Sexual Etiquette

Contraception and STIs

Performance problems

Serious Sex-related issues


Sex myths

Gay and Lesbian sex

Everyday couples, exceptional sex

Dear Diary, I had great sex today


Appendix: A Sex Dictionary


Hot And Cold In Sex


Sex Myths

Most couples do it 2.5 times a week, your best friend's getting laid more than you are, and other sex secrets and lies

It's funny the things we grow up believing about sex and our bodies. My friend Sarah was convinced for years that if men don't "Use" their erections their testicles hurt for hours afterward. Todd still refuses to budge from his theory that some girls are so fertile nothing will stop them getting pregnant. My grandmother claimed she could pick a good girl from a bad one by the way she threw her leg over a bicycle. I, of course, being sexually superior, was able to effortlessly separate fact from sexual fantasy . Well, that's what I'd like to tell you. In reality, I was the biggest sucker of all- thanks to my best friend Jenny.
              Jenny knew everything there was to know about sex, all of which she made up. Gullible old me, eyes like saucers, believed it all. Penises have bones in them. You took the pill vaginally. You could cut the finger off a rubber glove and use it as a condom. Men with big noses have big penises. Jenny was also the one who told me how to use tampons you just lay them lengthways across the opening of your vagina. For weeks, I watched other girls lock themselves in the bathroom, armed with strange -looking card-board cylinders, muttering about how they couldn't get the hang of tampons. I, on the other hand, was out and washing my hands before they'd even opened their instruction leaflets. Which is possibly what I should have done, since Jenny had no idea you were supposed to insert them inside. Those playtex ads had me stumped. Girls swimming, surfing, and bouncing around in aerobics classes? All I could manage was a painful hobble, legs tightly closed to keep the thing in place. Silly when you look back (dumb, even) but also interesting how we cling to some sexual misconceptions for so long.

              . Does love at first sight really happen? Instant desire certainly does but experts say "knowing" right from the start is unlikely. That's merely knowledge after the event.

Some sex myths are simply outdated, reflecting different society values and moral. Times change, people change, and even the facts change sometimes when new evidence comes to light. But what remains truly astonishing is this: for a subject that's the number one obsession of the Western world, most of the general population still know little about sex. So, here's the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about all the things even the sexually educated have niggling doubts about. Jenny, this one's for you.

The top 10 whoppers

Our parents had them (you'll go blind if you sexual masturbate, good girls don't) and we've invented a totally new set of sex myths. Most of us are surprisingly naive when it comes to sorting fact from fiction- so let's dispel the real biggies once and for all.

They're great -looking so sex is going to be fantasies
              Not only is this untrue (there is a God after all), but neither sex has the foggiest what the other truly finds attractive. While you're sweating it out at the gym frantically working for a reed-thin body, the studies say he's eyeing "real women" -curvaceous, voluptuous creatures who probably qualify as "plump" by today's standards. Ditto the muscle-man working out beside you: we consistently rate nice smiles and a sense of humor as far more appealing than abs of steel.
              Even if you do get to bed the best-looking guy or girl on the block, sex rarely lives up to expectations. Because their whole self- image revolves around their looks (that's all they ever get complimented on), the truly beautiful are often insecure, tense, and inhibited in bed. If they're not admired for anything else, it's essential they keep up the beautiful look at all times-not great when sex is messy, sweaty, and often unflattering at the best of times. A good lover doesn't notice sperm up their nose, pubic hairs in their teeth, and a roll of fat squashed between you both because they're so immersed in the sensation, they've lost conscious thought. Call me cynical,

              . There's more to the term "settle down and get married" than you think. Men's testosterone level-the hormone that reputedly makes them aggressive is high when men are single, goes down when they get married, and rises again on divorce.

but if you're wondering if your Estee Lauder eye shadow really has proved to be crease-free as he lines up for the final thrust, you're not into it. Ditto for men who worry about messed-up hair.

Sex is the most important thing in a relationship.
              You can only spend so much time in the bedroom. So if it's a love (not a sex) affair, you're forced to relate on other levels at least some of the time. Most people's needs in life divide roughly equally into spiritual (connecting with others), mental (brain stimulation), emotional (loving and being loved), and sexual. You can't (and absolutely shouldn't) discount sex because it's definitely important; on the other hand, it's only 25 percent of our lives. In my opinion based on surveys and studies on relationships I've read over the years, around 20 percent of you consider earth-shattering sex "crucial," the other 80 percent consider it "the icing on the cake" of a good relationship. According to the weighty Kinsey Institute New Report on Sex, bad sex isn't even a major cause of divorce (though it is certainly up there on the "why I want to leave" list). The general consensus from the experts seems to be this: when sex is good, or even okay, it's afforded the same importance we place on things like shared goals, trust, and love. It's when it's bad that it tends to become the focus of the relationship, insidiously destroying everything else.

Most couples have good sex most of the time.
              "If John doesn't do it at least once a day, he goes crazy," your best friend reveals after a bottle of wine. "Oh, we haven't done it in bed for years," boasts Jane. Why is it that everyone else's sex life seems better than our own? One reason could be that you're at different stages in your relationships. You can't compare new sex with a four-year-been-there-done-that relationship; the human nervous system is programmed to become desensitized the more of the same stimulation it gets. That's not to say long-term sex can't be as good; it's just different. If your partner knows all the right buttons to push (and they should after all that practice!) sexual orgasm is often guaranteed for long-time still be very passionate. But cut-your-arm-off-to-get-it, out-of-control, raging lust every night, after years of sharing the same bed? Possible, but you'd be unable to hold down a job with the amount of energy it would take to sustain it. Life and all its pressures get in the way and many couples are too tired to have sex at some stages in their life (kids, new job, or skidding through a rough patch). So how corne your sister still has mind-blowing sex after six years of marriage? She may think you have a great sex life and doesn't want to admit she doesn't. Or she really does have terrific sex-once a month. It's all subjective.

              . Beware a lover who believes you were "meant" for each other. People who think romance is in the hands of destiny and fate tend to end relationship rather abruptly - the minure they discover you're less than perfect. (Human perhaps?)

The average couple makes love 2.5 times a week.
              We forget that an average statistic is just that-an average. Researchers have lumped in the couple who shred the sheets three times a day with Bertha and George who manage it once a year and all those who fall somewhere in between, added up their weekly totals, and averaged them all out. You could have sex every day for a month, then abstain , totally for the next two and still make the average. Add to this most that most women don't have sex during their period, most couples don't if they're sick, tired , or arguing, and that on vacation we make love three times more often, and you'd have a hard time trying to be Mr. And Mrs. Average. Besides, not all nationalities conform to the old 2.5 figure (though Americans are pretty close at an average of 2.6). Couples in Hong Kong only indulge in sex once a week; Italians (despite their image) do it 1.7 times. Americans top the global average for time spent making love-but don't feel too smug, it's still only 28 minutes. Pathetic when you consider the amount of time the average person spends watching TV!

              . Americans have sex on average, 138 times a year. The most sexually active people globally: couples who live together but aren't married (146 times a year). Number of times a year. Married couple: 118 times.

Men sleep around more than women do.
              A great deal of research has gone into solving the twentieth-century mystery of why men consistently report having three times more sex partners than women do. (If it's true there's an awfully sore woman out there.) It could be that, generally, men overestimate and women do the opposite. What's more likely is this: women tend to remember sex if it was part of a long-term relationship. We "forget" (somewhat conveniently) anyone-night stands. Based on my research experience, I'd suggest the real total for women is about three times more than they say or admit. Oddly enough, that makes both sexes even.

If they're having an affair, they don't love me.
              Wrong again. Affairs aren't about love, they're about sex, a certain kind of sex. It's the affair that's the turn-on, not the person. Sex on the sly, a bit on the side-even the expressions we use hint at the real reason people stray from home. It's the excitement of secrecy. One study found that not only were people more obsessed with past, secret relationships than those that were out in the open, but that the minute the forbidden relationship was revealed or (even worse) approved of, it fizzled out fast. The novelty of being with someone new is the other motivator. The thrill of the chase, the ego -boost- we're all suckers for a bit of attention. Having an affair doesn't mean your partner doesn't love you, but it does mean they don't respect you.

              . Most of the things you and your partner argue about today, you'll still be fighting about a decade from now. Couples fight about the same issues 69 percent of the time- we don't resolve our performance problems because many of them are unsolvable . swapping partners doesn't help either- you'll just get a different set of unresolvable issues!

Most people now use condoms because of AIDS.
              I'd dearly love to tell you otherwise but although people are buying and carrying condoms, they aren't actually taking too many out of the packet. Youth, booze, and hormones is proving a potentially lethal cocktail for teenagers the world over who regularly have unprotected sex. The newly single are another group who believe they're immune to AIDS: divorced, widowed, or separated people are five times more likely to have unsafe sex than those who are married.6 It seems hard to believe intelligent people knowingly put their lives at risk. But they do. Often.

If you don't wake the neighbors, you're not enjoying yourself.
              Some people scream their heads off at football games, others just wave a banner-that doesn't mean one's enjoying it more than the other. While it's great if your partner does make noise (it's good feedback), it really depends on their personality. For many women, reaching orgasm is a long, private process that involves intense concentration. She's battling to stay focused on the sensation so when she does climax, she isn't likely to blow all that hard work by announcing the fact to the entire world. Some men are also quiet achievers. To each his own.

It's not what you've got, It s how you use It.
              Partly true, partly false. The saying should go, "It's not what you've got, it's how you compensate for it." If you're a half inch or so under the average, chances are she hasn't noticed or cared. But if you're talking really little, you can "use it" (that is, thrust ) all you like and it probably won't be the best penetration she's experienced. The small guy who has extraordinary oral sex and foreplay skills, however, won't have too many problems; the guy hung like a horse will if he relies exclusively on his penis.

              . Opposites don't attract, similarity does. Couples who have the same values attitudes, interest, and ways of looking at the world are more likely to say they've found "a soulmate" and more likely to stay together. On the other hand, hooking up with someone whose differences complement your own personality is a good idea. that's why worrier-relaxed and shy-outgoing combos work.

Women are turned off by porn.

              Both sexes are turned-on by pornography and erotica, just different kinds. Generally, men go for more explicit, hard-core stuff; women usually prefer erotic, soft images (and a plot, if it's at all possible). Women also often need to look at the people on the screen and think "I could/would like to do that" or they don't relate to it. But as for not enjoying it at all-nonsense. The recent boom in made-for-women-by-women flicks is evidence enough that if it's the right kind, we'll eat it up.