Debunking sexual myths

[Lorelei Madden]

Lorelei Madden, who graduated from Yale in 1974, is an American sociologist and sexologist. Moving from the “least damaging” to the most “ridiculous or misleading” of fallacies, in the following article, sexpert takes the time to debunk her seven (or, if you prefer 6.9…anyway seven is the number of perfection) favorite myths about sex.

Myth #7: Women have their best orgasms during intercourse.

You wish it were so. Men like to think that all that thrusting is accomplishing something! And heterosexual women love the romance and connectedness of having intercourse with the man they love. I’m not saying that intercourse don’t feel good. But it is much harder to have an orgasm for most women unless there is direct or indirect stimulation of the clitoris or clitoral nerves and the deeper a guy plunges into a woman the further he gets from the source of her deepest arousal. Most of the excitement of intercourse is  after the area is aroused by touching or mouth contact and there is a continuation of overall bodily arousal.

Myth #6: Big penises are the sexiest.

So, is big better? Granted, bigger penises might be more statuesque and perhaps even more effective if a long tunnel is what needs to be filled — but that is more rare than common. But the only reason it is considered “better” is because our culture extols it beyond its actual ability to give sensation, comfort or flexibility of action. The fact is, the bigger a penis, the less it can be felt on the sides of the vagina, the more jaw taxing it is in oral sex, and the less easy it is to accommodate in various orifices. Sure, people can become “size queens” because the big penis is culturally venerated — but in every practical way, a medium or smaller penis will be utilized with more flair and function. For women partners especially, a penis bigger than five or six inches is rarely optimal. The biggest turn on is in the outside and first several inches of the vagina- after that, not so much.

Myth #5: If your lover isn’t very good, love, and practice can make him or her everything you want in a lover.

OK- so this isn’t exactly what you want to hear- but I have to say it anyhow. Not everyone is a talented lover and not everyone can be one. I know, there is a whole field of sex therapy which can give great tips on new techniques and stuff. But that doesn’t mean someone will know how to listen to a partner’s body movements to know whether they are doing the right thing, learn a more passionate approach to sex, or be imaginative in the moment. If you don’t have chemistry and sexual compatibility right from the beginning, think twice about whether or not this situation can be rehabilitated to the level you hope it will be.

Myth #4: If you are in a relationship your partner should never have to masturbate.

The truth about masturbation is that it enhances sexual appetite, and correlates with more enjoyment of partner sex, easier orgasm for women, more liberal attitudes about sex, and more — not less — sexual behavior. Sexual desire is not like a bank from which you can only make so many withdrawals. Sure, there is a post-orgasm refractory period for both men and women during which sex is not very interesting. However, after that period is over the more sex one has had, the more sex one wants. The longer people stay away from sex, the less preoccupied they get with it. The toughest part is when they have just had sex and a day later they are missing their partner (or a partner) because appetite has returned and there is no way of satisfying it. But if a person has to be celibate for a long time, there is less sexual unrest and demand. It is only when sexual stimulation occurs — in the form of a desired person, or sexual experience, that the old urges surface potently. Masturbation stokes the fires of desire. It is not a substitute for true sexual intimacy, but it is an outlet for fantasy and for appetite.

Myth #3: Men are not monogamous by nature — women are.

If we look at sexuality studies, over time there is a clear trend: young women’s sexual profiles are looking more and more like men’s as time goes by. Several studies show women’s rates of non monogamy in dating and marital relationships to be relatively close to men’s for people under 25. There is also substantial female non monogamy in all age groups. Even sociobiologists, who believe men will be more non monogamous than women because it is in their genetic interests and reproductive capability to father more children, have a wing of research that indicates there is an enormous amount of female non monogamy as well. Fisher’s bio-anthropological work on stateless societies indicates that women re-pair every four years (after breast feeding is over) presumptively looking for a better mate.

Myth #2: We are all either homosexual or heterosexual and there is no substantial in-between.

I believe that this is a  myth that our society builds in order to keep people from questioning the potential breath of their sexual attractions. Homosexuality is so scary to most Judeo Christian models of sexual expression, that it is simply ghettoized — and stigmatized as much as possible. An “essentialist” point of view is one that believes our biology is destiny — and our biology is either heterosexual or homosexual with nothing in between. If for example, a man who has been heterosexual all his life has an experience with another man, this is not coded as a man who has capacity for sexualizing both men and women, but a man who is denying his homosexuality which must ultimately be the way all of his deepest desires, sexual and emotional, are satisfied. We are somewhat more flexible in our conception of lesbianism, or as something that is sexy to men even if it is a woman’s sexual orientation. The fact is, however, that as Alfred Kinsey said long ago, the world is not divided into sheep and goats — there are plenty of other kinds of animals too.

Myth #1: Sex is a natural act.

Sex is NOT a natural act. We are not animals relying on mere sexual impulses. In fact most animals, as anyone who has watched the Nature channels knows, have complicated social systems and sex has to be negotiated between aspirants. We are no different. Unless we are drunk beyond ability to reason, we put our sexual interests and process in a social context in order not to end up in jail or hurt. Sex is not a mere biological act but rather a profoundly sociological one. We learn how to be sexual based on our parents’ attitudes, our friends’ confidences and gossip, our societies’ permissions and definitions and our own previous experience. We have impulses but they are governable and we can take in new information and change. We can be made to feel guilty — or we can find ways of being empowered. We can go on an atypical journey of sexual awareness and discovery — or faithfully follow the teachings and definition of our community. Sex is constructed by our social world — and if we don’t understand how that happens — we will never fully understand ourselves — nor be able to choose between what we are told and what we have experienced and what we might like to learn more about and what we might want to seek out.

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