Myth #1: Men are from Mars, and women are from Venus.
The media and several best-selling books are responsible for perpetuating the myth men and women cannot get along because they come from different planets. There are many ideas about sexuality that are based in gender stereotypes. Have you ever heard that men want sex while women want commitment, or men are always ready for sex while women are more interested in affection? We are socialized to believe men and women have opposing relational roles and sexual needs. But believing this myth may be causing you to place an expectation on your partner that is damaging to your relationship.
Truth: In reality, there is a lot of common ground between men and women, and being more flexible in your thinking about gender roles and sexuality may increase your relationship satisfaction (McCarthy, 2015).
What to Do: Make a list of common beliefs and gender stereotypes you may have picked up through the media or popular culture. Discuss these with your partner.
Myth #2: Real sex is intercourse.
Another common myth is “real sex” must include intercourse sex. This is simply untrue, yet the majority of couples fall into the trap of believing that sex = intercourse.
Truth: Research shows the most sexually satisfied couples will incorporate multiple dimensions of touch and pleasuring into their couple sexual style (McCarthy, 2015). This can include more sensual or playful touch, like cuddling on the couch, a back or foot rub, or touching in the shower or bath. It can also mean erotic, non-intercourse touch, such as manual, oral, or vibrator stimulation.
What to Do: Discuss with your partner how you can incorporate greater variety and flexibility in order to enhance your sexual desire and pleasure.
Myth #3: Penis size determines sexual satisfaction.
This myth, like gender stereotypes, has also been perpetuated by the media and popular culture. It can be very damaging to a man’s view of himself and to a couple’s sexual satisfaction. Penises clearly vary in length, width, and shape, and all are perfectly functional and normal. Although some men and women prefer a certain size penis for sexual satisfaction, there is absolutely no basis for believing that penis size affects a man’s ability to be a fully satisfying sexual partner (Kelly, 2011).
Truth: An individual’s willingness to communicate about sex and learn from his or her partner about their sexual preferences is a more reasonable basis for determining if he or she is a fully satisfying sexual partner.
What to Do: Men can do very little to alter the characteristics of their genitals, so respect your partner and his body by choosing not to make negative remarks or shaming him about the size of his penis.
Myth #4: Sex is a daily activity for most couples.
Some couples believe they need to be sexual every day or most days in order to maintain the vitality of their sexual relationship. Movies, books, and even our friends and family members may lead us to believe that the norm is to have hot, passionate sex every day of the week!
Truth: The average couple engages in sexual contact about once or twice per week (McCarthy & McCarthy, 2013). Every person is different in terms of his or her sex drive, and everything from no sexual desire to very high sexual desire is normal. Problems can occur when one partner’s sex drive is different from the other’s.
To Do: Begin the discussion of this difference in sex drives by gently approaching the subject with your partner. Try to discuss this difference while maintaining a fundamental appreciation and acceptance of each other. If you are experiencing significant distress, think about meeting with a sex or couples therapist who can help you rebuild sexual intimacy and trust in your relationship.
Myth #5: Intercourse typically lasts at least 30 minutes.
Many couples believe the typical duration of sexual intercourse from the moment of penetration until ejaculation is around 30 minutes.
Truth: Research has shown that 3-7 minutes is actually more typical (McCarthy, 2015). Instead of placing high performance demands on your partner by expecting a full 30 minutes of intercourse sex, try taking away some of the pressure by remembering the truth about this myth.
What to Do: If you would like a longer sexual experience, talk with your partner about incorporating more erotic, non-intercourse pleasuring, such as sensual touching or manual or oral stimulation.
Myth #6: The cure for erectile dysfunction (ED) is a stand-alone medication.
The development of pro-erection medications such as Viagra or Cialis has been incredibly beneficial for men experiencing ED. However, it is important to recognize the limitations of medication: while Viagra or Cialis can help maintain an erection once it is present, neither helps create desire or arousal (McCarthy, 2015).
Truth: The reality is couples often place unrealistic expectations on the medication to do more than it can do, and few men experience a return to completely predictable erections (McCarthy, 2015).
What to Do: If you or your partner is considering a pro-erection medication, plan to consult with your physician together and ask lots of questions. You may also want to consider meeting with a sex or couples therapist to discuss how you want the medication to fit into your couple-sexual style. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What are the causes of ED?
- What are all of the treatment options?
- Are there any lifestyle changes I/we can make that will help?
- What are the realistic expectations I/we can have about the effects of pro-erection medications?
- What is the next step if medication does not work?
Myth #7: Sexual satisfaction decreases with age.
Although it is true sexual responsiveness may decline in old age and there is an increasing likelihood of encountering some problem with sexual functioning, many older people continue to experience sexual desire and high satisfaction in their sexual lives (Kelly, 2011).
Truth: A significant factor in remaining sexually active as you age is the amount of importance and priority you place on sex throughout your life (Kelly, 2011). If you view sexuality as an important part of your life today, it is likely that you will continue to see it as important in old age. Sexual satisfaction does not need to decrease with age, but there is some truth to the “use it or lose it” adage.
What to Do: If you hope to be sexually active and satisfied in old age, begin prioritizing your sexuality and sexual health today. Continue to promote a positive view of yourself as a sexual being who deserves sexual pleasure and satisfaction. Here are some steps to begin this process:
- Make a list of your sexual preferences – Do you prefer to take turns stimulating or do you prefer mutual stimulation? When and how do you like to transition from sensual to erotic stimulation? What physical setting allows for the most satisfying sexual experience? Becoming aware of what facilitates your sexuality will help you develop your unique “sexual voice” (McCarthy, 2015)
- Take an active role by communicating your preferences to your partner. Do not assume your partner already knows how to best satisfy you sexually. You are free to make requests of your partner in order to enhance pleasure and eroticism.
- Kelly, G. F. (2011). Sexuality Today (10th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
- McCarthy, B. & McCarthy, E. (2013). Rekindling Desire (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
- McCarthy, B. (2015). Sex Made Simple: Clinical Strategies for Sexual Issues in Therapy. Eau Claire, WI: PESI.