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SKEPTOID BLOG:

Sexual Health Research in Flanders: Sex Myths Debunked

by Bruno Van de Casteele

May 11, 2014

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Donate Earlier this year, the SEXPERT workgroup (link is in Dutch) presented results from the first years of their research programme. This workgroup is a combination of psychology and sexology researchers from the universities of Ghent, Leuven and from the university clinic of Ghent. They are focussing on the sexual health of people in Flanders (a region of Belgium), with some supplementary attention to immigrated populations (Moroccons and Turks) and LGBT people.

The research they presented was an analysis of that first part of the project (sexual health in general), based on surveys. They structured it in their press release as debunking thirteen myths about sexuality. I will not discuss them all, but focus on a couple of them that probably apply to a lot of industrialised countries.

For instance, the fourth myth is that when a woman loses blood during first intercourse, she is still a virgin. That is not the case (only 59% report this), although interestingly, second-generation immigrant women report this in 83% of the cases. That part is still under analysis, the researchers speculate that it is maybe a result of social expectation, or that the "sexual trajectory" (time between first kiss and first intercourse) is shorter in those populations. This might lead to a feeling of being less "ready".

That sexual trajectory by the way is still as long (on average) as it was before (first myth). The age of first sexual contact is indeed getting lower (17 years on average), but the time between first kiss and first intercourse hasn't changed over several generations.

The sixth myth was that pregnancies nowadays are always planned. That seems logical in an age where anti-conception is widely available, but it isn't the case. The number of unwanted pregnancies has decreased but is still 25%. That seems a lot. 1/3 of those pregnancies remain unwanted, the rest is initially unwanted.

Which brings us to abortion (myth n7). Abortion has been legal since 1990, but in the twenty years since there weren't more abortions than in the twenty years before. What did change was a more professional context for a safer abortion. That is a very interesting statistic for all those discussions in the US: abortions will still happen, whether or not it is legal.

Myth number 9 that is debunked is about unwanted sexual behavior where men are victims. This seems to happen more than one would think (6% of men before 18, 1,7% afterwards), although that is still less than women (10% and 6%, respectively). A related myth (n 10) may give some hope though, because there seems to be on average no difference in sexual functioning and appreciation between victims of sexual aggression and non-victims.

In all it was a nice summary of their research. And although "sex sells", it's an important research topic and it's good that some myths are finally debunked. I'm looking forward to additional results from this team.

by Bruno Van de Casteele

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