Should You Have Sex In The Dark?


We automatically assume that lights off is the first step of sex, but imagine the possibilities of leaving the lights on. (Photo: Getty)

True or false: Men prefer sex with the lights on and women like it better off.

Answer: It depends on whom you ask. Men are “visual creatures,” goes the myth, and, indoctrinated by porn—biologically hard-coded with a “male gaze.” Thus, they like to watch. Conversely, or so the generalizations go, women have an affinity for romance and mystery—and more often contend with negative body images—which would lead anyone to prefer a pitch-black setting.

I conducted an informal survey among friends (some names have been changed by request, which is completely understandable) for a modern update on the topic. Choice quotes are below. Spoiler alert: The myth is just that.

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On Eye Contact:
Aaron, 23: “I enjoy being able to see my partner, not just to admire her body, but to enjoy moments of intimacy that come with eye contact and being able to read how they’re reacting.”
Nina, 25: “I like to see the other person, particularly their face. I think a lot can be relayed through a single look. Communicating while you’re hooking up is key to real pleasure, and being able to see someone when you’re getting intimate is important.”

On Body Image:
Darren, 30: “If he seems shy, or I’m peeling my layers and he’s not, or he’s looking around the room presumably for the light switch, then I’ll just let him lead the way and leave it on or off. I want him to be comfortable.”
Molly, 26: “It depends on how self-conscious you both are. I think I’m pretty confident with how I look, so I like having the lights on a little bit. If you love your body and it shows, then it makes the situation all the more sexy!”

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On Morning Sex:
Darren: “If it’s early morning sex, then I like the curtains open. Dawn light is pretty fucking awesome to set the mood. That’s worth waking up early for.”
Erika, 23: "My favorite light in a hookup situation is morning sunlight. There is no better way to start my day, and there is something very transparent it…Our moods have not yet been affected by the day to come, and our thoughts are mostly instinctual. Whatever nice clothes or makeup from the night before is gone (or at least no longer perfect), and it’s just two people waking up together with the same pure and mutual desire."

On Being in a Relationship:

One surprise to note: when in a serious relationship, most men polled preferred darkness. It was the women, in fact, who said brighter is better.

Darren: “If we’re in love, then I strongly prefer the lights to be off. The moment becomes an experience. Love is all about all the feels, so by turning the lights off, all the other senses get enhanced and the feeling is just so much more powerful and deep.”
Christine, 25: “Once you’re with hooking up with someone regularly, I say lights on. That makes it more intimate because you can actually look your significant other in the eyes.”

In the end, the lighting—along with the rest of the experience—ultimately surrenders to spontaneity. As Darren said, “If he rips my clothes off as soon as we walk through the door, then who cares about the lighting?”

By Ben Kassoy

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