SEX MYTHS AND FACTS

(From PBS' "In the Mix")

MYTH: Everyone you know is doing it.
FACT: Consider the statistics. More than half of teenagers are virgins until theyíre at least 17 years old. Donít believe everything you hear. People lie, and exaggerate, and can talk a good game when it comes to sexual antics. In the end, it doesnít matter whoís telling the truth or not. The only truth that matters is whatís best for you. Yeah, that sounds corny-- but itís a fact.

MYTH: Others can tell if youíre a virgin or not.
FACT: Look in the mirror. Is there a sign on your forehead that says, "Virgin!", or a big "V" sewn onto your shirt? With sex, itís really tough to tell how experienced anyone is. Often, the people who talk the most about sex have the least real knowledge of it. Whether youíve had sex or not, you should never be ashamed of your "status". Itís who you are. Regardless of how many people give you a hard time about it, you have to make the choices that are right for you. Itís much more important to be healthy and happy.

MYTH: Youíre a prude if you want to wait until youíre older.
FACT: Actually, youíre smart. Most people who have their first sexual experience after the age of 18 report it being positive and meaningful. The likelihood of being more mature, and the likelihood of your romantic relationships being more committed and open, reduce the chance of sex regrets. Your early sexual experiences will shape your sexual attitudes for years to come, so better to start things off on the right-- er-- foot.

MYTH: Movies and TV portray sex as it really is.
FACT: Uhhh...That would be "NO!". Movies and TV are entertainment, not instructional Sex Ed films, and are designed to give us all an escapist fantasy. Maybe weíd all like sex to involve hot music, great lighting, and no talk of STDís or birth control, but we canít forget the difference between this dream world and reality. Sex is never what it is on the big or small screen, or even in books or magazines. Whether itís awkward, embarrassing, hysterical, disastrous, mediocre, or earth-shatteringly fabulous, itís different for every two people, every time, with different emotions, experience, and circumstances. Itís more complicated than a patchouli-scented candle and the right CD on the stereo.

MYTH: Sex is the most important thing to a teen.
FACT: Nobody likes to be generalized, and as you hopefully know by now, every individual is different. Sure, itís important. Sure, the average teen fights a Death Match with their hormones on a daily basis. But that doesnít mean she or he values someoneís companionship, trust, friendship, or love more than the mattress mambo. If someone acts like a Sex Machine in front of their friends, chalk it up to peer pressure and get to know what really matters to him or her.

MYTH: You canít get pregnant the first time you have sex, or by doing it standing up, or by using douche afterwards, or when youíre stoned, or if youíre having your period, or you have irregular periods, or if youíve recently had a child, or by doing it in a hot tub...
FACT: Weíre sure youíve heard some of these whoppers, or maybe some even weirder ones. Forget who youíve heard them from, or how many times youíve heard them. The truth is, you can get pregnant any time you have sex (unless, of course, youíre already pregnant, which means youíve got other things to worry about). Even if you use a condom or other form of birth control, you can still get pregnant. The only 100% foolproof method of preventing pregnancy is by NOT having sex. So if you choose to have sex, regardless of when and how, know what you might be getting yourself into.

MYTH: Drinking and drugs make sex much more fun.
FACT: In the haze of being under the influence, that may seem true. But hereís the reality: substance use causes impotence, premature ejaculation, inability to orgasm, and other not-so-fun side effects. It might feel good to have your inhibitions washed away by alcohol or drugs, but that also means youíre less likely to practice safe sex. So you might end up with the ultimate side effect: an STD or unplanned pregnancy. People are also much more likely to be victims of rape and assault when substance use mixes with sexual activity.

MYTH: The only way you can contract an STD is by having unsafe sex with more than one person.
FACT: Itís a clichť, but itís true. All it takes is one time, with one person. With some STDís, you donít even have to have intercourse to be exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. Obviously, the more partners you have, the better your chance of getting an STD, but in the end (like getting pregnant), the magic number is One.

MYTH: Condoms keep you from feeling anything during sex.
FACT: Most of us have heard this one. Admittedly, itís true that condoms can reduce sensitivity for the guy, but they donít affect a girlís sensitivity. They definitely donít eliminate feeling completely, and the benefits of using a condom far outweigh any drawbacks. There are many varieties of latex condoms on the market, so itís worth experimenting to see which condom is the most comfortable.

MYTH: If you masturbate, it means youíre lonely and perverted.
FACT: Experts agree that masturbation is can be a positive thing. And no, it wonít make you go blind, or grow hair on your palms. As Woody Allen once said, "Masturbation is sex with someone I love". Masturbation is a risk-free way to learn about your body and what feels good to you.

MYTH: Guys get terrible pain "down there" if you get them worked up but donít have sex with them.
FACT: If you ask your mom, older sister, or another older relative, theyíd probably tell you theyíve heard the same thing. This is a time-honored myth about sex. Itís true that guys will have some discomfort and muscle tension when theyíre sexually aroused, but it will go away. It wonít kill them, and itís definitely not worth doing something you donít want to do just to cure a guyís "blue balls".

MYTH: Girls never pressure guys to have sexópressure always come from the male.
FACT: Again, thereís that generalization thing causing lots of trouble. Every person, and every combination of two people, is different. Pressure can come from anyone, regardless of gender, sexual experience, or age.

MYTH: Fooling around without sex is like walking out of a movie ten minutes before the ending.
FACT: There are no rules. Nobodyís going to give you an "Incomplete" grade for leaving sex out of the equation. Fooling around is what feels good and comfortable to both people involved. If itís not right at this moment, this day, this week, this year, donít do it. Sex, whether itís oral sex or intercourse, is never a "must"; itís always a choice. It can be much more fulfillingóand fun-- to explore different ways to physically express your feelings.

MYTH: If you really loved him or her, youíd want to sleep with them.
FACT: Loving someone and being ready to have sex with them are two different things. If you know you love someone deeply, try to concentrate on other ways to express it until you both know youíre ready. If someone you love is pressuring you to take that step, and possibly even threatening to dump you if you donít, it says a lot about how they love you back. Intimacy is about communication, trust, and respect. In the end, if he or she really loves you, theyíll be willing to wait.

MYTH: Sex means instant adulthood.
FACT: Okay, so you canít vote, drink, drive, stay out past midnight, or support yourself financially, but since youíre having sex, youíre automatically an adult? Donít think so! Maturity is about a million other things besides sexual experience. Actually, itís a lot more "adult" to focus on growing as a person.