Widely held ideas about periods and sex can cause feelings of shame, fear, and embarrassment, when in reality both are completely natural parts of growing up. It can be confusing to determine the truth when it comes to certain myths, so here are some common ones debunked:
- Tampons take your virginity: Losing your virginity refers to when you first have sexual intercourse, so you can use a tampon and still be a virgin. This myth comes from the belief that tampons break your hymen, a thin piece of tissue that surrounds the opening of your vagina. Your hymen actually stretches, and while tampons can be the cause of stretching, so can everyday activities like riding a bike or sports.
- You can’t get pregnant while on your period: If you’re having sex during your period, it’s still important to practice safe sex and use protection like condoms. It’s unlikely to become pregnant during your period but still not impossible, since sperm can live in your body for multiple days. Using condoms also protects you against sexually transmitted infections.
- Sex is supposed to hurt: Sex should be enjoyable for all parties and definitely should not hurt. Mild soreness after intense activity (like after the first time you have sexual intercourse) is possible, but you should never be in intense pain. Some people also experience minor vaginal bleeding after their first time having sexual intercourse, but it should not persist. If you are in pain or experience continual bleeding, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor or a health care provider.
- Saying yes to sex once means always saying yes to sex: Regardless of how many times you’ve said “yes” to sex with a partner, you always have the right to say no. Sex should always be consensual, meaning that all parties agree to and want to participate in the act. Consent can be revoked at any time by either you or your partner, even in the middle of sexual activity.
- All women orgasm from penetration: People who don’t orgasm from penetration are not alone. While some are able to orgasm from penetration, the majority of individuals orgasm with higher stimulation of the clitoris. Intercourse is not the only aspect of sexual activity, so it’s important to communicate what sexual activity is most enjoyable to you with your partner.
- Having “too much” sex can lead to a loose vagina: The vagina is a muscle, so it’s designed to expand and contract – after all, that’s how many babies are birthed – and the amount of sex a person has does not affect its elasticity. Vaginal tightness is related to the strength of the vaginal muscle itself as well as all of the surrounding pelvic floor muscles, which can contract and relax. Relaxed pelvic floor muscles (or what’s medically incorrectly called a “loose vagina”) is actually a sign of arousal. These muscles can weaken over time as a result of age or after carrying a pregnancy, but it’s not based on sex.
- Sex is just like pornography: Pornography is not an accurate representation of what sexual activity is like in real life. It is often fictional, exaggerated, emotionally unattached, and can display unhealthy power dynamics between partners. For these reasons, the way people have sex should not imitate pornography, and should instead focus on the comfort of all participants.
- You can tell if someone has an STI: You cannot tell whether or not someone has an STI just by looking at them. In fact, many people who have STIs may not show any symptoms at all, so you could even have an STI and not know it yourself. This is why it is always recommended to use condoms every time you have sexual intercourse. If you’re sexually active and having protected sex (meaning with condoms), it’s also still recommended to test for STIs once a year at a local health care center or medical clinic. It’s a quick and painless process normally consisting of a urine sample and/or swab of the genitals and mouth.
- You can get pregnant just by sitting in a hot tub: Unless you’re actively having (unprotected) sexual intercourse in a hot tub, there is no risk of becoming pregnant. It’s difficult for sperm cells to survive outside the body, especially in hot water. There’s no chance of the sperm floating through the hot tub and into the vagina.
- You can’t get pregnant if it’s your first time having sex: Anytime you are having sexual intercourse, regardless of whether it is the first time or not, there is a risk of pregnancy if you are not using condoms. It is the same case with contracting STIs.
- The pull out method prevents pregnancy: The pull out method refers to the penis pulling out before ejaculation. It might sound reliable in theory, but is still not effective compared to other forms of protection such as condoms or birth control. Pulling out in the moment is often difficult to achieve, but even if you or a partner do pull out prior to ejaculation, pre-cum and vaginal fluid can still transmit STIs.
- You can get pregnant from oral sex: It is not possible for pregnancy to occur from oral sex, even if ejaculation is swallowed. Sperm must enter the vaginal cavity in order for pregnancy to be possible. However, it is important to note that STIs can still be passed through oral sex.
Check out our article on condoms for some more myths! You can find it here.