Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
There are so many myths about sex, that it’s hard to know where to begin to debunk them. Sex is much more than people imagine. It’s about connection, pleasure, play and curiosity. It’s about talking, sharing, being vulnerable, balancing safety with taking risks, finding out about yourself and your partner and exploration.
It starts outside the bedroom by showing appreciation of each other, having open and honest conversations, spending quality time together, being affectionate, sharing respectful and playful touch.
Sex can be gentle and calm, playful, emotional, urgent, erotic and sensual, energizing and thrilling, and it can be spiritual. There are no limits to what sex can be.
Below are the six most common myths I hear from my clients whenever we discuss their sexual issues.
Myth 1. Sex is About Getting Your Needs Met
We all have needs. But if you focus too intently on your own needs while buying into the myth that your partner is obliged to fulfill them, it puts a big burden on you and your relationship. When you say you aren’t getting your needs met, what you mean is you’re not getting what you want or desire. Learn to distinguish between your sexual needs and wants. This is crucial, especially if your libidos are not well matched – which, by the way, is the most common complaint that clients have about their sex lives.
If you say that you want something but aren’t getting it, you have the following options:
- You can negotiate
- You can adjust internally
- You can choose respectful ways to get what you want that aren’t driven by manipulation, desperation or deceit.
Thinking of something as a want rather than a need makes it much easier to avoid blaming your partner for failing you when you aren’t getting it. It is one of the crucial skills on the way to developing sexual intelligence.
Myth 2. Sex Should be Spontaneous
The myth that sex should be spontaneous is very common and also very damaging. This belief can be a source of many problems. Even though spontaneous sex can be delightful when it happens, in reality it’s rare for most long-term couples and even in many short-term ones.
The ideal of spontaneous sex is not rooted in reality. People lead busy lives, and most of us have to plan our days and evenings. You come home from work tired and distracted, and if children or aging parents are in the picture, these are additional demands to be met. It’s hard to feel like jumping each other’s bones when there are so many things on the to-do list.
When you were dating, it was actually a form of engaging in scheduled sex. When you didn’t live together, you planned your meetings; prepared for your dates by showering, shaving, dressing up; and you met at an appointed place and time. All of this was often just a build-up to the main purpose – a sexual encounter.
And the build-up, the anticipation, enhanced the entire experience. Positive anticipation is the most reliable aphrodisiac. Even if sex when dating felt spontaneous, it was actually planned and very structured.
Scheduling sex not only ensures that it will happen, it keeps desire alive between you and increases the odds that you will have spontaneous sex on those days when you haven’t put it on our to-do list. By making the time for encounters to happen, you’re treating your lovemaking as something important and worthy of your attention. This is a way to treat your relationship as a living organism that calls for your mutual nurturing.
Make Time for Sex. Schedule at least two erotic encounters for the next month. It’s up to you whether these encounters include penetrative sex or orgasms for one or both of you. Take note of how this affects your general level of desire. One way to do it is to take extra-long lunch breaks and meet at home for an early afternoon tryst when the kids are at school. Anticipating this ritual keeps you feeling desire for each other.
Myth 3. Spontaneous Desire is Better Than Responsive Desire
There is a mistaken belief that desire always arises spontaneously. This myth about sex is simply not true in many adults. It’s true for teens and young people and in the early stages of a relationship. Desire is something we select or choose to feel. People yearn for that feeling (which is what often leads to affairs). In adult relationships, we have to plan to experience desire and plan logistically to be sexual. People often resist letting go of this myth.
We used to think that people are overtaken by spontaneous jolts of desire which then aroused us for sex. Recent research shows that this might be reversed, especially for women. It’s now known that a more common experience for women in established relationships is “responsive desire” – desire that arises in response to something pleasurable, not in anticipation of it.
Especially for women, it’s important to know the myths about orgasms. Don’t wait to feel surges of sexual desire before you engage in sexual activity. If you’re not aware of desire, you can choose to have decision-driven sex and follow that decision with action. If you anticipate a pleasurable interaction, that is often enough to begin. Willingness is enough. Know that factors such as relationship dynamics, intimacy, and weighing the rewards and costs of sexual experience play an important role in sexual response.
It’s essential to understand that under the right circumstances, sexual arousal, pleasure, enjoyment and satisfaction are perfectly possible without any sexual desire at all. Sexual desire (interest in sex) and sexual arousal (getting turned on) are completely separate processes, determined by different parts of the brain. So even when you don’t feel in the mood for sex, once you get started you may well become aroused and enjoy having sex.
Sexual desire doesn’t always have to come before sexual activity or arousal. Sometimes getting physical and experiencing arousal will ignite desire.
Myth 4. You Don’t Need to Clearly Define Monogamy
It’s a big mistake to not explicitly discuss what monogamy is for you and your partner. It’s the source of much heartache, and it’s one of the primary reasons why various forms of cheating are so common. One of the big myths about sex is that cheating is always about sex. It’s not.
In fact, monogamy is not one thing; it may work for some but not for others, or it may be appropriate at some times and not at others. It’s important to have clear agreements about friendships, social media, flirtation, emotional & physical connections with others. Talk about what you want, your fears and hopes, and what you think would be best for both of you at any particular time.
Discuss what monogamy, infidelity, and cheating mean to you. Each of these may include both sexual and nonsexual components. These discussions are opportunities for discussion in a more methodical way. Monogamy is not easy to define, and you may need to have more than one conversation to arrive at your own understandings.
Engaging in a dialogue about monogamy and what it means to you will help you think about sex and relating in a more conscious and intentional way. It is likely to give you a deeper understanding of your own relationship dynamics and your underlying and often unspoken assumptions. Bringing awareness to these aspects of a relationship is a great way to build intimacy.
Myth 5. The Sex in Movies, on TV and in Porn is Good
Everyone knows that that sex as shown in the media is not realistic, nor is it a model for you to copy. Despite this, media images do influence and shape us, whether we know it or not. Filmed sex, whether actual or simulated, is not reality. Instead, it is informed by many of the myths about sex above.
Many mainstream movie depictions of sex emphasize the spontaneous, romantic ideal. Foreplay is seldom shown. This is also true in pornography, which leaves out a lot of what real sex is about. People frequently just seem to “go at it”, and it is usually over very quickly.
In contrast to amateur porn, commercial porn uses sexual positions intended for the camera. The performers are like athletes; many of them spend hours training their bodies and minds for the performance. And despite their skills, the sex often looks twisted, and in many scenes, it’s doubtful that real pleasure happens. It’s only acting.
In many cases, sexual acts in porn have significant health risks if practiced in real life — such as vaginal penetration following anal intercourse with no washing in between. Do not do this – it is a health hazard. Also, despite the emergence of talented feminist pornographers, most pornography is made by men, for men so it doesn’t appeal to differences in sexual turn-ons. Watch Cindy Gallup’s TED talk Make Love Not Porn. She encourages us to talk about sex and learn about real sex.
When you watch porn, remind yourself, “this is entertainment and is only a movie”, and always focus on finding your own authentic form of sexual expression.
Myth 6. There is a Right Way to be Sexual
There are many beliefs about right and wrong ways to have sex. Some people still think oral and anal intercourse is unnatural or degrading. Some myths are influenced by Freud, others by religion, and still others by cultural factors.
Many myths about sex continue to view masturbation as either unacceptable or as a poor substitute for intercourse, or unfortunately, that it’s wrong for people in relationships. There are claims that vibrators are “addictive” and so shouldn’t be used – this is totally false. The list of misguided beliefs could go on and on.
For your information, there are six principles of sexual health devised by the World Association of Sexual Health (WAS). Following these guidelines and having open, informed discussions about your sexual wants and needs goes a long way to making sex a fulfilling experience for you.
The wrong way to have sex is when it involves an abuse of power, inflicts harm on others, is coercive or non-consensual. Beyond that, if your lovemaking leaves you unsatisfied or unhappy with yourself, you may be trying to conform to some set of idealized beliefs about what’s “good” sex rather than focusing on what’s right for you.
Learn to talk about sex
I encourage talking about sex. Especially communication and negotiation about different sexual needs. Oral sex, manual stimulation, and self-pleasuring are just as valid as genital intercourse. The emphasis on genital intercourse as “real sex” is one of the unacceptable myths about sex. This emphasis by its nature treats same-sex and non-binary relationships as inferior to heterosexual ones, which is blatantly untrue.
If we can free ourselves from the many myths about sex that we unconsciously accept, the possibilities are limitless.
Sexuality has a number of positive functions for your relationship— a shared pleasure; a way to connect, nurture & comfort; a means to reinforce and deepen intimacy; it affirms your gender and desirability. It has many health benefits like raising immunity, and it’s a great tension reducer to deal with the stresses of life and your relationship.
For inquiries about how I may be able to help you with sexual issues, call 0421 961 687 or email me to schedule an appointment. International callers should call +61 421 961 687.
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