I don't want casual sex. Is that realistic?
We live in a world where contemporary dating culture is saturated with terms like ghosting, hookup, hang-out, swipe left and swipe right. This is not the age of virtuous romantic notions for the masses. This is the age of Tinder. Ugh.
Not everyone belongs in this age. Not everyone wants to hookup, hang-out and ghost. So what does the anomaly do? If you're 2 standard deviations (or more) from the dating norm, how do you deal? How do you date?
Tawkify Matchable Member, Betsy, wrote into Heartalytics with a specific concern. In her words:
"In my twenties, I was in an apartment, sowing my wild oats. Now, I'm 36, own my home and am a responsible "grown-up." I recently dated someone, things started well, but he seemed to lose interest when we didn't have sex after a few dates. Honestly, I feel I've out grown out of the casual sex realm, and would like commitment.
Am I holding my standards too high in this crazy world of dating?"
I sent Betsy's question straight to the front-line experts -- our matchmakers, and they had a lot to say on the topic. It became apparent Betsy's inquiry was not uncommon. So, if you feel like a fish out of water in this "crazy world of dating," this article is for you.
Valerie Presley Ackler
Matchmaker Amaris Kay:
This is a tough one...
I think society has conditioned us to equate sex with something of value when in fact it's only a small part of what it means to have a romantic relationship with another person.
Sex means different things to different people and can also be used to express different emotions in a relationship or dating scenario. For example, sex can be a vehicle for expressing love, lust, anger, grief (to name a few)...
To answer Betsy's question: No, she's not setting her standards too high - I don't believe there is such a thing. However, I do think she has an oversimplified understanding of what sex has the capacity to be and should analyze her relationship with sex and its meaning. At the end of the day sex is not love and sex does not solidify a commitment.
Sex is complex, we should not repress or delay it just for the sake of doing so, and we should allow it to be a medium for whatever we are trying to "say..."
Matchmaker Candice Cain:
Betsy isn't alone in her feelings! There are many women who feel this way and have expressed similar sentiments to me. Casual sex is a bit passé now -- especially for people that are looking for a serious relationship. However, sometimes you just "click," and shouldn't have feelings of guilt or regret if something does happen in those situations. I wouldn't put a specific timeline on it -- it's a matter of how you feel, and when you feel it's right. You aren't holding your standards too high, there is no such thing -- they are your standards, you set them, you keep them! The man that meets those standards is the man for you.
Matchmaker Sophy Singer:
The right man won't lose interest if there isn't sex within a couple dates. Quite the opposite, I think. The right man will remained intrigued and will stick around until you feel like you're ready. Many times, couples have sex and each person views it differently. Generally speaking, the woman feels less casual after sex and the man could go either way. Men are typically much better at compartmentalizing sex. Whereas, women are physiologically wired to become more emotionally attached after sex (look up oxytocin - it's science!). If this is how you feel, my advice is to stick to your guns and hold out on sex. That's not to say you can't be intimate in other fun ways, that can make you both feel more connected. You'll be ready when you have a better read on his intentions. Good luck!
Matchmaker Celine Song:
I echo everything Candice and Sophy said, and I agree that this won't be a problem with the right person, but I think there's one caveat... you two must communicate.
Sometimes men don't realize that you are drawing a conscious line to not sleep with them...
and assume that you are just not interested in them anymore. They take rejection, re: sex as a rejection altogether. This is because in the past, the women who liked them, slept with them. Yes, some men are just in it for sex, but often men are just as insecure about negotiating sex as women are -- and are just trying to read the signals.
I am a huge fan of frank communication to avoid misunderstandings and unnecessary drama.
Betsy -- if this is how you feel, there is no better strategy than to be transparent, i.e. "I am trying something new this year, where I don't have casual sex with a man I've just started seeing. I think I'm getting to the point in my life where that doesn't make a lot of sense to me. I find you very attractive, I want to keep seeing you and get to know you better -- and I think I might want to take that step with you sometime. But if you like me, I would appreciate your patience and respect. Does that make sense?" If he reacts to this positively with understanding, you've learned he is a good man and you have opened up a channel to talk about the "stuff" that matters. If he reacts immaturely and with any degree of irritation, then what a fantastic opportunity this was to figure this man out. You can move on with clarity.
Matchmaker Deepali Gupta agrees with Celine:
I endorse Celine's strategy. I think the most important thing is to let a man (if he's worth it!) know *why* you aren't interested in casual sex (because they have anxieties at stake too) -- and if you can make asserting your boundaries an act of flirtation, all the better!
Matchmaker Christina Han offers a statistical perspective:
If a man appears to have lost interest in you, it is most assuredly not because you didn't have sex within the first couple of dates. First off, a quality, desirable man will never push for sex overly eagerly, because he is either *projecting the impression that he is always having exactly as much sex as he wants to at any given time in his life* or he really is.
Secondly, by not having sex right away, you are inadvertently raising your own value in his presumably conventional cis hetero sights.
Sadly, "the chase" is not archaic. I've done my own research on the matter, and my data is anecdotal but I think reliable across the board.
When asked if they honestly thought they'd be with their current partners if they'd been able to have sex with them early on, my straight male friends unanimously hemmed and hawed and ultimately admitted that they could see themselves having lost interest. They'd have texted less and steam for the pursuit of another date would have dissipated. This isn't to say that they'd think any less of the woman, or that they'd consciously have *not wanted to see her,* but that base, underlying motivation would have been gone. Depressing, but generally true.
So what happened in these cases where sex was clearly delayed and they're now in relationships? Attachment grew pre-coitus to the point that there was extensive interest and investment in their respective women as human beings. At that point there was already a relationship or the foundation of a relationship to naturally build upon.
Matchmaker Lauren Schott is in the Deepali and Celine camp:
Communication is key in this situation. As women, we tend to overthink and also make a bigger deal than necessary of some of our uncertainties. I've found that most men are more than happy to have an open conversation about their intentions. 9 times out of 10 they'll tell you -- "just ask me!" Are they looking for sex, are they interested in a relationship, are they open to marriage, how do they feel about waiting to sleep together?
I think Betsy should stand behind what she wants, not worry about what everyone else is doing, and be ready to talk openly about why she feels like she'd prefer to wait.
As many have already expressed, this won't be a deterrent to the right man. It's also really great practice for tougher conversations down the road.
Matchmaker Dorothy Stover concludes:
Having a standard is different than an expectation. If a man or woman has an expectation of casual sex, they're not the right person for someone that doesn't want something casual. She has a standard and should stick to it. When a man wants a woman, he will go to extremes to win her over. I've had 10 marriage proposals and I was only physically involved with three of the men. I've seen it time and again that the physical involvement does not equate to love or commitment. Of course, sex is great for bringing two people together but if it doesn't feel right to her, she shouldn't do it. Hold your standard Betsy. A good man will come forward, respect your standard and rise to meet it.
Betsy specifically asked when two people should become physically involved. Here are a few rules I have seen employed with success, but first and foremost -- always be upfront. Let the other person know your standard. The man will either cut ties (and of course he's not worth it), or he will get it and love it.
When to have sex...
- After at least 90 days of dating. You can learn a lot about someone after three months of dating them. Including if you want a future.
- When there's a clear commitment. Through my experience (and research) most men have an inclination if they are going to marry a woman within a month.
- When you want to. Sometimes the rules are thrown out the window. I had a one night stand turn into two and a half year relationship, which turned into an engagement.
- Wait until marriage. Let the other person know you won't be involved physically until marriage. I've seen this work both ways but more often then not, when married they stick things through because their relationship transcends the physical.
Thank you Tawkify Matchmaking team & thank you Betsy for kicking off the discussion!
P.S. We're curious to hear from our male readers on this subject. Let us know how Betsy's concerns hit you -- and if you agree with the matchmaker feedback.
All thoughts and comments are welcomed for discussion!