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You've probably learned about sex from a variety of sources, including friends, the Internet, TV, music, movies, etc. There are lots of interesting claims out there. But what's truth and what's fiction? Here's a reality-check on a few of the most popular myths.

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I heard you can get HIV from oral sex. Is that true?

Yes, its possible. HIV is transmitted through four bodily fluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. If any of these fluids enter a person's mouth or throat, and there's a cut or tear in the skin inside the mouth, transmission is possible. However, oral sex is considered a low-risk behavior for HIV transmission. In order to reduce the risk of HIV through oral sex, many people use condoms and dental dams.

Can you get an STD from a public restroom?

In most cases the answer is no. STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) are transmitted by fluid transmission or direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected partner. Some parasite diseases, such as crabs or scabies, are transmitted not only through sexual contact but also by sleeping in infected bedding, sharing infected clothing, and (a slight possibility) sitting on an infested toilet seat. Because these parasites do not live longer then 24 hours without a human host, contracting them from a toilet seat is possible but not likely.

I've heard that condoms break all the time.

It is rare for a condom to break if stored and used correctly. There are a few important things to remember to make sure that a condom is well taken care of. Keep condoms at a moderate temperature; if it gets too hot or too cold, the latex could break down. This means that keeping them in a car or a wallet for a long period of time is not a good way to store them. Make sure that the condom wrapper has an air pocket-- if not the condom could have been exposed to air or the condom itself could be punctured.

When the condom is placed on the penis its important to make sure there is spaced saved to catch the semen. This helps ensure that when ejaculation occurs, the condom will not break. Also, check the expiration date-- if the date has passed, toss that condom and get a new one. Finally, only use lubricants that are meant to be used on condoms-- they are water-based and will not break down the condom. Oil-based lubricants like lotion, massage oil, and petroleum jelly significantly reduce the structure of a condom, causing it to break very easily.

Is masturbation bad for you?

Masturbation is actually a healthy sexual activity. It is one way for you to enjoy your own body, and to give yourself sexual pleasure. It can also tune you in to your own sexual likes and dislikes. You then have the choice of sharing that information with a sexual partner to enhance a sexual relationship. Mutual masturbation, when two people masturbate in front of each other, can also be arousing, and is a great alternative to intercourse without the risk of transmission of sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy.

Can you get pregnant the first time you have sex?

Yes, you can get pregnant the first time you have sex. You are able to get pregnant when you start having your period or even before. There is a greater likelihood of becoming pregnant if you have unprotected sex around the time in your cycle that you ovulate. This means there will be an egg waiting to be fertilized by your partner's sperm that could result in you getting pregnant.

Are condoms the only 100% effective form of birth control?

No, for a couple of reasons. In fact abstinence-- that is, not having sex at all-- is the only 100% effective form of birth control. And it is only 100% effective if practiced correctly and consistently. Its important to understand and be clear about what abstinence means to you. Some people may not realize that there could be a risk of pregnancy through genital-to-genital contact even without penetration. Lots of people may not consider this sex but it does have risk if unprotected. When someone participates in this behavior, it lowers the effectiveness of abstinence.

Other highly effective forms of birth control include:

  • The implant is 99% effective
  • IUD is a 99% effective
  • The shot (Depo) is 94 - 98% effective
  • Pills, patch, or ring are 91 - 99% effective
  • Condoms are 85 - 98% effective (depending on usage)

Learn more about birth control options here.