Ted* is a bit pudgy and not-too good looking. But the 26-year-old engineer has an elegant suburban-Detroit condo and can do a finger-and-tongue oral-sex trick that leaves Yolanda close to tears. Ted got his first taste of Yolanda after only three dates. They enjoy each other’s company, but one wrong move and Ted could become a victim of Yolanda’s new “freak-him-and-forget-him” attitude.

A voluptuous mocha-hued twenty-something, Yolanda knows she could’ve bedded Ted after their first date. Not only is she striking, but she’s also a smart, fun conversationalist who keeps a ready laugh to stoke a brother’s ego. Despite her ability to pull the brothers, Yolanda had always delayed sexual gratification. She had to get to know a man’s ambitions first, and his upbringing as well. That was until about a year ago.

“The older you get the more your attitude will change,” she says. “In college, I cared more about doing the right thing, but now, hmph,” Yolanda says about her latest fling. “If I’m vibing with a brother and something happens, fine. I always use a thingy (condom), so it’s all good.”

Apparently, many of us share Yolanda’s attitude. When asked, “How soon should you invite him up for ‘coffee’ — after the first, second or third date?” 576 ESSENCE.com visitors confessed that they would do so within that time frame (that is, of course, assuming our visitors assumed that “coffee” leads to sex.) The majority of respondents — 60 percent — said they’d wait until the third date; nearly a third (29 percent) said the second date; and 11 percent said the first.

Good girls don’t?

Let’s get real: Many of us have slipped out of our silkies after only a few dates — or fantasized about it. Whether we do it or not depends on the strength of physical attraction, of course, but also on our internal compasses that govern behavior. Some of us ascribe to religious mores. Others believe the sexist societal rules that say “good girls don’t” because “he won’t respect you in the morning.” In truth, we often decide to have sex — or not to — based on how we’ll feel in the morning.

Consider Nancy, a sister in college who believes women who say they have sex just for the fun of it really want relationships. “Giving it up before you get the man to be committed is like saying, ‘I really want a meal, but I’ll take an appetizer in the meantime,'” she explains. “I can’t do that to my body.”

Then there’s Melanie*, a 35-year-old journalist who points to generational differences. “In our twenties, many of us are really finding our way. Remember we had the generation of the late ’60s and early ’70s promoting free love? I bet if you looked up those folks now they’re not interested in that anymore,” she says. “A friend of mine slept with everything that moved in college. Today she’s married, has a kid, is a professional and a pillar of the community. Everybody grows up at some point — if they’re lucky.”

Dr. Gwendolyn Goldsby Grant, ESSENCE magazine’s relationship expert, calls this sexual growth process “the cycles of sisterhood.” Grant, a psychologist, believes that “Every 10 years we become someone different because of our experiences.”

While there is no “right” behavior, Dr. Grant encourages us to consider our attitudes toward sex. We need to ask ourselves whether we cling to our conservative or traditional values because we are insecure about our bodies or afraid to explore our sexuality, she says. And those of us who call our vagina by juvenile names or invite in many brothers need to reassess our attitudes just as much as those who are hiding behind morals or too uncomfortable to explore or even discuss what our vagina looks like, smells like, and what it means to be intimate, says Dr. Grant.

Yolanda, who’s somewhere in the middle of the “cycles of sisterhood,” agrees that if you don’t understand your own behavior — why you may have sex after only three dates or why you’d rather wait — you open yourself up to being physically and/or emotionally scarred.

I say, do whatever brews your coffee. As long as you really feel good about it in the morning.

*These names have been changed to protect identities.