Friendly but no-nonsense relationship and dating advice for women in their 20s and 30s, from the guy perspective. Come back for biweekly posts and "tips of the week." Skip to the advice...
Most guys realize that women face tough choices when it comes to having sex with someone for the first time. Merciless social expectations say that if you do it too soon you're a slut, while waiting too long makes you a prude. And because men and women are wired differently, the pressure is typically on women to decide when the time is right. If you find it a big pain in the ass, even in your 20s and 30s, to navigate this impossible set of expectations, I don't blame you. But from the guy perspective, there is a way.
A lot of guys actually stress over the "too fast" dilemma, too. That's because we understand, or think we understand, that for women, sex carries an expectation of intimacy. For us, on the other hand, sex and emotional intimacy typically just aren't hard-wired to go together. We mature, we find the right woman, and ultimately sex and intimacy become more connected -- but that connection is not built into our hormonal makeup. This means that having sex too soon can create a fear of being trapped in an emotional intimacy we're just not ready for. The fear isn't necessarily enough to prevent us from following our hormones and jumping right in (with a willing partner), but it is enough to wreck something that could have worked out because we had sex too soon and then got freaked out.
You may be thinking that it's just not your responsibility to create a "safe" environment where a guy doesn't feel trapped or freaked out following physical intimacy; that's clearly his problem. But if you're looking for the right guy, then this is just as much your responsibility as his. Why? Because what works best for a guy -- even if it's not always what he asks for -- is a woman who doesn't compromise her own comfort level when deciding when to sleep together. In other words, if sex doesn't carry big expectations of intimacy for you, and you want to sleep with a guy the night you meet him, be safe and jump in. As long as you are completely clear that it's the first night and this guy might not actually end up falling in love with you (or even calling you afterward), you have nothing to lose. And you really don't -- because if a guy in this situation truly likes you, he'll most likely pick up on your casual attitude, not feel emotionally cornered, and happily move ahead with you. The idea that guys think girls are "sluts" if they have sex too quickly is basically a myth (the guys who do express this are typically either freaked out or projecting their own lack of self-confidence, and definitely not worth your time).
On the other hand, if you're the kind of woman who needs a call after sex -- and no reasonable guy will blame you if you are -- then please, don't have sex until you know that call will come. It might be two dates, five dates, or five months in, but with the right guy you'll know when you're ready, and your chances of feeling good about what you did afterward will be a jillion times higher. Every guy has a female friend or friend-of-a-friend who thought she wouldn't care, had sex with a random guy too soon, and then got hurt afterward when it didn't work out. This means that every guy is already a little predisposed to freak out when he feels like sex carries the expectation of an intimacy he's not ready for. So it sounds old school, but if sex makes you vulnerable, wait to do it until you're comfortable with the emotional intimacy you've already attained with a guy.
Is it possible to wait too long to have sex? The short answer, even from the guy perspective, is "no." I won't say there's no such thing as going too slow, but if what you want is a meaningful relationship, don't be afraid to take your time. In fact, this is a perfect way to weed out the guys that aren't for you. If a guy walks out of the room, or says he can't date you anymore, or breaks up with you just because it's taking too long for you to have sex with him, then guess what -- he's not the right guy. You should never have to compromise your comfort level about sex to save a relationship. The right guy may wheedle, he may kiss and nibble and touch, but if you're not ready then he'll understand. And if he does walk out, you won't have any regrets, because you didn't compromise your physical and emotional comfort.
That said, the advice about taking your time is not intended as a license for you to be cold or shut a guy out. If you're going slow without finding other ways to tell a guy that you're into him, he might lose confidence, become disheartened, and end the relationship for that reason. But as long as you're communicating your feelings clearly, the right guy won't leave just because it's taking too long to have sex.
So, to be ridiculously clear: the right time to have sex is when you've reached the level of intimacy and trust you need to feel comfortable about it. You might need just an hour's conversation to confirm a guy's not a psycho, or you might need months of emotional bonding before you know it's time, but either way, I can't emphasize enough that the right guy will respect the time it takes. I can think of dozens of friends who've had hookups or dates end badly because sex and intimacy were rushed based on different expectations, but I can't think of a single friend or acquaintance, guy or girl, who was in a relationship that seemed "right" but ended because the woman put off sex. So while the temptations may sometimes be just as strong for you as they are for the guy, be aware of your emotional fallout level, and hold off until you know it's at an acceptable point. You'll both be glad you did.