For one reason or another, humans are very shy when it comes to talking about sex. Coyness about this issue means that even the most intelligent of people can become msinformed about sex through hearsay, folklore, misleading media images, or – let’s not lie – pornography. No doubt, that plays a big role in the huge amount of misconceptions many of us hold about it.
So, put aside your embarrassment toward penises, vaginas, orgasms, ejaculations, and sexually transmitted infections, here’s what science has to say about all those rumors from in between the sheets.
A Woman's Vagina Becomes Loose If She's Promiscuous
Quite simply, there’s little evidence to suggest that intercourse can permanently stretch a woman’s vagina, nor will it change shape, size, or color depending on how many sexual partners she has had or how often she has had sex.
As Dr Sari Locker explains on her sex education blog, “It’s a myth that a woman’s vagina becomes permanently stretched out from having sex with a man with a large penis. After each sexual encounter, the vagina contracts to its original size, and it has no lasting stretching.”
A 2006 study from the journal Human Reproduction looked into finding the average shape and size of vaginas using MRI scans. As they noted, “vaginal anatomy has been poorly studied.” They found that there was not one way to characterize the shape of the human vagina, with all showing different dimensions. One of the few variables they did find was age with the pelvic flexure width.
Truth is, vaginas come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and colors. As evidence, take a look at the sculpture “Great Wall Of Vagina” by artist Jamie McCartney, who created plaster casts of over 400 different women – including grandmothers, identical twins, and transgender women – to show vaginas in all their divine diversity.
Female Ejaculation Is Fake Or Forced
It’s a common belief that female ejaculation is unnatural and deviant. So much so, it’s even enshrined in some laws in the Western world. In a controversial move, the UK government banned female ejaculation from UK-made pornography in 2014, but not male ejaculation. The act put female ejaculation in the same bag as porn with depictions of non-consensual sex, strangulation, and fisting.
Scientifically speaking, it’s just another biological function. One study that looked into this suggested that between 10 and 40 percent of women experience an involuntary emission of urine when they reach an orgasm. Yep, some of the time, it’s just a spontaneous splash of pee.
But another smaller study, reported in New Scientist, looked further into the chemical composition of the squirting liquid and found some women do indeed naturally and involuntarily release pee when they orgasm. In other cases, researchers actually found a small amount of prostatic-specific antigen, a chemical found in male ejaculate that helps sperm to swim. That suggests "squirting" serves some kind of reproductive function.
So in sum, although it doesn’t affect every woman, “squirting” isn’t some flashy porn gimmick and it’s not much different to a male ejaculation. As we concluded in one of our previous articles about female ejaculation: “When you’re drawing a line between microscopic tadpole-like critters and urine, you’ve simply got your priorities utterly wrong. Quite frankly, does it really even matter what it is as long as everyone is enjoying themselves?”
Image credit: NattapolStudiO/Shutterstock
A Tall Guy With Big Feet = Big Penis
It’s pretty hard to guess the size of a man’s junk without seeing it, no matter how experienced you may be.
The most common penis misbelief is that different races have vastly different penis sizes. A 2015 study in the British Journal of Urology took an in-depth analysis of 15,521 penis sizes from around the world. Overall, there was scarcely any difference. In fact, more often than not, it went against the stereotypes.
In the meta-study, the average flaccid penis length worldwide was 9.16 centimeters (3.6 inches). In Nigeria, the average length was 8.16 centimeters (3.2 inches), India it was 8.21 centimeters (3.23 inches), South Korea was 7.7 centimeters (3 inches), Germany was 8.6 centimeters (3.38 inches), USA was 8.85 centimeters (3.48 inches), and Jordan was 9.3 centimeters (3.66),
Circumcising A Penis Affects Sexual Function
While we’re on the subject of willies, it’s worth noting that circumcised penises do not lose sexual sensation.
One study published in The Journal of Urology looked at 62 men between the ages of 18 and 37. Of them, 30 were circumcised and 32 were non-circumcised. They assessed the sensitivity of the penises by measuring their touch detection, warmth detection, and pain threshold on multiple points of the their penises.
Overall, regardless of their circumcision status, the results were the same and no group appeared any less sensitive than the other.
A woman's hymen will "break" the first time she has intercourse.
The shape and structure of the hymen differs from female to female, however it typically consists of a thin membrane that can partially cover the entrance of the vagina. It can therefore rip the first time a female engages in sex - although it doesn't always. Since it has no practical physiological function, it has become deeply associated with concepts of purity and virginity in many cultures.
However, having penetrative sex is not the only way that a female can break the hymen. It can also be broken through inserting tampons, physical activity, gymnastics, sport, sex toys, or just by chance.
The herpes virus under the microscope. image credit: Yale Rosen/Flickr. (CC BY-SA 2.0).
Understandably, herpes has a bad reputation. But chances are, you have herpes. In fact, as many as 90 percent of people in the world probably do too.
Herpes actually comes in eight forms. But you’re probably most concerned with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), the two forms that manifest in cold sores and genital herpes, respectively (although HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes sometimes).
According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 (67 percent) have HSV-1 infection globally and an estimated 417 million people aged 15-49 (11 percent) worldwide have HSV-2 infection. In the vast majority of HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections, people are unaware they are even infected and show no signs.
That said, herpes can come with a list of nasty complications. So wear a condom, kids.