cultivate a relationship in which you can be honest and open with one another.
If you do want to last longer in bed, check out our online course here. No pressure, of course. You do you.
Vaginal orgasms are better than other types of orgasms. Yes this myth still exists.
Vaginal orgasms are not invariably distinct from clitoral ones and there is a great deal of overlap between these interconnected erogenous zones. Research suggests that vaginal penetration alone results in orgasm for approximately one-third of women (this means the majority don’t experience orgasm consistently from penetration) and even this figure may be misleading, as the vagina and clitoris are not only close neighbours, but are, in fact, connected by a number of nerve pathways and muscular structures. The corpora cavernosa of the clitoris, which are two sponge-like tubes that form the erectile tissue of its body are located around the vaginal canal.
Clitoral orgasms are considered the most common of all orgasms for women and most report that they require some stimulation of this sensitive organ in order to climax. Some women experience clitoral orgasms during intercourse, but many positions don’t provide enough friction or stroking to take her over the edge. There is good news, however, as there are a few simple solutions: engage in other sex acts like cunnilingus, fingering and vibrator play that are more likely to lead to orgasm or simply lend a hand and reach down during intercourse to add direct clitoral stimulation into the mix.
If you’re having intercourse (penetrative sex) for the first time, it will hurt.
Sex should feel good (unless you want it to feel painful, which is fine, but that’s a whole other topic) regardless of whether it’s your first or fiftieth time. If you’re having penetrative intercourse and it’s painful, I suggest you stop, pull back and get more turned on so that your muscles relax and your mind is more at ease before trying again. You’ll also want to use as much lube as you’d like to keep things nice and slippery!
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You rock. Thanks for reading.