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Do men really think about sex every seven seconds?
No. In fact, men don’t think about sex nearly as much as they think they do, according to a Duke University study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.
In the study, 202 participants (101 men and 101 women) were asked to fill out daily surveys about their sexual health, including interest in sex and sexual activity. When asked to recall their sexual activity at the one-month mark, both men and women overestimated how frequently they thought about sex (as well as their sexual activity)— but men were more likely to overestimate than women.
Researchers suggest that this difference can be explained by gender stereotypes. In other words, a guy might think that he must be more interested in sex simply because men are assumed to be more interested in sex, and therefore over-report his interest.
Needless to say, there are a lot of problems with gender- and sex-based stereotypes, especially if we’re subconsciously trying to conform to them. But one of the biggest problems, according to psychologist and relationship expert Tracy Thomas, Ph.D., is how they can affect your sex life. “While some myths and stereotypes surrounding sex have truth to them, nothing can apply to everyone,” Thomas says. “If you limit yourself to what you think you know is true, you are literally limiting infinite possibilities.”
Here are three more sex myths that are doing your sex life no favors.
1. Marriage kills your sex life
We already know that monogamy is a struggle for both sexes—so does putting a ring on it mean the death of your sex life?
Nope. In fact, longer relationships mean better sex lives for both men and women, Prause says. For women, it’s the orgasm: Women have more consistent orgasms in a long-term relationship with a partner they trust. For men, it’s more about frequency, and married couples have more sex than single people do. According to a 2011 study on sexual satisfaction, “longer relationship duration predicted greater relationship happiness and sexual satisfaction for men.”
How it hurts your sex life: If you go into marriage or any long-term commitment assuming that your sex life is going to decline…it will, Thomas says. “Sex usually gets better in long-term relationships, but only if you grow as an individual and as a partner,” she explains. “You need to integrate your life experience—your experience with each other—into your sex life in order for it to improve.”
2. Men are not naturally monogamous, but women are
Traditional wisdom says that guys are more likely to cheat—spreading their seed and all that—while women are looking for ‘til-death-do-us-part commitment. But studies show that men and women cheat at the same rate, and that older studies that showed otherwise could be skewed by reporting bias and/or the fact that women are better at covering their tracks. According to psychologist and sex researcher Nicole Prause, Ph.D., recent data also shows that the rate of infidelity is related to power rather than sex. “As women acquire more power at work, they become as likely as men to cheat,” Prause says. “Some speculate that women remained monogamous in the past mainly because they were less able to support themselves.”
How it hurts your sex life: Obviously, this myth can destroy your relationship if you use it as an excuse to cheat. But that’s not the only way it can hurt your sex life, according to Thomas. “Men who believe this myth are operating under an illusion—or rather, a delusion—of what their partner’s needs are,” Thomas says. “If you are unable to meet her sexual needs because you think ‘women only want commitment,’ it will have a cumulative effect on your relationship—it will catch up to you.” And studies do show that women in an unhappy relationship are more likely to cheat…
3. Men are visual; women are not
Men are visual creatures—but so are women. Humans are visual creatures, especially when it comes to sex, and assuming your girlfriend isn’t as into looks as you are could be hurting your sex life. Studies have found that men’s and women’s brains respond equally to visual sexual stimulation (especially when you control for differences in sexual desire), even though men subjectively rate porn higher than do women.
How it hurts your sex life: You may think your sex life is fine as it is, but upping your game in the style and grooming department (not to mention amping your gym game) can definitely improve it. It’s not about being an Adonis, it’s about taking care of yourself which sends a positive message to your partner. “Taking care of yourself signals confidence, which is attractive to both sexes,” Thomas explains. “It shows her you’re a good investment, and the more invested she is, the more sexually open and adventurous she’ll be.” ‘Sexually open and adventurous’ is, of course, a relative term.