Read an Excerpt
Sex for Singles
Get more of it, make the most of it
Being single gets bad press, particularly if you're female. Ask people to conjure up an image of a single woman and Bridget Jones comes to mind: a plump, lonely, late-night ice-cream scoffer whose two best friends are wine and cigarettes. Men fare slightly betterat least there's the dashing, if bordering on sleazy, player hovering alongside the man in the cardigan, hair slicked and parted down the middle, nostrils and ears attractively sprouting hair. Yes, the general impression of "single" is definitely one of barren unhappiness, punctuated by daily bouts of desperate sobbing, TV dinners for one, and phones which are watched but never ring.
But there's something horribly wrong with this picture: no single person I know fits the bill. My single friends are gorgeous, gregarious, fun-loving creatures who spend their Saturday nights wickedly flirting and flitting about fabulous bars, restaurants, clubs, or parties. Yes, they might have the occasional moan but 90 percent of the time they're happy, and for good reason . . .
Let's be honest here, while sex in a long-term relationship can often be ho-hum, sex when you're single and on a roll can be absolutely marvelous! By merrily playing the field, you can enjoy a potent combination of sporadic sex (having sex on tap tends to dampen desire) and new flesh (the ultimate aphrodisiac for almost all of us). The end result is a dangerously high libido. Life is fun! When relationships aren't serious, they're zero effort and maximum laughs because you don't stick around long enough to hit problems. You don't have to work hard at sex, either, because the newness factor keeps everything hot and steamy.
As a sexy singleton you've also got the opportunity to sample different sexual styles: everybody makes love differently and experience means you'll discover your true sexual personality. Sure, sex with someone you love is special and ultimately more satisfying, but no-strings sex with someone who's so delicious you have to pick your tongue up off the floor is pretty damn special, too. Far from wallowing in their aloneness, plenty of singletons are reveling in one of the lustiest times of their lives.
It's your choice what category you fall into during your single dayssad or sassybut don't let anyone tell you differently: it's not about what you look like, it's about having the right attitude. And the right attitude is to enjoy it while you can.
This chapter tackles the dilemmas a typical single person faces, everything from how to get laid more often to advice on what to do if the person you've got earmarked for long-term turns out to be the worst lover you've ever come across (or not). But don't let me interrupt your social liferead this on a Monday night when you're not out enjoying yourself.
How attractive are you?
On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate yourself? If you're typical of the general population, whatever number you assign yourself won't reflect your true worth because most of us aren't even close to objective when judging our own looks. We're capriciousone minute we think we look great, the next we don't. And surprise, surprise, women in particular see faults when they look in the mirror. One reason our perception of ourselves is flawed is because we fail to look at the big picture, whereas people looking in on us do.
How attractive we think we are influences our choice of partner: we tend to match up with people who rate the same as us. If you think you're a three, you're not going to feel comfortable lying next to a nine; a nine doesn't usually hook up with a three because they feel short changed. The social exchange theory says people like to maximize their rewards and minimize the costs. "Could I do better?" is a thought which plagues almost all of us at some stage in a relationship, and we don't stop asking ourselves this, even when we're married with three kids. The question is: Have you got the relationship you deserve?
* Do you worry about what you look like? Attractive people tend to be more conscious of their appearance. But what came first, the chicken or the egg? Are they self-conscious because people look at them more often? Or attractive because they're vain and spend a lot of time on their appearance? Interestingly, people who worry about their looks tend to think they're a lot less attractive than they really are. This could be because they compare themselves with very good-looking people rather than the average person.
* How physically attractive are you? The good news is, unless you've got the ego of Donald Trump, you're almost certainly better looking than you think. People don't focus on your faults half as much as you think they do because they're too busy worrying about their own. If you're female, are paranoid about your body, and feel slightly uncomfortable in public, you're almost certainly hotter than you think for all the reasons listed above.
Another clue as to how attractive you are is to look at your partner or past partners. Subconsciously we tend to match up with people we think are similar physically, though as we get older or get to know the person better, looks become less important. If you're rich and powerful deduct points, as both these qualities guarantee you'll attract people far better looking than you are.
* What's your social standing? The cooler your job and the more money you earn, the more attractive you are to others. Ditto if you're famous. Sadly, intelligence and academic achievement can actually work against you if you're female. Some men, but not all, thank God, are threatened by this (wimps).
* How emotionally intelligent are you? This will score you points with people looking for long-term partners. Being honest, loyal, caring, and sensitive are all valued. Emotional intelligence is also the area we have the most control over. It's a lot easier to vow to be kind than to vow to be an Oscar winner in six months' time.
* Are you outgoing and gregarious? We notice people who make themselves known to us and by proxy find them more attractive. Our personality plays a huge factor in how attractive we are and big personalities usually rate higher than shy, wallflower types. Humor also plays a part. We all know the unattractive but funny guy who always lands the best-looking girl at the party. But while humorous men are seen as more attractive by women, studies show amusing women aren't necessarily more attractive to men.
* How old are you? This is a weird one because at a certain stage in your life youth is seen as attractive, later on age might work for you. Older men sometimes date more attractive women because they're more accomplished. Despite being far less ageist than previous generations, most of us still look for someone within five years of our age. In the past, women would date five years older and men five years younger, but these days it doesn't tend to matter which sex has blown out more candles.
Interestingly, while there's still a general perception that young women are more attractive than older ones, it depends totally on how good you look. Given the choice between a hot-looking older woman and a not-so-hot younger one, most men will opt for Mrs. Robinsonand be pleasantly surprised. Many women gain confidence with age, know what they need sexually, and aren't scared to ask for it.
Are you protective and supportive? Women still look for men who can provide for them and some men are still quite keen on having a "little woman" tucked away at home providing backup. The exception being wealthy womenbecause they don't need to rely on men for money, they tend to pick their partners for the reasons lots of men do: youth and looks.
Make yourself more attractive instantly:
Think of yourself as more attractive: If you think you look good, you move and behave more confidently, which means others perceive you as more attractive.
Hang around ugly people: It's called the contrast effect. We feel pretty around ugly people and ugly around pretty people. The good news is you don't have to switch friends if they're attractive because it also works the other way around . . .
Hang around pretty people: This works in a different way. We're defined by our friends and peer group and the cooler and better- looking they are, the cooler and better-looking we appear to others. This is assuming, of course, that you have a healthy self-esteem that lets you realize you're as good as the others.
Don't idealize: Women, in particular, compare themselves to an ideal standard of beauty (genetic freaks called supermodels). If asked to rate something like our interpersonal skills, however, we measure ourselves against the norm rather than compare ourselves with Freud. In one study, researchers got men and women to take a simple mathematical exam. Both sexes scored evenly. Then they repeated the exercise, but got everyone to do it in their bathing suits. Forced to sit there in a bikini, the women's results dived while the men's didn't alter. Instead of concentrating on the problem at hand, women concentrated on other women's bodies, checking out how they measured up, as well as wondering how the men were rating them.
Show people you like them: We like people who like us. The easiest way to make yourself more appealing to others is to be friendly and warm.
Get older: There's evidence that people feel more attractive with age, even if they don't look it.
Solutions to Things Lots of Singles Struggle With
Sex and smooch buddies: A good idea?
Most of us have either had one or have one: the old faithful who can always be counted on if all else fails for either a good kiss and cuddle or damn good (and usually very wicked) sex. So why don't we actually date these people? Sometimes it's because one of you is already involved with someone else (naughty), while other times it's a grown-up realization that as much as you're fond of each other, you don't have enough in common outside the bedroom to make it work.
If you've got the right personality for it and are both single, I think sex and smooch buddies (SBs) can be a very good idea. Having someone you can cuddle when you're drunk/ down/just feel like it, quells "skin hunger": the simple need to be touched and held by another person. The smooch part reminds us how good kissing and sexual affection are and helps us feel sexy and attractive. Having an SB means the "drought" between partners leaves us a lot less parched and panicky than we would be without someone's lips attached to ours on the odd occasion. Sex buddies serve an extra purpose: they provide a safe sexual outlet and stop us taking risks with someone we shouldn't. If you're a horny little thing and are tempted to hump your workmate's legs when deprived of a bit of action, sex buddies are a very good idea indeed. Much better to sleep with someone you know than head down to your local pub with $40 in your pocket and a nasty gleam in your eye. We tend to use condoms with SBs or both get tested and use condoms with other people, until the point when either of you meets someone you want to be faithful to. And no, you can't keep them when this happens. The point of having an SB is null and void once you have sex on tap, and continuing it means you're no longer SBs, you're having an affair. There's a huge difference between an affair and a rather agreeable arrangement for consequence-free, high-quality sex with someone you're quite attached to.
Like all good things, however, there is a downside to the SB thing. As much as the Sex and the City girls rate them"They're a shot in the arm for sexual self-esteem," Carrie enthusesthere's a temptation for one of you to make more of the relationship at some point, which is when you could find out that it's possible to find someone stimulating in bed but boring out of it. Either that or you end up falling for them and the feeling isn't reciprocated, or vice versa. Either way, it means the sex is ruined forever. Don't do it.
Is it wrong to sleep with someone on the first night if you want more than a one-night stand?
It's not wrong but it's risky. If you want to up your chances of the relationship being healthy and lasting the distance, do the opposite: try to put off having full, penetrative sex for as long as possible. Not because "good girls don't" or because he might judge you, even though he may, but because you're creating the best possible circumstances for the two of you to bond physically and emotionally. Once you sleep with someone, you keep on sleeping with them. Which means you're instantly, and literally, intimately bonded, which effectively robs you of logic and objectivity. "Lust blindness" causes us to get so involved with our partner's body, we forget to look closely at the person inside. This is what's usually happened when someone pleads "But I love him!" when "love" has landed her in the hospital. No one deliberately sets out to fall in love with a bastard, you end up there because you rushed into something too fast and didn't do your homework. Sex is a strong glue and it holds together the most unlikely of couples. The longer you avoid doing it, the more time you'll spend out of the bedroom, talking and finding out if that person is right for you. Besides, waiting teaches you both the merits of sexual anticipation, and taking baby stepskissing first, then touching, then oral sexteaches you that sex doesn't have to mean intercourse. In the Story of O, the main character was taught to only let a man make love to one bit of her body at a time, so he'd truly learn how to pleasure each and every part of her.
What if I only want a one-night stand?
You little player, you! Only joking, it's fine to just want sex, so long as the person you're having it with agrees. Call me old-fashioned, idealistically hopeful, or plain deluded, but as much as I don't expect you to stand at the foot of someone's bed and announce solemnly, "I'm just here for the sex," I don't think it's too much to ask for you to send out strong signals saying pretty much that. And that means no whispering sweet nothings unless they're sexual, no saying how fabulous they are, unless you're talking about physical attributes, no hinting at future plans"I'll have to take you there someday." In other words, make all your chat-up sexual rather than romantic. This sends a clear, unsullied message. If you're really nice, you'll say something like, "Look, you turn me on something awful but I can't really promise anything. Do you want to/can I stay the night or would that be out of order?" This spells out your intentions in a lighthearted way, and if they agree, your conscience is pretty clear.