The answer, according to our trusted spy, is more complicated than you might think.
My esteemed BettyConfidential colleague Carrie Seim recently revealed that first-date sex won't necessarily make a man lose interest (see Is it OK to Have Sex on a First Date?). This may very well be true—if the man in question only gets laid about once every five years. Why do I say this? I happen to be a man and a reformed rogue, so you can consider me your mole.
The conventional wisdom is that men only have one thing on their mind when they first see a woman—sex. The truth is, most men have two things on their minds: They want a sweaty, all-night bone-a-thon, and they want to fall in love. Yeah, that's right. We want to be happy, too. One is a powerful biological and psychological need, the other is spiritual and emotional. The problem for guys is that these two desires, especially during the dating phase, have nothing to do with each other. The only thing that ties them together is that they both live in the brain (well, one arguably lives in a "smaller brain"). Women, of course, have sex and then begin to have feelings. A man rarely can. Sex is the great distraction. He tells himself, "I'm getting what I want...right?" He's not. He can't hear his true calling because it's being drowned out by the inner monologue chants of "do her!"
Basically, this means that if a guy fulfills his sexual needs too early, it can muffle the call of his own heart. Before he can relate sex to intimacy, a man must first be made to feel; without feelings, sex is only about conquest and relief. One way to try to get him in touch with his feelings is not to put out on the first night.
But let's discuss what I mean by "putting out," shall we? I'm not saying women should be hermetically sealed, prudish cyborgs. A frisky first date can be a turn-on to an honest man. What I'm saying is to keep things comfortably at third base—OK, even first or second base. In other words, don't open your legs. And never let a man get on top of you—especially when you're down to your panties. Once you let him "knock on heaven's door," you’re sending a signal that you want him to enter. He'll feel obliged. And no one wants to have obligatory sex (OK, there was a night in Tulsa I wouldn't take back…).
You might be thinking, "Well, I'll just ask him if he wants to do it. That's the respectable thing to do." It's not. You'll never get an honest answer from a man who's on top of you. If you ask him this, he'll worry that you'll think he's a wuss if he says no. Now I don't have to go to great lengths to explain the moronic things men will do to avoid being labeled a wuss, right? (Declaring war comes to mind.)
"We had sex on the first night and now, when I look back, I think it was a mistake," says Andy, a 41-year-old pediatrician from New York, recalling a woman he dated (i.e., had repeated sexual romps with) for a few months after meeting at a party. "That first night, the sex was really intense but we had no emotional connection yet. It was like getting my doctorate without going to school."
And here's the rub: He may like you so much that he may not really want to rush things. Chances are, if you like him, other girls have liked him before. He's not a newbie, so there's the possibility that he may want to do things differently this time. But if you let him get on top of you, he might feel that if he doesn't take the leap you'll somehow think less of him. "I was afraid to tell my first girlfriend that I wanted to wait a bit before we took the plunge," says Jayson, a 38-year-old copywriter from Culver City, CA. "I was tired of meaningless sex. This was one I wanted to savor. You know, stretch it out a bit." He says they broke up because he had trouble opening up to her. Maybe if they didn't mate on the first night, he might've had a moment to figure out what he really felt.
Not only do men and women think of sex differently, their fundamental definitions are different as well. For women, sex probably starts at second base. For men, sex is nothing short of a home run. As Jeff, a 34-year-old designer from Chicago, explains, "If it's not penetration, it's not sex. So if I'm dating someone and we make out on the first night, that's cool. I feel like I got some action, you know? Like I still got it, but without the heavy-osity that comes with intercourse."
Is Jeff an animal? Probably. But we're the guys who've been raised on Baywatch reruns, The O.C., internet porn and Paris Hilton. We’re inundated with sexual imagery all day and we've learned to relate it to achievement. Some boys never grow out of this. But most have to reconcile this faulty conditioning with their own organic need to find someone special. Help a boy find his heart: Don't put out on the first night.
Tell Us: What do you think about having sex on a first date?
Jod Kaftan's long career as a dater and scoundrel has finally been replaced with the happily married life. He has contributed to Rolling Stone, Salon and The New York Times. Follow him on www.twitter.com/jodspeed or his LA Times technology blog at http://jodspeed.latimesmagazine.com.