Almost every day in counseling sessions, sex therapists hear clients share thoughts and beliefs about sex that are not only misguided and wrong, but damaging to their love lives.
Below, sex therapists from around the country share the biggest misconceptions they’ve heard about sex in their offices. (Spoiler alert: Some of the biggest myths spring from the idea that sex should be spontaneous. Nope, you actually have to work at it.)
Myth No. 1: Men should be ready to go any time, anywhere.
“In spite of what many people think, men are not created to perform on demand. They are not robots. Sex doesn’t just happen. A man might be tired, worried, distracted or have some feelings to work out about something ― including you. Plus, as men get older, they may need direct stimulation to the penis before and during sexual activity. Sex isn’t all about you, it’s about mutual pleasure. Ask your man what gets him turned on and then do it as an active, engaged partner.” ― Stephanie Buehler, a psychologist and sex therapist who runs The Buehler Institute
Myth No. 2: If you don’t orgasm, it’s not really sex.
“Wrong! There is more to sex than having intercourse and achieving orgasm. If you believe this one, it’s time to get creative and realistic about what sex really is about. Sex is kissing, hugging and sensual massage. Sex is oral stimulation, manual stimulation, mutual masturbation and anal stimulation. Sex is talking dirty, reading erotica, watching pornography together, role play and sharing fantasies. Broaden your concept of sex, lessen your pressure and you’ll increase your enjoyment and pleasure.” ― Moushumi Ghose, a sex therapist and author of Classic Sex Positions Reinvented
Myth No. 3: You have to feel “hot enough” to truly enjoy sex.
“Media and porn may be to blame for women believing they have to have a beautiful body to be alluring and enjoy sex. Typically, men don’t notice a woman’s physical ‘flaws.’ All they think is, ‘Oh my God, a naked woman is near me!’ I’ve suggested to my female clients that no matter what they look like, if they loves their body, men will, too. This may require cultivating an appreciation for her uniqueness. When she can start to appreciate her imperfections as endearing distinctions, she will have begun to love herself in a way that allows her to love others.” ― Diana Wiley, a marriage and family therapist and sex therapist in Seattle, Washington
Myth No. 4: Sexual infidelity happens because something is missing in the relationship.
“While some people do have affairs because they feel they’re not getting what they want in their relationship, it’s only one of many reasons infidelity occurs. Many perfectly happily partnered people have affairs simply because the opportunity presents itself. Factors like availability, ease and minimal risk are all factors that can lead to ‘opportunity affairs.’ Some people are more likely to act on impulse. That’s why supermarkets have aisles with staples in predictable locations and impulse items at the ends and the checkout.” ― Gracie Landes, a sex therapist and marriage and family therapist in New York City
Myth No. 5: Vaginal orgasms are easy to come by.
“People still hold to the idea that vaginal orgasms are easy and readily available. The truth is, most women require some sort of clitoral stimulation to climax. You would be surprised how many of my clients are shocked to learn this ― even some of my clients who are physicians. The notion that strictly vaginal orgasms are the norm puts a big strain on the couple. It leaves the woman feeling frustrated and the man feeling inadequate. There’s some major misconceptions about how women climax. A vaginally quickie will rarely be the way to achieve the big O.” ― Lisa Paz, a sex therapist and marriage and family therapist in Miami, Florida
Myth No. 6: Sex should be off-the-charts hot in the beginning.
“Many of my clients who are dating believe that their first time with someone new should and will be mindblowing. In some rare instances, this may be true, but most likely, it will be just OK or good. For most, sexual chemistry develops over time and then deepens into the mindblowing states. This is because amazing sex takes truly knowing another person and knowing them sexually. If you have never had sex with someone before, obviously you don’t know what they like, need or how you two fit together. Plus, both of you are probably a bit nervous and have put some pressure on how the event will go. The most important question at the beginning of dating to ask yourself is, ‘Am I interested in seeing this person again?’ If everything was perfect right from the get-go, it wouldn’t leave many areas to grow together. Growing together is what truly bonds people.” ― Keeley Rankin, a sex therapist in San Francisco, California
Myth No. 7: Having to use lube means you aren’t really aroused.
“Wrong. Lube is your friend. Lube gets a bad rap. But in all honesty, a little extra lubrication goes a long way. The misconception here is that if she is aroused, she will be wet. But arousal can be more emotional and not physical at times and using a little lube is a great way to get the fun started.” ― Ghose
Myth No. 8: A relationship can’t withstand mismatched libidos.
“The most common concern couples come into session with is arousal discrepancy ― when one person wants sex more often than the other does. I have yet to meet a couple that has been together for a long time and reports the same desire level of frequency, so having mismatched libidos doesn’t mean your relationship is doomed to fail. What’s important is having a discussion with your partner about how often you want or need sex. You also need to recognize that your wants may be different. If you have extreme differences in how frequently you want sex, it would be in both of your best interests to talk to a professional who can help sort through differences and come up with a good working plan to help both people feel satisfied with the amount of sex you’re having.” ― Rankin