I’ve been writing books for more than 20 years and – rather horrifyingly – some of what I’ve written in the first few is no longer true.
And possibly never was.
Sex research is big business these days. Which means researchers now have the time and money to go back and trace where the original ‘evidence’ to support these claims came from.
In an alarming number of cases, there isn’t any.
A lot of the things we thought we knew about sex have no proof to back them up. We assume it’s fact simply because we’ve seen or heard it said so many times.
Here’s the latest sex myths to bite the dust.
Tracey Cox debunks six myths, as it's revealed a lot of the things we thought we knew about sex have no proof to back them up (file image)
No-one actually knows what the average penis size is
Yep. The statistic that’s always trotted out - ‘the average erect penis is five inches long’ - is nothing more than a guess. And not even a terribly good one.
There is no definitive study that proves the average penis size of a man - and it’s highly unlikely there ever will be.
Here’s why: very few men would willingly come forward to have their penises measured by a trained clinician.
Most men are nervous they - literally - won’t measure up.
Nearly all the studies that have been done rely on self-measurement which is notoriously unreliable – and predictably generous.
Most men measure from starting points that make them seem bigger and the focus is invariably on length rather than girth (even though girth is what most women say does affect how it feels to them).
A study providing accurate measurement by someone trained to do it properly, of a cross-section of men that represent all cultures, ages and stages has never been done.
The latest study – done in Japan - is unlikely to add anything to the mix. Researchers measured stretched flaccid penis length rather than erect penises.
Why? Well, one reason was the men were dead: the researchers measured cadavers.
Women take no longer to get aroused than men do
Tracey (pictured) said there's no evidence to support that peeing after sex reduces the chances of getting a urinary tract infection
Most people believe the primary function of ‘foreplay’ is to get women aroused and that men don’t need it at all.
While it’s true that intercourse is more comfortable for women after ‘vaginal tenting’ occurs (the vagina expands to make room for the penis) there is no difference in the time it takes men and women to reach peak arousal.
Researchers used thermal imaging to measure blood flow to the genitals (a reliable marker of arousal) and asked men and women to look at a mix of videos, including erotic ones. After viewing the sexually arousing video, it took the same amount of time for both sexes to become aroused.
There’s also strong evidence that longer foreplay leads to higher levels of satisfaction for men, as well as women, while we’re on the topic.
There’s no point in peeing after sex
Any woman who has ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI) has invariably been told to pee after sex to reduce the chances of getting another one.
The idea was that peeing flushes out any bacteria forced into the urethra during intercourse.
Guess what? There is no solid evidence to confirm that this does anything at all to prevent UTIs.
OTHER SEX MYTHS THAT SIMPLY AREN’T TRUE
If a woman doesn’t have a hymen, she’s not a virgin. Some women aren’t born with one and even if you do have one it doesn’t cover the vaginal opening entirely. While intercourse can tear the hymen, it can easily stretch to accommodate the penis entering the vagina. It’s elastic and flexible.
Masturbating is bad for you. Not only is it incredibly good for you – it reduces tension, boosts immunity and eases menstrual cramps – it significantly increases the chances of a woman experiencing orgasm. This is because it helps her develop a ‘road map’ for her body.
Having sex can cause a pregnant woman to go into labour. It’s such standard advice some doctors will even tell their patients to give it a try! In fact, the opposite might be true: having sex may delay labour. US research found women who were sexually active in the final three weeks of their pregnancies carried their babies for 39.9 weeks compared to 39.3 for women who weren’t having sex.
Eating oysters will make you feel like sex. Oysters look a little like female genitalia but apart from that, there’s no evidence to suggest they are arousing. They contain zinc (necessary to produce healthy sperm) but no other magic ingredient that might cause a sexual spark.
Sex affects an athlete’s performance. For years, sports managers and coaches of top sportsmen and women banned sex for fear the athlete’s performance would be weakened. Recent research found – surprise, surprise! – having sex the day before an event has no effect whatsoever on sports performance.
Having sex can give you a heart attack. Wrong again. Having regular sex is more likely to give you a healthier heart! Men who report having sex twice a week have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease than men who have sex once a month or less.
Both men and women have a sexual peak. How do you measure a ‘sexual peak’ anyway? Is it the maximum amount of orgasms possible? Is it when you feel the sexiest or look your best? The myth says men peak at 18 and women in their early 30s but it was only ever opinion not fact. People can experience many sexual peaks in their lives depending on what they choose to explore and the lovers they hook up with.
Men think about sex every seven seconds. That’s 500 times an hour and more than 8000 times during the 16 hours most men are awake! The infamous sex researcher Alfred Kinsey gets blamed for this one 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?
Bizarrely, even reputable medical websites that admit there is no evidence, still say ‘there’s no harm’ in continuing to follow the advice. (Why?)
Women are still 30 times more likely to get a UTI than men because our urethra is close to the vagina and anus and bacteria is easily spread. Our urethra is also shorter, so the bacteria can reach the bladder more easily.
The thinking now is that by the time you’re at the peeing stage, the bacteria has already made the short journey.
The vibrator wasn’t invented to make doctor’s jobs easier
There’s a hugely titillating and entertaining story that says vibrators were invented for doctors to use on women to cure ‘hysteria’.
Hysteria was the term that doctors used to describe just about any type of female stress or anxiety related symptoms in the 1880’s. The supposed ‘cure’ for hysteria was for the doctor to masturbate the patient to orgasm. Not only did this make the appointment times too long, the poor old doctors were reputedly tired out from performing this task, repetitively, on so many women. Enter the vibrator - designed to make the job so much easier!
Except there’s no literature or data to provide any evidence at all that doctors ever masturbated their patients.
It is 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 domestic and medical appliances in the early 1900s.
Advertisements showed men, women, babies and older people using them to cure everything from wrinkles to tuberculosis. Savvy women, however, didn’t take long to discover that spectacular things happened when they applied them to their clitoris.
Speaking of which…
The clitoris doesn’t have twice as many nerve endings as the penis
It’s continually 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 sentence in plenty of my books over the years.
When a sex researcher decided to go back and find the original studies that showed evidence of so many nerve endings, turned out there weren’t any.
All that turned up was a study based on…cows.
Truth is, there are no studies that tell us how many nerve endings are in either the penis or the clitoris.
There is no G-spot either
Most of you won’t be surprised about this one.
Why is the name still common place? Because it’s easier to use that to describe a highly sensitive area inside the vagina than the (more accurate) ‘front anterior wall’ or ‘inner clitoral/urethral stimulation’. (I do a range of sex toys that are called ‘G-spot’ vibrators, simply for that reason – it’s catchier!).
The latest thinking is that the ‘G-spot zone’ is a hot meeting spot for the clitoris, urethral sponge, Skene’s gland and possibly other areas.
Cosmopolitan magazine last year apologised for using the term and promoting it extensively over the years.
(I edited Cosmopolitan in Australia and can personally vouch for the fact that there was rarely a cover in the 80s that didn’t feature the term.)
It is not a distinct anatomical entity.
Which makes doctors who are currently performing ‘G-spot amplification’ surgery – to enhance 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. You’ll find info on this, her books and two product ranges at traceycox.com.