I've been a sex educator since -- well, for a long time. And I am still crazed by the quantity of misinformation available to all of us at any given time. These myths are difficult to debunk; they have a long history and thousands of urban legends to back them up. But it doesn't mean they are correct. Far from it. So while there are plenty of myths about sex and sexuality, far more than the ones I have expanded on here, these are the ones I've chosen to tackle at this moment. If you caught me on another day, maybe I'd present an entirely new list.
SLIDESHOW: 5 1/3 Myths About Female Sexuality
Wouldn't we all love for this one to be true? Many experts and studies have found that about <a href="http://www.marieclaire.com/sex-love/advice/sex-question-orgasm-problems" target="_hplink">70% of women do not have orgasms from (heterosexual vaginal) intercourse alone</a> (without external clitoral stimulation). This clearly contradicts all the sex scenes we watch on television or in movies where it appears that everyone can climax on demand. (Which is really a shame because that would be nice.) So if you have been wondering what's wrong with you... well, absolutely nothing at all. We are not built the same as men, but the lens through which we talk about sex (or see it) is often male. Many of us wind up feeling badly if our experiences don't match our expectations -- or we start to question the prowess of our partner (but that's another blog post altogether). And don't get me started on pornography -- it can certainly be entertaining, but hardly represents reality. That aside, yes, there are some women who suffer from medical conditions that make orgasm (and even intercourse) difficult or impossible. However, the majority of women are not experiencing sexual dysfunction; we just haven't been given great sex education.
I always find it interesting that we seem to have a hierarchy of sex behaviors. Consider the rationalization:<em> I can have oral or anal sex but it's not really sex so I don't have to count it as having a sex partner. Or I can do this and still be considered a virgin. Or</em>... you get the point. And to complicate matters, depending on who you ask, that hierarchy may change. So here are a few thoughts: All forms of sex are sex. They are all intimate personal behaviors with the capacity for great pleasure and if practiced without protection, the potential for certain negative outcomes, too. Did I convince you? If not, try this: Sex is not just for straight people, which is basically what we're saying when we suggest that vaginal intercourse is the only true form of sex.
In my eleventh grade health class, our teacher showed us photos of penises and vulvas (notice I did not say vagina?) ravaged by sexually transmitted infections. My health class probably wasn't unique. Lots of us were shown these photos as a means of curbing our sexual behavior. Did it work? Nope. It actually backfired. I remember my fellow students squirming in their seats. "That's disgusting!" they screamed as they looked at images of cauliflower-like warts and oozing blisters. While on the surface it may sound like a great way to scare us out of any or all sexual activity, it didn't (shocking, I know). What it actually did was incorrectly teach us that sexually transmitted infections have visible (and quite grotesque) symptoms. (They don't, most of the time.) The fact is, you cannot tell if a partner has a sexually transmitted infection just by looking at their genitals. The only way to know for certain is for you and your partners to get tested.
In addition to not having enough time for conversation, doctors don't always know how to bring up sex in their short time with you. How do I know? I've conducted numerous medical school lectures in an effort to help future medical professionals in this department. But don't just take my word for it. In the last few years there has been some scientific discussion about about how our physicians lack the skills and confidence to talk to patients about sex. In a study published in the <a href="http://www.livescience.com/19230-sex-talk-doctor-office.html" target="_hplink">March 2012 issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine</a>, researchers at the University of Chicago Department of Medicine explored how (and if) 1,150 OBGYNs (people who are literally handling our sexual and reproductive body parts) were broaching issues of sexuality in their practices. Even within the field of obstetrics and gynecology, only 40% of physicians routinely asked about sexual problems; 28.5% asked about sexual satisfaction. Pleasure, sexual orientation and sexual identity were discussed even less than that. In a <a href="http://journals.lww.com/academicmedicine/Fulltext/2010/08000/Medical_Student_Sexuality__How_Sexual_Experience.17.aspx#" target="_hplink">2010 study published in Academic Medicine</a>, researchers explored how experience and medical school education impacted medical students' comfort in talking about sexuality. Over 53% of medical students felt that they did not receive enough training in how to approach issues of sexuality with patients. So it is clear that while sexual health should be a subject talked about in the doctor's office, it is sorely lacking
No. No no no no, and no. But by the way, if you fantasize about other women and do identify as a lesbian, that's totally cool. Do we have to discuss (yet again) the role that fantasies play in our lives? I must admit, I'm getting tired of having to justify the fact that women have a myriad of fantasies -- some of which may not fit the good girl image that people may have of us. Nonetheless, thinking about someone or something doesn't mean that you want to act it out in real life; it's possible, but not definite. And by the way, I know many (let me repeat, many) heterosexual women who enjoy all sorts of lesbian erotica and pornography and are quite fulfilled by their heterosexual sex lives.
So maybe this isn't a myth, but rather, a frustrating social commentary. It seems like we devote lots of science to demystifying the female orgasm. We contest how many types of orgasms there are, whether or not they even exist, where they may or may not come from and their evolutionary purpose; we even question women's experiences with orgasm if theirs doesn't match ours. While I do believe that science should explore all aspects of human sexuality, I often question how and why we choose to focus (quite frequently) on female orgasms. I find that what this conversation does is delegitimize what many women experience. Who am I (or anyone else for that matter) to tell someone that they didn't experience an orgasm in a particular way? Orgasms are subjective and there is no one (no one) who will ever be able to know what you felt and how or where you felt it.
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