The Most Ridiculous Sex Myths, Debunked

Apologies to cis men, but "wetness" and "arousal" are not the same.
illustrated by Esme Blegvad
Illustration sex education

The more we try to ignore sex, the more we think about it. And considering how much we think about it, we don't seem to understand it very well at all. For most people in the UK, sex education is a combination of awkward classes led by substitute teachers and information gleaned from r/sex or a chlamydia outbreak in their social circle. For some young men who sleep on a mattress on the floor, "safe sex" simply means cheating without getting caught.


A recent survey of 1,000 mixed gender 18 to 35-year-olds, led by ellaOne and backed by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), revealed that 61 percent of participants felt their sex education had not adequately equipped them to make informed decisions about sex and relationships. This may be a small pool of individuals, but the results will come as no surprise to anyone who, however briefly, believed the secondary school rumour about the friend of a friend who got pregnant in a jacuzzi without having sex.

In 2007, a UK Youth Parliament survey found that, according to young people, the sex education they were receiving was "too little, too late, and far too biological" – and we've barely moved forward since then. Whether it's a ridiculous myth (see: the one about the guy who used a [insert brand of confectionery here] wrapper as a condom), or a dangerous misconception (see: the morning after pill gets less effective the more you use it), the time has come to clear up some of the strangest misinformation. Starting with…


The humble sheath is a wonderful invention, as long as you remember to: a) keep one with you, and: b) use it. It's extremely effective at preventing pregnancy (98 percent) and transmission of STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhoea and HIV, which are passed on via an exchange of genital fluids.

But other STIs, like herpes, genital warts, pubic lice and syphilis, are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, so condoms won't help you much at all there. It’s also worth saying that you can contract many STIs in your throat through unprotected oral sex – so always worth whacking one on with a new partner, and most brands sell flavoured ones if you need extra incentive.


Also, you basically cannot get an STI from the following places, unless you’re having sex with them: swimming pools, toilet seats, sun beds or cutlery. Ditto: kissing, hugging or talking. It is, however, absolutely possible to contract an STI through shared use of sex toys – so always clean them with toy cleaner or mild soap and warm water after use.


If you remove a condom during sex without the permission of your sexual partner, this is known as "stealthing" and is an enormous breach of consent and trust.


The word "coil" is a strong contender for the least sexy word of all time, alongside "discharge" and "meninist". When it comes to reliable methods of contraception that don’t expose you to daily doses of hormones, however, this method scores very highly indeed. The copper coil is also the most reliable form of emergency contraception, preventing 99.9 percent of unwanted pregnancies after unprotected sex, compared to 95 percent for the morning-after pill.

There are currently two types of coil: the Mirena IUS and the copper IUD. The former is hormonal, the latter is not. They are both T-shaped devices inserted into the uterus via a short procedure performed by a medical professional, and can remain there for anywhere up to ten years (depending on the model). Despite coming highly recommended for an excellent reason, they’re a pain in the arse to get and maintain. Only a small number of GP surgeries in England are equipped to fit them / check they’re still in place, and cuts to sexual health services have created long waiting lists of up to three months, which seems… impractical? But that’s a rant for another day.


More alarmingly, a friend recently told me about a guy she was banging who insisted they use condoms to protect his penis from the "poisonous copper" in her coil. This is not the first time I've heard this, so let’s set things straight: if you have a penis and are having penetrative sex with someone with a womb, sex happens in the vagina. The uterus is not the vagina, and the two are separated by a cervix. So no: you did not feel the coil when you were having sex. I don’t care how big your penis is. Maybe look at a diagram?


Along with 47 percent of those who responded to the ellaOne survey, I'm ashamed to admit that until very recently I never questioned this strange little slice of playground wisdom. I also didn’t know, until I got pregnant after taking one, that the morning after pill works by delaying ovulation. Roughly translated, that means it's only effective before ovulation – which, on average, happens at around day 14 of the menstrual cycle. So for half the month it just… doesn't work.

Baffling that they don't tell you this while you’re filling in that little form behind a flimsy curtain rail at Boots, or literally paying for it. The copper coil is your safest bet, if you can access it. It can be inserted for free by the NHS, up to five to seven days after unprotected intercourse.


Picture the scene: you’re getting down to it, and your partner reaches between your legs. "You’re so wet!" they say excitedly. This is because the vast majority of people recognise wetness as an indicator of arousal. The wetter you are, the hornier you are, right? Wrong again!

According to the experts at Clue, production of "arousal fluid" is both physiological and psychological in nature, and dependent on an array of different factors, including your age, level of oestrogen (which fluctuates during the average cycle), mood, the presence (or absence) of foreplay and just plain genetics. A woman can be fully aroused and dry as the desert, or disinterested and wet. Conclusion? Always best to check, hun. Also, lube exists and improves pretty much any form of sex, even if everyone involved is absolutely sopping, so who cares?



If you’ve never been to your local GUM clinic, I’m sorry to say, you’re missing out. The first time I went to one they were playing "Smack That" by Akon and I got a free can of Pepsi.

Penis-havers are often very nervous about the GUM clinic. This is because there is a pervasive concern that all STI tests involve shoving some sort of rod down their dick hole, even though it has been widely known for some time that this is not the case.

Some STIs, like gonorrhoea, are tested via a urine sample. For the busy and introverted, there are several different home-testing kits that you can buy online from companies like Fettle, which are fast and discreet. Some GUM clinics will give these out to you for free if you pop in, and there are multiple services like SH:24 (and SHL for Londoners) that can send you free home testing kits in the post. Home testing kids do involve collecting your own blood sample, though, so it's not for the faint hearted – but still a million miles shy of sliding a stick down your urethra.


The ubiquity of anal in mainstream porn may have you believe that everyone and literally their mother is engaging in athletic arse poundings on a regular basis. However, as pleasurable as anal can be, this is not the case. Two rules if you are going to go for it, though: a) start gently, and b) if you think you're using enough lube, double it.