Dear Duana,

I bought ‘em—the cultural messages that men and women are the same, the double standard is unfair, if you want to have sex you should, you’ll lose the guy if you hold off…  But now I think I’ve ruined a shot at love and marriage by treating sex casually.

So, for the first time, I’m Waiting.  And during the wait, I’ve begun falling for Neal, who shares my interests, values and desire for a committed relationship.  We’ve now been out seven times, and ended each date with nothing beyond a kiss…or two.  (Okay, maybe ten.)

My question is, how long should I wait to have sex?  I want this man.  And not just for now.



Dear Rosemary,

Perhaps we should call you Sage, because you’ve found your inner wisdom.

Scientifically, Waiting to have sex is such a huge long-term Win, it’s amazing we women ever fell for the Sexual part of the Revolution.

For instance, as *many* Love Science articles  have shown,  Waiting is a big Win to:

—Create clarity. Men’s inherited mating mind pursues Now & Later sexual strategies simultaneously.  Thwarting the Now aspect makes it really clear, really fast, to *both* of you whether or not he thinks you’re worth waiting for.  No?  Next!

—Lose Mr. “Right-Now”.  The Cad’s emphasis on getting some will propel him towards easier prospects, much as your door lock propels the burglar towards an unprotected home.

—Enhance your appeal to Mr. Right.  The Dads, as scientists call them, seek long-term love and intentionally *don’t* play the field.  They’re a catch, and –even better- – they want to get caught up in Mrs. Right.

But.  They will still usually say yes to early sex if you make it available.

Don’t do it.  Mr. Right cares *a lot* about the future fidelity your Waiting predicts.  Statistically speaking, he should; if he’s wrong, you could later cheat and have Dad raising Cad’s kids…as is occurring in up to 10% of births today.

—Increase your status.  You’re so desirable, you can afford to Just Say No.  You don’t let just anyone into your, um, club!  And that, my dear, is sexy.

—Assist you both in healthy long-term bonding.  The biochem of the build-up (aka Waiting) enhances emotional bonds for everyone.  But *unless the man is sexually inexperienced*,  immediate sex usually attaches only the woman to her lover—even when she’s avidly seeking only short-term sex!—, while assisting men’s post-orgasmic *de*tachment.

—Foster commitment: As I may have mentioned a few dozen times in prior articles, the #1 reason young men say they delay marriage is the easy availability of sex sans commitment.

So, Waiting is a good thing.  But for how long? 

Short answer:

I don’t know.  Nobody does—not empirically, anyway.  As many Wise Readers correctly opined, there is no specific Number of days or dates that fits all relationships.

Intermediate answer:

Love is a reliable sign around the globe that men are committed—heart and soul and body and briefcase—not just for today or tomorrow, but for always.

That’s why women value their partner’s love so much!  It’s the most valuable thing a man can give.

And once given, men’s love tends to last longer than women’s.  Men who are in love are also less likely to break off a relationship at any stage than women are.  And they get over the break-up more slowly.  (Men, please feel free to gloat about the contents of this paragraph.)

Upshot?  You are safe(r) giving yourself sexually once Neal has given himself emotionally. 

Long answer: 

It depends on…

—Your religions and values and ages, oh my:

In my opinion, if *either* person is conservatively religious or committed to abstinence as a value system, it makes sense to wait as long as you can both tolerate waiting.  And then to wait a little longer still.

(Unless the wedding has occurred.  Then get busy, already!)

To do otherwise is to risk alienation from your/his sense of honor and your/his community.  And communities are important to long-term love’s success, whether or not we wish to acknowledge that.  It’s a research-backed fact.

Also, if either of you is under age 25, it’s best to wait as long as possible to have sex; as young people have greater numbers of partners, their likelihood of sustaining faithful and long-term relationships plummets, and it’s likely there’s some causality here.  For instance, some scientists think sleeping around de-sensitizes young people’s understanding that Relationships & Fidelity Are A Big Deal.

However, if you’re over age 25 or so, your prefrontal cortex has done its thang and your understanding is already shaped; and if neither of you is immersed in a tradition where abstinence is expected —as I’m surmising from your letter—, then sex during courtship is part of the cultural norm.

In which case, you need to examine his expectations.

—His expectations:

Word on the street has it that most older, experienced men expect sex to happen around Date 3, which you are now well beyond.  Is Neal pressuring you to go past first base?

If not, don’t make the move yourself, because your High-Status/Fidelity Stock is headed for a dive if you’re easier than he is.

If he *is* pushing for greater sexual involvement, though, keep reading.

—His level of commitment to you:

Does Neal love you?  Can you tell by what he says and how he does?

Women all over the world know how to Tell; chances are you do, too.  You inherited this ability from your mother, and hers, and hers, and hers…

If Neal doesn’t love you yet, hold off sexually.  You’re in unsafe territory and can easily be shifted from Mrs. Right to Ms. Right Now.

But if nothing—not religion, not culture, not values, not age, not mutual sexual willingness, not lack of love—stands in your way—then what? 

Then, Sage Rosemary, here’s my best advice:

Wait until Neal has shown *in word and deed* that he loves you,

has point-blank asked you to be his girlfriend,

has said he won’t date anyone else,

and has asked you not to date anyone else, either. 

Then—if you love him in return—you’ve probably Waited long enough.




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