Open Gently

Musings on the introspective life.

He Is Into You--Just Not Yet

Men sometimes put off sex because they like you--a lot.

Sometimes a man is more cautious than a woman about sex.

Yes, it could mean that he “just isn't that into you." 

However, caution may also be a sign of maturity and deep interest, a desire to know you, not simply your body. The good reasons for a man to hesitate include all those that historically have led women to wait--pregnancy, disease, fear of sabotaging the future, uncertainty about his feelings for you or yours for him.

I'm talking about college students as well as older men. In surveys on campuses, Andrew Smiler, a psychologist at SUNY Oswego, says he often hears men complain about drunken female students "throwing themselves all over me."  On Plentyoffish.com, the third most popular dating site in the U.S., men have posted threads on message forums asking: "Do women just want sex?”.

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 "My last three dates have ended up with the woman all over me," says a burly tattooed Harley-biker in his forties. "Guys are in a strange position here. When a woman initiates he can't say stop or he appears to be a wimp."

Mike, a pale 27 year-old, paints houses in New Hampshire. "Sometimes I think I have 'One Night Stand' written on my head," he says. "Women make sexual advances long before I do about 90% of the time, and if we're apprehensive at all, they think we have a problem." In response, a woman writes that she can't figure out why her man is taking so long.

The Male Caution movement has been a “a slow steady change over the past twenty years," reports Neil Chethik, who has been surveying American men since he began researching his 1999 book Father Loss. Our image of the high-testosterone hero is no more realistic than his rail-thin D-cup heroine.

Consider this: Once a man knows, or guesses, a woman has had many lovers, he assumes you’ll compare. And in the new bare-all world, you could be texting your verdict to your friends the next day.

The trouble is, you may have no idea that "performance problems" are normal.  Chethik reports that in his surveys "every man I've talked to has been in bed and not been able to perform." He may have no history of impotence. In fact, according to Chethik when a man "really cares about someone," he's more likely to have trouble.

On the dating scene—facing ridicule and rejection--a man may deal with the problem by putting it off.

If you're a romantic, the happy news is that many men are too. When Smiler asked male students, "How many people do you want to sleep with in your life?" the most frequent response was, “one.”  In another study study covering thirty-somethings, men and women were equally likely to say they weren't interested in promiscuous sex.         

Be patient, if you like him. He may be into you, after all.

Unless you're just in it for the sex.

Temma Ehrenfeld is a New York-based science writer, and former assistant editor at Newsweek.

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