(The Root) —
"I have had sex before, but — and I know this is going to shock you — I have decided celibacy is best for me now, at least until I am married or at least in a committed relationship. Do you think this will affect my chance to get into a relationship? Also, when is the best time to tell a guy I'm dating that I am not having sex?" —D.B.
Actually, I'm not shocked at all. I can't find any recent statistics on the number of women currently practicing celibacy, but I get questions about it often enough to tell you that you're far from alone on this one. I also want to applaud you for having the courage to go against the grain and do what is best for you. I wish more people would. They would be a lot happier.
Let's start with the easy part, which everyone overcomplicates: how to tell a guy that you're celibate. Inevitably when a man and a woman are around each other long enough, the topic of sex comes up. Since you're not having sex, there's no use in talking about it and misleading anyone to think what won't happen will.
Let him bring it up, and when he does, just let him know what you require in order to have sex. It's not that you're "not having sex" ever, as you imply in your email; it's that you want to get to know him and be in a committed relationship — with titles and everything — before you have sex.
Understand, you're not really asking for anything exceptional here. You're a woman, not a Chevy. There's no need for some guy to test-drive you just to call you his girlfriend.
That said, many folks will make you think you're crazy for not having sex. Put this in perspective: There are a lot of women who are having sex — wild, swing-from-the-chandelier, they-only-do-that-in-pornos kind of sex — and they are just as single as you are. Sex doesn't guarantee you any sort of relationship, much less a marriage.
I will also advise you to really stick to your guns on this one. If you're going to tell a man, "X is my requirement," then you need to hold to your word so that you're taken seriously. For clarity, that means standing firm even when he's really cute and super nice with a broad back and wide thighs. It's easy to be celibate when you're not attracted to someone; it's much harder when you are. Try investing in a good vibrator to keep your totally healthy and completely natural urges at bay. It still counts as celibacy when you take care of yourself.
Now, when you inform your date of your requirements, expect him to do one of two things: balk, because unfortunately the idea of being committed before having sex isn't so conventional anymore; or step his game all the way up.
The guy who balks isn't the guy you want, anyway. He wants sex, and possibly a relationship if he really likes you and the sex is good, too. He's entitled to that, and there are plenty of women who will happily have sex with him. You want someone who is in line with your values, and he isn't it. The goal is not to have just any man but one who gets you. So let him go on his way.
The second type of guy I described isn't any better for you; he just seems like it. He's pushing up, not because he's really all that interested — it's probably all ego. You've presented a challenge — something on which some men thrive — and now he's determined to conquer your, ahem, land and plant his, uh, flag. Though sex is readily available to most men who want it, he will keep up this charade for as long as necessary. Don't be fooled.
What you want is the guy — the rare one — whose reaction is something akin to "Oh." Either he's practicing celibacy, too — yes, men do it — so your standards aren't a problem, or he's not appalled by your answer but just was not prepared for that one. He likes you, he needs to think about it and get back to you on that. If he shows up again, same as always and willing to see where it goes, he's the one you should invest energy in getting to know better.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at email@example.com.