Below, sex therapists from around the country share the most common misconceptions they’ve heard about sex. (For even more myths about sex and intimacy, head here.)
1. Masturbation is bad for a relationship.
“Masturbation and self-pleasure is extremely important, especially for women in relationships struggling with low sexual desire. It becomes challenging for a lot of people because of the sexual script they’ve adopted that says that masturbation is dirty, selfish or a sign of betrayal. I teach couples that it’s essential to learn about what feels good to them in order for them to teach their partner what kind of touch they appreciate.” ― Janet Brito, a psychologist and sex therapist in Honolulu, Hawaii
2. All women can (and should) come during intercourse.
“According to one 2005 study, less than a third of women reliably experience orgasms from intercourse alone. Believing orgasms through intercourse are common is a terrible misconception that causes so much shame and frustration in relationships. It causes women to fake it and men to feel inadequate. Most women need clitoral stimulation to orgasm and intercourse alone rarely offers enough stimulation. A woman may need to give herself extra stimulation with her hand or vibrator in order to come and some women will never come during intercourse but can come from oral sex, manual sex or using a vibrator. If you follow the rule that any orgasm is a great orgasm, life gets so much more fun.” ― Celeste Hirschman, a sex therapist and the co-author of Making Love Real: The Intelligent Couple’s Guide to Lasting Intimacy and Passion.
3. The clitoris is small and hard to find.
“Many men and women, for that matter, have no idea that the visible clitoral glans is only the tip of the iceberg. Descending down either side of the clitoral glans in a wishbone shape is the rest of the clitoris ― right below the labia. This means that there is a lot of stimulation you may be missing out on. It’s understood that direct clitoral stimulation is what women get the most pleasure from. While focusing on the glans of the clitoris might be pleasurable for a while, many women experience a sensitivity that is on the verge of painful. There’s other sweet spots to explore.” ― Kat Van Kirk, a sex therapist and the resident expert at Adam and Eve
4. Sex between two people who truly love one another should always be loving.
“Mind games have no place in our grown relationships, yet eroticism is most robust when you allow yourselves to play with each other in ways that you otherwise wouldn’t in your day-to-day lives. Once mutual trust, respect, and consent have been established between you and your lover, using sexual expression as your adult playground allows you to play by very different rules than those you follow outside the bedroom. Play with power ― who’s in charge, who surrenders, who is teasing whom and making them crave before they get what they want. Take a risk in being vulnerable and uninhibited with your requests, even if you fear your partner might not be as into as you are in that moment. Dancing along that edge together is what creates the feeling that many of us call ‘passion.’ Playing it safe and keeping everything formulaic makes sex too predictable over time.” ― Kimberly Sharky, a relationship and sex therapist in New York City
5. If you’re really turned on by each other, physical arousal should come easy.
“Just because a woman is not wet, or a man is not erect does not indicate lack of arousal. You can be mentally aroused but not show symptoms of arousal. It’s true. Sometimes it takes our body time to catch up with our mind. This is normal and should not be considered a dysfunction or an issue. I hate the term erectile dysfunction for this reason. This puts unrealistic pressure on men, when having differences and changes in size, intensity and duration of erections. This is all part of the natural cycle of human nature.” ― Moushumi Ghose, a sex therapist and author of Classic Sex Positions Reinvented
6. Good sex is everything in a relationship.
“You don’t need to be the best lover your partner has ever had for them to love, respect and feel connected to you. Many folks believe that if only they were sexually skilled, nothing would be missing from their relationship. If they only knew every button to push sexually, they could save themselves from rejection and potential pain of heartbreak. But even with perfect sexual skills, relationships sometimes end when we’re not ready for them to. There is no doubt that feeling sexually confident is important, but it will not give you a free pass to not do the work that goes into a solid, successful relationship.” ― Keeley Rankin, a sex therapist in San Francisco, California