Sex may be increasingly present in film, television, advertising and our consciousness in general, but that doesn’t necessarily make it any easier to understand.
With Sexual Health Week coming up on September 14, the focus is on sexual wellbeing and pleasure and part of the conversation around that is to address how for many, sex and sexual pleasure “remains a source of embarrassment or shame.”
Embarrassment and shame can cause reluctance in seeking answers about sex, which in turn may lead to being misinformed and having problems further down the line.
To help clear up some of the myths around sex ahead of Sexual Health week, here are 14 of the most common misconceptions (according to the NHS) debunked.
If you have a sexual health issue you’d like addressed, Dr Pixie McKenna will be answering your questions for Sexual Health Week – just fill in the form below.
Q1: Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?
The NHS say: “If you’re female and have sex, you can get pregnant as soon as you start ovulating (releasing eggs).”
You can also get pregnant just from one time only.
Q2: Does the ‘withdrawal method’ work?
The myth of the ‘withdrawal method’ is that a girl cannot get pregnant if a boy withdraws his penis before ejaculating.
But the NHS warn, “before a boy ejaculates, there’s sperm in the pre-ejaculatory fluid (pre-come), which leaks out when he gets excited. It only takes one sperm to get a girl pregnant.”
Pre-come also carries the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and nobody can stop themselves leaking sperm before they ejeculate.
Q3: Can you get pregnant when you’re on your period?
No matter what time of the month you had sex in, if you didn’t use contraception, you can still get pregant.
It’s important to bear in mind that sperm can live up to several days after sex, which means it can hang around long enough to get you pregnant.
Q4: Can you only get pregnant having sex lying down?
The NHS has debunked the myth that a girl can’t get pregnant standing up or in any other position than ‘missionary’.
And you can also get pregnant anywhere: the bath, the shower, in a swimming pool. Anywhere.
Q5: Can you get pregnant through oral sex?
There’s no truth in this one, but if you do swallow, there is a risk of contracting STIs like gonorrhea, chlamydia and herpes.
The NHS recommends using a condom or an oral dam over the female genitals to stay safe.
Q6: Can I use clingfilm, plastic bags, crisp packets or anything else instead of a condom?
The truth about this myth is, the NHS says, ONLY a condom prevents catching STIs.
You can get condoms FREE from community contraceptive clinics, sexual health and genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinics and some young persons services.
They can also be bought from shops and pharmacies.
Q7: Will a boy’s testicles explode if he doesn’t have sex?
The NHS points out that men and boys produce sperm all the time, and if they don’t ejaculate, it’s simply absorbed into their bodies.
Ejaculation can be achieved through masturbation or having a wet dream.
Q8: Can condoms be re-used?
That means, not even if you wash it out or clean it.
Something else to keep in mind is that condoms need to be changed after 30 minutes of sex, because friction can weaken the condom, making it more likely to break or fail.
Q9: Will I get symptoms if I get an STI?
Or at least, not always. Some symptoms MAY include pain when urinating and discharge. However the NHS points out “Many people don’t notice signs of infection, so you won’t always know if you’re infected.
“You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they’ve got an STI.
“If you’re worried that you’ve caught an STI, visit your GP or local sexual health clinic. Check-ups and tests for STIs are free and confidential, including for under-16s.”
Q10: Can I get an STI if I have sex with another woman?
This isn’t true. According to the NHS “If a woman has an STI and has sex with another woman, the infection can be passed on through vaginal fluid (including fluid on shared sex toys), blood or close body contact.
“Always use condoms on shared sex toys, and use dams to cover the genitals during oral sex.”
Q11: Do all gay men have anal sex?
The NHS point out: “Anal sex, like any sexual activity, is a matter of preference.
“Some people choose to do it as part of their sex life and some don’t, whether they’re gay, straight, lesbian or bisexual.”
According to the National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (taken in 2000), 12.3% of men and 11.3% of women had had anal sex in the previous year.