Sex advice with Suzi Godson: Will sex on third date spoil chances of long-term love?

I am 29, single, and have recently met someone who I really like after a year of unsuccessful dating. We’ve known each other for a few months, but have only been on two dates. In the past, I have slept with men on the first or second date but it has come to nothing. This time I want it to turn into something more. I really fancy him, and I’m dying to sleep with him, but do you think that jumping into bed so soon would harm the chances of something longer-term?

The notion that smart girls should make a man wait before they have sex with him derives from a host of socially-constructed methodologies designed to prevent young people having sex with each other at a time when contraception was either unavailable or unreliable.

Since the advent of the Pill, parents, religious groups and educators have resorted to guilt narratives to try to rein in youthful sexuality. For example, your mother and my mother would both have absorbed the notion that boys would tell you that they love you in order to persuade you to have sex with them and then once they’d had their wicked way, they would not even consider marrying you because you were too ‘easy’.

It was, I know, a well-intentioned attempt to prolong virginity at a time when sex before marriage and unwanted pregnancy were the ultimate taboos. Despite this insidious narrative dismissing women as sexually impotent and damning men as exploitative hypocrites, it still nags away at our collective conscience and makes us feel like bad girls if we put out too quickly.

Casual sex has always received bad press but, as I am sure you know, the majority of men who have one-night stands are not callously exploiting vulnerable females and, similarly, most women who have sex on a first date want it every bit as much as their partner.

Now, obviously, a one-night stand when you are three sheets to the wind is never a smart move, primarily because the more alcohol you have consumed, the less likely you are to use a condom, but the situation you are in is different. You’ve known this man for months and you’ve already had two dates with him. With that kind of a back-story, stringing things out in the hope that it will ensure a longer term commitment would be pointless. Your tactics could be terribly confusing; and if he didn’t appear to be bewildered, I’d be suspicious.

Sex is a natural and universal expression of passion that fuels the intimacy that creates strong pair bonds, even when it’s a one-night stand. When the evolutionary anthropologists Helen Fisher and Justin Garcia asked 515 men and women at a US college why they had sex on a first date, 50% of women and 52% of men reported that they went into the sexual experience hoping to trigger a longer relationship. A follow-up study found that 33% of them achieved their goal.

Fisher’s conclusion is that people don’t go into one-night stands thinking ‘I’m going make this person fall in love with me’ but somehow, intuitively, people know that sex is powerful and that it can trigger powerful feelings of love.

Sex is powerful and it deserves to be treated with respect, but we are fortunate to now live in a society where men and women don’t have to adhere to gender stereotypes, and dating is not a strategic game plan where marriage and financial dependency are the ultimate prize for all females.

We don’t have to play any of the games that our parents played. In fact, we don’t have to play any games at all. So just be honest, be yourself and know that if it feels right, it is right.

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