I’m a pretty normal straight guy in my mid-20s. I don’t believe in sex without emotional intimacy, and I feel like it has damaged some potential relationships. I’m not religious; I just think sex is better when you have feelings for a person. I’ll get to OkCupid date number three or whenever the woman is ready for sex, and when I tell her no, she gets offended. Some of the reactions I get are aggressive—one woman accused me of being gay, and another one yelled at me for being mean. I’m not rude in how I say no! They were all women I’d like to have sex with on a purely physical level; I just wasn’t ready yet. Am I really that much of a freak? Is there a way for me to do what feels right without hurting women’s feelings and/or prematurely ending our relationships? Help.
Well, so here’s the thing: in our society, women are generally the gatekeepers of sexual desire because we pay the highest penalty for socially unacceptable sexuality. This is all 101 stuff, and I’m sure you already know it, but men are applauded for their promiscuity while women are called sluts. This sucks for everybody and is just one of the many ways that our society is a shithead about sex, but it sucks a lot harder for women than for men.
You are experiencing the flip side of this cultural understanding. We are made to believe we are sex objects, and that men should be horny for us at all times. Providing access to our sexuality is, in this cultural framework, the highest compliment we can give men. So being refused, even a kind refusal like the ones you are giving, feels hurtful. There is no blueprint for “I like you, but I’m not ready” from the man’s side.
This rule is so ironclad—and so reinforced by all media all the time—that I think it really does feel like a slap in the face to hear “no” to the offer of sex. It’s not that women think they’re so super hot, or that chicks deserve to be able to get laid whenever they want, or even that these ladies are invested in preserving this yucky worldview. It’s just kind of shocking when someone upends things, so sometimes people’s reactions are strange and inappropriate.
Also, I think for many women, being the sexual aggressor is a very vulnerable position—again, culturally, we are supposed to be pursued. Which is not to say—OF COURSE!—that you should do anything you aren’t comfortable with. I think you’re correct that your point of view is unusual and a bit unfashionable at the moment, but that’s all the more reason you should do what is right for you.
I think maybe your problem lies in the element of surprise. If you wait until the point at which a woman is coming onto you, you are almost definitely going to hurt her feelings when you deflect (however kindly you do so). I know it feels ridiculously presumptuous to say something that implies she wants to sleep with you. Obviously don’t do that. But I think there’s a way to work it into conversation casually in the first few dates that you are a slow mover, just to give her a heads-up. Some women will be cool, and others won’t want to wait, but at least you (hopefully) won’t get yelled at.