cheap sex? on my terms

Slate recently published an article called Sex is Cheap:  Why young men have the upper hand in bed, even when they’re failing in life. The article, written by a man, is based on research and data from around the world.

My colleague and 20-Nothings author, Jessie Rosen, followed up with her astute commentary here.

And still I think it’s worth exploring whether the equation changes as we get older, specifically for single women approaching or into their forties. First, let’s acknowledge that, by this time in life, some things have changed for women:

  • Our libidos are more active. While men are alleged to peak in sex drive at 19, women’s libidos allegedly peak at 30. I say allegedly, because most women I know would argue that we’re even more libidinous at 40. (And because I’ve experienced 50-year-olds with as much energy as any 19-year-old.)
  • For many of us, sex is no longer about our biological clock and securing commitment, DNA and a provider for our children. Many of us have already met that need, more or less.
  • We’re more confident — this means being more comfortable in our bodies, more assertive about getting our needs met, more able to be direct and more able to walk away (after all, by this time in life, we’re likely to have acquired more toys — a.k.a. The Elite Sophisticate, Doc Johnson or simply BOB, for Battery-Operated Boyfriend).
  • We’ve gained a lot more relationship experience, whether we’ve been married and divorced or not.

So…is sex still cheap? A quick look at the dynamics on online dating sites or in any bar will assure you that, yes, sex is still cheap . Men, it seems, are able to find willing partners whatever their station in life. As are women.

But, based on my own experience and some anecdotal evidence from my contemporaries, the balance of power has undergone a nuanced shift:  the women I know who are serious about seeking a mate date multiple men — and they wait to sleep with any of the serious contenders. They’ve learned a thing or two about how to develop a relationship and they know that sex can complicate their emotions when they’re exploring whether someone is right for them. Instead, they enjoy steamy liaisons with a hot guy who they’ve already concluded is Mr. Wrong.

By forty, most single women can walk into a bar, pick up a man, take him home, sleep with him and forget it. And they can communicate to men they really care about that they’re looking for commitment and not willing to get sexually involved without it. They know how to respect themselves and, thus, demand respect from a man. (And if you’re a single woman and this doesn’t resonate with you, you’ve at least got to admit to having learned enough to know what you’re getting in to.)

The implication for men at this juncture in life is that, especially if they are finally looking for a life mate, the tables may have turned. If a woman sleeps with a man right away, it could very well be a relationship death knell. It may mean she’s already ruled him out.

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