Even with all of the information available online right now, sex myths still circulate regularly. And, whether it’s about climaxes sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or the size of your vagina, there’s a sex myth — and a doctor to debunk it.
“I regularly hear things that are incorrect,” Dr. Lauren Streicher, a professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, tells Yahoo Life. It’s understandable how you might hear a sex myth and take it as truth—especially if you’ve heard it more than a few times—but it’s important to get the facts straight. After all, Dr. Streicher says, believing certain sex myths can cause unnecessary body image issues and even put your health at risk.
With that in mind, here are some of the most common sexual health myths doctors hear regularly—and why they’re incorrect.
Myth No.1: Most women climax during intercourse
“Many women who come to us think something is wrong with them because they don’t orgasm during sex,” Streicher says. “When we tell them they’re normal, they’re shocked.”
Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale Medical School, tells Yahoo Life that she hears this from women “all the time.”
Women’s health expert Dr. Jennifer Wider, tells Yahoo Life that only a “minority of women” may climax from intercourse alone, and experts debate whether it’s even possible for women to climax this way at all. “The vast majority of women need clitoral stimulation in order to achieve an orgasm,” she says.
Streicher blames pop culture. “Movies have created an expectation in women and men that they’re going to have a mind-blowing, fabulous [climax] right away during sex,” she says. “That’s just not true.”
Myth No.2: Sex is better when you’re younger
This is “not true for so many people,” Wider says. “While a person's sex drive can fluctuate based on a variety of factors, many people—both men and women—report having great sex well into their 60s and beyond,” she says.
“[Younger women] do have the advantage of high hormone levels,” but there are plenty of other factors that go into satisfying sex, Streicher says. She cites past experience, a satisfying relationship and a good partner as important. “Many women find that their sexual pleasure increases with age,” she says.
One thing that older women may deal with that often isn’t as much of an issue for their younger counterparts is vaginal dryness, Minkin says. That can cause pain during sex if it’s not treated. Still, Minkin says, it’s usually a treatable issue.
Myth No.3: Your vagina will get “loose” if you’re sexually active
Wider calls this one “completely false,” adding, “frequent vaginal intercourse will not cause the muscles of the vagina to lose elasticity.” Streicher agrees. “A penis is not going to cause a vagina to stretch out—it’s not an issue,” she says.
Factors like having multiple children, age, and obesity can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, Wider says—but they won’t loosen the vagina. But, she says, “This issue can be addressed by a variety of exercises, devices, or other therapeutic modalities.”
Myth No.4: You can’t get an STI if you’re a serial monogamist.
Minkin says she’s heard this one several times: people think they won’t be exposed to STIs if they have unprotected sex with just one person. “When you start dating someone and you’re not using condoms, you’re basically having sex with everyone that other person ever had sex with,” she says.
That can open you up to a range of STIs, including herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. So, “use protection,” she says.
Myth No. 5: A vagina can be “too small”
Streicher has heard this concern from patients before, especially ones with well-endowed partners. But, she says, “it’s not a thing.”
“Vaginas can accommodate any size penis—they can push out a baby,” she points out. “They’re not too small.” If a woman is having uncomfortable sex with a sizable partner, she may need to relax her pelvic floor, have more foreplay or use more lubrication, Streicher says. But, she adds, “The size of your vagina should not detract from your sexual pleasure.”
If you have questions about your sexual health, experts say it’s important to just ask your doctor. “That’s what we’re here for,” Minkin says.