I’ve been writing books for over 20 years and – rather chillingly – some of what I wrote in the first few is no longer true.
And may never have been.
Sex research is big business these days. That means researchers now have the time and money to go back and figure out where the original “evidence” to back up these claims came from.
In an alarming number of cases, there is none.
Many of the things we thought we knew about sex have no evidence to back them up. We assume it’s a fact simply because we’ve seen or heard it said so many times.
Here are the latest sex myths to bite the dust.
Tracey Cox debunks six myths as it revealed that many of the things we thought we knew about sex have no evidence to back them up (file image)
No one actually knows what the average penis size is
Yes. The stat that is always put out – ‘the average erect penis is five centimeters long’ – is nothing more than a guess. And not even a very good one.
There’s no definitive research showing a man’s average penis size — and it’s highly unlikely there ever will be.
Here’s why: Very few men would like to come forward and have their penis measured by a trained doctor.
Most men are nervous that they will – literally – not measure up.
Nearly all studies that have been done are based on self-measurement, which is notoriously unreliable — and predictably generous.
Most men measure from starting points that make them appear taller and the focus is invariably on height rather than girth (even though girth is what most women say affects how it feels to them).
There has never been a study of an accurate measurement by someone trained to do it right, of a cross-section of men representing all cultures, ages and stages.
The latest study – done in Japan – probably won’t add anything to the mix. Researchers measured stretched flaccid penis length instead of erect penises.
Why? One of the reasons was that the men were dead: the researchers measured cadavers.
Women don’t take longer to get aroused than men
Tracey (pictured) said there is no evidence to support that urinating after sex reduces the chances of getting a urinary tract infection
Most people believe that the primary function of “foreplay” is to turn women on and men don’t need it at all.
While it is true that intercourse is more comfortable for women after ‘vaginal tenting’ has taken place (the vagina expands to make room for the penis), there is no difference in the time it takes for men and women to reach maximum arousal .
Researchers used thermal imaging to measure blood flow to the genitals (a reliable marker of arousal) and asked men and women to watch a mix of videos, including erotic ones. After watching the sexually arousing video, it took the same amount of time for both sexes to get aroused.
There is also strong evidence that longer foreplay leads to a higher degree of satisfaction for both men and women, while we are still on the subject.
There’s no point peeing after sex
Any woman who has ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI) has always been told to urinate after sex to reduce the chance of getting another one.
The idea was that peeing flushes out any bacteria forced into the urethra during intercourse.
Guess? There is no solid evidence to confirm that this does nothing at all to prevent UTIs.
OTHER SEX MYTHS THAT JUST ARE NOT TRUE
If a woman doesn’t have a hymen, she’s not a virgin. Some women aren’t born with it and even if you have one, it doesn’t completely cover the vaginal opening. While intercourse can tear the hymen, it can easily stretch to accommodate the penis entering the vagina. It is elastic and flexible.
Masturbating is bad for you. Not only is it incredibly good for you — it reduces tension, boosts immunity, and relieves menstrual cramps — it significantly increases a woman’s chances of experiencing an orgasm. This is because it helps her develop a ‘road map’ for her body.
Sex can cause a pregnant woman to give birth. It’s such standard advice that some doctors even tell their patients to give it a try! In fact, the opposite may be true: sex can delay labour. A US study found that women who were sexually active in the last three weeks of their pregnancy carried their babies for 39.9 weeks, compared to 39.3 weeks for women who had no sex.
Eating oysters makes you want to have sex. Oysters look a bit like female genitals, but other than that, there’s no evidence that they’re arousing. They contain zinc (necessary to produce healthy sperm) but no other magical ingredient that could trigger a sexual spark.
Sex affects an athlete’s performance. Sports managers and coaches of elite athletes have banned sex for years for fear that the athlete’s performance would decline. Recent research found – surprise, surprise! – having sex the day before an event has no effect on sports performance.
If you have sex, you can have a heart attack. Wrong again. Regular sex is more likely to give you a healthier heart! Men who report having sex twice a week have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than men who have sex once a month or less.
Both men and women have a sexual peak. How do you actually measure a ‘sexual peak’? Is it the maximum number of orgasms possible? Is it when you feel sexiest or look your best? The myth says that men peak at 18 and women in their early 30s, but it was just an opinion and not a fact. People can experience many sexual spikes in their lives depending on what they choose to explore and the lovers they associate with.
Men think about sex every seven seconds. That’s 500 times an hour and over 8000 times in the 16 hours most men are awake! Notorious sex researcher Alfred Kinsey is blamed for this, but his actual survey found that 54 percent of men said they thought about sex several times a day, 43 percent said a few times a week or a month, and four percent said less than once a month.
Not every seven seconds, huh?
Bizarrely, even reputable medical websites that admit there’s no evidence still say “it won’t hurt” to follow the advice. (Why?)
Women are still 30 times more likely to get a urinary tract infection than men because our urethra is close to the vagina and anus and bacteria spread easily. Our urethra is also shorter, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder.
The thinking now is that by the time you get to the pee stage, the bacteria will have already made the short journey.
The vibrator was not invented to make doctor’s work easier
There is a hugely exciting and entertaining story that says that vibrators were invented for doctors to use on women to cure ‘hysteria’.
Hysteria was the term doctors used in the 1880s to describe just about any type of female stress or anxiety-related symptoms. The supposed “cure” for hysteria was for the doctor to masturbate the patient to orgasm. Not only did this make appointment times too long, the poor old doctors were reportedly tired of repeatedly performing this task on so many women. Enter the vibrator – designed to make the job so much easier!
Only there is no literature or data to provide any evidence that doctors ever masturbated their patients.
It’s true that a Victorian doctor created the ‘vibratode’, but it was originally designed as a medical device for men to treat pain (on non-sexual parts).
Vibrators were initially marketed for general use as household and medical devices in the early 1900s.
Advertisements showed that men, women, babies and the elderly were using them to cure everything from wrinkles to tuberculosis. Smart women, however, soon discovered that spectacular things happened when they put them on their clitoris.
Speaking of which…
The clitoris does not have twice as many nerve endings as the penis
It is constantly reported that the clitoris has 8000 nerve endings in just the tip (the bit you can see).
It’s a “fact” that appears in textbooks and many other highly reputable sources – I’ve written this exact phrase in many of my books over the years.
When a sex researcher decided to go back and find the original studies that showed so many nerve endings, it turned out that there weren’t any.
All that turned up was a study based on… cows.
The truth is, there are no studies that tell us how many nerve endings are in the penis or clitoris.
There is also no G-spot
Most of you will not be surprised by this.
Why is the name still common? Because it’s easier to use that to describe a very sensitive area in the vagina than the (more accurate) ‘anterior anterior wall’ or ‘inner clitoral/urethral stimulation’. (I make a line of sex toys called ‘G-spot’ vibrators just for that reason – it’s catchier!).
The latest thinking is that the ‘G-spot zone’ is a hot meeting place for the clitoris, urethral sponge, Skene’s gland and possibly other areas.
Cosmopolitan magazine apologized last year for using the term and promoting it extensively over the years.
(I edited Cosmopolitan in Australia and can personally vouch for the fact that in the 1980s there was rarely a cover that didn’t include the term.)
It is not a separate anatomical entity.
That makes doctors currently performing “G-spot amplification” surgeries — to amplify a spot that actually doesn’t exist — even more charlatan than they sound.
Listen to Tracey’s weekly podcast, SexTok, wherever you listen to your podcasts. Information about this, her books and two product lines can be found at traceycox.com.