Teenagers use baseball metaphors to explain sexual progress, but for grown-up advice, football may be better, especially for women.
At the start of a football game, the team that wins the coin toss gets to decide which to play: offense or defense. Usually, the team chooses offense, but if there’s a good reason to start on defense (wind or sunlight conditions), the team will choose defense instead.
This is something like how things are for women. It’s wise for women to “play defense” when it comes to sexuality, at least early on in a relationship when sexual activity is just getting started.
This is because women have potentially more to lose when engaging in intimacy with men than men have to lose when being intimate with women. Both women and men can have their hearts broken, or be physically hurt by a partner, but women can also get pregnant, and they can get diseases from men more easily than men can from women. Because of these extra vulnerabilities, it makes sense for women to “play defense” early on in a sexual relationship.
Playing defense doesn’t mean women are passive–nobody would call a defensive linebacker “passive.” And playing defense early on in a relationship doesn’t mean that the defensive stance needs to be held throughout the relationship, especially if trust creates a more even “playing field.”
Written by: Valerie V. Peterson is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Grand Valley State University and author of Sex, Ethics, and Communication. Photo: Vince Petaccio