Learning about sex is kind of like learning to ride a bicycle – once you know how it works it seems so natural, but figuring it out can be scary, confusing, and involve lots of falling over. Now imagine we lived in a world where it was considered taboo to talk about bicycle-riding, yet everyone was still doing it. Sounds like a recipe for a lot of bike accidents, right?
That’s basically where we are with sex today. Only 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education, and only 13 of those states require that the coursework be medically accurate. That leaves a lot of room for confusion about what happens between the sheets and between your legs. An academic study found that over 60% of college students surveyed thought the clitoris was located inside the vagina (spoiler alert: It is not). In an analysis of over 1,000 emails sent to a reproductive health website run by Princeton University, about 27% of messages included misconceptions about sex. The most common misconceptions were about pregnancy, including questions about the risk of pregnancy during oral, anal, and other non-penetrative sex acts.
Even if you grew up in a sex-positive environment, there is still a large learning curve when it comes to the birds, bees, and everything in between. So we asked members of our Sustain community to share the craziest misconceptions they had about reproductive health growing up. Read what they had to say below, and breathe a sigh of relief that you aren’t in middle school health class anymore.
“My mom told me that penises get hard but obviously as a 10 year old I couldn’t picture it so I assumed they were like gritty rocks! 😂”
“I’ll never forget the moment I found out there was a third hole. In front of my entire 5th grade class, I asked the nurse if “the baby comes out of the pee hole or the poop hole”. I was utterly shocked by her answer that there was ANOTHER HOLE I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT!”
“When I was in middle school / high school, boys used the slang term “spanking the monkey” or “whacking off” to describe masturbating. This made me assume that to masturbate, boys just kinda slapped their penises 😂 Boy was I wrong! When I told my male friend this, he thought it was so funny that he never let it go.”
“I thought that the clitoris was right above the vagina and bawled for like three days because mine was too far away for sex to ever feel good.”
“I thought fetuses were like fish and could breathe underwater-- since my mom explained that fetuses were in water inside of you, and then the water breaks when they’re ready to come out. I was very upset as a child that I no longer had that power.”
“I thought praying to God would get my mom pregnant. I really wanted a little sibling, and I overheard my mom telling another woman ‘We’re praying we’ll have another one soon’. For years I believed that all you had to do to have a baby was pray incessantly… so finding out there was a physical component was surprising.”
“There were so many things I didn't know. I remember specifically thinking babies come out of a woman's belly button 🤷”
“I thought that if a man and woman's "privates" simply touched together, the woman would get pregnant.”
“I thought that men's balls were two separate balls. I didn't know the anatomy until I met my now-husband and was like, well those don't look how I thought they would!”
“My friends at school told me about the mechanics of sex in elementary school (my mom would never talked of such things) but I always thought it was just something you did to make babies until I stole one of my sister’s Cosmo magazines in 8th grade and found out that sex is actually pleasurable and what an orgasm was. Specifically that you can accidentally have one on a horse or in a hot tub lmao 🤣”
“This is a sad one for me to reflect upon, but I am a people pleaser, and when I was younger it was really ingrained in me that the most important part of sex was that my boyfriend came. It took me years to relax and realize that my pleasure, comfort, and climax is equally as important, and there is a lot of fun to be had just fooling around, even if neither one of us reaches climax.”
Now that we’ve covered all of these misconceptions, let’s get to the facts: Condoms help reduce the risk of STIs and pregnancy. Shop here.