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Sex Expectations Vs. Reality — Therapists Debunk The Biggest Urban Legends Of Intimacy

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Fact: Sex is great. It’s a natural and given part of life, not to mention a cornerstone in any relationship. That said, it’s also tricky. As entertaining and idealistic as Hollywood love scenes are, they just don’t portray the realities of sexual connection and intimacy, which can sometimes be awkward and take some maneuvering (literally). In fact, one might actually have the media (and drugstore romance novels) to blame for the highly inaccurate sexual expectations women have that don’t exactly align with real -life scenarios.

“Portrayal of love and relationships in media and society is overly simplistic and irrational,” says marriage and family therapist Allen Wagner. “There is a lack of awareness and understanding as to how different we all are, and the crucial role communication plays in making us see and accept one another as we really are.” In addition to media messaging, Certified Sex Therapist and K-Y partner Dr. Holly Richmond says culture also plays a role in the widespread misconceptions surrounding human sexuality. “Some of this is generationally acquired,” she explains. “It’s what legacies of women have learned, so it’s what we learn and assume to be true. Those old messages were a lot of ‘don’ts’ and focused on procreation, with nothing about pleasure.”

Adding to this catalog of sexual misconceptions are your past relationships, says Dr. Shannon Chavez. Licensed Psychologist and Certified Sex Therapist. "We also gain these expectations from previous relationships and carry them into new relationships whether they are realistic or not."

Luckily, in this day and age there’s much more awareness surrounding female sexuality and sexuality in general. However, there’s still a lot of work to be done and damage to be undone, which is why communication is and open dialogue is the first line of defense in debunking false sex expectations (particularly those surrounding female pleasure). “Couples need to be open, talk to one another about their expectations, beliefs, and needs in the bedroom and out of it,” says Wagner. “Instead of rejecting one another’s reasoning and telling them why they are wrong or getting angry/emotional about it, they should accept it as their partner’s truth and move forward toward building consensus where both parties win.”

In addition to open discussion, being aware of some common urban sex myths could be helpful in your journey to a healthier sexual understanding . Ahead, sex experts sound off on the most common sexpecations that can lead you on a road to ruin — and the truth that will set you and your body free.

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Sex-pectation #1: All Women Orgasm From Penetration

“One of the biggest expectations I hear from women is that they believe they should be able to orgasm from penetrative sex alone,” says Dr. Holly. “A 2017 study in The Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that only 18% of women can orgasm solely from penetrative sex, while over 66% of women said they preferred direct clitoral touch. It’s erroneous and still disheartening for me when a female client comes to see me believing she is flawed, and I know she is completely normal. Sharing facts about female sexuality is long overdue and can be extraordinarily empowering.”

Sex-pectation #2: All Women Enjoy Clitoral Stimulation

While on the flip side of the previous point, Dr. Holly insists that misunderstandings surrounding clitoral stimulation are just as common, not to mention totally false. “Because of its 8,000 nerve endings (double that of the head of the penis), direct clitoral touch can be hyper-stimulating and uncomfortable for some women. Every woman, every vulva, and every clitoris is different. The most important— and empowering — thing a woman can do is to speak up about what feels best for her.”

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Sex-pectation #3 Men Are More Sexual Than Women

“The belief that women are more romantic and men are more sexual is a fallacy that has stuck for a long time,” says Dr. Holly. “In her 2018 book, Untrue, Wednesday Martin, Ph.D., debunks our assumptions about female partnership, specifically around desire and infidelity. Women who want ‘too much’ have been perceived as threatening or even slut-shamed, but as the erotic playing field starts to level and we understand more about what women want, it’s less dangerous for her to use her sexual agency. Men and women are different, but it is not always the man who wants more sex. [...] The majority of the heterosexual couples I saw came in at the request of the female partner who was desiring more sex than her partner.”

Sexpectation #4: Sex Should Be Like Porn

“I have nothing against porn and recommend it in different iterations frequently for my clients, but it’s pure entertainment, not an IRL portrayal sex,” says Dr. Holly. “Porn is a performance, and when women get in a performance mindset, as in, ‘I should do that, look like that, sound like that,’ it takes the focus off pleasure and the erotic moment."

Dr. Chavez seconds this notion: "There is misinformation everywhere regarding sex which creates unrealistic expectations around relationships. Porn is also a source of education for most people and it reinforces these misconceptions. People may not realize that porn is entertainment and view the messages as reality."

Sexpectation #5: Your Partner Should Know What You Want Without You Telling Them

This commonly held belief essentially puts the responsibility of your own pleasure into someone else's hands, which is not only false, but unfair to your partner and you. "Communication is key to mutual sexual pleasure" says Dr. Chavez. "Sex is a unique language based on verbal and non-verbal cues that inform our partners about pleasure."

The sex and relationship guru encourages everyone to take the reins of their own sexual experiences and start talking. "A partner cannot give you an orgasm," she explains. "You are responsible for showing a partner how they can contribute to an environment where an orgasm can happen."