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6 Not-So-Secret Texting Rules He WISHES You Already Knew

The good, the bad and the weird rules guys want you to know about texting.

A Match.com survey on texting (and sexting!) found that the battle of the sexes might finally have found some common ground: Texting. Turns out 59 percent of guys and girls don't want to be inundated with texts after a date before they get a chance to reply — and when it comes to the work day, less is definitely more.

Plus, 45 percent of dudes don't want to be bothered with a message when they’re on the clock, but women, notorious for multitasking, seem to balance the workday and a steamy conversation just fine.

But that aside, what do guys really think about having full-on conversations without ever really saying a word? Is bearing your virtual soul through the tips of your fingers and into a text a burden dudes bare — or the best way to get to know a girl?

We asked the men in our lives to spill on what they love, hate and really don't understand when it comes to texting:

1. "Please, for the love of god, stop with the emjois."

Guys might be visual, but that doesn't mean they want to stare at text after text of baby penguins and bears. Sirius, 28, revealed that when it comes to text etiquette, he can’t stand a girl that’s too expressive.

"Too many emojis just kill a conversation—and definitely my interest," he says. "It's hard enough trying to interpret what a girl is saying — let alone when she's using pigs and cacti and pink high heels in a message to me. Like, what the f*ck does that mean?"

Though Joe, 31, agrees with the unwritten emjoi limit, he says that it's more the waiting game that really turns him off. "When a girl takes forever to respond to a text it makes it really complicated to tell if she's into me or just trying to be nice by responding — or if she's playing hard to get."

He adds, "Sometimes, I've honestly thought that maybe a girl already had a boyfriend because it took her hours to respond to the messages I was sending her. I kept picturing her running into a bathroom to hide and check her phone."

And since catfish are everywhere, Joe's hesitations make sense — and they're probably more common than he (or anyone) expects.

2. "Stop driving us crazy by asking SO. MANY. QUESTIONS."

For Ryan, 27, it's the 21 Questions game. "For starters, this isn’t an interrogation. It's texting. I'm not sure what I’m doing later — or what I'm doing on Sunday morning for brunch. Or hell, if I plan on taking any summer trips. I'll know when I get there."

Forrest, 25, agrees. "I hate the texts where a girl is like 'Hey, what are you doing?' One minute goes by … 'Are you busy? Should I text you back later? Maybe you can just call me when you're free? I'm heading to the East Village, any chance you want to meet up?' It's like, whoa, calm down, I haven’t even had a chance to respond yet."

3. "Make sure you know WHO you're texting."

Pet peeves guys can live with — like too many smiley faces or even the occasional run-on text. But these things, they said, they weren't willing to compromise on.

Tommy, 29, revealed that a girl he was seeing once sent a text to him intended for another guy. "If she sent me a text she meant to send another guy, I'm just not interested in you anymore," he says.

"I understand people make mistakes — and yeah, it's happened to me before so I'm a little jaded but like, you see my name right there in the message. You should know the person you're responding to. At least have enough respect for that."

Ben, 26, totes has no room in his vocab or his life for abbrevs. "The following words: whatevs, totes, appropro, lmfao, etc. I just can’t handle it. Spell it out. Chances are you have an iPhone and once you start typing the word it will finish it for you."

In a similar vein, Josiah, 31 says, "It's a big turn-off when a girl tries to be more street or thug than she really is."

5. "Stick to the 2-4 text rule before we respond."

No matter what you think, there are rules when it comes to texting. And guys weren’t afraid to spell ‘em out for us:

"Without responding? I would definitely say my limit is like 4 or 5 texts," Rich, 33, says. "I don't know what you're saying, but I'm pretty sure 99 percent of the time you can wait for my response."

For Chris, 29, the rule is similar, but simpler: do unto others as you'd want done to you. He says, "Personally, I never send four texts in a row. It's just not what I want to do. And I think I'd be really annoyed if someone sent me that many texts without giving me the opportunity to respond first."

Evan, 24, says that the limit is lucky number three. "No more than three. Here's the thing: If I'm not answering the first text, take that as a hint. There's nothing so important that you need to keep messaging me without waiting for an answer."

Surprise! Guys are a lot like girls. They're nervous, they over-analyze and they definitely ask their friends if they should respond right away — or make you sweat it out a bit.

"I don't like to say much in text messages," Phil, 28 says. "I usually say one or two-word responses … just enough to keep them interested without giving away too much. I'll admit it, I want to come off as mysterious. It sounds so cheesy saying it out loud though. Ha!"

"I think texting is a great way to get to know a girl before asking her on a date," Alex, 26 says. "Texting is casual; an easy way to get to know someone and I feel like I get to be honest about the things I'm interested in. I'm more likely to share things about myself and ask more personal questions in a text. I'm shy, so being able to hide behind the phone a little bit helps me. Girls forget that guys get nervous too."

"I don't really text girls until I'm out. I'm just not good on my phone during the day and the liquid courage of a drink or two definitely makes it easier to send the first text to a girl I've been talking to. Plus, I'm not ready for a big commitment and I don't want to give off the wrong message by texting a girl all day long. By the end of the day, she'd want something more than I was ready for," says Adam, 26.

More content from YourTango:

National Review

A new book explores the economics of modern mating.

I n 1960 came the Pill, which disconnected sex from childbearing. In the 1990s and 2000s came widespread Internet connections, which facilitated easy access to both pornography and dating sites. And in the 2010s came smartphone apps such as Tinder, which made it even easier for men and women looking for casual sex to find each other. Put that all together and the “cost” of finding sexual gratification is far lower than it used to be.

That is the theme of Mark Regnerus’s Cheap Sex, and he stresses that low prices are not always good. Women have traditionally benefited from being the gatekeepers of sexual access — but now that men don’t have to work very hard to access women’s bodies, well, they don’t. And to paint his picture of the modern mating market, Regnerus draws extensively from the 2014 Relationships in America survey, which he helped to create, as well as from detailed interviews that he and his team conducted with young adults from around the country.

I highly recommend this book, but I’d like to begin with a caveat and a bit of a digression: Because Regnerus relies heavily on a single survey and recent interviews, he gives somewhat short shrift to trends over time. Such trends were the focus of the psychologist Jean Twenge’s iGen earlier this year (which I reviewed here), and readers of Cheap Sex will benefit from some of Twenge’s findings. I am not implying that Regnerus contradicts these facts — indeed, he explicitly mentions some of them — but I do think iGen’s long-view approach provides important context to Cheap Sex’s current-decade surveys and interviews.

Few would deny that the Pill was a nuclear bomb detonated above the sexual marketplace, or that the fallout has continued for decades in the form of delayed marriage and childbearing and rising rates of women working. (What got nuked, of course, was a mixture of good and bad.) But more recent changes seem to be having far smaller and more nuanced effects, with some trends even running against the notion of progressively “cheaper” sex. Americans are actually losing their virginity later than they used to, for example, with the typical teen waiting until eleventh grade; for Generation X, tenth grade was the norm. Twenge estimates that sex-partner counts are falling too, with those born in the 1980s adding notches to their belts more slowly than those born in the 1970s did, and with those born in the 1990s racking ’em up even less rapidly.

An important possibility is that while kids these days are waiting longer to get started, they’re catching up during an extended “early adulthood” that lasts until age 30 or so. (Twenge’s core finding is that teens are growing up more slowly than they used to, and Regnerus tells us of a 32-year-old subject who didn’t lose her virginity until age 22 but has had about 20 sexual partners since.) Those born in the ’90s and later — iGen’s focus — won’t start hitting 30 for a few years yet. But so far, at least, the trends don’t seem all that significant for Americans who’ve made it past early adulthood, either.

The General Social Survey provides an easy way to investigate questions like this. It’s the survey Twenge used for her sex-partners analysis, and for nearly three decades it has repeatedly asked Americans how many partners they’ve had since age 18. Looking at the data myself, I couldn’t find any trend for men in their thirties: Their median number of sex partners was six in the 1989–98 surveys (which I combined to boost the sample size a bit), six in the 2000–08 period, and . . . six once again in the four most recent surveys, conducted between 2010 and last year.

Women’s median has climbed from three to four over the same period, though it’s hard to tell if they’re actually having more sex or if they’re just more willing to admit it these days. After all, sex-partner surveys are notorious for producing the mathematically impossible result that men are having more sex with women than women are having with men. But whatever the case, the difference is far from overwhelming. (The GSS is a large, nationally representative survey done mostly through in-person interviews. My results are broadly consistent with CDC data since 2002 covering a wider age range.)

Sex might be easier to get than it ever has been, and the modern mating market may be dysfunctional in any number of ways — but it’s not clear that the typical person has become more promiscuous.

Basically, sex might be easier to get than it ever has been, and the modern mating market may be dysfunctional in any number of ways — but it’s not clear that the typical person has become more promiscuous, notwithstanding the best efforts of Tinder and Ashley Madison (former slogan: “Life is short. Have an affair.”). It’s especially surprising not to see more movement in reported sex-partner counts given that Americans are spending a lot less of their young adulthood married than they once did and are more socially accepting of promiscuity than they used to be. More broadly, when sifting through Regnerus’s modern stories and data, readers should be careful not to assume that things were all that different a generation ago.

That said, Regnerus’s interviews and survey data, both of which involve some incredibly personal questions, offer a remarkably detailed overview of the current mating market. If you’re curious what people are doing with their genitals these days — and let’s be honest, who isn’t — Cheap Sex is your guide.

One fascinating table reveals how quickly couples end up in bed together. When asked about their most recent sexual partner, few (about 5 percent) say sex began “the day we met.” But about a fifth to a quarter say it began “after we met, but before [we were] in a relationship.” On the other end of the spectrum, about 5 percent say it took “more than a year,” and about 10 percent say it wasn’t until “after we got married.”

A common theory about casual sex is that it happens only for the “alpha males,” who “monopolize” the few women willing to engage in it while the “beta males” are left out. But this suggests a gender imbalance that doesn’t exist: The 10 percent of men with the most partners in Regnerus’s survey reported 52 percent of the (opposite-sex) sexual partners, compared with 48 percent for the top tenth of women. It seems that a small share of both men and women participate heavily in the casual-sex scene, though it’s likely still true that more men than women would fail in that scene if they gave it a shot.

There most certainly is a gender gap, though, when it comes to pornography and masturbation. More than 40 percent of adult men but fewer than 10 percent of women say they watched porn in the past week. More than half of men 24–35 report masturbating in the past four days, meanwhile: That’s twice the proportion of women who did so.

And this is one topic where Regnerus does have a plausible longitudinal comparison. A 1992 survey suggested that 29 percent of men age 18–24 masturbated at least weekly, while the (roughly) comparable number from Regnerus’s survey is 49 percent. For women, the numbers are 9 percent and 32 percent. It’s possible some of the increase is just people being more willing to admit it nowadays, but the more obvious explanation is easier access to a wider variety of pornography — especially videos, which no longer require time alone with the family VCR. To give a sense of how prices have fallen, in seventh grade 20 years ago, “someone I know” paid a friend $5 for a small picture torn from a magazine of a woman who was only topless.

The wider availability of porn could plausibly have a variety of follow-on effects. It might make sexuality more “plastic” or malleable by exposing people to a wider assortment of stimulation, and there’s some evidence that porn users are more supportive of gay rights. Troublingly, it may reduce men’s incentive or ability to find real, live romantic partners (which could help explain why sex-partner counts are more stable than you might expect). The statistical arguments for these propositions are hardly airtight, and Regnerus does not pretend they are, but the possibilities are worth considering.

And what about all that hot “polyamory” we keep hearing about? Only 10 percent of adults say they’ve been in sexual relationships that overlapped by more than a month. The number was notably higher among blacks (17 percent) and especially highly educated black men (31 percent for those with postgraduate education). To explain the gap, Regnerus notes the gender imbalances in the black community, with educated black men in especially short supply relative to educated black women, implying that sex outside the two-person relationship is just something women tolerate to keep a high-value partner, if they know about the other relationship at all. He also notes that polyamory in the more popular hippie/hipster sense — free love, man, with no jealousy! — is premised on the existence of birth control, because children would instantly complicate a no-strings-attached multiple-partner arrangement.

Regnerus’s framework for interpreting all this is “sexual economics,” the notion that economic theory has a lot to tell us about how dating and marriage work. Key to this is the belief, which will come naturally to anyone paying much attention, that men want sex more than women do and will jump through hoops for it — pay a high price — if women make them.

By freeing women from the risk of pregnancy with every sexual encounter, the Pill weakened women’s position in the market.

Oddly enough, by freeing women from the risk of pregnancy with every sexual encounter, the Pill weakened women’s position in the market. Once some women took advantage of birth control and gave sex away more easily, whether to gain a competitive advantage or just because they liked it, other women responded in kind and the price plummeted for everyone. It was the fracking of sex, and women were OPEC.

The only way to get high prices back would be for women to set up a cartel, agreeing to act as if sex were still expensive. Even setting aside the implausibility of coordinating such an effort, this approach might not bear the fruit it once could have, given that women are now competing with abundant free pornography, not just one another, and they may soon compete with hyper-realistic “sexbots” as well.

Regnerus is under no illusions that previous eras were perfect or that there is any hope of returning to them anyway. Indeed, in a series of predictions in his final chapter, Regnerus foresees sex becoming even cheaper and marriage continuing to decline.

His purpose in Cheap Sex, instead, is primarily to document what is happening, and to explain that it’s the natural consequence when human nature and the economic incentives it creates collide with modern technology. He succeeds.

— Robert VerBruggen is a deputy managing editor of National Review .

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