Here in 2019, conversations about sex are more open and prevalent than ever before. But this is just the beginning, and with more ground to cover, there are still many common misconceptions about sex that are often rooted in the messages conveyed by the media, society, and lessons learned growing up.
That's why relationship gurus Jennifer Gunsaullus, PhD, a sociologist, intimacy coach, and author of the forthcoming book From Madness to Mindfulness: Reinventing Sex for Women, and Dr. Valeria Chuba, integrative sexologist and host of the Get Sex-Smart Podcast, are impassioned about de-shrouding the sexual mystery, especially for ladies. "There is so much to learn about sex, intimacy, connection, and pleasure, and our bodies are always changing, as well as our awareness of our own needs and wants," says Dr. Gunsaullus. "Commit to a lifetime of growth mode as a sexual being, and don't let anyone shame you out of that."
To get the train to growth going, ahead, these two experts share the 10 most common misconceptions they address with their female clients. From misunderstandings regarding pleasure and desire to communicating your needs in the bedroom, read on for a professional perspective on what's actually "normal." With a little insight to bolster your confidence, your sex life (and relationship) can be better than ever before.
#1. The other person's pleasure matters more than your own.
"Many women learn growing up that they should put the needs of others first, and that includes the sexual needs of others. And since it can take more time to learn about female pleasure than male pleasure, and there are many misconceptions about the female body and pleasure, it can be common for both people in a heterosexual couple to care more about his pleasure than hers." — Dr. Gunsaullus
#2. Your partner should automatically know how to pleasure you.
"Good sex is a skill, and most of us, regardless of gender, don't receive adequate sex education and support around sex, pleasure, and intimacy. The best way to have the sexual experience you truly want is to communicate your needs and desires to your partner, rather than hoping that they will read your mind." — Dr. Chuba
#3. You have to have a perfect body to be sexually worthy.
"How your body looks has nothing to do with how sexual you feel or the enjoyment you can get from sex. In our society, we seem to equate how sexy a woman looks to others with how sexual that woman is; but they have nothing to do with each other! We all deserve and are worthy of erotic excitement and intimate experiences with others, regardless of how mainstream 'sexy' we are deemed by others." — Dr. Gunsaullus
#4. Painful intercourse is normal.
"Pain during intercourse is a silent epidemic among women that we are only now starting to talk about more openly. Causes of pain during vaginal intercourse range from inadequate arousal and lubrication, to pelvic trauma and inflammation, to (often) psychological causes, so it's always important to get a consult with both your gynecologist and a pelvic floor specialist, as well as a sexologist or sex therapist. Bottom line, penetrative sex should not be painful, and it definitely shouldn't be something any woman should have to suffer through." — Dr. Chuba
#5. It's inappropriate to ask for what you want in the bedroom.
"We can carry so much shame around being sexual and being sexual on our terms; this includes knowing and asking for what we like sexually. We may have learned these shaming messages through the silence in our homes about sex growing up, through undermining media messages and images, through nonconsensual sexual experiences, or just everyday conversations with peers and co-workers. Cultivating mindfulness skills to be able to notice the discomfort of those internalized messages and moving towards that discomfort is a scary but incredibly rewarding way to move through shame." — Dr. Gunsaullus
#6. Consent is open for interpretation.
"You don't owe anybody sex, and saying 'yes' to something doesn't mean you can't change your mind. Don't settle for sex with partners who will violate your boundaries and disregard your desires." — Dr. Chuba
#7. There's a "right" way to have sex.
"Although options for sexual experiences are incredibly broad, we learn a specific, limited way to 'do sex' in our society. Many folks never question the learned idea that there are limited ways of interacting sexually and sensually; but in fact, the ways of interacting erotically are endless." — From Madness to Mindfulness: Reinventing Sex for Women
"Thinking outside the box is not weird — it's fun, connecting, creative, and necessary to maintain an active and interesting sex life, throughout your life." — Dr. Gunsaullus
#8. There’s a “normal” range for the way and frequency you experience sexual desire.
"There is no 'normal' way to experience sexual desire, regardless of your gender. Whether you experience spontaneous sexual desire, or whether your desire pattern is more responsive (which means needing psychological and/or physical stimulation and pleasure first in order to start wanting sex), or if you experience a mixture of both — it's all perfectly normal and natural. Desire also fluctuates depending on lifestyle, health, stress levels, age, the quality of your relationship, and much, much more.
"Lack of sexual desire, or different desire levels, are quite common in couples, so if you and your partner are having issues around desire, it's a good idea to consult with a sexologist or sex therapist." — Dr. Chuba
#9. It's solely up to your partner to turn you on.
"This is a topic I address with a lot of my female clients in long-term relationships who don't feel sexually interested in their partner anymore, despite otherwise being happy in their relationship. We need to first realize that we can take responsibility for our own desire, and then learn what 'primes our pump' in terms of feeling desire and intimate connection." — Dr. Gunsaullus
#10. Women should be able to orgasm from vaginal penetration alone.
"This misconception is boosted by unrealistic portrayals of intercourse both in the mainstream film and media, as well as in pornography. According to studies, only about 20 percent of women are able to experience orgasm from penetration alone. Most women require direct or indirect clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm. The female clitoris is homologous (meaning is the biological structural equivalent) of the male penis; and just as the penis is the primary source of orgasm for men, so is the clitoris for women." — Dr. Chuba
This article was originally published on