So I was at a bar getting slightly squiffy with a friend this past winter when the subject of dating came up.
“Here’s a puzzle,” I hollered over the cheesy Christmas music and the laughter of many drunken residents of western Massachusetts. “Imagine you start dating someone. You’re sexually attracted to them and they’re sexually attracted to you, and when you spend time together there’s this question mark over your heads, this sexual question mark that changes how you behave with each other.
“Now, if you have sex with them right away, to take away all the worry and pressure about whether or not the two of you will have sex, then they might start thinking of you just as a source of sex,with the potential for unequal attachment and the nightmare that brings. But if you wait to have sex, hoping that it will create space for the person to get to know The Real You as you gradually increase emotional intimacy WITH physical intimacy, then your time together is obfuscated by the noise and wondering and worrying and maneuvering to have sex. So how can you ever have sex… or not have sex… with someone without the question of sex interfering with your getting to know them?”
I believe my friend’s response was something along the lines of, “Dude don’t ask me.”
We all know (or we all SHOULD know) that part of getting to know someone is getting to know them sexually. But somehow that part seems to affect getting to know other aspects of someone in the way that, say, getting to know them intellectually just doesn’t.
There’s basically two ways to get rid of the question mark: have sex OR make it explicitly clear that you’re not going to have sex (which is awkward, but turns out to be more necessary than anyone ever warned me about. The number of times I’ve had to say, “We’re not going to have sex tonight,” boggles the mind. What is the DEAL with men [and it's always men, never women, in my experience] assuming sex is going to happen, just because we’re making out or because we’re in my home or because I teach about sex? That assumption is the psychological equivalent of bad breath. Go home and fix that, and then maybe we’ll talk. Maybe.)
So when I meet David Mitchell – you know, like when I write a book and go on a book tour to the UK and do a radio interview at the same time as… whatever. It could happen. Shut up. I was saying, when I meet David Mitchell, it doesn’t matter how firmly *I* know we’re not going to have sex or how firmly *he* knows we’re not going to have sex; there’s still the cultural question mark of two unmarried people, neither one painfully unattractive, and whether or not they’ll get naked together.
If he gets married between now and then, that’ll be taken off the table. (This is arguable, I suppose. People have sex outside their nominally monogamous dyads all the time. But the cultural question mark is gone.)
This is EXTRA-important since what I want is to drink beer with him and answer his questions about sex and women, and talking about these issues can too easily raise the cultural question mark.
When *is* the right time to have sex? That’s another post. I’ll work on that.