3 Reasons to Hold Out

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A new friend of mine, Hephzibah Anderson, got so fed up with having sex with dudes who weren't interested in getting serious that she decided to swear off sex for year. She also decided to write a book about it: Chastened: The Unexpected Story of My Year Without Sex. (Which Marie Claire covered in the July issue.)

Now — with no offense to Hephzibah — people "swearing off" sex always sounds extreme to me, almost ridiculous. I tend to think: "Is there just so much irresistible sex coming your way that you need to swear off it? Can you really not help yourself?" Because I frankly don't have that many sexual opportunities that are so tempting that I simply can't control myself. Then again, I do seem to have a lot more willpower than the average person. I also might be a little closer to the prudish end of my generation's spectrum; I try to be very careful about not getting it on with someone unless I think our relationship has staying power. All the same, you could say my recent public declaration that I'm going to wait at least two months before sleeping with anyone I'm dating is not that far removed from Hephzibah's decision to forswear coitus entirely for a year. In fact, I imagine it's safe to say that both of us — like just about every woman I know — acutely feel the chasm that exists between the desire to feel sexual satisfaction and the need to feel emotional contentment.

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Now that I've voiced that hesitation, I'm going to tell you about what Hephzibah thinks are pros of waiting.

THE THREE TOP BENEFITS OF HOLDING OUT

1. Holding out can be intensely pleasurable. "When was the last time you got to savor a kiss that wasn't a preface to getting into bed?" says H-to-the-Zibah (who is not a huge fan of this nickname). "Make sex temporarily off-limits and less really does become more. The mere brush of a hand can be thrilling."

2. Holding out separates the jerks from the keepers. "Slowing the pace signals that you're after something a little more enduring than a summer fling and helps you find out sooner whether you're on the same page — or at least in the same chapter of your lives. If a meaningful relationship is truly what you're craving, there's no point in tiptoeing around the subject. You're not going to bring around a guy who's skittish enough to freak out at the very mention of something serious by having sex with him."

Darlings, let me say here: Yes, yes, yes! I've made the mistake once, in the very recent past, of having sex with a certain very young someone in the hopes it would bring him around to wanting something more serious — and boy oh boy, was I wrong. And having had sex made the ending of our fling all the more painful for me. Granted, there are all sorts of practical reasons why a relationship between us would never work out — the huge age difference, the fact that he doesn't want to live in New York after he finishes graduate school — but still. Sigh.

3. By waiting, the sex will be infinitely hotter. "Certainly more so than if you'd stumbled into bed after a mistaken third martini on date three," Hephzibah notes. "It'll be a deeper experience emotionally and physically, too — you'll have gotten to know the other person on a deeper level, and you'll feel confident enough in your shared connection to voice your desires."

Lovelies, don't you agree? Or do you have arguments in favor of casual sex?

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