Courtship rituals have clearly changed. And there are two big differences today than ever before. First, our highly sexualized media has made monogamy almost a sin and secondly, texting grows intimacy fast but, because it’s not bound with a growing physical intimacy, it makes dates feel awkward. I interviewed Andrew Smiler, author of Challenging Casanova about sexuality and the best way to create a healthy relationship in today’s dating climate:
DR. WENDY: What are the real stats on how many men are Casanovas, Don Juan’s, or Players, or whatever you call it?
DR. SMILER: For younger guys – teens and 20s – somewhere between 15 & 20% have 3 or more partners in a 12 month span. But only about 5% have 3 or more partners per year for 3 consecutive years. When you look at the 30+ age groups, the numbers get even smaller.
DR. WENDY: Why do so many women think men are having way more sex than they actually are?
DR. SMILER: A few reasons. First, our culture, and especially American media, spend a lot of time talking about who’s having sex with whom, especially when that’s a new partner or someone is cheating. But they don’t really talk about fidelity or long-term commitments. Ever seen a tabloid with the headline “X & Y still together after 12 years”? And that fidelity article will appear in only one outlet, whereas the new relationship or cheating gets coverage across all outlets. Also, we never really hear stories about men turning down sex and we believe they can’t/don’t/won’t. This is because we believe guys always want sex and are responsible for initiating sexual contact (among new couples).
DR. WENDY: Do you see more women adopting this particular male model of sexuality? Why?
DR. SMILER: There has always been a small contingent of women who’ve had lots of partners, but noticeably fewer women than men. Over the last 2 decades American culture has become more comfortable with the idea that women have sexual desire and that they might desire hookups/one-night-stands. Some survey data indicate that female undergrads are reporting 3 or more partners in the last 12 months at higher rates than they used to.
DR. WENDY: With traditional courtship rituals going away, what advice do you give young people about how to create a healthy bond?
DR. SMILER: The important things for creating a healthy relationship bond haven’t changed. It’s still about being honest, respectful, caring, and trusting. One thing that has changed is the way we become intimate. The “old” system of having several dates with phone-only contact between dates tied the emotional intimacy developed through conversation to the physical intimacy that occurred when people were together on a date. In many ways, emotional and physical/sexual intimacy proceeded together (or got stuck together).Today, many folks don’t think in terms of going on dates and there are more ways to be in contact, like texting and other social media. It’s important to think of all of that as part of “getting to know you” and to remember that people – you or your partner – may be less comfortable in person than remotely, especially when remotely means asynchronous conversation. As a result, the level of intimacy you feel emotionally may or may not match the level of intimacy you feel sexually.