All men are dogs. Good women don’t sleep around. Any guy who touches another guy is secretly gay. Bisexuals are just slutty. Girls only make out with other girls for attention. Do those statements make you angry? They should — they’re persistent, harmful, and false sexual stereotypes. Sex is one of those areas where we can’t seem to help not only passing judgment on other people’s behavior but also placing them in massive groups based on what they like to do with their genitals.
But luckily, there’s a whole movement that’s working hard to fight back against sexual stereotypes! Sex positivity is about acknowledging the fact that human sexuality is varied, fun, interesting — and totally natural. It’s about taking the shame out of what turns us on and accepting the fact that even if someone else is into something we’re not, that doesn’t mean they’re deviant or weird or wrong for their desires. At its most essential level, sex positivity states that as long as everyone involved is a consenting adult and no one is getting hurt in a way they’re not into and/or didn’t consent to, then all kinds of sex are perfectly OK.
Unfortunately, though, the battle for a sex-positive world is one we’re still fighting. In the meantime, there are a still plenty of pervasive, damaging sexual stereotypes floating around out there. I spoke with two experts — sexologist and dating expert Dr. Nikki Goldstein, author of the forthcoming Single but Dating, and relationship coach and founder of Maze of Love, Chris Armstrong — about common sexual stereotypes and why they believe they’re wrong. Here are seven sexual stereotypes, debunked.
False: You Have To Have An Orgasm For It To Be Good Sex
“Sex should not be based on the ability to have an orgasm due to the undetermined aim of sex,” Dr. Nikki tells Bustle. “We can't seem to universally agree on why we have sex outside of procreation. If we take procreation out of the picture — which only requires a male to have an orgasm, not a female — then why is it we place so much focus on the big O? In order to have better sex, this is an important myth to bust. Sex should be about bonding, enjoying time with your partner, feeling intimate and experiencing pleasure. These don't have to be achieved with an orgasm.”
False: Men Are Naturally Inclined To Sleep Around
The stereotype for years has been that men sleep around because it’s “natural” for them to want to spread their sperm, while it’s “natural” for women to want to lock down one partner to care for them and their offspring. However, Dr. Christopher Ryan suggests in his book Sex at Dawn that the way women and men orgasm differently may point to a different “natural” conclusion. Specifically, the fact that women are able to have multiple orgasms with virtually no recovery time in between, while men have a refractory period in which they have to recover after orgasm suggests that female bodies may be more naturally adapted to having multiple partners, while male body are more naturally adapted to having one partner.
False: Men Who Have Sex With Other Men Are Gay
“This is also not accurate,” Dr. Nikki says. “We have eroticized woman being sexually active with other woman, often seeing it in porn. But if two women are seen touching, kissing or even having sex, they are not automatically given the label of being gay. So then why do we so quickly slap two men with it if they are even physically close to another male? If a woman wants to experiment with her sexuality it can be done without risk of a label, but if a man does it he is gay.”
False: Women Who Sleep Around Have Low Self-Confidence
There’s an old and persistent stereotype that women who sleep around with lots of people do it because they have low self-confidence. While I’m sure some of those women do, plenty of others sleep around because, well, they like sex. In fact, a 2015 study from German researchers found that women were just as likely to accept an offer of casual sex as men, as long as they felt that they were safe from assault.
False: People Who Are Into Fetishes Have Something Mentally Wrong With Them
“Many years ago, people who enjoyed sexual fetishes were included in the DSM, which was used to diagnosed people with a mental illness or problem,” Dr. Nikki says. “Even though this is no longer the case, those who enjoy sexual acts that might be seen as ‘not normal’ are still given the label of weird, odd or that there is something wrong with them. We have a lot of acceptance for different sexual acts but also still a lot of narrow thinking. Those who enjoys fetishes are still often viewed as not normal."
False: There’s A “Normal” Way To Be When It Comes To Sex
"But there is no normal when it comes to sex, just average and common,” Dr. Nikki says. “And why should being average and common be the goal? We could even question these so called averages and think that because there is not enough acceptance to be more open sexually, many fit into these lines of being average sexually because they are uninformed or have a lack of permission and acceptance to be more open with their sexual needs, wants and desires.”
False: Men Want To Leave After Sex, Women Want To Cuddle
“This may have been true 20 years ago but it is not true today," Armstrong tells Bustle. "Why? Because unlike 20 years ago, the distinctions in how men and women view sex, as well as their comfort factors with sex, are very similar. Women no longer have a deep emotional attachment to sex, at least not women who are dating or hooking up and in this, they don't feel this itch to lay around and cuddle.”
Did any of these sexual stereotypes surprise you? Sometimes these beliefs are so deeply embedded in our collective consciousness that we don’t even realize how damaging they are. With that in mind, take a minute to think about the sexual stereotypes that you might be holding on to. Are they true?