Ask Wendy

I Don’t Understand How Sex & Dating Works

Friday, August 24, 2018
woman at laptop
Hey Wendy,

I am new to dating, and in trying to figure out what I’m looking for. Not being able to enjoy experimenting and exploring sex and touch in a relationship is a deal breaker for me, and I would like to meet someone with a similar sexual appetite. And I’m also looking for a committed relationship.

The two biggest pieces of dating advice out there are to:

a) Not have sex and talk about sex too early
b) Don’t go for the guy you are strongly sexually attracted to

How do women dating today assess if a date is compatible sexually?

I appreciate your thoughts on this.

Shelley L ~ Albuquerque, NM

Hey Shelley,

Those two dating tips on heavy rotation are in place so you don’t lose your mind. When we entangle ourselves sexually with someone very quickly and it’s good? We do, in fact, lose our minds (temporarily, of course).

“Too early” is calling attention to the fact that you’re having sexual experiences with a stranger and you don’t know what you can count on them for yet. Too sexually attracted, and you just might override your own boundaries, best practices, and good judgment in the moment because the intensity is, well, intense. Just knowing this can help.

Where I think these “rules” go wrong, though, is the “can’t” and “not” stuff. Of course, you can date someone you’re sexually attracted to—that’s kind of the goal, right? And you can talk about and have sex as early or as late as you choose. You just need to make sure you, and not your reproduction-obsessed lizard brain, are in the driver’s seat when making these kinds of decisions.

You’ll discover whether you’re sexually compatible or not by having conversations and experimenting sexually. Sure, you can sort from the start by doing a little footwork within an online dating profile. Right there on your profile homepage, you could say, “I’m hoping to find a committed relationship where we enjoy experimenting and exploring sex and touch as a significant part of our connection together.” No problem with being blunt, here! Those who are less sexually motivated will pass, and those hoping for a similar connection might just ask you out. And if you use a site like, you can answer the sex questions to suss out compatibility. Ultimately, the best way to see if you’re compatible with someone is by learning about each other in each intimate moment spent together.

I recommend going the organic route and doing what’s right for you with the person you’re dating instead of following preset “rules”. Start exploring when you feel ready, and when it feels right with the person you’re seeing. Want to know what “ready” looks like?

You’re ready (enough) when…

  • You feel like you can get what you need from them.
  • You don’t mind feeling all girlfriend-y the next day when you’re freshly bonded from the flood of dopamine and oxytocin*.
  • You’ve had an adult conversation about STIs and what would happen if you got pregnant.
  • You’ve talked about and understand the accountabilities (large, small, or none at all) that you might have to each other after you have sex,

That’s what ready looks like.

But let’s be honest: most of us don’t wait. And if you have sex sooner than when you’re ready, do your best to walk it back to a place where you can at least communicate about it. Say, “Hey, whoops! I didn’t mean for us to go that far just yet. Can we go back to just kissing at the door at the end of a date until we know each other a little better?” Sometimes that can actually work!

Good luck on meeting someone compatible for you in all the important areas of your life.


*The bonding effects of oxytocin can linger in a woman’s system for up to three weeks, but they leave a man’s body in as short as 20 minutes. You’re bonded and twitterpated, and he’s over it and back to his life before he even makes it home from your date. Chemistry and biology are just mean.

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