1. “Men think about sex every seven seconds.”
There are several variations on this myth, but all claim men think about sex every few seconds or minutes. The trouble is it’s really hard to pin down where these myths started.
According to the Kinsey Institute, “54% of men think about sex everyday or several times a day.” That stat is from a 1994 survey called “Sex in America”, which also says that 43% of men only think about sex a few times per month or a few times per week, and 4% less than once a month.
The “every seven seconds” myth is easily perpetuated because there’s a widely held belief that men are physically wired to want sex all the time. But even Snopes doesn’t seem to know exactly where the myth, and variations on it, originated.
2. “The average penis length is 8 inches.”
The average erect penis size is between 5 and 7 inches, according to both the Kinsey Institute and the National Health Service. When flaccid, typical penis length varies more — averaging from 1 to 4 inches.
And, in case you were wondering, the NHS says: “A penis would only be considered unusually small if it was less than 3 inches (7.6 centimetres) long when erect.” So there you go.
3. “Certain foods work as aphrodisiacs to boost your sex drive.”
Foods that make you feel healthier and more energetic overall might help you out in the bedroom, but only indirectly. But just because there’s no evidence behind many foods that are touted as aphrodisiacs, it doesn’t mean all that effort in the kitchen is wasted.
It’s down to the placebo effect. Dr. Petra Boynton, senior lecturer in International Health Care Research at University College London, told BuzzFeed: “If you’ve made a meal — you’ve thought about it, you’ve read a recipe, you’ve got the ingredients, you’ve cooked it, and eaten it together — you’ve invested so much already that you’re already in a frame of mind of wanting sex.”
Essentially, Boynton said, if you believe they’ll work, they’ll work. “It’s very difficult to pinpoint — is that just because you ate an oyster, or is it everything that’s gone on around that?”
4. “Watching porn rewires your brain.”
It does — but that’s because everything we do “rewires” our brains in some way. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just how our brain incorporates experiences. As Sense About Science’s Bad Sex Media Bingo site puts it, “Learning ‘rewires’ the brain too, but we don’t go around trying to get schools banned.”
People who say that porn rewires the brain tend to use this as a way to silence any nuanced discussion around the issue.
Sex and relationship therapist Sarah Berry told BuzzFeed: “Regarding porn addiction, where a person feels their work lives, relationships, and/or social lives are being disrupted, if porn does ‘rewire’ the brain, it does not do so permanently.”
“Rather than blaming porn, we need to accept it is a part of our culture and to work with it rather than against it.”
5. “Women are naturally more bisexual than men.”
Overall, 1% of men and 1.4% of women aged between 16 and 74 in Britain call themselves bisexual. So there’s no statistically significant gender difference in people who identify this way.
But this is slightly different among young people (those aged 16–24). Young women are more likely to report identifying as “bisexual” (3.5%) in contrast to young men (1.5%).
This difference could be because there’s less social stigma attached to identifying as bisexual if you’re a woman, says Dr. Cath Mercer, senior lecturer in the Centre for Sexual Health and HIV Research at University College London.
6. “Most people have sex before they reach 16.”
Only around 30% of people have sex before 16 and this hasn’t changed in the last decade, according to the Britain’s third National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles, known as Natsal.
(That’s just about intercourse. If the survey asked about first sexual experiences, including things like kissing and masturbating, it might be a higher proportion.)
7. “You can tell how big a man’s penis is by looking at his feet.”
A 1993 study with the promising title “The relationship among height, penile length, and foot size” found that penis length was statistically related to both height and shoe size. But, crucially, the correlation was so weak that it couldn’t be used as a predictor. Essentially, you can’t tell the size of a man’s penis just by looking at his feet.
What’s really interesting is why myths like this get perpetuated, said Boynton: “I’m pretty sure you don’t have the same preoccupation with either vaginas or clitorises. But you do have this thing [with men] that you can tell by looking, that sense of surveillance. It brings us back to penis size anxiety. It’s men policing other men.”
8. “Everyone else is having more sex than you.”
Technically possible — but unlikely.
According to the Natsal survey, on average, sexually active people report having sex three times in the past four weeks – so less than once a week on average. Half of these people will have had between one and six sex acts in the past four weeks. The survey defines people as sexually active as long as they’ve had sex in the past year.
Basically there are probably lots of people having sex less often than you are. Yay?