Why Waiting for Sex Can Be Sexy

Just hear me out.
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Just hear me out.
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Two very different stories about women’s sexual pleasure played out in the news this week. The first involved — who else — America’s middle-finger flipping sweetheart Amy Schumer, as she reminded the crowd at her most recent comedy special: “Women want to cum! What girls are having sex like, ‘Oh no, I’m just honored to be witnessing your process’?” She ended with an inarguable closer: “Make your girl cum, guys.”

In a diametrically opposite corner, new bride Brelyn Brown presented her father with a gift of his own during her wedding reception: a certificate of purity from her doctor, ensuring that her hymen was still intact. Wild scientific inaccuracy notwithstanding, the Internet pounced — both on the fact that Brown presented her virginity to her father (agreed, weird), but on the fact that she wanted to save herself for marriage at all.

Given that I write a sex column (and have left far too many unclaimed orgasms on the table in my boning tenure), it’s not hard to see where my loyalties lay, if forced to choose. Nothing is sexier than women who are able to talk about what they want in bed and not feel ashamed of it, sure, no argument. But does that automatically mean that not having sex — or saving certain sex acts — is inherently prudish?

I started to consider it more seriously when I noticed that though I lived in a city with a billion men, I only hooked up with out-of-staters. Men everywhere, and I kept finding myself perennially entangled with people who lived 300 to 3,000 miles away from the East Village. But my choice to lay around with geographically undesirable men wasn’t purposeful so much as it was accidental over-course correction. Until this year, my biggest relationship mistake wasn’t a faulty location search — it was (much like every other millennial who pretends Tinder is great, but secretly longs to be discovered in bar by a single stranger) hooking up over the years within my groups of friends.

There's joy in telling someone they truly are the only person you’ve ever used handcuffs with.

Given that much of these hookups took place in my young, selfish twenties, I harbor few qualms about the often-overlapping friends, friends of friends, and bosses of friends whose jobs were already in precipitous danger I’ve fooled around with. But as someone who has also now had the same group of friends for the better part of a decade, the odds are high I’ll end up dating one of those tunnel buddies or another at some point — no regrets, but not a situation I’d prefer to be in voluntarily, either.

My ostensibly foolproof solution for the incestuous friend-group hook ups? Save certain things for marriage. I’m not advocating that it has to be sex in its entirety, or even most sex acts, I just believe that a perk of monogamy should be knowing that at least one orifice of your body is still waiting to be colonized by your partner. To be certain, the best option is just not hooking up with more than one person in the same cluster of pals, but if you can’t take back the tonsil hockey, I’d like to believe the next best thing is the joy of telling someone they truly are the only person you’ve ever used handcuffs with.

Given my lack of religious morality, I’ll be the first to say that saving certain parts of your sex life is hard. Being single has helped. It’s a lot more awkward to ask a one-night stand if he wants to try that thing you saw that one time in that one magazine, and thus, “saving this for marriage” is not that far out of the realm of possibility. It’s also expanded past just sex: There are vacations I am holding out on taking, because they’d be better to Instagram with a jealousy-inducing heart eyes emoji. There are hidden gem restaurants I only take platonic friends to, songs I don’t overplay on Spotify, just in case they might become “our thing” one day, when I settle down with the right friend of a friend of a friend. 

Delayed gratification in foreplay is one of the most toe-curling ways to have even more intense orgasms.

“But you’re doing this out of fear,” countered my friend Meredith, when I told her about my plan to save sex acts for special people. “If you’re holding back because you’re afraid your hypothetical husband will feel cuckolded, you are hypothetically clinical.”

It’s not just about fear. Delayed gratification in foreplay is one of the most toe-curling ways to have even more intense orgasms; just ask any woman who has had a man bring her to the brink of climax with his mouth, only to briefly lose steam and double down harder to bring it back. It’s also a choice, and an iterative one at that. Sometimes I want to be teased, other times I’d just like to make it to my morning meeting in a less terrible mood than the one I woke up in. Most of the time, I want someone to make me come (or in absence of that, have Amy Schumer lay a personalized verbal smackdown on men who seem to find my orgasm an afterthought rather than a priority). But I’ve often held off as well — generally for sleep and leg cramps, but yes, sometimes even to take things slow, if for no reason other than to turn the heat up later. In my case, the milestones I’ve since held out for marriage seem to have become a bit of a moving target the older I get: saving my slow-dance virginity gave way to handcuffs with a different boyfriend; handcuffs led to couples vibrators with a third.

I will admit I find myself having to up the ante a tiny bit on each subsequent in-network hookup. Even if I know I likely won’t marry someone I’m currently seeing, I don’t want him comparing notes with his buddies just to have them all concur, “Yeah she really does seem to love collapsing in exhaustion five minutes in, complaining about a charley horse.” So fine, I will now wilt 12 minutes through instead. Keeping up this ruse is exhausting.

I may abandon it entirely at some point — unlike Brelyn Brown, my rules aren’t hard and fast, and if given the option, I’ll always campaign loudly for Schumer’s orgasm suffrage movement. But eschewing saving sexy moments in their entirety seems myopic, even by feminist standards. Holding back hasn’t always been about abstinence, it’s often been about obstacles: a sexy obstacle to overcome, to make the entire experience more electric.

And that’s why I’m saving anal for marriage.

Photos by Getty Images