Our attitudes about sex have evolved since the dawn of the sexual revolution in the early ’70s, when sexual promiscuity was considered liberating. The ’80s ushered in a sense of responsibility with the fear of AIDS, but the advent of drug discovery has quelled that, to a degree. Today’s attitudes toward sex may be harkening back to the days of sexual liberation with a nod toward responsibility, but is that just for our health? How do we strike a balance between a sense of liberation and responsibility without emotion’s becoming the collateral damage? And in the meantime, how do we decide when it’s time to take sex on vacation?
My friend Mike called me a couple of weeks ago, wanting suggestions on where to spend a long weekend with, as he so aptly put it, “this girl” he’s been seeing. As I started rifling through some suggestions in my head, I thought it would help if I got some background on “this girl.” “How long have you been seeing each other?” “What type of vacation atmosphere are you looking for?”
He was sketchy with the details, as men usually are in the beginning when talking about someone they’re dating, but I could tell he was trying to play it cool about how he feels about her. Playing it cool when talking to the boys usually means a guy is really into some girl and he wants to avoid looking sappy. Unnecessary male bravado? Yes, but there’s a kind of ritual to the sharing of information between men about a girl we’re interested in. While women tend to focus on the details of some “new guy” with their friends, explaining everything in narrative, men try to keep a low profile until the relationship becomes more serious. It could be that by talking about it, men think they’ll jinx it or something—weird, I know.
Mike began by telling me he had met this new girl at a party a little over a month ago, and that they have been seeing each other more than twice a week ever since. Call me cautious, but it seemed a little premature to be planning a vacation. He quickly disagreed, which clued me in that he had started falling for this one. He said he wanted a beautiful-scenery/escape type of thing, maybe a beach or a cabin in the mountains. Whatever the location, he was aiming for relaxation and romance. Of course, what’s the next question anyone would ask?
“Not yet,” was the answer.
I was a little troubled by the idea that my friend was about to take a week long vacation with someone he hadn’t spent the entire evening with, much less the next morning. I thought of some of awkward situations you can run into on a vacation with someone.
“I don’t know, man,” I said, “I’m not so sure taking a vacation with her is a good idea.”
But his motivation for taking the trip was to see if it might spark something physically between the two of them. He said their relationship so far had been moving along nicely from an emotional perspective. They were getting to know each other and spending time together seemed pretty effortless.
“Have you talked about it?” I asked.
“Well, not in so many words, but we have messed around.” A typically ambiguous answer from a guy when he hasn’t had any luck yet.
“So, are you at the junior high or high school level here or what?” I asked. “And I’m not talking about today’s high school rave generation who are sexual veterans compared to when we were in high school!”
“I guess you could say we’re at the high school level, but you can tell that’s not going to last much longer,” he told me with a confident smirk.
This got me thinking—do women and men have different expectations when it comes to sex and vacations? What was the female perspective on taking a vacation with someone you hadn’t slept with? I quizzed several women on their attitude toward the idea of a vacation with someone they hadn’t had sex with first, and the answers were varied. Surprisingly enough, they talked, and how!
Some of them said that sex would be a focus of the vacation for them, either out of anxiety or anticipation. Lorrie Carr, for example, a retail sales manager in New Jersey expressed her take on the dilemma by saying, “It can be difficult. How does a woman not become the slut but avoid seeming like the prude?” Lorrie has been married for three years to a man she dated for five years before getting married. Is she too far removed from the dating scene to have a realistic opinion?
Jennifer Lapkin, an account exec with a pharmaceutical firm in Los Angeles, may think so. She said, “I prefer to just get it out of the way at the beginning. I’d almost want to just rip our clothes off as soon as we got into the hotel room!” Jennifer’s idea of “getting it out of the way” doesn’t exactly smack of romance but it does speak to the issue of anxiety vs. anticipation.
Then there were those women who said they view sex as a reward for the vacation versus a natural progression of the relationship from the bonding experience a vacation can provide. “A lot of times, the woman’s in it just for the vacation,” according to Robin
Chapman, a corporate attorney in Chicago. Robin says she tends to date successful men with disposable income she feels is best spent … on her! “Guys figure they’re going to get some if a girl says ‘yes’ to going on a vacation with him. So why not, especially if it’s a great location, hotel or whatever.” (You might think that sounds like music to a man’s ears but read on, I talked to the guys—you may be surprised at how muted their expectations can be.)
Another, perhaps more healthy outlook came from California pharmaceutical rep Carla Gonzalez: “Whether we have sex or not shouldn’t be an issue. If I feel like I can trust him enough to go on a vacation with him, I can trust him enough not to pressure me into doing something I’m not comfortable with.”
Although opinions among women varied, the consensus was that a woman would not take a vacation with a guy unless she was willing to sleep with him. That answer may come as a surprise to most men who think it’s the vacation itself that just might win them over.
When I started polling the guys on their perspective, it was clear that men and women do agree that sex can be the proverbial elephant in the room on a vacation. There is a degree of anxiety for both sexes around the whole issue but men seem to have a different take on it than women and the answers were not as varied.
“The important thing is to make it a non-issue.” That’s how Miami stockbroker Rich Goodman approached it with his girlfriend. “We took a vacation about a month into our relationship to New Hampshire to watch the leaves change in the fall. To her surprise, I had booked and paid for two rooms at a bed & breakfast and it worked out perfectly!” Rich said they went out for a great dinner the first night and she ended up staying in his room just talking until 2 a.m. and then went to her own room after a lingering good night kiss. “She said ‘let’s get rid of the other room’ the next morning!” He had effectively taken the expectation of sex out of the picture and allowed it to become a choice.
Mike Napoli, a small business owner in Phoenix, did the same thing when he went to visit a woman he met on a flight to Florida for business. “We talked on the phone regularly for about a month and were getting along great so I decided to offer to fly her to Arizona to visit but she asked if I would fly to where she lived in Dallas instead.” He agreed and booked a hotel room not far from her neighborhood.
When he arrived the first night he said, “We went out for sushi and after three or four tall sakes and a few games of darts afterward, we ended up jumping the fence at a nearby apartment complex pool and went skinny dipping like a couple of teenagers!” Although you might expect they ended up consummating their relationship over a small misdemeanor, he ended up staying at the hotel the first night.
That proved to be the smart move according to Mike. “When I came over to her house the next morning, she said ‘Why don’t you just cancel the hotel and stay here tonight instead?’” Taking the pressure off and having a little patience pays off! Why aren’t men more like that in general?
When you take a vacation with someone, you’re committing to spending an inordinate amount of uninterrupted time with that person and according to the guys, that’s what makes all the difference in changing their attitude towards sex. Stan Kessler, who works as a regional director for a medical device firm in Seattle explains, “I don’t look at it like sex is expected so there’s no reason to push the issue, especially with the amount of time you’ll be spending together. In fact it doesn’t get much better—you hope it will happen unless you end up getting in a fight or something so the pressure’s kind of off—so don’t make it the focus. Just concentrate on having a great time.”
The moral, believe it or not is that men are more concerned with how you get along with each other on a vacation, in hopes that if the chemistry is right, the atmosphere a vacation can provide could create the mood for sex. Rich has the right idea and isn’t alone in the way he approached it. Bottom line: If you’re taking a vacation with a guy and haven’t had sex with him yet, he’ll prove how good a guy he is by making you feel comfortable and make what otherwise would be an issue—a non-issue.
Finally, I was ready to give my friend Mike some educated advice: Not only should he pick a fun destination for his first vacation with his girlfriend, but be sure to reserve a couple of rooms—just in case she decides how lucky he will be!
Mike decided to take his, now girlfriend, to Telluride for a four-day weekend vacation. They stayed in a rustic cabin just outside the city. In another sign of how much he cares about her, I didn’t get many details on the “issue” that apparently was at hand but is no longer. He did tell me that when she found out he had rented a couple of cabins, she thought it was sweet but she asked him to cancel the extra one. Their cabin was the one with a view—and a “do not disturb” sign on the door!