Andrew Smiler, Ph.D.

America's leading expert on the masculine self

What's he want? How different groups of guys think about dating and sex.

Romantic Relationships, SexualityAndrew Smiler

As someone who does research on young men’s sexual development and has written a book about it, I often get asked if all guys “just want sex.” The answer is no, of course. Not all guys are the same.

Nearly all guys have and want relationships, even the guys who screw around. Regardless of their sexual history or interest in having random sex, when a guy has a sweetie, that relationship is important to him, even if he’s not very good at respecting it or making it work. Dudes like knowing they have someone to talk to, someone who will be there for them, and someone who will “have their back.” Men in long term marriages receive a slew of benefits from have those relationships.

Nearly all guys have and want relationships, even the guys who screw around.

In order to help you figure out where you stand – or where your (potential) partner stands – here’s a field guide to guys’ approaches to dating and sex. The simplest way to know which category a guy fits in is to find out how many sexual partners he averages per year. You might not be comfortable asking that question and you might not get an honest answer, but this guide will give you other things to consider.

Casanovas (or players) live out the classic hook-up script: go to a party/bar/whatever, talk to a variety of people, find one who seems to be willing, and go home with that person. Their goal is getting laid, so they have very little interest in who their partner is (beyond available) and they have little to no intention of seeing or talking to that person again.

Because their goal is to have no-strings-attached sex, many of these guys believe it’s perfectly fine to “spit game” or lie to their potential partner(s). Rightly or wrongly, they don’t expect to have to deal with any consequences of these random sexual encounters.

Because romantic guys prefer to have some type of emotional connection with their sexual partners, they’re also the guys who might acknowledge some regret about having a random hookup.

By the numbers, these guys average three or more sexual partners per year.

Casanovas are different with dating partners than hookups. In an ongoing relationship, they can be just as devoted, caring, honest, and loyal as any other guy. Unfortunately, they’re also more likely to cheat on their partners than other guys.

It doesn’t make sense to me, but players are less likely than other guys to use condoms. That probably explains why they have higher rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancies than other guys. You’d think that dudes who were totally into their own pleasure and who have little apparent respect for their partners would do everything they could to make sure there are no ongoing reminders of that particular night of pleasure, but they don’t. In that way, they’re actually quite different than the real Giacomo Casanova.

In any given year, as many as twenty percent of young men – about one guy in five – might be living a player lifestyle. But only about five percent, or one guy in twenty, does this for three straight years.

Religious guys are just that: religious. They tend to come from the more conservative ends of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam and they genuinely believe that sex is for marriage. They don’t hookup and they don’t engage in premarital sex. (Or, at least, not until shortly before their wedding day with their betrothed.)

Religious guys believe that the whole purpose of dating is to find a marital partner.

Religious guys believe that the whole purpose of dating is to find a marital partner and some of them call it “courting” instead of dating. Whatever term is used, these are interested in finding a wife, not just dating because they like someone and want to see where the relationship goes. By the time he’s three months into a relationship, a religious guy is giving serious thought about whether or not this relationship could lead to marriage. If the answer is no, then the relationship is over.

Needless to say, religious guys are pretty much the anti-Casanovas of the world. You won’t find them at the bars/parties/whatever where the Players hang out. You’re much more likely to find them at church or synagogue or mosque, or other activities sponsored by those kinds of organizations.

Religious guys aren’t as uncommon as you might think. Estimates say they’re something like twenty percent of 18-29 year-olds, or about one guy in five. If that number surprises you, it’s probably because religion plays little if any role in your life. There are lots of high schools and colleges that were created by and are (still) administered by religious organizations. Some have a clear expectation that their students will attend services regularly. And pretty much every American college has several student run religious organizations as well as nearby religious congregations that routinely serve college students, even though the organizations themselves are not affiliated with the university.

Romantics have a strong preference for dating their sexual partners. They’re not really interested in hooking up, and when they do, it’s usually with someone they know and have some sense of connection to. As college senior Derek explained to me about his one and only hookup experience, it “had more meaning to it because it was emotional although we both knew that at the same time it was just once and nothing to take too seriously.” For the record, that hookup occurred with an ex-girlfriend.

Because romantic guys prefer to have some type of emotional connection with their sexual partners, they’re also the guys who might acknowledge some regret about having a random hookup.

Romantics don’t have a lot of partners, dating or sexual. For them, it’s an average of about one per year.

There’s no one place where you’re most likely to find them, except maybe work or school. Although you’ll find them at bars/parties/etc., “meat markets” aren’t really their thing, so they might not be having a good time or they might not start a conversation with you.

Most guys are romantics. Some of them lack the confidence to ask someone out or aren’t good at reading the non-verbal signals women use to send interest instead of asking a guy out. Many of them get labeled as nice guys and compared to bad boys. As a result, these guys can easily end up in the Friend zone.

If you’re not sure which category you – or the guy you’re interested in – fits into and you don’t know about his sexual experiences, here are some things to think about. If the guy…

  • seems very confident, cocky, or egotistical during his interactions with you-as-potential-partner, he’s a Casanova.
  • is mostly focused on your looks, he’s a Casanova.
  • is lying to you, he’s a Casanova.
  • spontaneously and somewhat regularly mentions god or god’s will, he’s religious.
  • seems moderately unsure of himself, nervous, or like he’s not sure if he’s making a good impression, he’s romantic.
  • experiences moments of conversational silence, awkward or otherwise, he’s a romantic.

Good luck. I hope this short guide helps you find what you want.

-image by pernillarydmark/flickr