When you should have sex

“Is everyone just DTF nowadays? I mean is that what we’re doing now?”


“When should I have sex?”

Truth be told, I actually didn’t realize we were still debating this — as individuals and as a whole. But I’ve heard it come up several times recently, from friends, on Medium, and in podcasts, sometimes directed at me.

Short answer: it depends.

First, it depends on who you ask.

Some people — including a few professional matchmakers here in the south — will tell you to wait until marriage. One woman said, “your value is in him seeing you as a precious angel,” meaning: “a virgin.” I was a bit horrified by this. (My dear, that is some deep, dark, sexist shit right there.)


Some people follow the “sex on a third date” rule. (Truthfully, I just learned about this rule this year, and I find it a little weird. But whatever works.)

Some people bone on the first date. (You do you, boo boo.)

It really depends — there are many schools of thought.

If you ask me how I answer for myself: I like good sex, and early sex is, in my opinion, not good sex. (It’s all fumbly and awkward— not at all the hot and heavy hook-up we like to imagine.) So if I invest in sex with someone once, I want them around long enough that that sex actually gets good, and I’ll wait long enough to get the indication they will be. (This varies, but it’s definitely longer than three dates.)

If you ask me for you, however, I share the stance of some sex therapists, one of whom answered:

“It’s what fits for you. I don’t think there’s any right or wrong way to do it.”

Because it depends on your situation, you, and your potential partner.

The only thing that really matters is understanding your needs and your limits and the context of your life going in. Is this specific to this partner? Is this someone you really want to sleep with? Are your needs physical? Are they emotional? What are you looking for, and will it be satisfied? If emotional: where are you at emotionally? Will you be able to ride the risks — not just pregnancy or STDs, but things like: not getting off, or this being a one-time deal, if it is. Did you rub one out before meeting up?

At the end of the day, the only person who can answer “when” for you is you.

And that means understanding what the actual question is and why we’re asking it…

When people ask “when should we have sex?” I don’t think they’re actually looking for society’s textbook metric.

Maybe some people are. Maybe some can’t discern for themselves, or some just want an easy benchmark so as to eliminate the work of deciding.

Maybe some want the breakdown of “slut”/”easy” versus “prude.” If this is where you are: I only defer back to you. Do you still assign value to these terms? Do you want to, or feel you have to? If the former, get an answer from someone who shares your values. If the latter, see above.

But I think the real reason is emotional. I think the people who worry about when to have sex are actually worried about being left.

Our real concern isn’t “when” to have sex — it’s “when to have sex without getting hurt”

The sort of follow up questions I hear most often (myself included, albeit different reasons) are: whether he’s going to stick around.

How to get what we want and need, rather than lose it?

“Why can’t I just be honest and people be honest back? Can’t I just say what I’m feeling?”

“Why can’t I reach out to the man I’ve been seeing… and say ‘hey I miss you, when can we get together,’ without feeling as if I’m being a needy chick who’s smothering a tiny ember of a flame.”

Yes, you can share your feelings. But:

(1) You should also be fair. You should assess which of your emotional needs are your own to manage, and not something to expect of someone else. You should discern if you’re rushing or pushing or grabbing.

(2) You should be honest with yourself and understand want you actually want.

What’s your bigger need here: to share your feelings? Or to get those feelings satisfied?

Do you truly want to tell him you want to see him more? Or do you want to see him more?

I’m pretty sure it’s the latter. And if that’s the case, the objective isn’t to share your feelings. The objective is to get them met in a way that’s fruitful. Don’t do things that self-sabotage.

Try to discern what his wants and needs are, and open this conversation in a way that honors them and frames it up as a happy medium. If he wants something casual, keep the tone and request casual-sounding, even if the underlying ask is “can I see you more?”

(3) You should accept his honesty, too. You should certainly feel comfortable sharing your thoughts and “live your truth,” but you must also be at peace with the fact that he will “live his truth” in response, and that may mean parting ways.

“Do I have to play ‘bullshit girl games’ like not being too available, and ‘oh, I’m seeing other people’ just to keep his attention?”

Is “not being too available” a “bullshit girl game?” Is it specific to girls? Is it even a game?

Seems to me “not being too available” is the honest reality of someone who is busy and whose time and attention are spread across multiple things. And people with rich, independent lives are interesting.

“Am I only interesting to men if other men are actively pursuing me?”

Definitely not.

But what men want is ridiculously simple, so men know if you’re desirable to other men whether you’re being actively pursued or not. The extent to which this assumption (or fact) motivates them is beyond my expertise.

“But what if I don’t have sex with him and he leaves me?”

Your old middle school called — you forgot your poster.

If he really cares about you, he won’t bounce. If he bounces, he didn’t care about you — so he would’ve bounced after boning anyway.

This ain’t the sort of dude you should want. (Unless you don’t care, in which case you wouldn’t be worriedly asking.)

Sex is not a negotiation tool, nor is it a reward. Sex can certainly stand alone, independent of a committed relationship, but if a committed relationship is what you want, sex is not a bargaining tactic. If you see and use sex this way, you are openly inviting having it used on you in this way.

If you want a relationship, you don’t use sex to get one. You have sex in it.

“How do I get my needs met, without sacrificing my hard won independence, and not turn into a love addict who spends all her time trying to be everything to some fuck boy?”

This is two questions.

The first: figure out what your true needs are, then figure out what his needs are, identify the similarities and differences, and then figure out how to ask for your needs in a way that honors his. (If you go into it only looking out for your needs while disregarding his in the same way you think yours are being “disregarded,” or because you don’t think his are “right,” you’re not being kind.)

The second: how not to sacrifice too much? Build a strong enough life that stands alone. Build your own self esteem, have other ways of getting needs (especially emotional) met, and in the beginning, only go to him with things that are low-risk, and build from there as things are working. Build a strong sense of self and solid boundaries.

How? That’s a whole other topic.

But when should I have sex??

When you understand your wants and needs. When you know what you’re willing to risk. When having sex gets wants and needs met without risking wants and needs of greater value. When you have reasonable assurance you know what’s at risk, rather than simply “hoping,” and would be okay if the remaining risks happened.

When the rewards of doing so outweigh the risks, with those specific “rewards” and “risks” defined for (and by) you and you alone.

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