Myths and Facts - American Sexual Health Association

Myths and Facts

There’s lots of misinformation out there about sex, sexual health and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Maybe you’ve heard something you are unsure about (like, can you really get an STI from a toilet seat?) If you want to know if something you’ve heard is true or false, write to us and we may post your question (and our answer) here. While we can’t personally respond to every e-mail we receive, we’ll address some of those here. Click on each statement learn the facts about STIs.


You can't get herpes from a toilet seat.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is spread by direct skin to skin contact. So unless you and another person are sharing a toilet seat at the same time, the toilet is not likely the source of the infection. Authors of the ASHA publication Managing Herpes, Living and Loving with HSV, Charles Ebel and Anna Wald, MD, say that transmission from a toilet seat falls along the line of “generally impossible.” So while you might want to check to see if the seat is clean and dry before sitting, you can leave worries about herpes behind.

You can get HIV from getting a tattoo or body piercing.
There can be a risk for HIV or another blood-borne infection (like hepatitis B or C) if the instruments used for piercing or tattooing either are not sterilized or disinfected between clients. Any instrument used to pierce or cut the skin should be used once and thrown away. Ask the staff at the parlor about their equipment. They should show you what precautions they use, or don’t get pierced or tattooed there.

A Pap test is not an STD test.
Pap tests are not specific tests for any sexually transmitted disease or infection (STD/STI). While some women think (or assume) that they are being tested for STDs/STIs when they have a Pap test, this is not the case. Talk to your healthcare provider about STD/STI testing and see if she or he recommends any tests for you.

You can't get HIV from a mosquito bite.
HIV is not transmitted by mosquitoes. Studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and elsewhere have shown no evidence of HIV transmission from mosquitoes or any other insects—even in areas where there are many cases of AIDS and large populations of mosquitoes.

You can get an STI just through oral sex.
During oral sex, you can give your partner your STI and you can get theirs. Not all STIs are transmitted through oral sex, but some are. For example, if your partner has a cold sore (oral herpes) and performs oral sex on you, you could become infected with herpes in your genital area.


Baby oil and Vaseline® are not okay to use with latex condoms.
Oil-based lubricants (like baby oil, Vaseline®, handcreams, Crisco) can break down latex and allow STDs/STIs to pass through. Instead, water soluble lubricants like K-Y Jelly®, Glide®, Aqualube®, most contraceptive jellies, saliva, or even plain ol’ water are good lubricants to use with condoms.

You can't use a condom more than once.
A condom should NEVER be used more than once under any circumstances.

Sex and sexuality

Most women won't have an orgasm through vaginal sex only.
Only about 30% of women reach orgasm through vaginal sex only. The other 70% need more manual or oral stimulation to achieve orgasms.

The average penis size is about 5 to 6 inches.
According to the Kinsey Institute, the average erect (hard) penis length of U.S. males is between 5 to 6 inches, and average flaccid (not erect, or soft) penis length ranges between 1 and 4 inches.

Anal sex is not an activity just for gay men.
Anal sex is a sexual act that many people enjoy, both gay and straight, men and women. This activity has nothing to do with sexual orientation.

Have a question about something you’re not sure is a myth or a fact? Write to us and check back here for a answer.

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