DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I wanted to ask you for advice. I know this question was already answered, but I’m really having a hard time with dating boys who just want me for sex. Ever since I broke up with my ex a few years ago, I haven’t really been dating, and I’m a virgin.
I don’t want sex. How do I tell boys I don’t want sex and get the respect I deserve?
DEAR NOT INTERESTED: The answer to this is going to very much depend on an important — yet missing — clause. You say you don’t want sex. Is it the case that you don’t want sex yet? Or is it that you don’t want sex ever? That’s going to make a significant difference.
Now, in general, this is going to come down to using your words and establishing and maintaining strong boundaries. There’s been far, far too much ink spilled over “guys only want girls for sex” that treats this as a matter of “well if you do X correctly, then they’ll respect your wishes.” I’ve lost track of all the books, from The Rules to Think Like a Man, Act Like A Lady to whatever the hell it was Dr. Phil wrote up that treat this as some sort of magical spell that will change people’s minds… and the fact of the matter is that it won’t. A--holes are gonna ass, and no amount of “wait until X date to have sex” or “no sex before commitment” or any other arbitrary rule is going to change a dude looking for a low-effort lay into a committed boyfriend. As many a person has discovered, plenty of guys have hung around until they convinced their girlfriends to “finally” sleep with them and became profound a--holes afterwards because hey, that’s all they ever wanted. Unfortunately, people will say whatever it takes if they think it’ll get them laid; the only difference is how much work they’re willing to put into any one person.
This is why my philosophy to this isn’t “don’t try to change the a--hole into a boyfriend”, it’s “exclude the a--holes as early and as thoroughly as possible”. There are no words that will “make” someone respect you. Nobody, especially horny teens and twenty-somethings, have ever said “woah, I was just trying to get into your pants, but your ‘no sex before three months in’ changed my mind and now I want commitment”. It’s about chasing off the a--holes and finding the guys who are on the same page as you and who will respect your boundaries and wishes.
You don’t want sex; whether that’s for now or for good, that’s something that you should be up front about. The majority of folks who are looking for a relationship are looking for a relationship that includes sex; if sex isn’t on the table, then that’s something that they should know. This helps make sure that you’re dating the people who want the same things you are. Yes, it means that folks will peace out upon hearing this. That’s good. That’s how it should be. It doesn’t mean that they’re jerks, it just means that they weren’t right for you and you weren’t right for them. If they want a sexual relationship, then pursuing something with you is only going to waste their time and yours.
Now how you roll this out… well, that’s gonna vary, and a lot goes back to that missing clause; whether it’s a “yet” vs. an “ever”. My general thought on disclosing information, particularly stigmatizing or polarizing information, is that if it’s not immediately relevant, you can give it up to three dates. This gives someone the chance to get to know you for you, rather than whatever stereotype may exist in their head — whether that’s about someone who has genital herpes, ethically non-monogamous or who would want to wait for sex until marriage. Other folks disagree, but they’re also not writing this column.
However, the more relevant that information is, the sooner it should be brought up… and it should be brought up before it’s going to impact things. If it’s an issue surrounding sex — whether it’s STI status or not wanting to have sex until X time — then it needs to happen before sex is imminent and preferably before things go from kissing to “making out that’s going to potentially involve genitals in some way, shape or form.”
In this case, if the clause that’s missing from “I don’t want sex” is “ever”, then that’s information that should probably be included right from the jump. As I said, the majority of people you might date are going to want a sexual relationship. If that’s simply not on the table, ever, then that’s something they should know in advance so that they can make an informed decision. And you should be clear — bluntly so — that it is “not ever” if that’s the case; the last thing you want are folks who think that it might happen and getting increasingly frustrated when it doesn’t.
(Now, to be clear: asexuality is wide and varied and there’re some ace folks who do have sex because their partners like it and they like pleasing their partners. This is why I’m fairly firm that defining the relationship discussions should include talking about the frequency and type of sex you both want or don’t want. It helps make sure that everybody is on the same page.)
Regardless of whether it’s “yet” or “ever”, what you don’t do is roll out this information like you’re informing them of a curse on your bloodline or that this is some horrible flaw. You don’t want sex; that’s just a fact about you and not something to apologize for. You want to treat this information as something matter-of-fact and straight forward, not something you feel ashamed of. It’s relevant info about who you are, but it’s only one thing about you. How guys respond to this, however, will tell you everything you need to know about them. Guys who say “ah, ok, not what I’m looking for, best of luck to you?” These are good guys who just weren’t compatible with you. Guys who say “wait, what? Why the hell not? What about….?” or “Well, I bet I can change your mind” are guys to cut loose with a quickness; they’ve just displayed their a--holery like the tail of a particularly s--tty peacock.
Once you’ve established what you are and aren’t up for, you need to be willing to stick to it. You’ve laid down your boundaries surrounding sex, but having boundaries means that you have to enforce them as well. This means that you don’t want to tolerate guys who think that “never” means “wait and I’ll change my mind” and “yet” means “convince me”. Getting the respect you deserve means that you don’t put up with people who disrespect you. Guys who push at your boundaries and try to get you to do things you don’t want or aren’t ready for yet are guys who are demonstrating that they don’t respect you.
It’s one thing if they brush up on your boundary around sex and then, after you remind then that no, this isn’t a thing you’re up for, recognize and respect your decision. A guy who hears “I said I’m not interested in X, remember?” and says “Oh, right, my bad” and drops it? They’re showing that they do respect you; they hit up on your boundary and have said “whoops, sorry” and stepped back. Those are guys worth dating.
On the other hand, guys who constantly push at your boundaries even after being reminded that they’re there, or who argue with you about having those boundaries at all, are dudes to kick to the curb like the week’s compost. These are men who don’t respect you or your wishes and are trying to get you to give into what they want, regardless of your feelings on the matter. These are the dudes to bounce out of your life so hard that they enter geosynchronous orbit, sooner, rather than later.
And in fairness: it can be tough to do this. It can be hard, especially for women, to stand up for themselves when a guy is making a fuss. It feels rude and uncomfortable to be that direct and straightforward. But it’s also important that you do so. Gently hinting or reminding someone is ok… the first time. The second time, it’s time for the clue-by-four, followed by The Chair Leg of Truth. And that truth is that they are now on the train to DUMPED, population: Them.
Will being up front, especially in the early stages, mean that you’ll have more rejections and fewer dates? Yeah… there’s not really any getting around that. But it also means that those were folks who weren’t right for you in the first place; all that’s happened is that you’ve saved yourself time and energy and now you’re free to go find men you are compatible with. This isn’t a bug, it’s a feature, and one that helps ensure that the guys you do date? Are the guys who you should be dating.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org