What does “we had sex too soon” even mean?

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I get asked a lot about sex, and more specifically, how sex plays into dating. All too often, the questions aren’t about sexual agency, or getting what you want in bed, it’s about how sex changes the dating dynamic. If you have sex by the third date, will that change things? Will they stick around if you make them wait 3 months to sleep with you? Most often, it’s a question of whether or not having sex by a specific time is “too soon”? My answer, is always subjective, so instead of retreading the fact that too soon is relative to who you sleep with and their attitudes around sex, let’s talk about what it really means when people say “we had sex too soon”.

As always, here’s a standard disclaimer. This list cannot be, nor shall any list about human behaviors ever be, comprehensive. We’re all as unique as our fingerprints, so I’m generalizing in a big way. With that out of the way…

If you’re dating someone, whether it’s a date, a few dates, or whatever else, and they tell you that they think you had sex too soon, they could be telling you that they’ve lost respect for you. What I’ve found to be the most common motive behind saying that you rushed into sex is that in some way, the person thinks that your sexual agency degrades you in some way. Some how, making a conscious decision to sleep with someone makes you less attractive, less respectable, and definitely not relationship material. Some people do it consciously, some people do it unconsciously, but I’ve seen it and it’s (sadly) incredibly common.

On the flip side, the same conscious and unconscious motivations happen on the other end too. I’ve met and slept with women who said that we slept together too soon, and quite a few have said that rushing into sex made them feel bad on some level. Some women felt they let themselves down, or that it somehow ran counter to who they were as a person to have sex on the first, second, third, or fourth date. I think that on some level, whether it’s an active thought or a passive one, odds are good that if you lose respect for someone because of how quickly they’ve slept with you, it’s partially because you’ve also lost respect for yourself.

I want to pause here and say, I disagree with this sentiment whole-heartedly. There is nothing inherently degrading about two adults consenting to sex, and being smart about that choice, whether it’s using barriers, having an open communication about wants, needs, and desires, safewords, and so on. I really wish people would stop tying so much of their identity and self-image into what they do in bed. I also find it interesting what the mentality behind “they had sex with me, thus they are degraded” implies. Does it mean that deep down, this person thinks that sex with them is inherently degrading because they don’t value themselves? Do they think that they’re inherently “unclean” so to have sex with them makes you “unclean” in some way? We’ll never know for sure, but every time some bro tells me “she had sex with me after the first date, so she’s not girlfriend material” all I can think is that maybe, just maybe, said bro has such low self-esteem that he can’t see how anyone worth dating would want to sleep with him.

Honestly, besides the whole respect/self-respect thing, I think that a lot of the time when someone says that you had sex too soon, they’re just using that as an easy out. Some breakup terms are such a part of the common lexicon that by saying them, you don’t have to explain yourself because of what the term implies. It’s not you, it’s me, I don’t see things going anywhere, I think we’d be better as friends, etc., ad nauseam. I think “We had sex too soon” is one of those phrases where if you say it, it won’t be questioned too much, and because of that, can be used as an easy out. Maybe they never had any real intentions of seeing where things went, and now that they’ve gotten what they wanted, they can move on by repeating a common breakup phrase.

I also think some people have a very rigid idea of progression in dating, and if you circumvent that in some way, in their minds you can no longer build a real relationship. These are the sort of people who date with specific timelines for progression in mind, the ones who think “you should be friends first, otherwise your relationship will FAIL”, the type of people who think that having sex first will wholly disqualify you from ever building a deeper connection, because relationships need to be built on some deeper connection first. I disagree with this sentiment, I think that relationships can start one way, and then you can go back and build a connection in more substantial ways, but I get the motive behind the idea, even if I disagree with it. Some people like to progress in dating in a prescribed, linear way: First date, go on subsequent dates until date quota for sex is met, THEN have sex. Personally, I like to wing it with each person I date, but that’s because uncertainty in dating doesn’t bother me. People who like to follow rigid dating timelines tend to get a bit flummoxed by uncertainty, so when they say “we had sex too soon” what they’re usually saying is “I don’t know how to deal with a change to my ideal dating timeline”.

Oh and one final reason, and I hate to say it, but it’s entirely possible that they didn’t lose respect for you, or themselves, they did intend on dating you, and are wholly flexible in their ideal dating progression timeline, but the sex was just not good. I’ll freely admit that for me, sex plays a huge part in dating and relationships and if I have sex with someone, and the sex is bad, I’ll start to consider whether or not I want to continue dating them. Consider, not drop immediately because the first time is usually the worst time. Of course, I wouldn’t end things by saying “we had sex too soon” because I try to avoid shaming people, but I will admit that I’ve stopped dating at least one person (that I’ll admit to) because of how bad the sex was.

Of course, I could be wrong, and I could be missing a lot. Phrases have different meanings for different people, I just tend to think that “we had sex too soon” only really means a few things when you get right down to it. It usually comes down to a loss of respect (which usually ties in with a loss of attraction), they’re not being interested in building a relationship with you to begin with and now they’re using an easy out, an inflexibility in dating progression, or probably the rarest, the sex was suboptimal. Again, I could be wrong, humans are complex, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time someone tells you “we had sex too soon” they mean one of those things.

Good Luck Out There.

5 Replies to “What does “we had sex too soon” even mean?”

    1. Thanks for the comment Violet!
      While I think that waiting until the 5th or 6th date is a good idea for you, and many people, I don’t know if that holds true for everyone. Personally, I would probably not make it to date #5 if there was no sex by then, and I say that as someone who is specifically looking for a relationship. I think everyone should figure out what too soon means for them (in my case, it’s not a number of dates, it’s a question of chemistry) and see where things go. If 5-6 dates works for you (and lots of people), that’s fine, but I’m very reluctant to say ‘don’t have sex’ before then. Some people probably would find value in waiting until date #5 or #6 to have sex, but I’ve tried it in the past and it’s not for me.

  1. I’ve dated a good bit, I guess. Sometimes I have sex on the first date, sometimes I’ve waited a month. They all ended for reasons that had nothing to do with the sex.

  2. V.interesting question and a great answer.

    I think it also depends of age and experience to some extent. When I was younger I set artificial timelines and then never stuck to them for various reasons. Sometimes things worked and sometimes they didn’t. It’s strange.

    The tricky thing is aligning your desires with those of the other party. Sex does complicate things so it would be good it the two parties could be on the same page. Even if sex is important – there is a difference between someone who will leave after one failed attempt and someone who’ll stick around and try to make it work. So many factors as you say.

    I’d love to have your comments on my latest post as well :

    https://rinsebeforeuse.wordpress.com/2016/10/26/movie-review-spotlight-religion-and-paedophilia/

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