Recently I came across an article by Julianne Ross on mic.com called “17 lies we need to stop teaching girls about sex.” Immediately after reading it, I retweeted it with a “Yes!!!!!” Because, although we have come a long way in this country as far as sexual freedom goes, there are still unhealthy myths that make sex more fraught and confusing than it needs to be.
Here are some of my favorites from Julianne’s list, followed by some additions of my own.
1. Virginity exists. False. “There’s no clear universal concept of virginity, and people should be able to define meaningful markers of intimacy for themselves.”
2. Hymens are a sign of virginity. False. “Hymens usually become worn down throughout adolescence and can be torn by everything from jumping on a trampoline, to horseback riding, to simply playing sports.”
3. The first time is going to hurt — a lot. It doesn’t have to. “Maybe if we stop telling girls to be terrified of the excruciating pain of their first time, things would be a little more comfortable for everyone.”
4. Too much sex will stretch you out. This is a tired, harmful myth that serves to make women feel guilty, used, and less-than if they have a lot of sex. “The truth is, women differ in size just like men do. The vagina is like a rubber band,” and will expand as need be but will ultimately settle to its natural size.
Here are some more myths I think we should retire once and for all:
1. Boys have higher sex drives. The truth is, sex drive varies from person to person, regardless of gender. This lie not only makes girls feel shameful and different if they have a high sex drive, it also harms boys who feel they are not living up to expectations.
2. Girls don’t masturbate. The concept of young boys (and men) masturbating is seen as commonplace and is often joked about, while female masturbation is scarcely mentioned, as if it doesn’t exist. Sex education in schools should include information about self pleasure. Masturbation is healthy and natural, and kids should be told as much.
3. The end goal of sex is the man’s climax. Yeah, we get it, the biological purpose of sex is to reproduce. But since sex is about so much more than reproduction, why not focus on the woman’s climax as well? Why don’t we teach young people that the woman’s orgasm is as important as the man’s?
4. Birth control doesn’t work all that well. Scare tactics are so 20th century. Can we move on now? While it is important for kids to know that birth control is fallible, the focus should be on maximizing its efficiency — not telling kids abstinence is the only way to go. Both boys and girls should be motivated to use birth control as responsibly as possible, rather than being convinced it doesn’t work and opting out of it entirely.
5. Sex is a big, scary, life-changing decision. Sex is not a one-way escalator you can’t get off. It is a decision that young people should feel good about if they do it responsibly and with someone they trust. And once they start, nothing is forcing them to keep going. If you have a breakup or decide sex isn’t for you or you’re not ready yet, you can put it aside until it feels right.
Let’s remove the guilt and shame from sex and help everyone have safe, smart, and satisfying experiences.
Did you have sex ed in school? What were you taught?
(Again, here is the original article that inspired this post.)