5 sexual health lessons you may have missed

A woman reading in bed and a man standing in front.
Photo by Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

If it’s been awhile since you received any formal education, chances are you could brush up on your sexual health knowledge, too. Even if you have a wealth of—ahem—experience under your belt, and the internet at your fingertips, our reproductive systems are complicated. And no one can keep up with the sheer volume of medical research being published these days. Think you’re well-versed in how your body works? What about your partner’s? Here are five sexual health lessons you may have missed.

The more men ejaculate, the lower their risk of prostate cancer

From relieving stress to getting your heart pumping, most are well-aware that there are health benefits to orgasming. But two large studies, reported in 2003 and 2004, yielded even more positive results for men. For Harvard’s Health Professionals Follow-up Study, nearly 30,000 men reported the number of times they ejaculated in a month, including sexual intercourse, masturbation, and even nocturnal emissions. After accounting for health and lifestyle factors, researchers found that men who ejaculated 21 or more times a month were 33 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer than those who only ejaculated a few times per month.

Smoking can make your penis smaller

If those erectile dysfunction ads on the sides of cigarette boxes weren’t enough to get you to quit smoking, what if we told you it can actually affect the size of your penis? It might sound crazy, but not when you consider the fact that smoking can damage your blood vessels and hinder normal blood flow. To find out how that affected blood flow to the penis, researchers studied 65 sexually active male smokers, and found that the ones who successfully managed to kick smoking had wider, firmer erections, and were able to reach maximum sexual arousal more quickly (and no, we don’t mean climax).

Sex can’t loosen your vagina

There’s a lot of mythology surrounding women’s vaginas—like the fact that frequent sex or a large penis can loosen things—but we’re here to tell you to forget it. Despite common misconceptions, neither of these things will actually change the size or shape of it. Vaginas are actually very flexible, and although they can stretch to accommodate a penis, the organ’s tightly folded muscle tissue is extremely elastic. Vaginal walls can, however, start to loosen with age, and in rarer cases, even prolapse.

Sex gets better with age

When most of us think about having sex in old age, lube and lots of pills come to mind, which isn’t exactly appealing. But believe it or not, sex is satisfying at any age, and may even get better as you get older. According to a 2015 study carried out by Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, the majority of participants over 70 said they were highly satisfied with their sex lives. These results coincide with a 2012 study of sexually active women, which found that sexual satisfaction increases over time. Why all the late-life heat? It’s a combination of becoming more confident and sexually free, having more time and space for intimacy, knowing what you like (and being more likely to make it known), and changing expectations.

It’s possible to break a penis

It sounds like a myth—after all, the penis isn’t a bone, right? As it turns out, you can still break it, and according to Scientific American, it’s surprisingly common. A penile fracture is an injury that can happen when an erect penis is severely bent, tearing a membrane known as the tunica albuginea, which surrounds the corpora cavernosa. This is the spongy tissue at the core of the penis that fills with blood during an erection. When the tunica albuginea tears, the blood can leak into other tissues, leading to bruising, swelling, and a lot of pain. But don’t worry, it’s not permanent: according to Hunter Wessells, chair of the urology department at the University of Washington School of Medicine, most patients who suffer from a penile fracture can get back to having sex in a month.

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