Precise estimates of costs and benefits, the fitness economics, of mating are of key importance in understanding how selection shapes the coevolution of male and female mating traits. However, fitness is difficult to define and quantify. Here, we used a novel application of an established analytical technique to calculate individual- and population-based estimates of fitness—including those sensitive to the timing of reproduction—to measure the effects on females of increased exposure to males. Drosophila melanogaster females were exposed to high and low frequencies of contact with males, and life-history traits for each individual female were recorded. We then compared different fitness estimates to determine which of them best described the changes in life histories. We predicted that rate-sensitive estimates would be more accurate, as mating influences the rate of offspring production in this species. The results supported this prediction. Increased exposure to males led to significantly decreased fitness within declining but not stable or increasing populations. There was a net benefit of increased male exposure in expanding populations, despite a significant decrease in lifespan. The study shows how a more accurate description of fitness, and new insights can be achieved by considering individual life-history strategies within the context of population growth.