The News Story – Five reasons that sex on a first date is a bad idea

One of the dilemmas Americans began to encounter when they decided that marriage wasn’t a necessary precursor to sex is that now, nobody can quite agree on when it is acceptable.

According to a new story at the Huffington Post, sex on a first date is a “bad idea.”  “Ask any woman,” writes blogger Jackie Pilossoph, “and she’ll tell you that the reason you shouldn’t have sex on a first date is that the guy won’t call you back because he’ll think you are easy and will have lost interest.”  In addition, she gives five other reasons why it’s best to “wait” to have sex.  Included on Pilossoph’s list are “it’s awkward” and “waiting is great foreplay” and the shocking “sex clouds judgment.”

Pilossoph is correct, of course.  Sex on a first date—or at any point other than the wedding night—is a bad idea, because it is sex that makes a marriage.  In addition, a host of studies that cover everything from the “cohabitation effect” and a range of other pre-marital sexual activity all demonstrate that couples who buy into the myth that sex before marriage is “natural” set themselves up for unhappiness.

The New Research – Early Sex Leads to Poor Relationship Quality

The popular media depicts couples as entering into sexual relationships very early on in the dating process, but is such behavior really typical? And how does it affect relationship quality? Attempting to answer such questions, researchers from Cornell and the University of Wisconsin discovered that among low- to middle-income subjects, the speed of entry into a sexual relationship was quite fast—many began having sex within a month of dating. But the researchers also discovered that this speed seems to be damaging to couples’ relationship satisfaction.

Sharon Sassler, Fenaba R. Addo, and Daniel T. Lichter speculate that becoming sexually involved in a relationship may not be healthy and may in fact entangle couples who are not a good “match” before they have had the opportunity to become adequately acquainted. The researchers gleaned their data from the Marital and Relationship Survey (MARS) of about 600 married and cohabiting couples. They used “tempo of sexual activity” (how quickly the couple became sexually involved), “union status” (married vs. cohabiting), and a number of control variables to measure relationship satisfaction, commitment to the relationship, intimacy/emotional support, sexual satisfaction, communication, and relationship conflict.

The results demonstrated that, depressingly, sexual activity began very early in most relationships: “ . . . transitions to sexual involvement took place within the first month for 36.5% of the men in our sample, and nearly one third of the women (32.9%). . . . The smallest proportion of men and women (about 28%) reported waiting more than 6 months before becoming sexually involved.” This early sexual activity does not bode well for such couples, however. The results “suggest that, at least for women, the postponement of sexual involvement is associated with higher levels of relationship quality.” (Also interesting is that “[m]en whose parents remained married throughout their childhood reported significantly higher levels of relationship satisfaction, intimacy, and sexual satisfaction than men whose parents had divorced or were never married.”)

The researchers outline four main results of their study. First, they write, couples enter very quickly into a sexual relationship. Second, “the speed of entry into sexual relationships is negatively associated with marital quality, but only among women.” Third, women seem to view sexual involvement—even very early on—as symbolic of a greater relationship commitment, and men do not seem to hold such a view. Lastly, “the relationship between relationship tempo and relationship quality is largely driven by entry into cohabitation.” Couples’ decisions to engage in early sexual activity seemed to correspond with later decisions to cohabit—sometimes very early on in the relationship. The researchers say that whether this pattern indicates “‘sliding rather than deciding’ to cohabit and greater risk of mismatched partners awaits further research.”

This study further validates what common sense already asserts: Sex, at a deeper level than most of us realize, means marriage. When a couple becomes sexually active, they commit themselves to each other in a whole new way — sometimes without knowing each other well enough to judge whether the relationship is a good idea in the first place.

(Source: Bryce J. Christensen and Nicole M. King, “New Research,” The Family in America, Spring 2013, Vol. 27 Number 2. Study: Sharon Sassler, Fenaba R. Addo, and Daniel T. Lichter, “The Tempo of Sexual Activity and Later Relationship Quality,”Journal of Marriage and Family 74 [August 2012]: 708-725.)

This article has been republished with permission from The Family in America, a publication of The Howard Center. The Howard Center is a MercatorNet partner site.

Nicole M. King is the Managing Editor of The Howard Center’s quarterly journal, The Family in America: A Journal of Public Policy, the United States’ leading journal of family-policy research....