When topics become taboo, it breeds misinformation. And there are few topics more taboo – especially when it comes to talking with young people – than sex. But teenagers can and do have sex. And young people have a right to accurate, age-appropriate information about their bodies and relationships before they enter this part of adult life. Without it, they’re more likely to experience teen pregnancy, STIs and unpleasant sexual experiences. And because this topic is so shrouded in mystery, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. So much, in fact, we had to cover it in two blog posts. Here are the myths around sex that parents need to debunk with their teens.
Myth: Only ‘adults’ get STIs and teens don’t need to worry
Fact: Many STIs are actually more common in young people than older age groups. For example, in Australia, those aged between 15 and 19 had the highest rates of Chlamydia diagnoses than any other age group. Condoms are the best method of protection against STIs.
Myth: The Pill protects you from STIs
Fact: The Pill does not protect against STIs, which are either transmitted through bodily fluids or virus shedding via the skin, but it does minimise the risk of pregnancy. Hormonal contraception might stop you from ovulating – but it’s not a barrier against STIs.
Myth: You don’t need to worry about STIs until you have symptoms
Fact: Many STIs don’t always present with noticeable symptoms. Chlamydia and gonorrhoea both often have no symptoms, and most people don’t realise when they have herpes. That’s why it’s so important if you’re sexually active to get tested regularly.
Myth: Men have their ‘sexual peak’ at 18 and women at 30
Fact: This myth is based off the fact that for people with male biochemistry, testosterone peaks at around age 18, and those with female biochemistry peak in oestrogen a decade later. But studies show that sexual desire constantly fluctuates in people of all genders. Besides, there are many more factors beyond age and hormone levels to take into account.
Myth: The bigger the penis, the better the sex
Fact: Penises come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, as do people’s preferences. There are far more important factors for sexual compatibility, such as good communication and caring about your partner’s pleasure.
Myth: It’s normal for sex to be painful, especially the first time
Fact: This is one directed more towards people having penis in vagina penetration, but even then, it’s simply not true. Sex should never hurt. Pain is a warning sign from the body that you might not be comfortable or are pushing your body physically, and might want to slow down, take a break or stop completely. Pain during sex can also be caused by medical issues and should be looked into by a doctor if it doesn’t go away after a few weeks.
Myth: Only gay men can become HIV positive
Fact: HIV can pass between people of all genders and sexualities. It can be spread through anal or vaginal sex without a condom if you’re not taking Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication. While PrEP is usually prescribed for gay men, anyone can ask their doctor for a prescription. But again, condoms are great for stopping the transmission of HIV.
Myth: You can only get STIs from penetrative sex
Fact: STIs spread from bodily fluids, which can get mixed up in other ways beyond penis-in-vagina intercourse. While vaginal and anal sex are the most likely to create transmission of STIS, many can also spread from skin-to-skin contact. Oral sex, intimate skin contact and sharing sex toys can all spread STIs. This is why using protection like condoms (male or female) and regular sexual health check-ups are so important.
Myth: You CAN’T get pregnant if it’s your first-time having sex, you wash afterwards, or you have sex in a spa
Fact: If someone ejaculates inside a vagina, no amount of water can fully wash out all the sperm (sorry everyone). Although, it can be good to wash after sex to reduce the risk of UTIs (urinary tract infections). The ‘first time’ is no magic barrier either; people can – and do – get pregnant after having sex once.
Myth: You CAN get pregnant from oral sex or floating semen in a pool
Fact: The digestive and reproductive systems are separate. And sperm aren’t like sharks that smell blood in the water; they’re not going to hone in on a person’s eggs and swim through a pool, through both sets of labia and into their vagina. You can cross these ones off your pregnancy-scare list.
Myth: You can’t get pregnant on your period
Fact: While this is technically unlikely or uncommon, sperm can live inside the body for up to five days. So, there is a small chance of becoming pregnant after having unprotected sex during menstruation, because the surviving sperm can impregnate a person once they start ovulating again. As well as this, some people do ovulate during their periods. (Again rare, but possible.)