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Sex Ed for Adults: Myths About Men and Sex

Free your mind (and your sex life) from outdated ideas about how guys should behave in the bedroom.

Sex Ed for Adults: Myths About Men and Sex Image

I remember listening to the boys I went to high school with talk about sex. The language was aggressive, homophobic, full of extreme (okay, toxic), representations of masculinity. It’s probably why I spend so much of my professional career as a sex educator debunking myths; I want young people (and adults) to experience life and sex differently. 

I grew up in the late 1980s and early 1990s (think John Hughes movies and grunge music). The sex education I received was largely focused on instilling fear, both of HIV and of unplanned parenthood. In middle school we carried around “egg babies” — actual chicken eggs designed to show us, in their fragility, what it would be like to be burdened with the care of a human baby (no, that doesn’t make any sense).

Films were chock full of traditional gender roles and “questionably consensual” moments, and inclusivity was pretty much nonexistent. Boys were supposed to want sex at any and all costs, emotions were considered feminine, and girls’ bodies were supposed to be material for boys’ conversations. It isn’t really a surprise that many of my generation carry around some problematic myths and beliefs about sexuality, but what is even more problematic is that they still exist! Here I’m going to dispel some of the most persistent, pernicious myths about men and sex.

(A disclaimer: when I talk about male sexuality, I am talking about cisgender males as well as people who identify as boys and men and are equally impacted by myths about how they should experience sexuality. This is not an exhaustive list, but are some I see perpetuated most.)

Men should always initiate sex.

If you are interested in sex (of any kind) and want to initiate it with your partner, then you should. Often we fall into patterns based on the messages about gender expectations. These expectations often prevent people who are not male from leading the charge, sexually, for fear of how they may be judged. On the flip side, feeling like you have to be solely responsible for initiating isn’t great either. It makes people feel like desire is one-sided and that can be inadvertently hurtful.

Men should have lots of partners. 

I do not care how many partners someone has (whether it is one or one hundred) as long as their experiences are consensual, pleasurable, protected, and fulfilling. This old trope perpetuates the ugliest of sexual double standards: the one that lifts a sexually experimental man’s social status but leaves a woman who does the same thing with ugly labels. Your manhood does not correlate with your number of sexual partners.  

Guys who enjoy anal play are gay or bisexual. 

Yawn. Seriously, this is so old. Enjoying, being curious about, or frequently engaging in anal sex play has absolutely nothing to do with your sexual orientation. If you are assigned male, you have a prostate gland, which is the size and shape of a walnut and located inside of the anus near the “root” of the penis. The prostate is responsible for two things: it secretes fluid that contributes to semen, and…and…it’s for pleasure. Yes, pleasure. Of course, the non-physical reason for enjoying anal sex is also about the pleasure that comes from the perception of doing something “taboo.” It’s not really a big deal, so let’s not make it one. If you have a prostate, you might like anal sex. If you don’t have a prostate, you might like anal sex. It’s not a sexual orientation thing.

People with penises masturbate more. 

This could not be farther from the truth. Anyone that has body parts that feel good when touched can masturbate. Because our masturbatory language and slang is male-centric (i.e.”jacking off, choking the chicken, etc), we are led to believe that girls and women are less likely to explore their own bodies. Not only is this inaccurate, but the (inverse? converse?) is true, too. Not all men masturbate. Like everything else in life, it’s supposed to be a choice. 

Men are always interested in sex. 

The idea that guys should always want sex, and if they don’t, they “aren’t that into you” has caused incalculable stress for couples. We spend a great deal of time debating the idea of the “sex drive”: who has one, when does it peak, how do you know if yours is lacking. But in reality, libido differs from person to person and there is no gold standard for desire. If your partner isn’t interested in being intimate, the reason may have nothing to do with their attraction to you. It can be medical, hormonal, stress-related, or it just may be that their innate desire setting is not spontaneous, and is more responsive. (For a really interesting take on the science of desire, check out the book Come as You Are by Emily Nagoski) When men are made to feel bad about a perceived decrease in desire, physical, emotional, and relationship health suffer. 

Men are not as naturally monogamous. 

Monogamy is not the default setting for anyone, let alone one gender or another. I’m sure that this statement may get me some heat, but the idea that men are supposed to “sow their wild oats” and women are not is absurd (and heterosexist). This myth has also been an excuse that some men (primarily) give if they are caught cheating. “I’m just not monogamous!”— this is never an excuse for betrayal of trust. If you are not someone who enjoys monogamy, say it upfront, and if monogamy suits you just fine, let a partner know. But don’t assume that someone’s gender is linked to their attitudes towards relationship structure, because you may be very surprised. 

The Bottom Line

As you might imagine, I’m not a big fan of silly sexual rules or guidelines based on assigned sex or gender. I’m more passionate about allowing people to be true to themselves, regardless of whether or not it fits into societal expectations. Consenting adults get to do consensual things with other consenting adults. That’s all. No rules other than that. 

 

About the Author

An internationally recognized expert on sexuality and relationships, Dr. Logan Levkoff is an author and educator dedicated to perpetuating healthy and positive messages about sexuality and relationships and encouraging honest conversation about sexuality and the role it plays in our culture. As a thought leader in the field of human sexuality and personal relationships, Logan frequently appears on television including Good Morning AmericaThe Today Show, and CNN.  Logan is an AASECT Certified Sex Educator and Sex Educator Supervisor and served on the AASECT Board of Directors. She received her Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, Marriage, and Family Life Education from New York University and holds an M.S. in Human Sexuality Education.

 

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