Woman embraces man from behind
Photo: Steffi Lopez

Bad Sex Advice, From People Who Found Out the Hard Way

“it was pretty traumatising, but also quite revealing about what a lot of gay people experience.”
Nadia Kara
Antwerp, BE

This article originally appeared on VICE Belgium.

Sex education is only just starting to get the focus and attention it requires in modern society, and in the UK it’s still seriously lacking. Still, after being taboo for most of Western history, discussions about sex, pleasure, porn, consent, kink and non-monogamy are slowly being normalised. Everyone – sex-positive TikTokers and afternoon talk show hosts alike – seems to have a tip-off (geddit) to improve your sex life.


Unfortunately, not all advice is good advice; and that was especially true in the early 2000s, when I was a teen (I’ll spare you the maths: I’m 35 now). Back then, you couldn’t just google that kind of stuff. All you had were movies, rap lyrics and your equally clueless friends. The results were often pretty disastrous – think of the pie scene in American Pie, or the urban legend that you should clean your dick with mouthwash before getting dirty. 

Of the worst sex tips, many are just plain embarrassing, but some can be genuinely harmful. I asked a few of my friends to share the worst bedroom advice they’ve ever received and how it changed their sex lives. They all spoke anonymously to avoid any further embarrassment which is, you know, understandable.

Advice #1: ‘Men have sexual needs, and it’s your job to satisfy them’

VICE: Oh boy, that’s a classic.
Lucie, 36:
Yep. The supposed wifely duties. If you don’t satisfy your man, he’ll go looking elsewhere, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, that whole idea became ingrained in me after my first relationship. It was pretty toxic, and my ex really took advantage of me. For the following ten years, if I was with a guy who wanted to have sex when I didn’t, I’d start crying.

Did you feel guilty?
Oh yes, terribly guilty. I felt like the worst girlfriend ever. Obviously, I was putting [my boyfriend’s] wellbeing and needs ahead of mine. I’m still working on that, even though that toxic relationship is way behind me now.


How did your other partners react to your distress?
Most were a bit surprised. They really didn’t get why I was stressing out about it so much. The problem is, these notions are still instilled in girls, despite the fact we’ve made progress on the awful idea that a woman’s role is to satisfy a man’s needs. Girls end up nursing their unhappiness in silence, piling on the non-consensual sex traumas – and sometimes their partners don’t even realise this is going on.

When did you know you’d been given bad advice?
The shoe really dropped a few years ago, when marital rape became part of mainstream conversations. That was a real wake-up call: I realised I’d experienced that throughout my first relationship, and that this crap advice actually legitimised my ex’s violence toward me.

Who gave you the advice?
My mother. She genuinely thought she was helping me. She said a woman had to do two things to keep their partner happy: Be a good cook and always be down to have sex. I think a lot of women grew up with these patriarchal ideas; they are all handed down from generation to generation. My mother grew up in an abusive environment, so her compass wasn’t well-regulated.

If you had to advise a young girl about sex today, what would you tell her?Always check in with yourself and make sure you consent to what’s happening. Do you really want it, or are you hoping somebody will love you? I’d want to make sure she knows she always has the right to say no or change her mind, even in the middle of the act.


Advice #2: ‘Practise anal sex at home so it won’t hurt when you try it with a partner’

VICE: Are we talking about sex toys?
Hendrik, 29
: Unfortunately not. The person who shared this particular piece of wisdom with me [he was was my first partner] had something else in mind. Something you’d find in the organic produce section.

Oh no.
Oh yes. I think it was kind of meant as a joke. But the fact is, even if you’re using real plugs and dildos, practising isn’t magically going to make anal penetration easier. It might help you get used to the sensation, but it’s not like you can enlarge your anus before the actual act.

If you could swap out this bad tip with a good one, what would it be?
In the moment, all you need to do is concentrate on really taking your time and doing things well. The most important thing is to feel comfortable – and to have some good lube on hand. There’s no miracle way to make things go faster or better, so don’t hurt yourself by trying to find a hack.

Advice #3: ‘Think of your grandmother to last longer’

VICE: I’m going to assume you’ve already tested this one out.
Tim, 28:
Well, yes, of course! But I was 16 and totally inexperienced, so, you know, any advice that could turn me into a sex god, I was going to give it a whirl!

Did it work?
For my partner, probably, yes. But for me it was really weird, bringing my poor grandma into it.


Do you remember who gave you the advice?
A buddy from school. He was the first of our group to lose his virginity, so naturally, everyone went to him for tips. But it wasn’t just him; I heard the same advice from a lot of people and even on the telly.

I mean, I guess I understand the fundamental idea there. And when you have a penis, there’s a lot of pressure around performance.
Absolutely. When I was younger, I was really obsessed with satisfying my partners. I’d ask them how I was doing all the time, I needed validation. But over the years, I realised having an orgasm wasn’t always the ultimate goal. It’s way more important to be able to enjoy sex, together, from start to finish. If everyone comes, so much the better. And if we come together, that’s the cherry on top… But I like it all, cherry or no cherry.

So what can you do to last longer?
I think about my job, or taking a walk in the woods, or money problems. But then again, you always run the risk of going soft and ruining the moment. Honestly, I don’t really do that stuff much anymore anyway. I’ve found other, more effective ways of lasting longer – breathing techniques and so forth. And if it doesn’t work, it’s not the end of the world!

If you had to go back in time and give some really good sex advice to your teenage self, what would you tell him?
Be present in the here and now. Don’t get in your own head about what the other person expects from you; don’t get obsessed with impressing anybody. In the end, no one is all-powerful or perfect in the sex department – the most important thing is to enjoy the time together.


Advice #4: ‘Douche with very hot water’

VICE: Why is this bad advice?
Gregory, 28:
Because your colon is very sensitive. If the water is too hot, it can be extremely painful and even dangerous. In my case, I totally scalded myself on my first try.

Yeah, it was pretty traumatising, but also quite revealing about what a lot of gay people experience. We’re not on equal footing when it comes to sex education. As a queer person, you’re often left to your own devices.

Do you think things are improving in that regard?
Yes and no. Obviously, there’s a lot of info available now, and we have access to more people’s experiences through social media, TV shows and all of that. But in terms of official sex ed – the kind they teach in schools – people continue to emphasise the biological aspect of sex, like risks and prevention. They don’t talk about pleasure, and that perpetuates the mystery and taboo around practical questions like the ones I had.