If sex were a board game, the how-to handbook would be some five billion pages long — with different rules dictated by and for each individual player, and a new set of rules each round. Good luck.
Despite the bevy of “do this, not that” sex-advice pieces out there, it’s safe to say that some things society has taught us are just plain wrong. Below, Emily Nagoski, author of the book Come As You Are, squashes some age-old myths about getting it on.
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5 Sex Myths You Should Stop Believing
Yep, average penis size is still 5 inches.
1. Is Choreplay Really A Thing?
Sheryl Sandberg might quote a study that says couples who share chores have more sex, but then another study will show that when men do housework, they have less sex. What’s the deal?
“The debate around chore play [a.k.a. being turned on by the sight of your partner doing housework] isn’t a scientific one; it’s a political and social one,” Nagoski says. “It’s basically about the difference between a transactional understanding of the relationship between householding and sex (‘I cleaned the kitchen, therefore I expect sex’) versus a relational understanding (‘We’re a team, therefore I cleaned the kitchen. How are you? Wanna have some sex?)’”
The former doesn’t necessarily work. “Vacuuming gives you no more of a right to sex than buying someone dinner, and I think we’re in a place, culturally, where we can agree that anyone who thinks they deserve sex just because they bought you dinner is a douchebag whom you definitely would not want to fuck,” Nagoski says. “Beyond the political argument…there are few things less sexy than someone saying, ‘Honey, see what I did for you? I wiped down the counters,’ and then waggling their eyebrows at you…erotically.”
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So, short answer: No. Sex is not a cookie, and a partner is not a pet (“Unless, ya know, that’s the dynamic you’ve agreed to in your relationship,” Nagoski says.) But, the relational approach to choreplay could — and does — work. “Couples who have great, happy sex are couples who have great, happy relationships. They help each other out. They do stuff with each other; they do stuff for each other,“ Nagoski says, noting that extra stress could put a brake on desire. So, when somebody is respecting what his or her partner needs and supporting that? “That shit is sexy as hell,” Nagoski concludes.
2. How Often Should I Be Having Sex?
As much as you want. “I know it’s almost impossible to read statistics about how often people have sex, on average, and not feel like that’s some kind of benchmark for how often we should be having sex, too,” Nagoski says. “But, think about it for a second. Are we really going to decide to have sex once a week, or once a month, or once a day, no matter what, because that’s how often people have sex on average?”
Face it: Having a kid is going to dampen your game just a bit. Having the flu will, too. “Desire fluctuates with context,” Nagoski says. “You should have sex as often as works for your relationship and your life. Forget about other people’s sex lives — they have nothing to do with what feels satisfying to you.”
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3. Is It Weird To Plan Sex?
“God no,” Nagoski says. “People think that spontaneous sex is ‘better’ than planned sex when they mistake ‘wanting’ for ‘liking.’”
In fact, characterizing the act of wanting sex as a “sex drive” is completely wrong; sex is not like hunger, thirst, or sleep. People can live without sex. Wanting sex out of the blue, or “spontaneous desire,” is normal, but so is “responsive desire” — when you want sex in response to something (whether that something is kissing, foreplay, or just planning to have sex). According to Nagoski’s research, 55% of the population are more prone to “responsive desire” than spontaneous.
“Having sex spontaneously because you really, really want it is very satisfying — the way getting the Snoopy sno-cone machine for your birthday is satisfying, when you wanted it for months and months,” Nagoski explains. “It’s fun, right, to get a thing you’ve been craving?”
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But, you can only want what you don’t have. “Do you set up play dates for your friends to come over so you can make sno-cones together?” Nagoski asks. “Or does [that machine] sit on the shelf, collecting dust, while you wait for the fortuitous moment when your friend drops by for a visit and you both happen to be in the mood for sno-cones?”
So yes, spontaneous sex can be fun, but planning sexy times has payoffs, too. To extend the sno-cone metaphor: “There is something lovely and special about the first sno-cone you make with your brand-new Snoopy sno-cone machine,” Nagoski says. “But, there is something different, something exquisite and lovely, about the sno-cones you’re still making with your best friend, 20 years later — sno-cones that would never be made unless you planned a time to get together, around other obligations.”
4. Is The G-Spot A Mystical, Made-Up Creation To Make Partners Try Harder?
“It’s a thing, but people vary,” Nagoski says. “Some have one; some don’t. Some people enjoy the sensation; some don’t. And, everyone is normal. There’s no better or worse, no right or wrong. There’s just different ways of experiencing pleasure. Some people are more orgasmic from having their toes sucked than from having their G-spot stimulated. Some people only have orgasms from anal stimulation. People vary.”
5. Big Feet, Big Hands…?
“Alas, I have not found any empirical evidence one way or the other,” Nagoski says. But, for the record, the average penis is about five inches long.
By Jessica Chou