The myths listed below are all things I heard growing up about sex and women. One too many times, they scared me away from having sex, or even committing to a relationship. The scary part is that even when I googled them, there were many lies out there with a “scientific basis.” Experience has taught me to question everything I read.
So without further ado, here’s what science has to say about what my sex ed teacher told me.
1. “Men are more interested in sex than women are.”
Do men have a higher libido than women? If you were to ask a stranger on the street, they will most likely say yes. But if you were to ask Daniel Bergner (author of “What Do Women Want?”), he will tell you that women are just as interested in sex as men are, but their sex drive is much more “fluid” and affected by cultural and social factors.
Using female lab rats as an example, Bergner shows that females want sex and pleasure just as much as males, but social constructs (i.e. slut shaming, seeming “desperate”) make it difficult for them to go after it.
2. “Women are prone to fall in love with the man they have sex with.”
This myth has been perpetuated by misleading data claiming that a woman’s orgasm releases lots of oxytocin (the cuddle/bonding/love hormone) while men only release dopamine (the pleasure hormone). Barry Komisaruk (professor of psychology at Rutgers University), says that both the female and male orgasm cause an influx of oxytocin into the bloodstream – but at different levels.
Although women’s peak is higher, there’s no scientific evidence proving that levels of oxytocin in the bloodstream have a direct effect on human behavior.
3. “Evolution tells us that men are programmed to cheat.”
We’ve all heard about the myth that men can’t keep it in their pants because they need to propagate their seed to ensure reproductive success. But the truth is that this hasn’t been proven by science.
4. “You can get pregnant by swimming in a pool.”
The truth of the matter is that sperm dies only a few seconds after ejaculation if it does not go directly into a woman’s vagina. No, it cannot “swim” and go into your vagina if you weren’t having intercourse.
5. “It’s impossible to get pregnant when you’re on your period.”
Although women can’t get pregnant by simply swimming in a pool, things get a little tricky when it comes to period sex. While sperm dies when exposed to water or air after only a few seconds, it can survive inside a woman’s uterus for three to five days. If a woman has irregular periods (shorter cycles), it may be possible for her to ovulate only a few days after menstruation.
If this is the case, then unprotected sex during menstruation might mean that sperm could still be alive in the uterus expecting an egg.
6. “You will inevitably bleed when you lose your virginity.”
Most women are told that the first time they have sex will be painful and messy. This is not entirely true.
The reality is that the hymen has been incredibly misunderstood. For starters, it does not cover the entirety of the vaginal opening and in the majority of women, it will wear out by the time of adolescence due to things like masturbation, sports, tampons, riding a bike, etc. This means that with proper lubrication, not every woman will bleed during her first intercourse.
7. “Abstinence is the only way to avoid pregnancy.”
There are actually many effective birth control methods out there that can prevent pregnancies effectively. The pill is one of them, with 99% effectiveness (when taken at the same time every day) since it prevents the female body from ovulating. Others, like an IUD, are more than 99% effective and are surgically implanted inside the uterus and can last as long as 10 years.
8. “You’re more likely to have a miscarriage if you’ve had an abortion.”
Whether a woman gets a surgical or medical abortion, the chances of her fertility being compromised are very rare. In a few number of cases, surgical abortions may lead to damage to the cervix or uterus but this can be fixed to ensure a healthy pregnancy in the future. Miscarriages happen more often than expected and are rarely caused by a previous abortion.
This is a short list compared to the numerous myths we learn about sex and women. Just remember: don’t believe everything you hear.