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Even experienced men make rookie mistakes when they go to bed with a new woman for the first time. And she's taking mental notes. "First-time sex gives her a sense of your generosity and how much you care about her," says the sex therapist Sandor Gardos, Ph.D. Nearly two-thirds of the 2,385 women we polled say they consider first-time sex an indicator of a relationship's potential. Here's how to best finesse your first.

Put in the Time
The three-date rule is not reliable. The majority of women we polled said they typically wait eight or more dates before sleeping with a man. She'll drop hints when she's ready. Your green light: When she creates total privacy for the two of you, says Darcy Luadzers, Ph.D., a sex therapist and the author of The Ten Minute Sexual Solution. Has she invited you over for dinner and mentioned that her roommates are out of town? Take the hint.

Pay Lip Service
Lots of kissing reassures her that you're not simply out for sex, says Yvonne K. Fulbright, Ph.D., the author of Touch Me There! Only one in seven women would consider sleeping with you without a makeout session first, reveals a study in Evolutionary Psychology. And two-thirds of women have ended a relationship based on the first kiss, possibly because the man was a sloppy kisser. Trace her lips with your tongue, and alternate soft kisses with gentle sucking on her lips.

Descend Slowly
Spend at least 15 minutes kissing and caressing before moving below. Many women take about 8 minutes to become aroused before they want clitoral stimulation, "so double that and you should have her at the brink," says Luadzers. Trace your hand along the outside of her hips, slowly working your way between her legs.

Use Your Head

If you're receiving encouragement, kiss your way down. Fifty-two percent of women in our poll said they want you to spend at least 15 minutes south of the border. Using your tongue, make your first full stroke from her perineum to her inner labia, and then barely touch her clitoris. Stop. Let her breathe while you kiss her inner thighs. Repeat.

Ace the Main Event

In our exclusive poll, a plurality of women (38 percent) said 10 to 20 minutes of intercourse is all they desire. Keep your Kama Sutra on the shelf: Sixty-six percent want to keep the positioning fairly tame at first. Have her lie back with her knees slightly bent, and place pillows under her hips, torso, and head. That'll allow you to kneel between her legs and enter her as you simultaneously stroke her clitoris with your hand, says Patti Taylor, Ph.D., the host of the podcast Expanded Lovemaking.

Upgrade Your Endgame
Your postcoital plan should reassure her that you're not just out for a one-night stand. Start with the obvious: cuddling. Fifty-six percent of women want about 20 minutes of closeness. It doesn't take much. "Even just taking her hand or laying your arm over her stomach is enough to make the point," Gardos says. And don't forget the follow-up: Fifty-nine percent want a phone call the next day, not a less-personal e-mail or text. Give her a quick buzz after work—you won't look overeager, but she'll still feel wanted.