5 Misconceptions About Sex
When the majority of sex ed is taught though the lens of abstinence only, or at best - by our local gym teachers, it is fraught with misconceptions. What can be worse than abstinence only is educators, are those who are using religious ideology to guide their view points. As you might have guessed, I tend to disagree with conservative ideas about sex and gender — take a look at my posts titled “Not Under My Roof” or “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” for proof. I also believe that bad-faith actors have used ahistorical interpretations of the Bible to oppress women.
Therefore, back in March of 2020, in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, I picked up a sex book written by a religious and conservative activist. I did this for two reasons:
- I wanted to test my own opinions to see if they held up, and
- I wanted to be able to challenge sexist content that many of my readers have probably already encountered in their everyday lives.
This exercise was difficult and, at times, frustrating. I want to be clear: there is nothing about being religious that is inherently bad or wrong. However, it’s important to see how religion can be used as a weapon of sexual oppression, especially when it comes to women. Below, I’ve highlighted some key points made in the book, and exactly what they get so wrong
1. Myth: If you have sex with someone, you will become attached.
Reality: Sex introduces a new level of intimacy to any relationship, but that does not mean it creates deep attachments.
If you’re a woman, then you probably have heard this one before. In fact, I grew up-hearing this and being worried of any “inevitable attachment” that sex might create. Spoiler alert: Scaring people that they might fall too hard, too soon, after having sex with someone is often little more than a fear tactic to make young people want to avoid sex.
At first glance, the myth seems to have a scientific basis. Orgasms release oxytocin and vasopressin, which can make you feel close to your partner. Being naked with someone else inherently involves a certain level of vulnerability. As a result, many conservatives believe that sex should be delayed until a relationship reaches maximum stability - in other words, marriage (scroll to five for more on this topic). However:
1. We shouldn’t be seeing sex as a monumental expression of commitment to your partner, and instead realize that both sex and relationships are dynamic, natural, and defined by the people involved.
2. Feelings that come from sex aren’t something to be afraid of, and they certainly won’t hijack your life and lead you to emotional dependency. Sex is something to respect, not to fear.
3. There is another, more pragmatic (and sad) reason why I struggle with this myth. The attachment myth is “supported” by the science of hormones and orgasms…
Let us remember that most women don’t have to worry about this “hormonal attachment” because plenty of women aren’t even having a lot of orgasms. In fact, hookup culture studies have shown that close to 90 percent of women fail to orgasm during a one-night stand with a male partner. So the worry about women becoming a “stage-five clinger,” as Wedding Crashers puts it? There’s a very low chance of that happening.
2. Myth: Sex is a service owed by partners to one another.
Reality: Sex is not something you give or owe...to anyone...ever.
The idea of ownership and servitude in romantic relationships is one that dates back centuries, and it needs some serious updating. In the book, the author argued that “marriage is a decision to serve your partner, both in and out of the bedroom.” Now, let’s add in the historical context: The expectations for service have differed drastically for men and women. And women have typically been expected to do the serving, with little reciprocity.
The phrase “serve your partner” reminds me of gift-giving, and the particular notion of saving your “first time” having sex to then gift to a worthy future partner. This is a prevalent but harmful notion, especially because it places the focus on the recipient, who then has the power to choose how to receive that gift. An insensitive reception can be incredibly damaging, particularly for someone who has been raised to believe that their sexuality is tied to their personal value. Again, these notions typically impact women more than they do men.
3. Myth: Fulfilling your desires will lead to out-of-control sexual behavior.
Reality: Our sexual desires should not be considered dangerous. A healthy balance can always be found.
In the unnamed book, the author compares human sexuality to the desire for a gigantic, never-ending ice cream sundae. They argue that people need “boundaries” and “not have an excess amount of ice cream just because we can.” In other words: “Pressure from the media tells us it’s dehumanizing to not act on our sexual desires, but no one has ever died from a lack of sex.”
When you tune into your desires and act on them with consenting partners and without shame, it’s easy to find a healthy balance between what you want, what you need, and what you crave. In short, your desires aren’t wrong and they aren’t going away. What’s in your control is how you respond to them.
4. Myth: If you have an unhealthy relationship to porn, you can simply "stop."
Reality: This tip is demeaning, depicting the unhealthy relationship as trivial
Over the past few decades, the public understanding about substance use disorders and their complexity have progressed rapidly.
When it comes to porn, many of the same mechanisms are at play. Telling someone to simply “quit” watching porn is reductive, scientifically unfounded, and negates the validity of their experience. There are many useful programs that can help provide holistic, sustainable, long-term healing to people struggling with their porn consumption.
5. Myth: Sex is sacred and can only exist within marriage.
Reality: Sex is an experience and you decide for yourself when you engage in it. Make sure it is both consensual and with a partner who is respectful.
We touched on this a bit before but I felt it was worthy of its own section, especially when we are talking about religious ideology.
First, let me be clear: Everyone has the right to wait until marriage to have sex, or for whenever feels right for them. And your choices around sex matter because they can affect you deeply. Why do you think I started this blog?
It’s one thing to be abstinent because it’s something you truly believe in. However, if you choose not to have sex before marriage because you want to avoid being shamed by your community, that’s a matter of peer pressure rather than deeply-held convictions.
For many people, consensual sex is a healthy and natural part of life after puberty. What’s more, it’s the relationship — not the legally-binding ceremony — that can make being intimate a sacred act.
Everyone is entitled to their choices. Abstinent or not, I encourage you to take a minute to reflect on why you make the choices you make when it comes to sex. Do those choices reflect your personal values? Or do you simply feel pressure to conform to what those around you are doing?
Are there any myths that you group up hearing? DM us @beyondthebeez to share!
- Photos by @seeavton