Ask the Doctor of Perversity
by Beth Brown, MD

From Issue 4.0 - September/October 1997

Urban Sex Myths

When I was but a slip of a girl just out of college living back East, we used to play a game called "Little known facts that aren't true." A variation on this is the game of urban myths, or well-known facts that aren't true. For example:

"Gay men like to put gerbils up their behinds."

Oh, please. I have never seen a shred of evidence that this is true. Gerbils (which, by the way, are illegal to own in California, much less insert into the asshole) are hyper enough when no action is required of them. To try to insert one into a sphincter would be impossible.

"You can tell how well endowed a man is by the size of his hands, feet, or nose."

There is no specific data I am aware of to support this urban legend. Embryologically, the limbs, nose, and penis develop from different combinations of the three original layers of tissue that make up the embryo, implying that there is no correlation among them. Hands, feet, and nose are already in something of the adult proportion at birth; adult penis size is greatly influenced by hormonal levels at puberty. And for what it's worth, there is little correlation between the size of a limp dick and how big it will get when erect.

"Some women can ejaculate great quantities at orgasm."

The paraurethral glands open either just inside the urethral opening or to either side of it. These glands are the woman's equivalent of the prostate, and fluid can be expelled at the time of orgasm. However, they are simply not big enough to make more than several drops of fluid. Some women expel fluid during orgasm in volumes which would require a container the size of a urinary bladder. I believe this is, in fact, where such fluid comes from -- at least most of it.

"Anal fisting will cause permanent loss of sphincter control."

The anal sphincters are designed to relax and allow passage of quite large-diameter objects. Adequate preparation and lubrication should smooth the way for trauma-free fisting. Sphincter control is much more likely to be damaged by trauma, for example forcing entry to an unready anus or entering too forcefully with an inanimate object, especially one which is not perfectly tubular.

"Some people use lightbulbs (or other breakable objects) for anal sex."

Unfortunately, there is enough idiotic and/or substance-altered behavior in this world that somebody has probably done this. I do know that my medical school anatomy textbook mentioned the extraction from a rectum of a small square vase labeled "souvenir of Rockport."

"A girl can't get pregnant: if she hasn't had her first period; if she has sex standing up; is she doesn't come; if she douches immediately after sex; the first time she has sex."

These are myths popular among many teenagers. A first ovulation may occur before a girl's first period." There is no sexual position which will prevent pregnancy. A girl not only does not have to come to get pregnant, she doesn't even have to be conscious. Douching is a bad idea after sex, not only because it is useless as birth control, but because it may drive bacteria up the cervix into the uterus and Fallopian tubes. If having intercourse at least once were required to become pregnant, no Kinsey 6 dyke would ever become a mom.

" A cleansing enema will prevent disease transmission during anal sex."

Any trauma, including squirting water into the asshole and rectum, can cause microscopic injuries to the mucous membranes and wash off protective secretions, including immune system chemicals. Lubricants will also be washed away, increasing the chance of microtrauma during fucking or fisting. Rectal douching is a social and cosmetic ritual not to be confused with a health requirement. To stay healthy, use latex barriers.

"Not using an enema will allow enough protective materials to stay in the rectum that condoms are not necessary."

One of my close friends believed this back in the 1980s when he first came out in a Southern state. He is doing very well on his triple antiretroviral HIV cocktail, thank you very much.

" The vagina should be douched periodically to avoid illness."

There's a natural cleansing mechanism in the vagina. Lactobacilli are the normal flora, and do well in an acid environment. Any foreign substance can upset the balance of the vaginal flora and lead to infections such as bacterial vaginosis (previously called Gardnerella). A recent study also found more infertility among women who douche than in the general population, possibly because infectious organisms can be driven into the uterus by the pressure of the douche fluid.

" In an S/M scene, the top is in control."

Nope. I've been on both sides of this one. Control is the purview of the bottom, while performance anxiety is the purview of the top.

Beth Brown, MD (DoctorBeth@aol.com) is a Bay Area family physician. She is a contributor to The Lesbian S/M Safety Manual (Pat Califia, editor; Alyson Press, 1988). Please send questions that you would like her to address in future issues to DoctorBeth@aol.com.

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Last updated: 21 September 1997