20 myths about sex you still believe

Myth: Sex burns major kilojoules

Truth: A 30-minute romp in the hay burns anywhere from 335 to 1255 kilojoules, depending on how long you go and how – ahem – active you make it. That may sound like a decent burn but the problem is the average sex session lasts just six minutes, according to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine. During that short span, the biggest increase in your heart rate and blood pressure only occurs for about 15 seconds during orgasm, and then things quickly return back to normal. So if you’re burning 16 kilojoules per minute then that amounts to 100 kilojoules total – the amount in two peanut M&Ms.

Myth: Oysters and chocolate are turn-ons

Truth: While oysters do contain a lot of zinc, a mineral that sperm need, no study has ever shown any sexually enhancing effect from eating oysters, according to a study published in Sexual Medicine Reviews. Similarly, the researchers found no support for chocolate as an aphrodisiac either. Dark chocolate has been linked to several health benefits, including lower blood pressure and better functioning of blood vessels, which could enhance blood flow to the penis (important for erections) but you’d have to eat an incredible amount to see any noticeable benefit. That said if a food makes a person think about sex – whether because it resembles intimate anatomy, as oysters might, or even because the person believes it might be an aphrodisiac – then that food might become an aphrodisiac, says Fran Walfish, PhD, psychotherapist, and author.

Myth: There’s a 10-year difference between women’s and men’s sexual peaks

Truth: This myth stems from old research done by sex research pioneer Alfred Kinsey. He found that men had the most orgasms at around age 18, but women had their highest number of orgasms in their 30s. There are two things to note about this, says Wendy Patrick, JD, PhD, an attorney, relationship counsellor and author. First, just because a young man is having orgasms doesn’t mean he’s having sex. Second, it was the 1950s and women weren’t exactly encouraged to be sexual, much less get pleasure from it. But if we believe frequency of sex to be the factor that matters most in sexual peak, then there’s no difference between men and women, with both genders having the most sex during their 20s, according to the International Society for Sexual Medicine. Sexual desire constantly fluctuates and is related to many more factors than age, Dr. Patrick says.

Myth: Sex can give you a heart attack

Truth: Many men (and women) have worried about the effects of a vigorous romp on their heart, especially as they get older. But sex does not increase your risk of a heart attack and, in fact, having sex more often is linked to better heart health, according to research published by Harvard Medical School. But what if your heart already has problems? The reality is that most people just do not exert themselves that much during sex – the Harvard researchers found that simply walking on a treadmill got men’s heart rates up higher than a sex session.

Myth: Wearing socks during sex is a mood killer

Truth: Danish researchers attempted to do brain scans on men and women while their partners tried to give them an orgasm, in a study published in NeuroImage. Apparently, it was drafty in the scanning room and the cold was making it difficult for their subjects to enjoy themselves. So they gave them socks. Lo and behold, once they had warm feet, 80 percent of couples were able to orgasm as opposed to less than half previously, explained lead author Gert Holstege. No one is sure exactly why this works but one theory is that in order to orgasm, you need to be totally relaxed and anxiety-free, and cold feet can interfere with the ability to really get into sex, especially for women, says Walfish.

Myth: Men think about sex every seven seconds

Truth: A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research effectively debunks this myth. Looking to tally up the true number of times men (and women!) actually thought about sex in a day, the university had 238 students keep track of their thoughts about food, sex, or sleep for one whole week. The results? Men think about sex far less than you think, averaging about 19 sex thoughts per day instead of the nearly 8,000 thoughts per day that would be netted if men were really thinking about sex every seven seconds. Thoughts about food came in close second, with 18 thoughts per day, while sleep garnered 11 thoughts per day. As for the women? They averaged about 10 thoughts about sex, 15 thoughts about food, and 8.5 thoughts about sleep per day.

Myth: All women experience orgasm through intercourse

Truth: “Around half of heterosexual women sometimes orgasm as a result of penetration alone but the other half either require added clitoral stimulation or other sexual activities in order to climax,” says Justin Lehmiller, PhD, a research fellow at The Kinsey Institute and author of a study on sexual fantasies and the book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. Research, published in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, backs this up, finding that 37 percent of women said they need some other sort of stimulation during intercourse to achieve orgasm.

Myth: Having sex can cause a pregnant woman to go into labour

This myth is so pervasive that even doctors will tell their full-term patients to give it a try. But not only does having sex near your due date not start labour, it may actually delay it, according to a study done by the Ohio State University Medical Center. Researchers found that women who were sexually active in the final three weeks of their pregnancies carried their babies an average of 39.9 weeks, compared to 39.3 weeks for women who weren’t having any sex. It’s not a huge difference but when you’ve got a 3kg ball pressing against your lungs, every day counts!


Myth: Sex can affect sports performance

Truth: This theory has been debated for many years, with coaches often telling their athletes to abstain from sex before big games or competitions. The idea comes from Ancient Greece and traditional Chinese medicine, with the prevailing thought being that not having sex would help “increase frustration and aggression, and boost energy.” However, recent research, published in Frontiers in Physiology, suggests sex has little impact on athletic performance – and could possibly have a positive effect instead.

Myth: Women take longer to get turned on than men

“Women heat up like crockpots while men are like microwaves” is a popular way to explain the supposed difference in how the genders respond to foreplay. The truth? It turns out that there is absolutely no difference in the time it takes men and women to reach peak arousal, according to a study done by McGill University. The researchers used thermal imaging rather than relying on self-reporting, which may mean that if you think it takes you a lot longer to get turned on than it does your husband, the cause may be more mental than physical. Trouble getting turned on? Wait for nighttime; science says the best time to have sex is right before bed.

Myth: Birth control is a mood-killer

Is the thing that’s preventing pregnancy also preventing you from getting any in the bedroom? Hormones influence our sex drive and birth control pills alter a woman’s hormone levels, so it makes sense that being on the pill might have an effect on her sex drive. But this popular belief is flat wrong: Taking the pill has no influence on a woman’s sex drive, according to a study published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. Another popular birth control myth is that condoms make sex less pleasurable; a separate study done by Indiana University found that both men and women reported more sexual pleasure when using contraception (likely because they were less worried about the consequences).

Myth: Blackouts, storms and terrorist attacks cause a baby boom nine months later

Thanks to a blackout, a blizzard, a bomb scare, or some other factor that lands you stuck at home with no lights and no Internet, you decide you’ve got to entertain yourselves by getting busy in the bedroom, right? (And hey, you’re just trying to stay warm!) While this sounds like a fun plot to a rom-com, “blackout babies” are an urban legend, says S. Philip Morgan, a Duke University professor of sociology and demography and author of a study looking at the effects of these events on birth rates. The data simply doesn’t support the idea of a “blackout baby boom,” he says.

Myth: Sexting is just for horny young people

Much has been said about the dangers of sexting – and those are very real, especially in casual relationships. But when done in a committed, secure relationship, texting can take your sex life from rote to raging, according to a study from Drexel University. Sending sexual messages and pictures to your significant other increases not only your sexual satisfaction but also your overall happiness in your relationship, says Emily Stasko, MS, MPH, lead author of the study.  The committed relationship part is key, however, as people who identified in the study as single found that sexting had the opposite effect, reducing sexual satisfaction.