In the old days — when dating meant hanging out with a chaperone and the person your parents had arranged for you to marry when you were still in diapers — people could pine away for each other, and there was no risk of sex too soon. If you had sex before you were married, you were road kill, literally and figuratively. Now we’ve done away with chaperones, arranged marriages, and parental influence (who was the last date your parents liked?), and sex is still hanging there, tempting and dangerous.
Which is just fine! After all, sex is powerful stuff: basic, primordial, fun, messy, seductive — and therefore dangerous. The risk doesn’t mean you have to avoid sex; it simply means you should treat sex carefully and with respect, kinda like fire. You want it to warm you, not harm you (the burning up part I leave to your own personality structure).
Don’t Get Naked Too Soon
The problem with sex is not being physically naked but — if you’re doing it right — being emotionally naked. Being emotionally naked with a stranger is really tricky. Sex moves you at the speed of light past things you ought not to
be moving past at all, the getting-to-know-you stage.
There are several ways to know when it’s too soon for sex: when you don’t know each other’s middle name, when you haven’t talked about protection, when you’re doing it ’cause you think it’s expected, when you’re just trying to show your parents they can’t boss you, when you’re afraid the guy won’t call unless you do, or to prove that you’re not gay.
There is only one real reason to have sex: because you really want to and you can accept the consequences (and then, for heaven’s sake, be responsible and make sure nobody gets hurt, sick, or pregnant). You can see why it’s often wise to wait.
No House Calls Until Sex
Being in somebody’s house unchaperoned for any length of time is, at best, a mixed message. Home is an intimate place, and coming up to use the bathroom, have a nightcap, check your machine, or watch a video is ambiguous.
A home-cooked meal is nice, but you had better be willing to be dessert unless the entire family is gathering for the occasion.
If you’re ready to have sex, a house with a bed is a real comfort. If you’re not ready to have sex, a house with a bed is either a temptation or a tease. Careful here.
Know the song about wanting a man with a slow hand (and we’re not talking poker here)? Well, almost everything about sex and intimacy can be improved if it’s slowed down and savored. Anticipation is heady stuff, and your most
erogenous zone is the gray matter between your ears. If you’re not convinced that going slow has much to recommend it, think about the difference between gobbling a hamburger at a fast food restaurant and dining out. You get the point.
Make sure you know what you’re doing and what you want. I know sex wasn’t designed to be thoughtful: It’s an rgent, fast response, but you’re not an animal at the mercy of your hormones. You’ve got that big, fancy cortex on
top of all your other organs for a reason.
Not only is it a good idea to go slowly in launching the initial sexual encounter, but once you’re sexual, going slowly is a great turn-on (think of the good old days, when waiting until you were married made the wedding, the wedding night, and sex very special). Even if you decide to be sexual, the longer you wait and the longer you take, the happier, in general, both of you will be.
No Sleeping Together Until You’re Ready for Sex
Think about it this way: You wouldn’t go to a restaurant and then not order anything. Restaurants are primarily for eating.
You may be rereading this rule to make sure you read it right. After all, why else would two people who are dating climb into bed together if it isn’t for sex? Well, I can give you lots of reasons: they’re tired, too cheap to get two rooms, want a cuddle, are cold or scared — the list goes on. The problem with all these reasons to get into bed together (and the words “I promise not to do anything until you’re ready”) is that they sound perfectly reasonable at the time. But being in bed together is not fair to either of you. If he makes a pass, he’s an untrustworthy brute, and if he doesn’t make a pass, you’re convinced he’s gay.
Once you’ve launched the relationship and you know each other very well, being in the same bed without either of you wanting sex may be possible, but the situation is still complicated and needs to be discussed, which is a lot of hassle if you’re just starting out.
Don’t Have Unprotected Sex
Oh, puh-leeeze. If I have to explain this to you, you need to put this book away for a couple of years. You must protect yourself and your partner not only from sexually transmitted diseases that can ruin or end your life but from unwanted pregnancy as well.
The only way to be completely protected is to abstain; but if you decide to have sex, understand that although a condom and a degree of caution is safer sex (is there really anything even remotely safe about sex? — truly a contradiction in terms), the parts of your body that really need protection are your heart and soul and mind. Make sure you’re aware enough of your emotional needs and your partner’s emotional needs to be responsible. Otherwise, fantasize, masturbate, and wait.
Don’t Assume Your Date Is Responsible Sexually
Assumptions about sexual responsibility can be literally fatal and at best, embarrassing. So talk about what you’re about to do and what it means to both of you. If this conversation seems to get in the way of spontaneity, talk about it when both of you are dressed, sober, and maybe even in public.
Basically, don’t assume anything at any time if you don’t absolutely have to. As my used car salesmen taught me when I was writing my dissertation, “Never assume. It makes an ass of u and me” (Get it? a-s-s-u-m-e). You wouldn’t assume a gun wasn’t loaded before you pulled the trigger (enough Freudian imagery there for us all?).
Beware of Back Rubs
I am a sucker for a great back rub, but in a dating situation, if you haven’t launched yourselves sexually, a tempting back rub has to be viewed as part of a package with a front rub. In other words, lying down, taking off your shirt, and letting somebody touch you is pretty darn sexy, wouldn’t you say? Don’t tease.
If you want sex, a back rub may be a great prelude, but both of you need to understand that that’s what’s happening. If you want a back rub without sex, go to one of the storefront, great American back rub places or find a same-sex masseuse or masseur.