The other night, my friend was telling me (via text message) about the new woman in his life. They’ve been seeing each other for a few weeks and things have gotten intense pretty quickly yet they haven’t had sex yet. When I asked why, he told me that he thought that if “you wait, the more likely it will last.”

He continued, “If I can get a girl into super fast, I have a hard time considering her for long term.”

I wrote back, “Why can’t a girl you sleep with right away be a long term prospect?” Sex is an important part of any long term relationship so why would having sex early on rule out the possibility of forming a deep, lasting bond.

Citing conversations he’s had with other men on this topic, he stated that he knows he’s not alone. “If you don’t make a guy work for it, and he doesn’t have time to get to know you outside of the bedroom, you can pretty much forget about it being a long-term relationship.”

After reading this response, my feministy outrage needle started inching towards red. Reading not so deeply between the lines, what he seems to be saying is that the establishment of a long-term relationship hinges on the timing of sexual intercourse. I pointed out to him that the current woman seems to have a lot of awesome qualities–would he be unable to see her as a long term prospect if they had slept together already? Wouldn’t she still be in possession of all those things that made her so appealing in the first place? Her intelligence, ambition, and beauty–would he be forced to overlook all of these if they had sex on the first date? Or the second?

“I’m sure I would keep going out with her and having sex with her. It just wouldn’t last,” he replied.

Of course, I understand what he’s saying. I’ve heard it a thousand times before–from movies and magazines to teachers and rabbis. They all warned me not to sleep with a guy too soon (0r until marriage, in the case of the rabbis) lest I lose their interest. Because despite being funny, smart, kind, and cute, the real basis of my appeal is between my legs. And they won’t take the time to get to know me if they meet my vagina too soon.

To quote The 40 Year Old Virgin–“Don’t put the pussy on a pedestal.”

There are 24 hours in a day and you can’t have sex during all of them (unless you’re Sting). You will be forced to do other things–go to work, walk the dog, and interact non-sexually with your significant other. Regardless of when you choose to have sex with a woman, if you stick around long enough, you will get to know her other, non-vag qualities. If you are open to it, of course.

Don’t get me wrong–sex is important. I’ve ended potential relationships because there wasn’t any sexual compatibility. And the decision of when and under what conditions to have it is a personal one. There shouldn’t be a specific timeline for having it with another person. And there’s nothing wrong with wanting to establish emotional intimacy with another before getting naked. And I don’t even dispute my friend’s personal feelings–he truly believes that early sex is something of a death knell to a long term relationship. I don’t think, however, that is some sort of scientific maxim. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A couple of things–what we’re describing, at best, is correlation. He described several instances in which he had sex too soon and never formed a longer lasting bond. We don’t know what other common denominators these women he bedded too soon also shared? In our lifetimes, we meet precious few individuals we’d consider settling down with. Regardless of the timing of sex, most of the people we date will not become partners in any way. What

And do we also have something of a selection bias on our hands? He is choosing not to have sex with this particular woman because he believes there is relationship potential and it is his preference to wait to establish emotional intimacy in these cases. But in the instances where early sex seems to have destroyed a potential relationship, is it possible that he, on an unconscious level, decided to sleep with the woman sooner because he didn’t see her a long term prospect? If it is his preference to wait to establish emotional intimacy before sex with a woman with whom he wishes to date for a long time, then can’t the opposite be true–that when he judges a woman to not be a suitable long-term partner, he’ll have sex with her sooner. Women haven’t been randomly assigned to the early sex/late sex group. Other factors were taken into consideration when making this decision.

If this is true, then let’s he meets an incredible woman with real long term potential. And let’s say he gets drunk or for some other reason isn’t able to observe his rules and they sleep together on, say, the second date? Is it over because “relationship material” was accidentally assigned to the one night stand experimental group?

Perhaps–but it’s not because some mystical thing happens and her appeal evaporates as soon as her vagina gets wet. It’s because he has been conditioned–like A LOT of men–to put women into either the “Madonna” or “Whore” category. Even if the definitions have softened, there still seems to be one type of girl guys are supposed to marry and another that they just want to fuck. Even if they’re not conscious of this type of thinking, I think it plays a large role in the statements my friend made.

As a woman, there are certainly guys that I am only interested in sleeping with–perhaps because they don’t possess other qualities that I find essential to long term success but they’re cute/sexy and I’m single and in the mood. But if I were to sleep with a guy who met most of my criteria on the first date, I wouldn’t lose interest in him. Not a whit. And if the sex was good, I could check off another box on my relationship checklist.  

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