When it comes to having sex, many teens — and adults too — have trouble separating fact from mythology. Here are some common myths and facts about having sex.

  • Does oral sex count as sex?

    The myth is that only vaginal intercourse counts as having sex. In fact, there is no one definition of "having sex." People all have their own definitions of what it means. For many people "having sex" means engaging in a range of intimate, physical behaviors by yourself or with another person or persons that can often (but not always) involve the genitals. For some people it is only penis-in-vagina intercourse. For some people it is only penis-in-anus intercourse. For some people it is intercourse with a sex toy. For some people it is genital rubbing without intercourse.  For some people it includes oral / genital contact.  For some it includes masturbation. The possibilities are many. For most experts (like us) it includes all of the above.

    People decide for themselves what it means to them to "have sex." To avoid confusion when talking about having sex with sex partners, it’s important to clearly communicate your limits and expectations and to be sure you understand theirs. There is a wide range of fun, safe, pleasurable activities that people can engage in that are called ”having sex.”

    Good news: there is a variety of sexual activities that are very low risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (such as mutual masturbation, phone sex, and cybersex). Bad news: one behavior — unprotected vaginal intercourse —) can be very high risk for both!  A lot of other behaviors are high risk for sexually transmitted infections.  So whatever "having sex" means to you, be careful!

  • Are most teens having vaginal intercourse?

    The myth is that most teens have had vaginal intercourse.  Surprise, surprise: most haven’t! A survey of nearly 14,000 high school students across the country reported that less than half (47.8 percent) ever had intercourse. So why does it seem like everyone's doing it? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

    The first reason is that we receive thousands of impressions from the media that suggest it's true. Teens today spend between six and seven hours a day with some form of media. On prime-time TV alone there are about 10 instances of sexual behavior per hour. Combine that with sexual images on YouTube and in magazine ads, music videos, billboards, pop-ups, and movies, and it all adds up to A LOT of sexual content that we're being exposed to.

    Another reason that it seems like most teens have had intercourse is that there is a lot of bragging, rumors, gossip, and guessing amongst teens. All this speculation can start to feel like "the truth," but it really is just gossip and rumor. Teens need to decide for themselves when they are ready for sexual activity with someone else and know that it is perfectly "normal" to wait.

  • Can I get pregnant the first time I have sexual intercourse? Can I get pregnant if I don’t have it that often?

    The myth is that a girl cannot get pregnant the first time she has vaginal intercourse.  You can! You can! If you’re having unprotected intercourse you can get pregnant — whether it is the first time or the one hundred and first time! It’s even possible for a girl to get pregnant before she has her first period — this is because an egg is released before menstruation can happen.

    It’s also possible to get pregnant whether you have intercourse frequently or infrequently. It's all about the sperm hooking up with the egg. If that happens, pregnancy can occur. If you’re sexually active, it's important to use some form of birth control if you are not intending to become pregnant.

  • Can a doctor tell if I’m a virgin?

    The myth is that a doctor, or anyone else who looks at woman’s vulva, can tell if she’s a virgin.  Not really. Even pelvic exams can't reveal if you've had vaginal intercourse or if you masturbate, unless there are specific signs. A health care provider may be able to tell a woman is not a virgin if she has

    • symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection such as herpes or genital warts
    • semen in her vagina from a recent act of intercourse
    •  torn tissue from violent or rough sex

    People used to think that if a women's hymen — the thin membrane that stretches part way over the opening to the vagina — was perfectly intact a doctor could tell she was a virgin. But women are born with varying amounts of hymenal tissue. Some have so little that it may seem they have none at all. Many activities besides vaginal intercourse can stretch open the hymen. These include bike-riding, using tampons, or playing certain sports. For these reasons, the state of a women's hymen is not a reliable indicator of whether she has had sex.

    Occasionally, if a woman has a perfectly intact hymen that covers most of her vaginal opening, her nurse or doctor might think that she’s a virgin. And if hymeneal tissue that a nurse or doctor has previously observed appears changed, she may think that sexual intercourse has occurred. In either case, the nurse or doctor cannot be sure unless she is told.

    So usually, the only way a nurse or doctor will know if a woman's had sex is if the woman tells her. That's why it's important to tell your nurse or doctor if you’re having sex. Don't let embarrassment become a health risk. Let your nurse or doctor know what’s going on with your sex life so that she can make a more informed evaluation of your health status.

  • Can I get pregnant if I have sex when I’m having my period?

    The myth is that it is impossible for a woman to get pregnant from vaginal intercourse during her period.  It's not likely for most women, but it can happen. It’s possible for a woman to get pregnant from intercourse during her period, especially if her menstrual cycle is brief or irregular.

    Here's an example: In a 20-day cycle, ovulation — the release of the egg — may very well occur on day six of her cycle. Her period begins on day one. It lasts about five days. Ejaculated sperm can hang around in her body and fertilize an egg up to six days later. Let's say this couple has unprotected sex in the first two days of her period. The live sperm can wait around to join with her egg when it is released on day six. This could cause a pregnancy. And of course, another important concern of having unprotected intercourse — anytime during the month — is that it offers no protection against sexually transmitted infections.

  • Do condoms really work?

    The myth started by opponents of birth control is that condoms don’t really work. The fact is that, when used correctly every time, condoms are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy. And condoms are the best way to avoid sexually transmitted infections for people who are sexually active. Most breakage happens because condoms are used incorrectly. In fact, properly lubricating a condom helps reduce the likelihood of the condom breaking. However, only water- or silicone-based lubricants such as KY jelly, Astro Glide, Slippery Stuff, etc., can be used with latex condoms.

 
 
 
 
By Jamie Rivera 01/20/2011 12:40:00

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