How Sex-Ed Failed Our Generation: Fact or Fiction?
Recently, we talked about how sex-ed has failed our generation. We’re often left to look up resources on our own and hope it’s enough. But fear not! Today we’ll talk about common and obscure myths surrounding contraceptives that would make fifties sitcom characters blush. It’s a win-win situation: either you’ll know everything on this list and get a self-esteem boost or you’ll learn something.
So get out your scorecards, friends, and play along in a game of fact or fiction! I’ll be referencing different forms of birth control throughout this article, so if you need clarification on what each of them does, look here.
1. Fact or fiction? You can’t get pregnant if you successfully use the pullout method.
Nope, this one is fiction! If a guy uses the pullout method successfully when it’s timed with a less fertile part of the woman’s cycle, it actually has a 98% success rate (about the same as condoms). However, it can be pretty dicey to rely on that because the pullout method usually isn’t used properly, and the actual chance of getting pregnant is more like one in three. Also, why rely on someone else’s willpower?
2. Fact or fiction? As long as you take the pill every day, you can’t get pregnant.
Fiction, and for a couple reasons. First, you technically still could because when used properly, the pill only has a 98-99% success rate, so it’s not completely foolproof, despite being an effective method. And secondly, drugs (even caffeine!) can alter the effectiveness of birth control pills—and so can inconsistency in when you take the pill (missing a day, not picking a consistent time of day, etc.). So it’s best to have a routine where you take it at the same time of day to ensure it’s effective.
3. Fact or fiction? You can’t wear a menstrual cup if you have an IUD.
Fact! In case you were wondering about how menstrual cups and IUDs work, here’s a quick explanation: IUDs are those small coils that go inside your body, and are one of the most effective forms of reversible birth control. Menstrual cups go near your cervix during your period and catch the blood before it comes out. But it turns out you can’t have both because you could risk pulling out the IUD string hanging near your cervix. Talk about an expensive mistake!
4. Fact or fiction? Nearly half of sexual health websites are inaccurate.
Unfortunately, this is true. In a 2010 study from the Journal of Adolescent Health, 46% of websites addressing contraception and 36% discussing abortion had inaccurate information. So when it comes to finding the right resources, looking at website reputability is key (Wikipedia’s not gonna cut it).
5. Fact or fiction? Only 5% of high schools in the United States make condoms available to their students.
Yikes, this is true! And my personal experience backs this up—we didn’t get any condoms handed out or learn how to use them. They just told us we shouldn’t have sex (it was essentially the sex-ed in Mean Girls but without giving us any actual contraceptives). Now, it turns out (big surprise!) that people are going to have sex, safe or not, and handing out condoms doesn’t change those rates. But in cities where schools distributed more condoms, more students report having safe sex.
6. Fact or fiction? Oral sex burns upwards of 200 calories an hour.
Fact (at least, according to Woman’s Day). As Samantha said on Sex and the City, “Honey, they don’t call it a job for nothing.”
7. Fact or fiction? Double the condoms equals double the protection.
Fiction, obviously. But it’s still important to put here, because there are a lot of people who still think this—I’ve overheard more than one guy who believes in the power of double condoms. Here’s what happens mechanically: Using two condoms creates friction between them and makes tearing (and pregnancy!) more likely.
8. Fact or fiction? Virgins always bleed after sex.
Fiction. The most common reason for blood is rupturing the hymen, but as you probably know, it can break in other ways: riding a horse, getting fingered, even using a tampon. But it happens naturally, so there’s no reason to stress over it. But if you’re bleeding after sex (virgin or not), and you can’t identify an obvious cause, it might be time to see a doctor.
9. Fact or fiction? Douching is a good way to promote vaginal health.
Fiction! Please, fiction.
It’s an ecosystem down there, and it cleans itself. You don’t have to do anything, and it’s better if you don’t. Douching flushes out good bacteria and could give you a yeast infection. Yikes! And while we’re at it, most random substances aside from lube—like the ice cream they used in Fifty Shades of Grey—are an infection waiting to happen.
10. Fact or fiction? Men’s and women’s libidos peak about ten years apart.
Fact! Nature has a twisted sense of humor. For most guys, their libidos peak around age 19 or 20. But for women, that doesn’t happen until their late twenties or early thirties.
Illustrations and feature illustration by Meagan Guild.