There are so many sex myths out there, dying to be debunked, it’s hard to keep it to just a handful.
Every year, sex research valiantly chips away at the things we think are set in stone and this last year was no exception.
Here’s 13 things most people THINK they know about sex and sexual behaviour – but that have no basis in fact whatsoever.
Tracey Cox has revealed common rumours about sex that simply are not true. Stock image
Men can’t orgasm without ejaculating
Of all the sex facts I tell people, this is the one that most surprises people.
We assume orgasm and ejaculation are one and the same but they are, in fact, separate processes.
An ejaculation happens in the prostate and urethra, as muscular contractions propel semen out of the body. An orgasm happens in the brain.
In brain scans in men, an orgasm looks a lot like an epileptic fit: an electrical storm that sweeps over the brain. It begins at ‘the point of no return’ (ejaculatory inevitability – his mother could walk in and it still wouldn’t stop it) and is followed one to three seconds later by the onset of ejaculation.
Sex expert Tracey (pictured) says men don’t think about sex nearly as much as we think they do
You can absolutely have one without the other, though orgasm seems to be the pleasurable part. (Men who experience ejaculation without orgasm report low levels of pleasure.)
One famous study (Hartman and Fithian), which involved 10,000 hours of recordings of people masturbating and having sex while wired in a lab, found 12 per cent of man were able to orgasm without ejacuating or losing their erection.
Teaching men to become multi-orgasmic often involves teaching men to separate the two processes.
It’s your partner’s job to arouse you
Many people are guilty of believing that it’s up to their partner to put them ‘in the mood’ for sex.
We’re all in charge of our own arousal and starting sex ‘warm’ rather than ‘cold’ is highly recommended and more sexually satisfying.
Turning yourself on – either by touching yourself, using a sex toy, fantasising, watching or reading erotica – before having sex with your partner puts you in control.
This is particularly true for women. Women who know their bodies well and how to arouse themselves report far more satisfying sex lives than those who don’t.
Men think about sex every seven seconds
Not surprisingly, there never was any research to back up this fact. That’s 500 times an hour and more than 8,000 times during the 16 hours most men are awake!
Lots attribute this ‘fact’ to the infamous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey but his actual research found 54 per cent of men said they thought about sex several times a day, 43 per cent said a few times per week or per month and four per cent said less than once a month.
Not quite every seven seconds, eh?
Recent research by Ohio State University, asked students to track their thoughts about sex, food and sleep using a handheld counter.
The results: the average man tallied 19 sexy thoughts a day (about one thought every hour and a half) and the average woman had 10 sexy thoughts a day (and bear in mind, these are very young adults).
Smoking weed kills sexual desire
Most of us picture someone inert in front of the telly, indulging a case of the munchies, when we conjure up an image of a regular pot smoker. But turns out they’re far more likely to be energetically having sex than the rest of us.
A large US survey found the more frequently both men and women smoked weed, the more they had sex: about 20 per cent more than abstainers.
Studies suggest marijuana makes sex more pleasurable and increases desire for women. It more than doubled the odds of them reporting satisfying orgasms and it helped with painful sex. Men said it made them last longer, it heightened sensation and enhanced sexual satisfaction.
It is a little ‘What came first, the chicken or the egg?’: we don’t know if people who smoke weed just have different attitudes towards sex than people who don’t. But the research is far more positive than negative.
Only men get erections
Not true – women get erections, too! They’re just not as noticeable as the ones men get.
The clitoris is made up of the same spongy erectile tissue as the penis, which expands and engorges with blood when we’re aroused.
It visibly increases in size when it’s stimulated in a pleasing, sexual way.
They sex expert says it’s not always true that a sexual fantasy is a secret wish to try something. Stock image
Have sex if you want the baby to come quicker
Some doctors still advise their pregnant patients to indulge in a bit of nookie if they want to bring on labour. The reality is the opposite is more likely to be be true.
A recent US study (Ohio State University) found not only does having sex near your due date not trigger labour, it may actually delay it.
Researchers found women who were sexually active in the final three weeks of their pregnancies carried their babies an average of 39.9 weeks, compared to 39.3 weeks for women who weren’t having any sex.
The more partners a woman has had, the larger her vagina
Umm, I don’t think so.
The vaginal canal is a muscle and while it stretches to accommodate large objects – like a baby – it doesn’t stay that way.
Having lots of partners, a lover with a big penis or using a large-sized penetrative sex toys won’t affect how ‘tight’ you are. How you feel to a partner depends on genetics, the fit between you and them, and on what shape your pelvic floor muscles are in.
The vagina is impressively resilient and the shape and size has nothing to do with your sexual history.
If you have a fetish, you can’t enjoy sex without it
This was the thinking for a long time: since people with fetishes get aroused by the presence of a specific object during sex, they clearly don’t enjoy sex without it.
Although they enjoy fetish activities more, research actually finds most fetishists still find non-fetish sex to be very enjoyable. For most people, fetishes aren’t fixations, they are preferences.
A headache means you won’t want sex
It might be true for most but not if you’re a migraine sufferer.
Research (done by the Wake Forest University) found migraine sufferers reported higher levels of sexual desire and didn’t avoid sexual activity in the grips of a headache.
It’s believed sexual desire and migraine headaches may be influenced by the same brain chemical.
You can’t break a penis
I’m afraid I can vouch for this not being true because I actually ‘broke’ my first husband’s!
I moved at the wrong moment and his penis went crashing into the wooden bedboard: it was not pleasant.
Getting a penile fracture can and does happen. Usually when the couple change position while he’s still erect and inside, rather than withdrawing first, then switching.
Extremely aggressive ‘jackhammer’ style thrusting can also do it because his penis is more likely to fall out and hit something.
A sexual fantasy is a secret wish to try something
Less than one third of participants in a study conducted by Dr Justin Lehmiller reported ever acting out their most prominent fantasy.
Lehmiller interviewed more than 4000 people for the largest and most comprehensive study on sexual fantasies to date (his book is ‘Tell Me What You Want’).
Group sex was by far the most common theme – 89 per cent reported fantasising about threesomes – but other research shows only 30 per cent of people have actually had one.
Only three per cent of people have no sexual fantasies at all, says Lehmiller.
Tracey says it’s untrue that men and women have different sexual peaks in their life. Stock image
Length is more important than girth
Men might be hung up on length but women are more concerned about girth.
For a study in the Netherlands, researchers asked 170 women to rate the importance of length and girth. The result: girth was more important than length.
A second survey of 550 Croatian women also placed thickness over length, as did a 2014 study that showed women 3D models of penises and asked them to choose the one they preferred. More recently, a survey by Men’s Health magazine found 70 per cent of women chose girth with only 18 per cent favouring length.
Anatomically, this makes sense. The vagina is covered in stretch mechanoreceptors and the thicker the penis, the more contact it makes with these nerve endings.
The wider the penis, the more chance the clitoral head has of indirect stimulation during intercourse with the act of thrusting causing the area around it to pull back and forth.
Men and women have different sexual peaks
Common thinking is that men peak at 18 and women in their 30s – presumably based on ‘stamina’ for men and women understanding their bodies better as they age.
The truth is there’s no difference between men and women if you’re measuring frequency of sex to be the factor that matters most. We know the average American will have the most sex around age 25, there is no gender difference.
There is no magic age when women know their bodies best either. It can happen at any age, depending on a plethora of circumstances (including our experience, our lover’s expertise, our education, upbringing and body image issues).
Sexual desire constantly fluctuates in all sexualities over the course of a lifetime and we can all experience many sexual peaks over the years.
Listen to Tracey’s new weekly podcast, Mom’s Don’t Have Time to Have Sex, on all podcast platforms. You’ll find her supersex and Edge product ranges on , along with more sex advice.