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8 Paranoid Sex Myths Spread by America's Anti-Sex Crusaders (Debunked by Science)

When the subject is sexuality, facts have a pretty poor reputation in America.

For thousands of years, every reasonable person knew that the sun revolved around the earth. After all, people could see it happen with their own eyes. And when Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler used science to show otherwise, people laughed at them. It took a century for the idea that the earth revolved around the sun to even begin to catch on.

History is full of popular ideas that science has disproved -- but which still remain popular. The reasons are typically religion, politics, or economics -- but the fact remains that, well, facts are not the only determinant of what people believe.

When the subject is sexuality, facts have a pretty poor reputation in America. The media, cynical politicians, and various pressure groups get tremendous benefits from misinforming -- and frightening -- the American public. And when someone speaks up with the facts, they're often shouted down, dismissed as simply having a personal belief. Bill O'Reilly is famous for equating a progressive's facts with his own, albeit differing, opinion.

Let's look at some popular beliefs about sex that science conclusively disproves -- and which continue nevertheless.

1. The Internet
Myth: The Internet is a hotbed of sexual predators, and children are at terrible risk.
Science: The overwhelming majority of the "unwanted sexual solicitation" on the Internet reported by young people is from their peers, and is generally benign. According to the state-of-the-art Harvard/Berkman Institute report, the main risk faced by minors on the Internet is bullying, not sexual predation.

2. Sex education
Myth: Talking about sex honestly and using the proper names for body parts inflames kids' curiosity; teaching them about sexual decision-making and safer sex encourages them to have sex.
Science: Young people taught comprehensive sexuality information that does not focus on promoting fear or religious messages tend to postpone their first intercourse, are more likely to use condoms the first time they have intercourse, and tend to have fewer sexual partners.

3. Strip clubs
Myth: Strip clubs destroy neighborhoods with crime and prostitution.
Science: No police department in the U.S. has documented an increase in police calls or violence in neighborhoods with strip clubs when measured against comparable neighborhoods without strip clubs.

4. Swingers' clubs
Myth: Swingers' clubs are a hotbed of STDs and drug use.
Science: Swingers do not have a higher rate of STDs than their non-swinging peers; in fact, people with open relationships use more safer-sex behaviors than people having clandestine affairs. Police departments that raid swingers' clubs (typically for minor zoning infractions) virtually never document illegal drug use.

5. Sex offenders
Myth: Sex offenders are snarling predators with no conscience, whose behavior is so compulsive it cannot be controlled or influenced.
Science: According to the Department of Justice, sex offenders  have a strikingly lower recidivism ratethan any other non-sexual felony.

6. Pornography
Myth: Consuming pornography leads men to be more sexually violent.
Science: According to the FBI, in the 11 years since the Internet has flooded America with porn, the rates of sexual violence have decreased. And while crimes of sexual violence are typically under-reported, there is no reason to think that under-reporting has increased; in fact, public awareness campaigns have almost certainly decreased the under-reporting.

7. Child sexual exploitation
Myth: Children are in danger from strangers lurking around playgrounds, parks, and similar places.
Science: Most childhood sexual exploitation is done by someone the child knows, such as a blood relative, friend of the family, religious figure, or coach.  According to the Department of Justice, the overwhelming majority of kids who go missing are taken temporarily by a family member, typically as part of a custody dispute.

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