We think it is natural to feel the “get a room” discomfort when a couple engages in an overly steamy public kiss, especially if there is some associated groping going on. A recent Hyundai ad on TV showed the parents in the front of a car leaning and sharing a little loving kiss, to which the tweenage daughter in the back seat exclaims “Gross!” as she rolls her eyes at her little brother. The ad writer knows most of us agree that imagining our parents having sex, brought on by displays of intimacy, is yucky.
No one is immune to sexual myths, since their influence is very subtle. The old myth that masturbation will make you blind was once taken very seriously. Thankfuily I can still see to type this. Today, with our increased openness about sexual practices, such a statement would be generally laughed at. Yet while we laugh, the message is still attached. There is something negative about masturbation.
How about some of these other masturbation myths, which you may have heard or read? If you masturbate too much you will run out of semen. Too much masturbation makes the penis shrink in size. Masturbation will lead to psychological problems. Masturbation can lead to sexual addiction. Masturbation is selfish and evil. God will punish you for masturbating. Masturbating while in a relationship means you or your partner is not satisfying enough. Or similar, once you are married you don’t need to masturbate any more.
To this day, masturbation scenes in movies are often given negative treatment and result in crass jokes, nervous laughter or quiet discomfort. In the Academy Award winning American Beauty, for example, sexually frustrated Lester Burnham resorts to masturbating in bed, to which his wife, upon discovering him, says in horror, “That’s disgusting!” Natalie Portman’s intensely beautiful masturbation scene in Black Swan ends with a look of terror on her face when she thinks someone is about to enter her bedroom. Must be wrong, somehow.
Ask yourself this question: how would I react if my parent (or children, or spouse, or friends, or workmates, or strangers) walked in on me gleefully in the throes of orgasm while masturbating?
The ocean of sexual myths that we are immersed in is vast. Here is the beginning of our growing list. How many of these have you heard at some point in your life? What sexual myths can you add to the list? We are sure there are many more.
- Having too much sex is bad for you.
- His penis won’t fit inside me.
- Intercourse is uncomfortable.
- Pressing, sucking or fondling a woman’s breasts will make them larger.
- I can get pregnant from swallowing sperm.
- If a girl has sex, she’ll get pregnant.
- If a girl has sex before marriage, she’s “used”.
- If a girl has a child out of wedlock, she’s “used”.
- Men’s ejaculate tastes bad.
- Getting an STD means I’m dirty.
- The stock of semen is limited. You could run out if you masturbate too much.
- Men need or want sex more often than women.
- If you want to have anal sex you are homosexually oriented.
- If you want to have anal sex there is something wrong with you.
- Oral sex is a perversion.
- A man should be able to achieve an erection whenever he wants to.
- Losing one drop of semen is the equivalent to losing 40 drops of blood.
- Masturbation is evil.
- Masturbation leads to psychological problems.
- Masturbation will make you go blind.
- Nocturnal orgasms only occur for men.
- Wet dreams are a type of sexual disorder.
- There is no need to use birth control if the woman is a virgin.
- A man is not a man if he can’t have an erection.
- A woman is not a woman if she can’t (or doesn’t) have a child.
- It’s abnormal or immoral to be sexually attracted to more than one person at a time.
- We only have one soul mate. There is only one person meant for us.
- Humans are born to be monogamous.
- Too much masturbation makes the penis shrink in size.
- Some special foods and exercise can increase the size of a penis.
- A small penis can’t satisfy a woman.
- Women with large breasts are more sexual.
- Menopause is the end of a woman’s sex life.
- Playing doctor with other children as a child is psychologically damaging.
- Hymens are a sacred seal.
- The first intercourse is always painful for a woman.
- Drinking and drugs make sex much more fun.
- Only sluts get STDs.
- Imagining our parents having sex is gross.
- Looking at naked bodies is bad and will lead to immoral behavior.
- You should not see your parents naked.
- Your parents should not see you naked.
- A man being touched by another man is an indication of homosexuality.
- Homosexuality is a disease.
- You should never hug and/or kiss in public.
- Hugging and kissing in public is a sign of weakness in a man.
- Oral sex is dirty.
- A woman’s vagina smells like a fish.
- God will punish you if you masturbate.
- Sexual thoughts or fantasies contrary to God’s commandments are a sin.
- Arousing fantasies or thoughts about aberrant or “evil” behavior indicates there is something psychologically wrong with you.
- You have sinned if you have sex outside marriage.
- Orgasm is the goal of sex.
- The man is in control. The woman is subservient to him.
- Being naked is embarrassing.
- Losing your virginity means you’re spoiled.
- You should be able to be all things to your man: mother, career woman, sex kitten, friend... and if you fail there is something wrong with you.
- Getting raped indicates the victim must have ‘asked’ for it, wanted it.
- If a woman dresses provocatively, she ‘wants’ it.
- It's OK for women to withhold sex to get a man to marry her.
We could likely write a separate blog post on almost all of these sexual myths, talking about the subtle threads of shame and guilt they each sew. Thankfully we live in a time where awakened people are genuinely trying to cast off these damaging misconceptions. Yes, we can take our clothes off and feel beautiful. Yes, we can touch ourselves without shame. Yes, we can have great sex without orgasm. Etc.
Yet schools and churches continue to be a source of sex-negative talks and mainstream porn creates a whole new kind of sexual mythology for our young people.
We have a long way to go. Many times I hear people claim to be liberated from sexual myths, only to witness them unknowingly behave in ways that demonstrate subtle sex-negative influences still linger. And that's true of myself too! Embracing full-spectrum loving sexual truth while we swim in a vast ocean of cultural messages that detract from the truly divine potential of sexual energy is a day-to-day process.
More on sexual myths to come. Just talking about them helps. Don't forget to share any MYTHS we've missed, in comments, or on Twitter at #SexMyth.