It’s time we debunked these sexual health myths, once and for all

This article discusses a mature topic. Our 17-year-old and younger readers are encouraged to read this with an adult.

Though Justin and Kelly from Season 1 of American Idol will always hold a special place in my heart as my favorite reality TV talent show contestants, they now have a new international contender for my #1 spot. Zara Larsson, from Sweden’s version of America’s Got Talent, recently used her reality TV and pop star fame to make a bold statement about sexual health.

Her Instagram post to her 500,000 followers shows a condom covering her foot and calf and is captioned: “To all the guys saying ‘my d-ck is too big for condoms’ TAKE A SEAT.” Though she later points out in a blog post that she’s making a joke, her post struck a chord with a lot of people navigating ways to communicate about protection.

While making excuses for not using protection is a d-ck move (pun intended), what may be underneath some guys’ proclamations is the expectation that they need to prove their masculinity through penis size, which can be as harmful to men as to their partners. Condoms come in all different sizes, colors, and textures, and they fit most people—and if a certain condom doesn’t fit you, try a different size or brand to find one that’s right for you.

Since Zara is helping debunk the myth of the penis that’s “too big for condoms,” I wanted to take this opportunity to debunk other common sexual health and relationship myths in this month’s “Ask Elizabeth” column.

Myth: Females don’t masturbate.

Fact: Masturbation (when someone touches themselves for sexual pleasure) is a common and safe way for someone to express their sexuality and feel pleasure. Though we often hear that only males masturbate, or we only hear males talk about it, both males and females may choose to masturbate, and some may choose not to. We also hear a lot of other myths about masturbation and possible side effects, but just so we’re clear, masturbation does NOT:

  • Make you go blind
  • Make your palm hairy
  • Cause infertility
  • Affect your sexual orientation
  • Make your sex organs grow, shrink, or change
  • Stunt your growth

Myth: Condoms suck.
Fact: They don’t have to. Condoms—and really any sexual activity—usually feel better when both partners are relaxed, comfortable, and communicating with each other. Once that’s established, lube can also make a big difference. Water-based lube makes sex more slippery, which can make it more enjoyable and help keep condoms from breaking. Put lube on the outside of the condom, and you can also put a drop or two on the inside, which can increase sensitivity. (Just make sure not to put more than that inside, so it doesn’t slip off.) Also, there are a lot of different brands, sizes, and types of condoms. Try out different ones to find the one you like best. Remember, it’s important for sex to feel good for both partners. For more info on condoms, visit the Planned Parenthood website.

Myth: Jealousy is a sign that your partner really cares.
Fact: A lot of people think that jealousy is a sign of love or that someone really cares. And some jealousy can be a normal part of a relationship. However, it’s important for partners to trust each other and to communicate honestly about their feelings. If a partner is jealous a lot, it can be a sign of mistrust. Remember, you have the right to have your own space in a relationship—that includes spending time alone and spending time with your friends and family, apart from your partner. A healthy relationship is one where we feel our rights are respected and we are treated as an equal.

Myth: Talking about sex and consent ruins the romance.
Fact: I’m not sure where people got the idea that no one talks to each other before sex (movies) or that somehow this makes sex super romantic and mysterious (movies), but I’m here to say not only is it super sexy for a partner to be interested in my feelings and what I might enjoy, it is mandatory! Actually talking to each other before, during, and after sex can make sex more comfortable, safe, and fun!

Myth: Without gender roles, people wouldn’t know how to act!
Fact: I hear a lot of people saying things like “women want their men to act like men” or “women need to act like women.” What does this mean? Sometimes, gender roles can cause more confusion than they supposedly solve. What most people want is someone who is going to treat them with respect and as an equal. Ideally, we should be able to be decent to one another without society prescribing every step of the way. When people are free to be themselves, it leaves space for people to actually get to know each other, rather than a cardboard cutout personality of who they think they’re supposed to be.

What myths and misconceptions have you heard? Send them to me at [email protected].

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