Rosie Green: ‘The sex debate: how long should I wait?’

Frank revelations from our unmissable sex columnist, Rosie Green (@lifesrosie)

How long should you leave it before you sleep with someone? Asking for a friend…*

Google has been asked this 1,740,000,000 times, so it’s obviously a pressing question for the population at large. Is there a set time that should pass, or requisite amount of dates to go on before you should get your kit off and your groove on? And does this change when you evolve from a 20-something to a midlifer?

Portrait: Louise Samuelsen

Does the fact you have a mortgage and custody of an obese guinea pig (*OK, it’s me) equate to a new casualness about coitus? Does age make you more pragmatic and less likely to fall hard for someone in the manner of a lovestruck cartoon character?

In my burgeoning relationship, I was recently faced with the debate about when would be the optimal time to have sex. Which also made me question whether it should even be a calculated decision – or should it happen spontaneously?

Early on in my post-divorce dating odyssey, my friend Nikki gave me a book called It’s Just A Date! written by the same people who wrote He’s Just Not That Into You. And, as someone new to the scene, I clung to every word.

That book says ten dates. No ifs or buts. Ten. I like the fact the authors are calling it with a concrete number, rather than the wishy-washy ‘it’s when you feel ready’. Their reasoning? Well, they say if you have sex too soon with someone you really like, there’s a chance you could mess up the future of the relationship – it’s better to savour the deliciousness of anticipation.

A date once told me that sex too early messed with his mind – leaving him wondering if he actually wanted sex with that person or if he just, in fact, wanted sex.

The book also says that ‘women are the gatekeepers to sex’ and suggests you ‘keep them locked for a bit’. This way you can work out if you are on the same page. Or, indeed, if you’re even reading the same book. With this new man, my friend Tara, the queen of delayed gratification, messaged me saying ‘keep your iron pants on before date three’. To appease her, and so I wasn’t tempted, I wore some exceedingly unflattering underwear which, even after judgment-compromising amounts of alcohol, I would never, could never, expose to anyone – let alone to someone I liked.

On that date I shared the ten-date rule I was adhering to, and he was of the opinion (which I think most men are) that three dates was more appropriate. I volleyed back that by three dates you couldn’t have sussed someone out properly. At which point there may have been some blaspheming and an expression of incredulity. Even my argument about ‘deliciousness of anticipation’ was summarily dismissed.  Suddenly, my diary was filling up with a ‘quick coffee’ date for date #5, and multi-activity dates (do drinks, dinner and a walk qualify as #6, #7, #8?). There was a comment about ‘never grafting so hard’.

If post-marriage dating has taught me anything, it’s that two people can see things totally differently. Because in my brain, waiting equals liking someone enough not to want to mess it up, whereas in some brains, waiting can mean ‘he/she is not that into me’.

Hmm. I can see the validity of the argument that if you start investing in the relationship, then it turns out you are sexually incompatible, you’ve wasted a lot of time, money and, in my case, blow-dries. I can also understand that sex brings you closer. So maybe Tara is wrong?

Anyway, isn’t it old-fashioned to assume women always decide when it first happens? Some friends of mine, a couple, are still debating who made the first move. He thinks he organised it with his ‘never fails’ bag-drop technique. They lived in different cities, he was going out with friends in her neighbourhood and asked if he could leave his bag at her place – his cunning ruse to return in the evening and… well. She says she saw through his plan but had already decided to ‘unlock the gates’.

And me? #8