The Heart Wants…What the Penis Wants?

first-base-making-out-demotivational-posters-1307651468Reader Apple left a comment today that I thought was brilliant re the timing of sex:

Really, it comes down to a woman having the balls to say: “I don’t care what your penis wants if you don’t care what my heart wants.”

The actual line I’ve always used in real life is:

“I don’t do casual sex. Sex for me is something that happens when I love someone and they love me. I understand that’s not how most people operate now, but that’s how I operate. If you don’t like those terms, I won’t waste your time.”

The first thing a woman should do is ask herself what outcome she wants from the connection. If she’s after casual sex, she can have it and fulfill her mission (though she is unlikely to have an orgasm). If she’s telling herself that all she wants is casual sex, goes for it and then catches feelings, she needs to realize she’s been an idiot, and stop pursuing the worst strategy ever.

In How Long Should We Wait Before Having Sex? TV persona and relationship expert Dr. Wendy Walsh has gathered the most current data on how the timing of sex predicts relationship outcomes. (H/T: J)

I. Researcher Dean Busby has found that waiting at least 30 days leads to better relationships. He studied over 2,000 married adults with an average age of 36, asking about when they had sex and relationship satisfaction.

Curiously, almost 40 percent of couples are essentially sexual within the first or second time they go out, but we suspect that if you asked these same couples at this early stage of their relationship – ‘Do you trust this person to watch your pet for a weekend many could not answer this in the affirmative’ – meaning they are more comfortable letting people into their bodies than they are with them watching their cat.

 Walsh summarizes his body of research:

Busby’s research shows that couples who wait to have sex — at least 30 to 90 days — rather than doing it in the early stages of the relationship have better relationship outcomes.

Postponing sex, even for as long as six months, is associated with higher relationship stability, higher relationship satisfaction, better communication and higher quality sexual relationship.

It seems that couples who wait have a better handle on issues that come up in their relationships. Because sex doesn’t complicate the relationship, they have better communication skills.

II. Researcher Anthony Paik found that exclusivity is linked to delayed sex.

In one of my studies, it turned out that the longer couples delayed sex the more exclusive the relationship. And if men engage in sex within the first month of dating they are 4.5 times more likely to be nonexclusive later.

Couples who didn’t wait but were each open to a serious relationship with one another from the start did as well as couples who waited – the problem is, that’s a crap shoot. Even if each party is separately hoping a hookup will turn into a relationship, there’s no acceptable way of sharing that information, since by definition a hookup is “no strings.”

One good indicator of intent is a person’s past sexual experience:

People with higher numbers of past sexual partners were more likely to form hookups, and to report lower relationship quality. Through the acquisition of partners they begin to favor short-term relationships and find the long-term ones less rewarding.

III. Mark Renegerus, author of Premarital Sex in America has also found support for the 30 day rule.

Couples who waited at least 30 days to have sex increased the likelihood that the couple was still dating one year later. Nearly one-quarter of those who waited 30 days were still together a year later.

As for those who were quick to jump in bed together, well, 90 percent of those couples didn’t even make it one year.

IV. David Buss has found that the more women a guy has had sex with, the faster he is to disdain a new sexual partner. 

Renowned evolutionary psychology professor David Buss at the University of Texas at Austin and Martie G. Haselton at the University of California, Los Angeles found that the more previous sexual partners a man has, the more likely he is to quickly perceive diminished attractiveness in a woman after first intercourse. Sex doesn’t lead to love for men. If the guy is a player, sex more often leads to distain for his partner.

Waiting is the most effective way of filtering out players.

Fortunately, the number of women who need to be convinced is shrinking. There is continued support for the claim that college students overwhelmingly prefer relationships to hooking up. In a recent editorial in the LA Times, sociologist and hooking up expert Lisa Wade summed it up:

It’s true that more than 90% of students say that their campus is characterized by a hookup culture.  But in fact, no more than 20% of students hook up very often; one-third of them abstain from hooking up altogether, and the remainder are occasional participators.

If you do the math, this is what you get: The median number of college hookups for a graduating senior is seven. This includes instances in which there was intercourse, but also times when two people just made out with their clothes on. The typical student acquires only two new sexual partners during college. Half of all hookups are with someone the person has hooked up with before. A quarter of students will be virgins when they graduate.

…The majority of students — 70% of women and 73% of men – report that they’d like to have a committed relationship, and 95% of women and 77% of men prefer dating to hooking up. In fact, about three-quarters of students will enter a long-term monogamous relationship while in college.

Wade points out that those relationships will begin via the hookup – the casual encounter is still the path to commitment in college. But it’s good to know that the majority of hookups are not intended to be casual after all. Kids are making out, dry humping, and getting busy with their hands without having sex, pretty much like we did back in the 70s.


Matthew Hussey on Men and Commitment

HusseyI just finished reading Matthew Hussey’s Get the Guyand I have to say it’s about the best book on dating and relationships I’ve ever read. I’m not alone – his rating on Amazon is a 4.8 out of 5. I strongly encourage you to buy it here. 

(Speaking of ratings, he’s adorable – sort of a cross between Ryan Gosling and Daniel Radcliffe.)

He started out running bootcamps as a dating coach for men, and it’s clear from his writing he is well versed in Game. However, smart guy that he is, he flipped over to running bootcamps for women, and has coached something like 100,000 of us at this point. And he’s only 26!

This guy is all about Girl Game, and he makes a great deal of sense. I agree with him on almost everything – my only nitpick is that some of his conversation starters sound really cheesy, but maybe when girls approach guys what they say isn’t actually very important. :)

I’ll be writing on several topics in the book that I found particularly strong or interesting. Today I want to share his explanation on how men view commitment, because it closely parallels a lot of the writing I’ve done here on short-term relationship guys vs. long-term relationship guys, cads vs. dads, etc. 

Hussey describes two distinct kind of men, whom he names Mr. Bachelor and Mr. Relationship. No matter what you do on your end, a man’s willingness to commit depends on the emotions he associates with commitment. These emotions may have any number of sources, but it doesn’t really matter – every man is either Mr. Bachelor or Mr. Relationship. It’s hard-wired, or baked in, or something, and you have no control over this.

For Mr. Bachelor, the idea of “settling down” conjures up an image of a bored couple sitting at home on a Friday night watching soap operas, or spending all day Saturday doing household chores. Committing to a relationship looks like the end of all the fun. This perception is reinforced because every guy has a friend who [describes this life].

Essentially, Mr. Bachelor suffers from FOMO, and Hussey describes his preoccupation with chasing variety, adventure and excitement in his 20s, figuring he’ll settle down and bite the bullet when he reaches his 30s. Predictably, in his 30s he realizes he still hasn’t surfed in Thailand or hiked in Nepal. And there’s still so much poon to slay! He figures he’ll still have it going on in his 40s, he should enjoy life while he’s still young!

In contrast, Mr. Relationship experiences these same desires very differently.

Even though Mr. Relationship might miss and even grieve his single life, he understands without a doubt that his perfect woman makes his life much better than it was before. 

Mr. Relationship loves sexual variety, adventure and excitement as much as Mr. Bachelor does, but Mr. Relationship associates these aspects of life with being in a relationship. To Mr. Relationship, having a steady girlfriend, fiancée or wife means having fantastic sex, since having a committed partner means having regular sex with someone who knows his every quirk and turn-on.

He views the woman in his life as someone with whom he can share amazing adventures and experiences. With her, he experiences companionship and the joy of going through life with someone who understands him at the deepest level. To him, relationships are the ultimate pleasure…the single life equals boredom, loneliness, and awkward ONSs with the occasional girl who doesn’t really know what turns him on sexually.

Hussey describes how two men with the same history will reflect very differently on their single days. Mr. Bachelor remembers the poker parties, the occasional unexpected ONS with a stranger, the freedom of not having to explain himself to anyone. Mr. Relationship recalls the endless weekends of boredom when there were no chicks around, the bad sex followed by the unpleasant morning discovery of a hungover stranger in the bed. He likes having girl stuff around the apartment. 

Mr. Bachelor and Mr. Relationship both have the same needs: sexual satisfaction, adventure, excitement. It’s not as if Mr. Bachelor needs more sexual partners or Mr. Relationship needs more intimacy and connection. It’s not that one guy needs a more adventurous lifestyle while another craves a more domestic lifestyle. The only difference between Mr. Bachelor and Mr. Relationship is the emotions they associate with commitment.

Let’s discuss. Here are some questions to start us off:

1. Do all men have the same “needs?” We tend to describe men as universally horny and preoccupied with sex most of the time. Does Mr. Bachelor actually want or need sex more than Mr. Relationship does? Does Mr. Relationship want or need connection more?

2. The data clearly shows that single men have sex less frequently than married men. Does Mr. Bachelor forfeit frequency for novelty while Mr. Relationship forfeits novelty for frequency?

3. Can these needs be met in different ways? Hussey suggests variety can occur both within and outside relationships.

4. How do emotions play a role? Do these divergent outlooks correspond with pessimism and optimism? Or cynicism and hope? 

5. Is Mr. Bachelor a good bet for marriage when he reaches his 40s? Or can no woman hope to hold his attention and suppress his “wanderlust?”

6. Should women who want to marry ever date Mr. Bachelor? If so, why? If not, why not?

7. Is there an analogous divergence of women? Ms. Bachelorette vs. Ms. Relationship? Or Ms. Career vs. Ms. Family? If so, how do these different types of women recall their single days?

Talk to me in the Comments!

The One and Only Way to Avoid Being F*cked Over

Hi Susan,

I really find your forum very helpful, and I think I already know the answer to my question, but I am going to ask anyway. I have been dating this guy for four months. We met online but he is amazing. We both live in Brooklyn and he owns his own custom made bike shop…so ummm he is successful, very good looking, and handy.

Recently there has been less contact, so I asked if he still wanted to hang out – he said yes. Then last week I texted him telling him I had a bad day, no response. We hung out two nights ago. The sex was amazing and then the next morning I asked him what was going on. He said that he can not have a relationship right now.  He said that he does not have the mental space and thats why he did not respond when I was having a bad day. He is not ready but would still like to hang out with me, but understands if I can’t.  

So he basically just wants sex and no emotion? I like him sooo much I truly do. Is there anything I can do to change his mind about me? This also happens every time I am falling for a guy…every time…they just want sex. I feel really hurt right now. I wish he would have told me this on like our second date.


Hi Alexis,

You do know the answer to my question. You need to move on. To be clear, by moving on I mean stopping all contact – go cold turkey. Let’s take an honest look at the pros and cons of your ending this relationship immediately. (Yes, you and he have a relationship. He may be avoiding a Relationship, but you are two people relating to one another consistently, there is something between you that will either continue or end.)

Reasons You Should Remove This Man From Your Life:

1. He has told you point blank he does not want to be your boyfriend.

Always believe a man when he tells you what he wants and doesn’t want. He hid behind euphemisms like “cannot have” and “not ready,” but these are just dodgy ways of saying he is not interested in commitment. I’m sure you remember He’s Just Not That Into You, and the claim that when a man says he doesn’t want a relationship, it means he doesn’t want one with you. Here’s another guy’s take on this:

Not right now

Not Right Now…

“Oh, I thought you meant RIGHT NOW. You should’ve checked back with me the next day.”

That said, there is no question that some guys are not the committing kind. He may be saying “not right now” when he’s really the “no way I’ll ever commit to a woman” type. Either way, it’s not happening.

2. He is not even a good friend. 

When you needed a friend during a tough time, he did not even respond. His excuse that he doesn’t have “the mental space” is another douchebag euphemism. It’s entirely selfish. The truth is, you can text your boyfriend that you’re having a rough day, and you can text a real friend that you’re having a bad day. He’s letting you know he is neither of those things.

He’s just someone you hang out with (if by hang out you mean have sex).

3. He lacks empathy.

He now knows you are emotionally invested, and that you are undoubtedly hurt by his lack of interest in commitment. If he had any capacity for empathy, he would cut you loose now that he knows you are suffering. Instead, he suggests continuing to hang out, then once again offers faux sensitivity by saying he’ll understand if you can’t. He’s leaving open the possibility that you will continue to have sex with him in hopes of changing his mind – a smart but selfish call on his part, seeing as how you are considering that very course of action.

If I’m wrong, and he feels confused but likes you a lot, he may miss you and change his mind after you disappear from his life. But I doubt it. I don’t think this guy is relationship material. You said it yourself – he wants sex with no emotion. 

Reasons You Should Keep Seeing This Man:


How to Get a Different Result Next Time:

Filter, filter, filter. 

There is only one way to avoid suffering this same disappointment repeatedly. One way. Here it is: 

You must delay sex until you are clear on what he wants. 

As your letter makes clear, you are distraught and hurt by this experience, and it’s one you’ve had several times before. Every one of these experiences changes you – they change all of us. You are changing the way you see men, yourself, and the hope of finding love in your life. Even if he agreed to be official, you’re not going to find love with a reluctant boyfriend. 

You must filter out any and all men who “aren’t ready” and “don’t have the mental space.” You must make room for a man who is ready, and who chooses to make space for another person in his life.  

This doesn’t mean settling. Time and again I’ve seen women find an attractive man who wants to be in a relationship once they started aggressively filtering out the players and commitment avoiders. There are fewer of these guys, which is why you can’t afford to waste time with dead end prospects. You need to be single and available for a man who is open to commitment.

The responsibility for asking the tough questions is yours. Of course he wouldn’t tell you on the second date that he wants no-strings sex. That’s your department. Plenty of guys will bend the truth when asked, even that is not risk-free. But if you don’t do the due diligence, you’ve assumed all the risk. 

I know those conversations are incredibly awkward. A reader recently shared how his wife had approached the issue of exclusivity, which is at least a precursor to an official relationship. Check it out here: Defining the Relationship, the Easy Way.

You will get better results when you begin doing things differently. 

Good luck,




Tough Talk about Sexual Market Value

market-value-vs-price-home-value2In response to yesterday’s Keep Trying post, reader Mary H asks:

On the one hand, posts like this suggest that you should always keep reaching, always keep trying to get someone better. On the other hand, books like Lori Gottlieb’s “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” suggest that reaching too much is problematic. So how should a girl go about reconciling being discerning in who she chooses to be her boyfriend with being realistic? How should she navigate the two ends of the spectrum, one of which is being too picky and the other of which is being too desperate?

My intention in writing the post was not to suggest women should succumb to Hypergamy Insanity, but to communicate that rejection and failure are inevitable in mating. If we respond to it by shutting down, we get stuck and our dating lives grind to a halt. That’s a waste of time, but there’s also the enormous opportunity cost – a guy who would be great for you is out there looking!

However, Mary H does raise an important question. What if your failures are a result of your aiming too high, as was the case with Ms. Gottlieb? Yesterday, I suggested in a comment thread that if a woman is getting zero attention from men she likes, there are two possibilities:

1. She needs to up her Game.

2. She needs to lower her standards. 

In both cases, her goal should be to find a man of the same level of attractiveness. We frequently use the term SMV, or sexual market value, when discussing this issue, but the concept has limited value when discussing relationships because it just means “how hot you are.” A more robust concept is MMV, marital market value. This comprises your value to a potential mate based on all the traits you bring to a committed relationship, included your physical assets.

In this era of casual sex, or hookup culture, more focus is given to SMV, but even here the concept falls short. Actual SMV and Effective SMV may diverge. For example, a guy with an SMV of 9 will usually be willing to have sex with a girl whose SMV is 7 or higher. If he’s wearing beer goggles, who knows how low he can go! This girl essentially gets two free points for easy access to sex, bringing her effective SMV to 9, at least for that one night. Over time, this 7 begins to see herself as a genuine 9, despite the fact that no male of that value would ever consider dating her. We’ve all seen this in real life, and certainly on facebook. It’s a form of self-delusion. 

It works in the other direction as well. The female 9, unwilling to sell herself short with a ONS, wants the male 9 to be her boyfriend. Yet time and again, the male 9 chooses to hook up with the 7. Although the beautiful girl deserves her SMV rating of 9, in this market she pays a penalty for being choosy, reducing her SMV a couple of  points. She may elect to date a guy with an SMV of 7, who gets a bump for his interest in committing to her. This too is readily observed on any college campus. 

The most important thing you can do in dating is reach a valid assessment of your own SMV. Disregard all male attention you’ve received that indicates sexual interest. Include all male attention that constituted attraction plus a desire to spend non-sexual time with you. The average SMV of the males in the latter group is probably a good estimate of your own. (Keep in mind that if you’re in a sorority or spending a lot of time with douchey guys, you may have no guys in the latter group even if you are attractive – that’s a characteristic of that particular market niche in college. You can branch out or wait out the college years.)

Once you have a clear idea of where you reside on the spectrum, you have two choices, as mentioned above.

Up Your Girl Game

  1. Achieve and maintain physical fitness.
  2. Dress to flatter your body shape and use makeup to enhance your features.
  3. Aim for a vibe in your appearance that says “girlfriend” rather than hookup. 
  4. Cultivate a friendly demeanor and pleasant personality. 
  5. Recognize that guys will care about your sexual history, and behave accordingly.
  6. Indicate interest in a relationship to filter out cads and attract like-minded guys.

(Note: You may want to check out the Hooking Up Smart Girl Game Spring Challenge. Begin here.)

Once you have reached the point where you feel confident you look your best, get out there and see whether you get a different level or type of male appreciation. If you are still attracting men primarily for sex, you’re doing it wrong. 

If you are attracting men for relationships whom you do not find attractive, and you have done everything in your power to maximize your own MMV, then comes the unpleasant but necessary task of facing facts.

Lower Your Standards

I know, this does not sound like much fun, but you’re aiming too high. Somewhere, somehow, you got an inflated sense of your market value. This is not easy to fix, but it can be done. 

I’ve seen women effectively reset their attraction triggers and work harder to find the MMV in men, rather than focusing strictly on SMV. They were able to attract and form relationships with men who were a close match in terms of values, education, and physical attractiveness. Other women, like Ms. Gottlieb, were not able to make this adjustment, or made it too late, when they were forced to compete with younger, wiser women. These are the women who get to 40 and wonder why they never met “the one.” They provide their own answer – they used a funnel so narrow to filter guys that only one could make it through, and he didn’t work out. 

In the end, people do marry others with similar MMV. Don’t price yourself out of the market, or you’ll wind up remaindered. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but there it is. 

The silver lining is that if you work hard to increase your MMV, you may be able to punch above your SMV weight, which is what I managed to do regularly before I was married. For that reason, I’d recommend putting all your energy into Girl Game first, and compromise later if necessary.  


How to Meet Guys After College

couple at coffee house“What good is sitting alone in your room?

Come hear the music play.

Life is a Cabaret, old chum,

Come to the Cabaret.”


Fred Ebb, Cabaret


“Eighty percent of success is showing up.”


Woody Allen


A reader writes:

I’m 25 and sad to report that these issues seem to persist well after college.

I would love to see more posts that address how tough it is to meet guys period. I think the “few and far between” mentality is a huge contributing factor to giving into hooking up early and staying with guys who are assholes.

One of the cruelest things about hookup culture is that it prevails during a time when you’re meeting more people of the opposite sex than you ever will again. (Nod to Susan Patton.) After college, whether you move to a small town or large city, it becomes more difficult to meet new people. In the past I’ve provided suggestions on where to meet the love of your life. You could meet him anywhere – the train station, the beach, at a friend’s home, through your Aunt Millie.

The truth is, a list of venues or possibilities doesn’t really help you much if you haven’t got the right mindset. On the other hand, if you do have the right mindset, the venues don’t matter much. 

When my daughter was first learning to play soccer, her coach was working on teaching the kids basic ball skills, and I’ll never forget how he began. He said, “For now, just try to touch the ball with your foot.  That’s all. Don’t kick it, don’t pass it, don’t run with it. Just see how many touches you can get during this practice.” At least half the battle was getting the kids comfortable with approaching and touching the ball. Showing up. Once they had that down, they could begin to work on foot skills and various plays. 

 Finding a life partner is like that. You have to touch a lot of balls.  To have one good conversation, you may need to have 100 casual conversations that don’t go anywhere. You need to network for dating the exact same way you might network professionally. Lots of coffee dates, informational “interviews,” making connections with friends of friends and most importantly, letting everyone know you’re looking.

Women are often reticent about letting people know they’d like a relationship. It seems pathetic to say “Waaaah, waaaah, I want a boyfriend.” That is pathetic, so that’s not what you’ll say. As you get to know people, they’ll ask if you have a boyfriend (they always do). You’ll say, “No, but now that I’ve settled into my life here, I’d love to meet someone.” Keep it positive and others will begin thinking of you as someone they can introduce around when the opportunity arises. You only appear desperate and pathetic if you act that way. By the way, don’t aggressively ask every woman you get friendly with, “Hey, know any cute single guys you can set me up with?” Make it clear you’re open to meeting new people, and then focus on being a quality friend. If and when there’s a potential match, they’ll think of it on their own.

Here are the four most common ways people meet their spouses after college, along with some suggestions on how to get things moving:


Office romances frequently end in marriage. Approximately 20% of married couples meet at work. Forty percent of people say they have dated a coworker at least once, and of those relationships, 30% end in marriage.

Use common sense. Don’t shag the boss.

Don’t overlook the possibility of networking in the office for social opportunities. One young woman I know met her boyfriend when one of the firm’s partners invited her to lunch with his son. 

The woman in the cube next to you may have a cute brother, or a boyfriend who knows some good guys. 

Online Dating

It accounts for about 20% of American marriages, so ignore it at your peril. Yes, online dating is time consuming, and there’s no built in quality control. Start by presenting yourself as a woman who is looking to give or share, not take. Women often appear mercenary, bratty and entitled in online profiles. By taking the opposite approach, you’ll stand out from the crowd. 

The key to managing online dating is filtering. Filter out any guy who checks the “short-term”  box, even if he also checks the long-term relationship box. You want to focus on guys who are up front about not looking for casual. Filter in any guy who seems interesting or funny, regardless of how lame or goofy or meh his picture looks. Any guy who makes you laugh deserves a coffee date. 

Friends and Family

This is huge. As I mentioned above, let people know you’re available for a relationship. I know of at least two couples where, once the woman did this, a guy she knew and found attractive stepped forward and said, “How about me?” You have no idea what possibilities are out there! 

Accept all invitations. BBQs, your cousin’s graduation party, your 5th high school reunion at the bowling alley. The lame party your friend is throwing may have one interesting new guy there. 

Go on blind dates. Yes, you’ll meet some duds, but once you let people know you’re looking, it’s only polite to gracefully accept any potential date they line up for you. I know one young woman who went out with a guy who works for the husband of a coworker. She was very disappointed, but did not let it show. She was gracious, and a couple of months later, the same colleague set her up again, this time with someone she found very attractive.

Host gatherings. Invite friends to bring friends. Do it not just for yourself, but for other singles you know. They’ll reciprocate, and that gets the ball rolling. 

Random Encounters

The odds of meeting your future husband in line at Starbucks or in a crosswalk may be slim, but this is the fourth most common way people meet their spouses. You don’t need to be on the prowl every time you drop off your dry cleaning. By assuming a friendly demeanor, exchanging pleasantries and making eye contact with people, you create a connection. Sometimes you wind up getting to know a fellow regular somewhere. 

Don’t just focus on guys. Practice random acts of kindness in general – you’ll be surprised how good that feels regardless of the romantic prospect. 

You’re in your 20s, it’s time to focus on the traits that make a good dad. Keep an open mind. Be kind. 

In closing, I’ll share a list of where 20-something women I know met their serious boyfriends. It’s strictly anecdotal, but perhaps also fairly typical:

College: 1

Gym: 1

BFF’s brother: 1

Work: 3

Friends of friends: 5

Online dating: 2

Introduced by rabbi: 1

Blind date via coworkers: 1

For these 15 relationships, all of which may lead to marriage (3 are engaged), there were undoubtedly hundreds of false starts, dates with no chemistry, and disappointed hopes. 

You can’t just sit home in your room, you’ve got to work it. 

If you’ve got a good story about how you met your boyfriend or girlfriend, share it in the comments, we’d love to hear it!