Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

Safe sex is not the same as smart sex.

Just because you follow the guidelines — use a condom, get tested frequently, limit your partners, get consent, whatever — doesn’t mean you’re being smart about sex.

No, there’s more to it than that.

If we’re going to be smarter about sex, we have to admit that we’re not just talking about behaviors.

No, sex is more than just physical; it creates real bonds and occurs within the context of a relationship, however shallow it may be.

I will assume (yes, I know what that makes me) here that the majority of us want to find a long-term, marriage-worthy partner. It’s worth our time, then, to consider how the timing of sex during that process can muddy the waters.

A recent study out of Britain supports the long-standing advice that women who are looking for a committed partner should not have sex on the first date.

The study found that more reliable men were willing to wait longer before having sex the first time. The ones who weren’t willing to wait probably weren’t committed-relationship types anyway.

OK, so it isn’t exactly groundbreaking research.

Researcher Dr. Peter Sozou explained, “The strategic problem the female faces is how to screen out bad males, and this is where long courtship [pre-sexual intimacy] comes into play.”

The study, published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, stops short of explaining why this is.

I have a hunch. Let me tell you about one of my favorite hormones.

Oxytocin is a chemical produced naturally in the brain that is released during physical intimacy and especially during a sexual orgasm.

It is known as the “cuddle hormone” for its pair-bonding effects, which are stronger in women. The only other times oxytocin is released in women is during childbirth and breastfeeding, which may work to help them bond with their infant child.

Oxytocin promotes emotional bonding between the partners. It increases feelings of trust, closeness and attachment.

That all sounds great, right? In the context of a committed relationship, it is. If two people are in it for the long haul, oxytocin is a great ally — it increases intimacy, trust and even helps you to gloss over your partner’s annoying habits.

But for a woman who is looking for a long-term, committed partner, the effects of oxytocin from sex early in the relationship could be unforgiving.

It creates feelings of trust before that trust has been earned. It encourages her to gloss over character flaws, even glaring ones. She may grow attached before deciding if the relationship is worth it.

Researcher Robert Seymour, who created the model, said, “Longer courtship is a way for the female to acquire information about the male.”

What I take this to mean is this: Delaying sexual activity helps us pick better boyfriends and girlfriends, and eventually, spouses.

I wonder, too, if oxytocin doesn’t at least partially explain why the number of sexual partners before marriage is directly correlated to an increase in risk for divorce.

Of course, the success or failure of our relationships cannot be reduced simply to the hormones in our bodies. But neither can we ignore them.

Reach Andrea at

Continue supporting student journalism and donate to The State Press today.

Subscribe to Pressing Matters



This website uses cookies to make your experience better and easier. By using this website you consent to our use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie Policy.