At 32, I'm against having any premarital sex, even when the two of you are committed to one another and are deeply in love. This is because a man who was my dearest friend told me he was in love with me only to have sex. He and I had been close friends for many years before we became lovers; and he knew how old-fashioned and serious (and sincere) I am. He knew I was true blue to him only, and he knew not to cross the line past kissing unless we were both really in love. (I found out later that he had one-night stands while we were together.)
My heart is in a million pieces. Why would a man who was one of my closest friends hurt me so much and in this way? I treated him like gold.
I'll probably never find that wonderful man I am to marry, since I have such prudish morals. Life teaches its lessons harshly, and the prudent person remembers them -- not to become embittered and cynical, but to avoid repetition. Clearly the man who exploited your morality wanted to prove his manhood. All he gained was one more notch on his belt, but you can lift your senses to a higher plane. Chalk this off to experience, don't judge all men by this one rat, and set about your life with optimism. Your prudish morals show a prudent woman-they make you the victor.
I have a story for the guy who cherished a girl (she was serious about someone else) and she wanted only to be friends. Your advice to end the dating relationship was good.
I did not date many guys, but they were always friends first. I was fond of one for a long time, when he met someone else and became serious about her. He gave me the "let's be friends" line because he was too chicken to say anything difficult. I clung to the hope of a deeper relationship all the time, up until they got married! That was so humiliating and embittering that it colored my view of the friendship we had originally.
Another guy was more open, and I was a bit wiser. After dating
more than a year we discovered he wanted deepness leading to marriage and I knew I wasn't headed that way with him. As painful as it was, we discussed it and stopped dating. The amazing part was, the friendship part of it ultimately survived! He soon met a great gal and wrote me about her, and I rejoiced with them when they married. I eventually met a great guy whom I married. In the years since, our families have become close. His wife is one of my best friends. All of which proves that, given the mutual respect and warmth, former lovers can grow their feelings into a lasting friendship. But it takes two mature people -- ready to relinquish romance in favor of platonic friendship and not consider the shift a step down.
Sex is still the best-kept secret in the world, and your observation that "it seems most people are basically conservative in their sexual mores" is half the reason why: People may be conservative publicly, but given the confidence of trust and respect, they will privately engage in enough erotic abandon as to put prostitution and pornography out of business!
It comes down to what we actually do vs. what we want to do, or what we fantasize about doing. Sex research is replete with such stuff: Give an example of a sex act, and a majority might say they wouldn't participate. Follow that with the same act expressed in terms of fantasy, and the same majority often admits curiosity, interest and often a surprising desire to "try it"!
I have always said this about sex and the sexes: Men want to perform the act with a variety of partners; women want one partner with whom to perform a variety of acts.
These two would seem mutually exclusive, but they aren't; variety, despite its meaning, serves as the unifying factor. Sex is for both parties a surrender, and in order to surrender we need to feel trust and respect. When you feel you can trust and respect someone and they reciprocate in equal measure, there is little the two of you will be afraid to explore.
You've done a lot of thinking about sex, and the musings have brought about some wonderful ideas. Conservative we are, in our public personae, but in our heart of hearts we have our secret gardens. Let us tend them with care.