Millennials coming of age experience in the United States has been uniquely influenced by their access to the free, unlimited sexual content widely available on the internet. This access has served not only as a resource for their sexual curiosity and consumption, but as a primary resource for easily connecting to people who share their sexual preferences on the dating sites of the moment. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University analyzed data from a survey of more than 33,000 adults in the U.S. to measure the country’s shifting sexual landscape. The data revealed that Millennials were the most likely generation to acknowledge having casual sex; 45 percent of them said they had slept with someone other than a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse during their late teens or 20s. Overall, adult acceptance of premarital sex increased from 42 percent in 2000 to 58 percent in 2012, an all-time high. “Americans are spending more of their lifetime unmarried, so they have more opportunities to engage in sex with more partners, and less reason to disapprove of non-marital sex” reports Twenge. She opines that increasingly permissive attitudes toward sex are a sign of the rise of individualism in America. She explains “when a culture places more emphasis on the needs of the self and less on social rules, more relaxed attitudes toward sexuality are the almost inevitable result.”
More and more young adults are supporting the current trend in sexual decision-making, where commitment and emotional connection are seen as unnecessary precursors to first time sexual encounters with others. In theory, this allows people to get their sexual needs met, while minimizing the emotional risks and responsibilities associated with interpersonal intimacy. In my practice as a coach in the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s relatively common practice for both men and women to report having sex with someone they’ve just met. Based on this first sexual encounter, they may choose not to see them again, may establish a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement, or opt to get to know them on a deeper, emotional level through dating if a romantic relationship is something they’re seeking. In most cases there’s a trial and error period, as people who are still very new to each other attempt to communicate their sexual preferences and get their needs met. Millennials’ prolific use of texting as a primary form of communication, habit of avoiding vulnerability, awkward interpersonal exchanges, and peer conflict can all contribute to frequent misunderstandings and rapid start/stops within their sexual encounters, regardless of what the end goal may be. In some cases, getting stuck in a pattern of ineffective/unsatisfying sexual encounters can lead to poor health functioning or an over-reliance on recreational substances.
As a health educator I help people build the necessary skills to find, establish and maintain healthy sexual relationships. This article aims to provide some practical guidelines for optimizing the outcomes of your casual sex encounters while dating, and insightful tips for decoding the opposite sex along the way.
Men seeking sexual encounters with women:
- Adopt an early communication style that encourages a positive response from women. What does that mean? Skip the crude humor in online and text exchanges- chances are, you’re likely only entertaining yourself (or infamously landing yourself in one those Buzzfeed Tinder Fail lists) and that’s not the point is it? Humor is fine, and can be a good initial approach online, but seriously, a little goes a long way. Increase your odds of getting a genuine response from women by taking yourself out of the dregs of online dating wasteland- try telling an original, funny story about yourself, relate to something personal on a woman’s profile, or at minimum, send a quick hello with your array of pics to see if what you have going on is of interest to her. Have a friend (preferably female) screen your online pics. It may seem trivial, but poorly chosen pics can make or break your online dating success.
- Once you’re corresponding consistently with someone, be proactive and suggest a specific plan to get together. While this seems like a no-brainer, a lot of guys fail to get the ball rolling while they have a woman’s attention. Comedian Aziz Ansari conducted focus groups with hundreds of people for his new book Modern Romance, getting intimate details on why people have problems with dating. He shares “The lack of clarity over whether the meet-up is even an actual date frustrates both sexes to no end, but since it’s usually the guys initiating, this is a clear area where men can step it up.” So guys, to optimize your chances of establishing a sexual encounter, strike while the iron is hot. While you’re keeping someone around as a text buddy, someone else is closing the deal as her new sex partner by making specific plans. It might be entertaining and easy to have an assortment of women to text and exchange photos with, but these women will eventually fade you out of the picture for someone they know in real life.
- Be sincere and honest about what your ideal arrangement is right now. Just because you’re wanting to keep things casual doesn’t mean you’re decreasing your chances for sexual opportunities with women. There are plenty of women who are open to keeping things casual too! Plenty. It doesn’t make sense to allude to wanting a more committed relationship if you actually don’t- doing so only increases the odds of introducing drama I’m sure you’d rather avoid. Women can absolutely relate to wanting to experience an array of people before settling into a committed relationship, and understand you may be in a stage of your life where you’re prioritizing other life goals above romantic relationships. In short, aim for integrity when you engage with someone in pursuit of sex. Establishing this mutual understanding up front will create a space where both of you can focus on what you’re actually there for- sexual pleasure.
- Real talk: If you aren’t asking what you can do to help a woman achieve orgasm and/or paying close attention to figuring out what she enjoys (and spending more than a little time doing this) it’s safe to guess you’re coming up short in bed. Which of course, is your choice. Just consider that when a woman finally does come along that you actually care about pleasing (even if it’s years and countless women from now), you likely still won’t have much of a clue about how to get her off (especially if you’re a fan of male produced porn). There’s a good chance you’ll pale in comparison to other guys she’s been with, which is not a good look if you want to become that person’s significant other/favorite sexual partner. If that’s not enough motivation, consider this: when a woman reaches full sexual attraction to a sex partner she is going to be much more agreeable and feel more confident about trying new things for the sake of her partner’s pleasure. That sexual fantasy you’ve had since the 8th grade? That could go down if you play your cards right. #Thankmelater
Women seeking sexual encounters with men:
Speak Up Clearly and Consistently To Avoid Confusion. Taking a meek approach in communicating your sexual preferences is going to seriously set back your sexual pleasure (and possibly compromise your sexual safety). Remind yourself: Men cannot read your mind (and your subtle non-verbals can go unnoticed) because men and women are culturally socialized to communicate in different styles. Be direct with your words and your actions about what you like and what you don’t like. Think about it: when men engage sexually, most do a pretty good job of getting their sexual needs met. Porn and sex in movies perpetuate the myth that men do exactly what women love during sex (and women are supposed love it, regardless of how ridiculous it is!)
Set The Pace: Literally and Figuratively. Figuring out a sexual pace that feels good between two people comes from familiarity and predictability, neither of which have been established when you’ve only recently met someone. So in addition to communicating openly, take the time to find a pace that works for both of you. Try not to approach sex like it’s fast food eaten at 2 am after staying out all night- which is usually on a whim, followed by almost instant regret. Take your time and do it right– these SOS Band song lyrics were a hit for a reason!
STOP FAKING IT IN BED. Really. Pretending that you enjoy things during sex that you don’t is synonymous with digging your own sexual grave. Take one for the team, and stop sending guys the wrong message that what they are doing sexually is awesome when you know that it’s not. Funny but true story: A 25 year-old attractive Asian woman I’m coaching tells me “So I met this guy randomly, and after we talked and hung out for a while, we eventually decide to go back to his place where we end up having sex. Right away he starts fingering me with way too much force, to the point where it’s actually hurting me and I’m going numb from it! So I stop him and say ‘hey when you touch me like that it hurts’ and he looks at me and says a little defensively “ok well… some women like it like that.” She deadpans, “Christina I had to break it to him… “Um NO. NO ONE likes it like that!” We both had a good laugh at her candor in the moment. I could not have been more proud of her for speaking up for herself!
Stop filtering and dismissing guys so quickly- be optimistic about seeing if you can develop good sexual chemistry with guys who don’t fit your bill. These days, you can swipe right to meet guys using more filters than your favorite photo editing app offers- you can specify height, body type, education level, location, age, etc. One of the most common complaints I get from women is that they rarely feel attracted enough to guys to even see them a first or second time. But who you think will be attracted to sexually may not be a good match in real life. Scientists working with Match.com found that we are horrible at knowing what we want; the kind of partner people said they wanted often didn’t match up with what they were actually interested in long term. What works well for predicting good first dates doesn’t tell us much about the long-term success of a couple let alone their sexual chemistry. Social psychologist and researcher Robert B. Zajonc explains, “while we are initially attracted to people by their physical appearance and traits we can quickly recognize, the things that make us more attracted to someone are their deeper, more personal qualities, which come out only during sustained interactions” – the “mere exposure effect” is repeated exposure to a stimulus which tends to enhance one’s feelings toward it.
This last point applies to anyone and everyone seeking sexual or romantic connections of any and all kinds:
Do Not Let FOMO Take Over. You’ve read about, you’ve experienced it, you’re sick of hearing about how Millennials are responsible for amplifying this toxic trend in a digital era. That said, I’ve seen far too many people spend endless amounts of time spinning their wheels, agonizing over not meeting/dating enough people they find interest in. A billion and one first dates later, still…nothing. Begin to rethink what this could mean…maybe this isn’t the strategy that is going unearth the person who gets you excited and holds your attention. Switch it up, peel your eyes away from your phone, pull your earbuds out and take a look around you. Make eye contact and smile, maybe even say hi to the person next to you- this could be your first moment together of many better ones to come.