Nobody likes to be stereotyped. When someone makes assumptions about us based solely on superficial qualities like our gender, we feel unseen and often miss out on the true connection that comes from getting to know someone. The same way stereotypes govern how we view male and female behavior at work or within families; they also affect our sex lives - always for the worse.

Because women are typically assumed to be the submissive and the inferior gender, sexual stereotypes hit women particularly hard. Even things as basic as women’s right to choose whether and when they have sex are up for debate.

Here are some stereotypes about female sexuality that hurt our relationships, our sex lives, and, well, our entire lives.

Women Don’t Want to Initiate

When it comes to sex and relationships, men are usually expected to advocate for their desires, while women are expected to accept or reject men’s desires. This doesn’t leave much room for women to have desires of their own. For instance, we learn at a young age that it’s the man's job to ask out a woman, initiate sex and ultimately propose if they want to get married.

There is actually research showing that this approach compromises the quality of women’s relationships. Women who send the first message on OKCupid, for example, end up with partners rated as more attractive, and they’re more likely to receive responses when compared to men who initiate. It makes sense. If you wait for people to come to you, you have a smaller pool to choose from than you would if you actively scouted out potential partners.

In sexual interactions, the “women don’t want to initiate” stereotype can get really rapey, really fast. If people assume that it’s women’s nature to play coy, and so their male partners must be aggressive to earn their attention, a woman’s lack of enthusiasm gets interpreted as natural female behavior, rather than a lack of consent.

If a woman is not enthusiastically pursuing a sexual encounter, it’s not because women don’t like to pursue. It’s because she’s not interested, and that lack of interest should be respected.

Conversely, if a woman does go after what she wants, it’s not because she’s “slutty” or “easy” or a pushover; it’s because she’s an empowered woman!

Women Like to Be Dominated

There’s a dangerous idea that women are turned on by aggression. Some women even report being on the receiving end of violent behavior like choking during sex without any discussion. A less severe form of this myth is that women need to be “swept off their feet” or otherwise dominated. This stems from a larger stereotype of women as submissive and passive.

Once again, this stereotype can promote coercive behavior. It leads to the assumption that if a man physically maneuvers a woman or bosses her around in bed, he’s being sexy, rather than disrespectful. Women deserve just as much control over their sexual encounters as their partners.

While many people (of all genders) do find BDSM relationships satisfying and some prefer being in the submissive role, it’s important to discuss this in advance, not launch into a bondage scenario simply because your partner is a woman.

Women Want Intercourse to Last as Long as Possible

Men’s magazines are full of advice on lasting longer in bed, and there many are devices, supplements, and other products geared toward helping them achieve this goal. The assumption behind this is usually that the longer men can thrust into a vagina, the greater their partners’ chances of orgasming. In reality, length of intercourse has very little to do with female orgasm because only a quarter of women consistently orgasm through intercourse at all.

Teaching men to last longer encourages them to focus on the wrong thing. If they want to give their female partners pleasure and orgasms, they should focus on clitoral stimulation.

The assumption that women need sex to last a long time also promotes the belief that women are lots of work in bed, which can make them hesitant to speak up for what they want because they feel like a burden. It also takes the fun out of sex. The goal of female orgasm during intercourse puts pressure on men to last longer and pressure on many women to do something their bodies don’t do. Basically, everyone’s experiencing performance pressure when they could instead be focusing on the sensations and connection they’re feeling in the moment.

Women Are Less Visual

The idea that women are less visual and/or objectively more pleasant to look at is constantly used to justify the catering of porn to heterosexual men, the disproportionate female nudity on screen and in art, and the greater standards to which women’s appearances are held. The truth is, plenty of women get visually aroused. One study in Psychological Science found that blood flowed to women’s genitals in response to basically every kind of sexual imagery.

We don’t need studies to tell us this. The growing popularity of feminist porn indicates that women are hungry for visual stimulation. Women already make up a quarter of Pornhub’s users, and they’d probably make up a greater portion, were the porn not centered on degrading women.

The “men are more visual” narrative makes the objectification of women sound like nature taking its course, rather than a consequence of our oppression - which stops people from fighting it.

These are just a few stereotypes that hurt women, but the truth is, they all do. Stereotyping people prevents us from knowing and honoring them as individuals, and that’s something women (and everyone) want in every relationship, sexual or not.