Girl Talk: Is Bad First-Time Nookie A Dealbreaker?

“I think you’re great,” I told him over martinis on our third date, “but I just don’t think we’re compatible.” Mike was smart, interesting, and nice … too nice when we slept together for the first time earlier that week. There had been no throwdown, no frantic disrobing, no moaning loud enough to wake the neighbors, no playfulness. Instead, there was soft music playing in the background, gentle kisses on my eyelids, careful caressing, uncomfortable, unwavering eye contact, and … Oh, God, is he making love to me?I had been afraid this would happen. When he had told me that he and his ex-wife hadn’t been on the same page in the bedroom, I emailed my friend Anya with my interpretation: “One of them liked it rough; one of them is a snoozefest,” crossing my fingers that he was the former.

But it takes two to tango and two to have Lifetime movie sex, so I tried to do my part in picking up the pace and setting a more aggressive tone. I grabbed his hair. I told him to kiss my neck when he went for my forehead. I put his hands where I wanted them. “You don’t have to be so gentle,” I finally said, hoping to inspire more gusto.

And I did. So much so that, three minutes after we started, he switched to jackhammer mode and finished … and I was done.

This wasn’t the first time I had put my foot down when it came to first-time sex with a new guy. My ex-boyfriend recently reminded me that the first time we slept together, in lieu of pillow talk, I sighed, expressed my dissatisfaction, and suggested we give it another shot. When I was younger, before I fully grasped the Golden Rule of Dating, I even found myself guilty of pulling the slow fade-out on a bad one-night-stand who wanted more.

Chemistry, compatibility, and fun between the sheets is important to me. But am I missing out on great guys in my pursuit of great sex?

When I told my girlfriends about Mike, they nodded sympathetically. Most even applauded me for not leading him on and cutting him loose sooner rather than later. After all, I wasn’t breaking things off to punish him; the experience just left me completely turned off at the thought of sleeping with him again.

My friend Lina said I was making a mistake, citing all of his good qualities. Sure, I agreed, Mike was very nice and we did have great conversations, and maybe in a few months, when I’d give my left arm to just go out with a nice guy, dammit, I’ll regret writing him off. But, I reasoned, isn’t it unfair to both of us if I begrudgingly attempt to give it another go?

I had stuck it out through bad sex before — for two long, orgasmless years with a man I loved, in fact. When that relationship ended, I promised myself that I’d do my part in speaking up about what I wanted in bed and that I wouldn’t stick around if I wasn’t getting it.

I asked my occasional bed-mate and sex life consultant Eric Amaranth for his professional opinion: Was I being too quick to dismiss Mike? In a word: yes. “There are plenty of women,” Eric reminded me, “who would have classified that night as wonderful and perfect for them.” Sure, in theory. Perhaps this was one of those “you had to be there” things. Eric also scolded me for being too harsh about the quick finish. “That happens more often than you think. If you see a pattern form, however, then it becomes more reasonable to move along.” I knew that, of course. “I’m super patient,” I defended myself — I’ve been game for dealing with everything from the too big to the too small, the premature ejaculators to the never-gonna-happens — “as long as I’m really into him.”

Was I not into Mike? Perhaps not really, if the best thing I could say about him was that he was a nice guy. As important as good sex is to me, and as disappointing as bad sex can be, maybe the extent to which it’s grounds for a breakup depends on the guy in question. After all, we all have our alleged dealbreakers, but we also have an astonishing capacity for wavering on our standards when we’re head over heels. (Giving one guy hell for calling an hour past schedule while doing a happy dance when another guy bothers to call at all, two weeks late? Check! Being turned off when a man confesses a daily pot-smoking habit and then dating a heroin addict? Check!)

Do I wish I had given Mike another shot? No. But maybe I’ll stick around a little longer next time around, at least long enough to suss out whether the sex is has-potential bad or can’t-keep-a-straight-face bad.

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