Everyone knows that guy (or that girl): the one who, one day, spouts off some fact about sex that’s so off-base, it’s laughable. Hey, maybe you are that girl!
Most of these misconceptions are harmless and silly, but they stem from a deep-seeded aversion to talking about sex. Maybe it’s because your parents never gave you ‘the talk.’ Maybe it’s because all teachers told you in high school is not to mess around before marriage.
I polled my friends for some of the most ludicrous things they believed up until high school or college:
“I thought that your vagina was very shallow and that it just stopped; I didn’t know it led to other organs.”
“You could only have sex if you were scissoring.”
“Until I had a girlfriend, I thought your period lasted a few hours.”
“As a little brother, I believed that a period lasted for three weeks of the month and then you had one month off.”
“If you slept next to a man you would get pregnant, even if you kept your clothes on.”
“I thought the ‘oral’ in oral sex meant ‘verbal.’ Like, ‘I’m taking off your shirt right now…’”
“I thought a blow job meant blowing air along a man’s shaft.”
“Every time you had your period, your hymen broke and reformed.”
“I thought Tic-Tacs were condoms.”
“At a young age I saw an episode of the Chapelle Show that involved sex. The character ejaculated on TV, and they used silly string to make it television-appropriate. Later that year I had my first orgasm, and the only thing in my pants was a fuzzy string. Based on that episode, I thought that was semen because it was all I knew.”
Most of these misconceptions are harmless, but not all are—and most could be avoided with better sex education. I’m not saying that health classes are a total waste of time; I still remember an instance where a girl asked if a boy’s pee comes out of his ears when he gets an erection. But to face reality, a lot of college-age kids don’t know how to talk about sex in a productive way. This means that the risk of STIs and unwanted pregnancy rises. Some of my friends’ less-harmless confusions:
“If you have sex, you WILL get pregnant.” And: “If you have sex, you immediately get AIDS.” Thanks, Mean Girls.
“Girls can’t get pregnant while on their period.”
“A girl couldn’t get pregnant if she was on top during sex.”
“There was no way a penis was going to fit in a vagina; I just didn’t think it could fit.”
“If men masturbate too much, they will go blind or get hairy palms.”
“I thought I was getting cancer when I started growing breasts.”
“All STIs were permanent; there was no way to get rid of them.”
“All sex would be like porn … it’s not … at all.”
At best, this lack of knowledge leads to misunderstandings and awkward interactions. At worst, unwanted pregnancy, contraction of diseases, and nonconsensual sexual acts.
According to the Center for Disease Control, young people (ages 15-24) represent 50 percent of all new STIs and there were about 20 million new infections in 2008 alone. That means that in 2008, more STIs were created than college graduates.
The answer to this problem is sex education. A time for people to learn about the birds and the bees, what goes where and how to be safe. But health classes in high school are vague and uninformative and by the time you reach college, you’re expected to know everything about sex. Classroom conversations need to be more expansive and blunt before students enter the sexually charged environment of college. If students were taught about sex, masturbation, menstruation, and more, and were taught to have conversations about these topics as well, maybe we could keep our college students healthier, both physically and emotionally.
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