When It Comes To Sex, "Average" and "Normal" Don't Mean the Same Thing

When It Comes To Sex, "Average" and "Normal" Don't Mean the Same Thing

People email me with questions about their sex lives all the time. More often than not, these questions boil down to the same theme: "Am I normal?"

A lot of folks asking these questions have already researched the answers and, often, they've discovered that they differ from some statistical average reported in the media. It's the realization of this difference that prompts many follow-up emails to me. For instance, I sometimes hear from men who worry that they're masturbating and/or watching porn "too much," as well as people of all genders who worry that they aren't having "enough" sex with their partners.

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What's Normal When It Comes To Sex?

What's Normal When It Comes To Sex?

Virtually every day, I receive emails from people around the world who have questions about their sex lives. More often than not, these questions can be reduced to the same underlying theme: "Am I normal?

Many of the people asking these questions have done a little research on their own and discovered that they differ from some reported statistical average--and it's often the realization of this difference that prompts many of these emails. For instance, I sometimes hear from men who worry that they're masturbating "too much," as well as people of all genders who worry that they aren't having "enough" sex in their relationship.

While averages can be a wonderful thing in the sense that they provide a handy way of summarizing large amounts of data, they can also be misleading and dangerous, especially when people start comparing themselves to those numbers and make the mistake of equating "different from average" with "abnormal."

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A Guide To Becoming Literate In The Science Of Sex

A Guide To Becoming Literate In The Science Of Sex

Although sex is a topic about which many of us are inherently curious, there are surprisingly few reliable sources out there for learning about it, especially sources that are grounded in scientific research instead of arbitrary notions of sexual morality. That is precisely the reason I started this blog in the first place. However, in order to get the most out of the sex research I share on this site (not to mention the research you might come across elsewhere in the media), it is vital that you first become literate in the science of sex. That is, it is important to understand and appreciate what sex research can and cannot tell us. To that end, below are six things you should keep in mind any time you sit down to read the latest write-up of sex research.

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Making Sex Normal (VIDEO)

Making Sex Normal (VIDEO)

There are a lot of great TED talks out there about sex, but one of my personal favorites is Dr. Debby Herbenick’s presentation on “Making Sex Normal.” It was first released last year and it remains a must-watch for anyone who hasn’t already seen it. Even if you’ve already watched it, though, I would encourage you to check it out again. In her talk, Dr. Herbenick reminds us of the important consequences of living in a society where sex is viewed negatively and not openly discussed, and she offers a number of great practical suggestions for changing that. However, we all need to do our part and we can’t just think of this as a one-time thing. Making sex normal requires an ongoing commitment. Check out the video below, then share how you make sex normal here.

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The 10 Most Popular Questions On Sex And Psychology

The 10 Most Popular Questions On Sex And Psychology

For this week’s edition of Sex Question Friday, I’ve compiled a list of the ten most read answers to readers’ sex questions. These questions span quite a range of topics, but most are united by a single theme: “What’s normal when it comes to sex?” I hope you'll see in these answers that “normal” does not mean just one thing. Keep those questions coming!

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Sex Question Friday: Is It Normal To Fantasize About Someone Other Than Your Partner?

Sex Question Friday: Is It Normal To Fantasize About Someone Other Than Your Partner?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader who often has sexual fantasies about someone other than his partner and wanted to know whether this is a “normal” thing to do:

“Is it normal that I always think about other women when I have sex with my wife?”

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Sex Question Friday: The 5 Most Popular Questions On The Psychology Of Human Sexuality

On this week’s edition of Sex Question Friday, we’re counting down the five most read articles in which I provided answers to sex questions submitted by readers of the site. As you will see, there is a common theme uniting all of these questions: “What’s normal when it comes to sex?”
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Sex Question Friday: Is it Normal to Fantasize About Forced Sex?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a reader of the blog who was wondering whether the content of their sexual fantasies was “normal.”

Is it normal to have sexual fantasies that involve forced sex?

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Sex Question Friday: How Long Should Sex Last And How Do You Treat Premature Ejaculation?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question is a two-parter that comes from a male college student who was concerned about not lasting long enough in bed.  

What is the normal time span for intercourse? And how is premature ejaculation treated?

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Sex Question Friday: How Much Is Too Much When It Comes To Sex And Masturbation?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week, I’m answering two related questions that come up pretty regularly in my Human Sexuality course:  

How much sex is too much sex?

How much is too much masturbation?

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Sex Question Friday: Why Does My Boyfriend Sneeze During Sex?

Sex Question Friday: Why Does My Boyfriend Sneeze During Sex?

Every Friday on the blog, I answer people’s questions about sex, love, and relationships. This week’s question comes from a college student who wanted to know why her boyfriend starts sneezing when he becomes sexually aroused. I can’t say I’ve ever heard this question before, but it turns out that there’s actually some research on this topic.

Why does my boyfriend sneeze when he’s really excited? Is that normal?

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Sex Question Friday: Sex On The Brain, Female Orgasms, And Finishing Too Fast

Every Friday on the blog, I answer sex questions submitted to me by actual college students. This week, we’re talking about whether there’s any truth to the old saying that men really think about sex every seven seconds, whether women can achieve orgasm through sexual intercourse alone, and how long sex is “supposed” to last.
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I'm Different From The Sexual Average: Am I Still "Normal?"

I'm Different From The Sexual Average: Am I Still "Normal?"
When it comes to sex and relationships, the popular media loves to discuss these topics in terms of statistical averages. For example, what is the average number of time couples have sex each week? What is the average penis size? What is the average age at which people get married? Averages are a wonderful thing because they provide a handy way of summarizing large amounts of data and tell us something about the most common attitudes and behaviors among certain groups of people. However, averages can sometimes be misleading and dangerous, especially when people start comparing themselves to those numbers and make the mistake of equating below/above average with abnormal. When someone perceives that they differ from average, it is all to easy to start feeling insecure or inadequate (e.g., “Am I having too little/too much sex?” “Are my genitalia too small/big?”). As I explain below, such concerns are usually not warranted for several reasons.
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Is Masturbation Bad For Your Health?

Is Masturbation Bad For Your Health?

“Masturbation: the primary sexual activity of mankind. In the nineteenth century it was a disease; in the twentieth it's a cure.” – Thomas Szasz

One of the most common sexual topics people are curious about is masturbation. Specifically, people often wonder whether it is possible to do it “too much” or if touching oneself will “cause problems.” The basis for these concerns likely stems from the fact that masturbation has historically been viewed as an immoral activity that can cause negative health effects, including everything from blindness to hairy palms to insanity. These warnings about the dire personal and moral consequences of self-stimulation persist even today. But is there any truth to them?

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