Stereotypes and conventional wisdom are sometimes hard to ignore, especially when about sex. Movies and TV, our friends and peers, and a variety of other things give everyone some pretty unrealistic expectations about sex. Here are a few, and why they're not important.

If I haven't had sex by the time I'm 18, I'm a loser

When you're 85 years old and you look back at your life, the age at which you first had sex will be absolutely irrelevant. You won't care, and neither will anybody else. But for many younger people who are still virgins, the weight of this sexual status seems to grow heavier by the hour. Somehow, they feel that the fact that they've never had sex is written across their foreheads for all to see, and that everyone is laughing at them.

If you're in this category, please don't put any added pressure on yourself. If you feel sexually frustrated, you can masturbate. Be grateful that you can give yourself orgasms rather than resenting the fact that someone else isn't doing it for you.

Many people start having sex when they're very young, but because the situation isn't right, they never discover how to become great lovers and never have terrific sex lives. Rather than rushing into sex just because you reach a certain age, find out how to give your feelings time to grow and develop.

The more I score, the more pleasure I'll have

In some instances, the chemistry between two people is very strong and passing up such a moment is very hard. If you are very careful about protecting yourself and are fully aware of the risks involved, then a one-night stand may be something that you indulge in once, or maybe twice.

But some people make one-night stands a part of their lifestyles. They don't want a relationship but prefer a string of sexual partners. To them, sex is about quantity, not quality.

With HIV spreading and other sexually transmitted diseases (STD) already rampant, you multiply the risks when you multiply your partners, and that’s asking for trouble. Safe sex between two people simply doesn’t exist — only safer sex. Although you may not catch an STD the first time you have a one-night stand, each time you have one, you increase the odds — in particular, because those people with whom you have these one-night stands are obviously also prone to risky behavior.

Apart from the risks, one-night stands just do not make for the best sex. What makes having sex with another person better than masturbating is the intimacy, the shared feelings, the romance attached to the moment. None of these circumstances exists during a one-night stand.

And then you have to deal with the next morning. If you want to see the other person again and they'd rather not, imagine how much worse the feeling of rejection will be than if they'd said no in the first place. And if you're the one doing the rejecting, well, how good could the one-night stand have been if you never want to repeat it?

Putting another notch on your bedpost isn't as satisfying as exchanging the full range of emotions that pass between two people who make love.

Having sex will make everything all right

Sex isn't a cure for a lousy relationship. That fact may seem obvious, but many people don't seem to know this. A woman may be in a relationship with someone who mistreats her, and instead of running for the hills, she agrees to go one step further and have sex with him. Why? She thinks that, because he seems to want sex so badly, he'll change into a pussycat after he's had his way with her.

This idea is a prime example of putting the cart before the horse. You have to work on the relationship — build it up and make it into something worth sharing together — before you add the final ingredient, which is sex.

Sex by itself can't make up for all the other inadequacies of a relationship, so before you have sex with someone, build the foundation first.

I can't become a better lover

If you ever read the life story of someone at the top of their field — a professional athlete, a famous actor, a great artist — you always find that those individuals worked very hard to get where they are. Sure, natural talent has something to do with how good you are, but seeking to improve your skills is just as important, because the more you train, the better you become.

This idea is just as true with sex. Everyone can become a better lover. Some of the most common difficulties that people experience can be easily alleviated if you work at it.

Every person wants and needs the same things from sex

You and your partner probably have some tastes in common, but certainly not in everything. And why should you?

Although you both enjoy orgasms, how many you need in a particular period may vary, as well as your likes and dislikes for the methods you use to achieve those orgasms.

If you accept that you're different, and if you agree to make compromises, then you shouldn't have any problems adapting to each other. You may have to learn how to satisfy your partner when you're not interested in having an orgasm. But learning that skill isn't that difficult, and doing so can help make your relationship a lot better.

However, having unrealistic expectations can get you into trouble. So don't expect your partner to think and act exactly the way you do. You'll be a lot happier for it.

I'm too old to have sex

Human beings find that many of their faculties grow weaker as they grow older, but none that so many people give up on as easily as sex.

If your eyesight gets weaker, do you go around squinting, or run to the eye doctor? If your hearing becomes impaired, do you go around saying "What?" all day long, or get a hearing aid? So if your sexual apparatus diminishes, why would you give up on it entirely?

That sexual functioning declines with age is a given, but that it disappears altogether is most definitely not. As you grow older, you go through certain stages, which are different for men and women. Men may need their partners to stimulate their penises or get a prescription for an erectile dysfunction drug. Women stop producing natural lubricants and have to apply the store-bought variety.

If wearing glasses doesn't interfere with your enjoyment of reading a book, then adapting to the necessities of age when it comes to sex shouldn't be a big deal either.

Keep having sex as long as you physically can, and sex will help keep your life worth living.

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