OUR READERS TELL US WHAT THEY HAD TO UNLEARN ABOUT SEX
In the leadup to our third issue, we launched an anonymous sex survey. We wanted to hear from you about your experiences with sex, your thoughts and feelings and your best stories. And you told us! We’re so grateful for all the incredible, honest answers we’ve received, please keep them coming. The survey is still up and running, and there’s still time to submit. As we had a lot of responses to this question, we’ve split it up into two parts: this is Part Two, find Part One here.
Check out the whole Open Secrets series here.
We wanted to preserve your voices and the spirit of your answers, so we haven’t edited any of the responses.
Here’s the question we asked:
What were some misconceptions you had about sex when you were younger? How and when were those myths blown?
- I had a lot of misconceptions around pregnancy, in part because I was (and remain) credulous as fuck. For example, when I was six or seven, a few of my friends came over to play. “We were just at the doctor,” they told me. “We had an operation that means that we’ll be able to have babies some day.” “Will I be able to have babies some day?” I asked. “No,” they said, “because you haven’t had the operation.” I was pretty mad about that.I also thought that you could get pregnant from touching someone else’s genitals. In fourth grade, I was at a sleepover with a friend and accidentally brushed her crotch with my foot in bed. I freaked out because I thought we were both going to end up pregnant! Fortunately, she knew better and reassured me.
- When I was very young I saw some hardcore porn by accident at a friends house. I remember feeling very ill and I started trying to wrap my head around it by reenacting the scene with my toys. After that experience, I was very confused about sex because all I had known was the generic story – when two people love each other they have sex. I was very fearful of penises after that experience and it took me a very long time to be able to engage in oral sex when I was older.
- The idea that all men want is sex and they all want it all the time. This was blown for me when I have tried to have sex with men, thinking I should at least try it, situations that by all dating “rules” I expected to lead to sex didn’t really get there. And I was left wondering what I had done wrong, when in fact those guys probably just wanted to get to know me a bit better first. I think I hurt the feelings of some men when they discovered that all I had wanted was sex. I had assumed they would be fine with this because of that assumption that all guys want is sex.
- I didn’t know how bodies fit together and couldn’t figure out how het-cis people could have sex with each other.
I thought that if you flirted with someone, you had to be willing to go “all the way” whether that meant marrying them if they wanted you to or if it meant doing *anything* they happened to want sexually.
Needless to say, I didn’t get out much in my youth.
- The biggest misconception I had about sex had to do with pussy smell. I had heard some boys in high school talking about stinky vaginas and I got it in my head that the worst possible thing in the world would be for a guy to have to smell the earthiness of a vagina during sex. But I also couldn’t fathom getting rid of that smell. How could I make it go away? I couldn’t! That’s just what a vagina smells like!
So instead, I decided that I would never let a dude go down on me, for fear of being smelled out and repulsive.
Eventually I met my great partner, and he happens to love pussy smells. And it also just dawned on me how ridiculous it was to let the bravado of adolescent boys dictate what I could and could not enjoy during sex. Bodies are bodies — I get that now! And I like it!
- That i have to look a certain way to be desired. And I would move my body around to seem more desirable from certain angels during sex. My first same-sex encounter threw everything out: it was like I was having sex with me and suddenly I realized the important parts and the not-at-all important parts of having sex with a woman!
- I could name the clitoris and find it on a sketch of a vulva, but I had no idea what it was for. I asked, but the adults in my life did their best to dodge the question, leaving me with the impression that it was basically useless. Sex Ed in my school was clinical, focused on naming body parts and allaying fears about menstruation; pleasure was extremely taboo. Cli-tor-is. I experimented with it – squeezing it tightly, poking it with an open safety pin – to figure out what it was but couldn’t make sense of it.
Finally, I met my first girlfriend and that question was answered!
- When I was 5 I was sure I had lost my virginity because a 7 year old neighbor told me if a boy and a girl layer on top of eachother they were having sex. Earlier that day, my best male friend and I were spying on my sister under her bed and he rolled over me to hide. I felt the same sexual shame then that I would years later during my slutty teen years.
- The girls in sex ed talked about sex hurting the first time. And for that I stayed far away from it until I was 20. My first time was better than good, he was careful and when the time came there was some discomfort, but overall it wasn’t as painful the following day. I worried about the lack of blood (since the girls around me alwayd said it was like your period). I asked an older friend and she put my worries at ease. She said I had a good boyfriend for making sure I was ‘ready.’
- For a while I didn’t think I could have sex with someone I didn’t love. Great sex can exist without love, but I also think that it’s such a connection and category in itself that maybe in the moment of having sex, you can connect with someone in a way that is just as meaningful as love, or is even a type of love. That experience was shaped by hooking up with someone who is a great lover but not someone I would ever want to be partners with.
- I didn’t have a lot of expectations about sex when I was younger. I always had a pretty open mind and have found that sex is a game with no rules.
- When I was really young, and my framework for sexual relations were sexy ads and sexy movie scenes, I imagined that intercourse with a man could last for hours. I had no concept of male “ejaculation.” Sure, in movie sex scenes there was typically a “climactic” moment, when the couple screams and lovingly gaze at each other, but I never really got the subtext, the fact that the guy had just come.
Back then I had no idea that this “event” was so important to heteronormative sex, to the kind of sex that I thought I wanted to be having.
- The myth of orgasms, particularly the myth of mutual orgasms, went out the window the first time I had sex. I wish I could say that I’ve come to terms with the way a guy getting off so often dictates female pleasure. I wish I could say that I’ve learned to be open with my partners about wanting to approach sex differently, about wanting to change our expectations when it comes to sex. I’m still figuring it.
- I expected/wanted to feel turned on before sex every time. If I didn’t feel horny, I didn’t want to do it. I got hung up on feeling guilty for not wanting it as frequently as my partner, but when I would say ok grudgingly I HATED it. At one point I decided to just try initiating more often, to avoid the guilty feeling and the I found that even if I didn’t feel in the mood at the start I would get in the mood. I guess that’s why foreplay is around huh?
- I can’t remember any misconceptions although I’m sure there were a lot. I definitely didn’t really understand how tampons worked until I used one.
- I guess I thought it was simpler. I didn’t take into account the emotions, psychological or spiritual aspects of sex so that part was surprising to me. I guess I was surprised at myself expecting a man to still be interested in me after we had sex and being disappointed that having sex did not bring out the same sensations within him as it did for me.
- That female orgasms “don’t happen” for some and therefore it didn’t matter if I was being satisfied. At the same time, I believed that my male partner(s)/counterpart(s) would lose all confidence if they knew I wasn’t satisfied. This lead to me pretending I had orgasmed for years in an important long-term relationship and even believe that it might never happen for me.Being able to talk openly to my girlfriends about this lead to my first purchase of a vibrator which helped me discover my own preferences in a safe and open way.I also realized after that first long-term relationship, at 20, with a new partner, that it didn’t benefit either of us to lie and there was more motivation for creativity and practice for both of us by talking about my needs. It took almost a year but we did it, and it’s only gotten better and easier!
- I thought people only had sex to have a baby! I believed people didnt therefore have sex that often. I had thought only a man and woman could be sexually attracted to each other and have sex.
I learned about contraception and from books and mostly from the fact I got sexual sensations that that wasnt what sex was about. About age 10.
Learnt that gay meant homosexual not stupid at age 12. Cant remember where from.
- I always had the misconception that monogamous people are happy. That somehow being with and sticking with one person will make you magically happy somehow.
As a divorced person I feel like I’ve only been freed from this misconception recently when my marriage ended.
- I masturbated a LOT as a child and teen and I always thought tentatively I wouldn’t be able to enjoy sex because of it.
- I always thought sex was something a couple had to plan, and it lasted all night. And it was only something you could do at night. I sort of knew it was something to do with pleasure, but I didn’t quite understand.
I just thought it was something people who really liked eachother did for fun.
- Again, I think my parents really modelled that sex was an important element of a relationship and marriage. I am grateful for that.I remember a conversation when I was quite young with other young friends where we were discussing sex and I thought that it was impossible to get pregnant from having sex once. I don’t know when this misconception was corrected. I think probably popular culture would have blown that myth for me.
- One thing I vividly remember was a quiz that was sent out when I was younger (say 13?) I remember I used to explore masturbation… I hadn’t orgasmed but definitely would have gotten there. Some “friends” sent a quiz that asked a bunch of questions, and one was about masturbation. I had answered that I masturbated, and then found out that the quiz got sent back to those who sent it! I was absolutely mortified.
I didn’t start masturbating again until I was 20!!!
- I was raised in catholic school, and was taught that sex was between a man and woman after marriage, never anything but. How wrong that was!
- I used to think being a top just meant being the 1st one to top, but that “good” sex between FAAB meant switching. I used to feel pressured to switch back when that caused me a great deal of dysphoria . In hindsight, I dated one too many post-structuralist “trans+” equity studies students who ironically required me to disconnect from my humanity so we could be “more radical” together. Eventually I figured out I wasn’t suppose to feel like a protest sign being held by a partner when dating.The 1st time I slept with a trans woman, and we felt safe and comfortable to share our vulnerabilities around dysphoria broke that down for me. And then I dated a cis woman who figured out that it wasn’t about trying to get me to love a body that made me dysphoric, that how I presented my body wasn’t about her relationship to it, but mine to me, took that to the next level. Together we figured out that what I needed was for someone to mirror back my dysphoria, in its ever fluid presence back then. Now that I’ve had lower surgery and my dysphoria is by and large resolved, it’s not as important that people get the trans piece with me, and I can provide much more support around their body image stuff if they have some.