Is casual sex an expecation of modern, post-divorce dating?


Your article in the 9/9 View stirred up some emotions and questions. As a middle-aged divorced woman seeking a mate to spend marital bliss with for the remainder of my life, I have been in the dating scene for a little while now. Maybe my expectations are too high. I am a professional woman, independent and make a great living. Internet dating results in taxicab drivers, construction workers and I know this sounds condescending but I want a professional with same goals as I have. So I joined "Its Just Lunch." And while I got [professionals], the five dates I have had so far did not end in a promise of a future relationship.

Here's my question: A lot of the internet profiles posted as well as initial conversation with guys I meet on "Its Just Lunch" make it very clear to me the guy's intention: a physical relationship. In today's dating world I am beginning to wonder if sex is more "expected" and if a guy knows it is not the most important thing in my mind, will the relationship continue?

Moral values do not seem to enter into the dating picture these days and I find adults often act the same way teenagers do: live for today and worry about tomorrow later. At this point I'm disillusioned. Some days I wonder if it is worth it. I do sometimes feel that if you have morals and don't believe in casual sex that you will end up on the sideline. What kind of responses did you receive to this column? G., Las Vegas

Let me speak to your last question first. I got tons of mail. All but one from women. Generally, women seemed to find in the 9/9 column encouragement, clarity, and a greater sense of their own power and freedom.

Next, I totally “get” why professionals would, on average, want to date professionals. It's not a condescension. I doubt, for example, that I would ultimately fall for a woman who does not have a significant formal education background. No matter what else worked, I think my interest would wander unless the woman in question could push me to think. You'll see this same dynamic in Hollywood, where stars tend to date and marry stars. Well, of course. They understand each other.

But, your driving question: Is sex "more expected" today? By men? By women?

You're on to something, but I would say it slightly differently. I would say that it is LESS common -- and therefore more surprising -- to meet someone who places strict moral rules around sexual interaction, for example, no sex until marriage, or until we're engaged, or until we have 20 dates, or until we can make a commitment to exclusivity, etc. In that sense, then, the expectation is, for most moderns, that significant dating relationships will include sex. The only variables are when and in what context.

But then, of course, we stumble over the word "significant." As opposed to casual. What constitutes "significant?" Do we have to be "in love?" Exclusive? Or do we include sex as part of how we explore whether we'd wish to be exclusive, or whether we could or have fallen in love.

Then there are those who amen themselves to casual dating and casual sex with no intention toward exclusivity or falling in love (let alone marriage). But those same people might say that, while they frolic in casual sex, they would be open to the lightning strike of falling in love, then choosing exclusivity, and possibly later a commitment with intention to permanence, perhaps marriage.
 
Now, what fascinates me in your letter is your own words. You do NOT say your consternation about sex is first a crisis of moral values. Instead, you say that "sex is not the most important thing in [your] mind." So, when men appear (how shall I say) out of sorts with you in the first few dates, I wonder if they are frustrated or intolerant of your MORAL position, or if, while they might be willing to put off sex, they are concerned that sex is not very important to you.

Which would be difficult if sex was very important to them.

I'm asking: Are you wanting to meet a man who will/would be willing to delay sex during the early days of courtship? To delay it until you are certain that you both are "in love?" Exclusive? To delay it until you are engaged or married? Those boundaries have to do with values.

Or ... are you wanting to meet a man who, like you, doesn't think sex is all that important? This would have less to do with values and more with a shared philosophy about the priority of sex in a love relationship.

It seems to me it would be important for you to know exactly what 'lines' you are drawing and why. Then you would be more prepared to make the necessary sacrifices that all boundaries and commitments to self entail.

You observe that adults live today more like teens, living for today with no thought to tomorrow. Once again, I think you've got something there. Teens tend to "live for today" because, in their normal narcissism, the struggle to take seriously their finitude. They don't really believe that consequences happen to them. And they find it impossible to really grasp the idea of living until age 88.

But when middle-aged adults "live for today," they tend to do so for one of two very different reasons. Either they are cynical and don't care any more about deep investments in the future, or (and this will surprise you) they have found a deep humility. Yep. It is humility that makes us realize the time to live well and happily is now. Right now. No time to waste.

Both cynicism and humility can then change courtship patterns. Most middle-aged adults don't need more than one or two dates to have a sense of the potential of a relationship. Most middle-aged adults don't think in terms of having 1 or 2 years to wait for that potential to develop. They know what they want. And drift away when they don't see it. Jump on it when they do.

You worry that, if you don't believe in casual sex, you will end up on the sideline. This is the very kind of metaphor I was trying to chase out of the woman whose question I answered in the column you cite. Sideline? G., you WON'T be on the sideline, because that's not a "field" on which you wish to play. You won't even be in the Casual Sex Stadium. Not even in the parking lot.

If you are foreswearing casual sex from a place of your own strength and integrity (as opposed to an ego defense, denial, and/or manipulation of men), then, while it will mean some times of aloneness, it will eventually lead you to the man you want to meet, want to date -- the man with whom you could fall in love and build a life.

So, Glenda, don't have casual sex. Claim in and for yourself what sex is, what it means, how it ranks in importance and why, and under what circumstances you would desire to seek it. To enjoy it. To participate.

Live with integrity, G. And let the chips fall.