In several recent posts I’ve focused on the question of when a woman should have sex when she likes a guy. It’s an immensely complicated question, despite what some casual sex proponents would have you think. Here are some of the things that make it very difficult to get right:
Early sex, i.e. date three or sooner, means that the parties don’t know each other well yet. They have a good read on chemistry, but probably just a superficial read on character, relationship history, etc. It’s possible that both people are on the same page, but there’s a high risk of subsequent complications.
The act of sex makes many women feel more emotionally invested. Even if a woman is looking for a long-term relationship, if she has sex before monogamy, she may be having sex before she actually knows whether she would even want a relationship with this particular man.
After sex, she may feel attached, even if she might not have chosen him otherwise.
Some men push for early sex with zero intention of forming a relationship. According to Amber Madison, 35% of men admit to lying to women about their relationship intentions just to get sex.
Some men push for early sex in the belief that without that level of sexual aggression, they are unlikely to foster enough attraction to get a relationship commitment from the woman in time.
Many men will test for sex early, but if they get it, the woman goes into the slut box rather than the girlfriend box.
Many men will reward a woman for early sex if she can convince them that they are the exception to the rule, that they are truly the only man she could ever do this with.
Many men will assume that if a woman turns down early sex, she “just isn’t that into” him.
Some men think casual sex is totally OK, and that a woman’s delaying sex signals emotional issues, or discomfort with her sexuality. They may also believe it often signals a low sex drive.
Some men happily commit to women they have first night sex with. Even if the odds are against it, there’s a potential opportunity cost to rejecting those men.
You might as well just throw a dart. Except…how many fails of this sort can one woman absorb without becoming a mess?
I’ve given this a lot of thought, and here’s my advice:
There’s a difference between employing sound strategy by not showing your hand too soon, and being an impostor in your own life. If you’re not a casual kind of girl, don’t have casual sex. The odds of feeling regret are extremely high, and it complicates any subsequent communication as you try to sort out what it means.
Have Sex Only If You Really, Really Like Each Other
Hopefully, you know if you like him. If he’s not the only guy you like, don’t go there. If you’re dating multiple people, as in online dating, and you’ve gotten intimate with someone else recently, don’t go there. If he’s great but probably not right for you, don’t go there. If he’s great for you, but you’re still getting over your ex, don’t go there. Don’t have sex with a man unless you are emotionally available and know what you want.
How can you know if he really, really likes you? Amber Madison’s book Are All Guys Assholes? included her take on this question, which I thought was excellent:
So does this guy like you? You tell me. Does it feel like he likes you? Does he contact you regularly, make himself available, and try to set up dates? Does he pay attention to you and treat you well when you are together? Is he showing signs that he is interested? Do you feel liked?
Dating coach Evan Marc Katz says something similar. He tells women to stop all the analyzing, it’s actually very simple to know whether a guy likes you. How? Effort. Is he making an effort? Is the relationship moving forward? Does he keep making plans to see you again? Does he follow through?
In Annie Hall, one of my favorite all-time movies, Alvie Singer (Woody Allen) says this about relationships:
A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.
But what if the guy really does like you, and is just keeping his distance because he wants you to wonder and like him more? Even then, you’ll see forward movement. A guy isn’t going to be so aloof he takes himself out of the running if he is interested. Amber Madison addresses the behavior of Impostor Assholes:
What if he’s playing hard to get in order to make you like him more? He may not take you up on every invitation, get in touch with you every day, or respond to you right away. But the general trend of his actions will be that he’s keeping in touch and trying to make plans.
Look at the bigger picture – either he’s making an effort (even a half-assed one) or he’s not.
She offers some caveats:
If he’s texting but not making an effort to see you, move on.
If he’s too busy to hang out, move on. Dating a guy who’s chronically busy will at best turn into a boyfriend who is chronically busy.
‘No Sex Before Monogamy’ is Also Risky
The sexes are at an impasse. Women seeking relationships want to be courted and committed to before they have sex. Men, including those seeking relationships, want to have sex before making any kind of commitment.
The sex ratio and cultural norms of this SMP give men the strategic advantage if they’re ready to take it.
You have to figure out what level of risk you’re willing to take, what level of uncertainty you can live with, and for how long. Before having sex with a man, you should:
Filter good men in and bad boys out.
Discern how much a good man likes you.
Figure out whether you are both on the same page.
Much of this information is available by watching and evaluating people based on their actions. Where uncertainty remains, however, you can always ask. A man who likes you and hopes to have a relationship with you will not penalize you for being “awkward.” Only the hit and run guy feels that way.
This approach is not without risk. But neither is holding out until a relationship is serious. Each woman must survey the landscape, note the realities on the ground, and figure out which strategy gives her the best cost/benefit ratio.
Whatever you decide, be deliberate. Don’t reduce sex to a drunken impulse. Be honest, be clear, and let the chips fall where they may. It’s the only way to avoid regret.