Does sleeping with a guy on the first date make him less likely to call back?

I have no idea. But there is a simple reason that it might seem like it does, even if it doesn’t.

Let’s imagine that a woman — we’ll call her “you,” like they do in relationship advice land — is trying to calculate the odds that a man will call back after sex. Everyone tells you that if you sleep with a guy on the first date he is less likely to call back. The theory is that giving sex away at a such a low “price” lowers the man’s opinion of you, because everyone thinks sluts are disgusting.* Also, shame on you.

Photo by Emily Hildebrand, from Flickr Creative Commons

So, you ask, does the chance he will call back improve if you wait till more dates before having sex with him? You ask around and find that this is actually true: The times you or your friends waited till the seventh date, two-thirds of the guys called back, but when you slept with him on the first date, only one-in-five called back. From the data, it sure looks like sleeping with a guy on the first date reduces the odds he’ll call back.


So, does this mean that women make men disrespect them by having sex right away? If that’s true, then the historical trend toward sex earlier in relationships could be really bad for women, and maybe feminism really is ruining society.

Like all theories, this one assumes a lot. It assumes you (women) decide when couples will have sex, because it assumes men always want to, and it assumes men’s opinion of you is based on your sexual behavior. With these assumptions in place, the data appear to confirm the theory.

But what if that those assumptions aren’t true? What if couples just have more dates when they enjoy each other’s company, and men actually just call back when they like you? If this is the case, then what really determines whether the guy calls back is how well-matched the couple is, and how the relationship is going, which also determines how many dates you have.

What was missing in the study design was relationship survival odds. Here is a closer look at the same data (not real data), with couple survival added:


By this interpretation, the decision about when to have sex is arbitrary and doesn’t affect anything. All that matters is how much the couple like and are attracted to each other, which determines how many dates they have, and whether the guy calls back. Every couple has a first date, but only a few make it to the seventh date. It appears that the first-date-sex couples usually don’t last because people don’t know each other very well on first dates and they have a high rate of failure regardless of sex. The seventh-date-sex couples, on the other hand, usually like each other more and they’re very likely to have more dates. And: there are many more first-date couples than seventh-date couples.

So the original study design was wrong. It should have compared call-back rates after first dates, not after first sex. But when you assume sex runs everything, you don’t design the study that way. And by “design the study” I mean “decide how to judge people.”

I have no idea why men call women back after dates. It is possible that when you have sex affects the curves in the figure, of course. (And I know even talking about relationships this way isn’t helping.) But even if sex doesn’t affect the curves, I would expect higher callback rates after more dates.

Anyway, if you want to go on blaming everything bad on women’s sexual behavior, you have a lot of company. I just thought I’d mention the possibility of a more benign explanation for the observed pattern that men are less likely to call back after sex if the sex takes place on the first date.

* This is not my theory.

16 thoughts on “Does sleeping with a guy on the first date make him less likely to call back?

  1. So, the probability of a call-back (or another date) increases as the number of prior dates increases. The research question is whether sex changes that probability at each date. If Regnerus is right – that economic logic plays an important part — the curve might turn downward after some nth date. Guys may wait up all night to get lucky, but not all year.

    Another problem is that that some of the sex that gets the Regneruses frothing at the mouth is hook-ups, not dates. So models based on dates and call-backs won’t be relevant.


  2. The assumption that the man is supposed to call “back” is equally problematic. Why is it up to him to initiate the next contact? Why do we assume that the woman should wait for the man to call or even that she always wants to talk to him again? Just as men do not always want to have sex regardless of the circumstances, women are not always trying to mate for life, nor do they always want to be powerless in the outcome of their relationships.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Absolutely fantastic post. Once again. I really wish I had more than anecdotes, but I have yet to meet a man who confirms that getting sexual access early in a relationship lowers his opinion of a woman, and know several happy couples who hooked up on the first date and contacted one another afterward because, and this will blow your mind, they liked and respected one another despite having sex early on.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I can see your point, Phil. And I agree with Francesca.

    But I also think the frat guys down the street from me would really appreciate this post. I can see them being very excited about the young ladies at their party tonight thinking, “There’s really no support for the theory that guys won’t respect you if you sleep with them the first night. I should totally sleep with one of these guys.”

    Seriously though, I think it’d be worth looking at research on hookups by Elizabeth Armstrong and Paula England about the sexual double-standard in such relationships, which pretty much amounts to women being used for male orgasms, compared to actual relationships where women are far more likely actually get an orgasm in during sex. Even if the relationship lasts beyond the first-date sexual encounter (which can certainly happen), odds are that first sexual experience included the man having an orgasm, and the woman not having one until later on in the relationship.


    1. Orgasm inequality narrows to almost zero very quickly in the college relationships Professor England studied, if I remember her ASA presentation correctly. And it’s maybe an unfortunate but not necessarily malicious consequence of female anatomy that it takes much more work to bring a woman to orgasm than it does a man.

      Moreover, it’s not clear that women do not derive pleasure from sex unless reaching orgasm, nor that the women who do not achieve orgasm during brief hookups in college resent the experience. So it’s not clear anyone is being “used.” Many of the women England and Armstrong interviewed were not looking for long term relationships on campus.

      Women are perfectly rational, especially some of the best educated women in the world, and will not continually volunteer for behaviors that dramatically violate their expectations and sense of self worth.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. They do at my elite school, Graham. I see brilliant women being used all the time here. But both of us are arguing from anecdotes.

        So in Armstrong and England’s recent ASR article, they actually measured “sexual enjoyment” too beyond just orgasm. And women’s sexual enjoyment in relationships was a good deal higher than women’s sexual enjoyment in hookups. So it’s not just orgasm inequality, but even inequality regarding sexual enjoyment.

        Just throwing out some thoughts. I’ll end here.


        1. You’re talking about inequality on different margins. Male v. female orgasm inequality. And female hooking up v. female in a relationship inequality.

          I would expect both females *and* males hooking up, to enjoy that sex less than they do having sex while in relationships. I don’t see the cause for alarm there. The point I made was that in absolute terms, rational women hook up because they get positive sexual enjoyment from it.

          The “women are getting used,” hypothesis seems to imply that women are getting zero or net negative enjoyment from hooking up. I have a hard time believing that, and think we’re selling women short to presume that hundreds of thousands of innocent and fragile college girls are walking around being emotionally cheated, helpless to alter the dynamics of such a situation.

          In fact I think the entire fire storm over “hookup culture” demonstrates how yet-uncomfortable people are with young women doing precisely what we asked them to do — take ownership of their own sexualities regardless traditionalist injunctions.


  5. I’d expect sex to be positively correlated with subsequent dates, simply because people are more likely to want both sex and more dates at the end of a good date than they are to want either at the end of a bad date. So even zero correlation would be interesting, never mind a negative correlation.

    Even if sex really does make subsequent dates less likely, it could just as well be that the woman is often put off by what happens in the bedroom.


  6. I’ve had many fulfilling relationships with guys I slept with on the first date. Conversely, I’ve left some guys after sleeping with them on the first date because it was bad, and I’ve left other guys before it got to that point. In any case, the first time two people who hope to have a relationship have sex it’s usually more ceremonial than about pleasure for either party, as far as I can recall. I’ve also not infrequently been turned down by guys when I wanted sex on the first date. I agree that nearly all these comments are heavily influenced by the idea that men “naturally” want sex and women don’t, and by the desire to shame women who nevertheless assert that they like sex. Note that no women have said anything like that.


  7. Nicely done. A nice possible example for teaching research methods.

    A similar problem exists with studies of birth order, which have frequently failed to control for number of siblings. i.e., “first child” includes lots of only-children.


  8. Who’s using who for sex? Do we have equality in sexual pleasure and equality in the relative importance of relationship and sexual pleasure?
    In 1960, the Shirelles asked, “Will you still love me tomorrow?” or even call me for a second date? The song has been covered by many, many singers since then – Wkipedia lists them all – and among them are some men (Smokey Robinson, Joe Walsh et al.). Still, the ratio is heavily female. Maybe that indicates a closing of the gap. Or maybe it’s just because of the line “Can I believe the magic of your size?”


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