No sex on the first date? Who cares

Why is female sexual purity valued so highly? EH looks at how sex is negatively gendered


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I have talked in this column a lot about being a girl, a lot about feminism, and an awful lot about myself. Now I’m going to (try and) talk about sex, specifically the idea of ‘easiness’.

Getting with people on nights out is surely a time-honoured tradition at university, so it’s perfectly within the bounds of acceptable. Dating is different. Or it’s at least seen to be different. There are, hopefully, no Jägerbombs on dates.

My first date structure for a very long time was this: go to the Pickerel Inn (the Pick to those in the know), as it’s very close to my college, have two drinks, and then return to my room. If I wanted to change things up (read: if the date was with someone from a hill college) I’d go to the Punter. That was it.

It took until this Christmas holiday, as in 2017, for me to realise there was another way to end a first date. Seriously. I’m sure that sounds ridiculous, and this will sound more so, but I just didn’t know what else you’d say.

I also never really wanted to end it another way. I was very determined to be single and free while I was single and free, so why on earth would I hold back? It seemed to me that the ‘no sex on the first date’ rule was designed around the basis of women giving in to male sexual pressure and desire.

In part, it is this. I’m not denying that at all – the idea of waiting to have sex can carry some very harmful connotations around the value of female sexual purity that are wrong and bad. The ideas of ‘putting out’ or ‘giving it up’ have very gendered implications of sacrifice or penalty for sex.

“The ideas of ‘putting out’ or ‘giving it up’ have very gendered implications of sacrifice or penalty for sex”

Equally, waiting can have lovely connotations of making sure you know somebody properly before having sex. Great, if that’s what you’re into.

I fall somewhere in the middle. I think there are some people you meet and it’s immediately obvious that sex is going to be the extent of things. I think there’s some people you meet who you’re attracted to, but know you’ll more than just a sexual relationship with. And it’s in this latter camp that I think it’s okay – even advisable – to wait, at least for a bit.

I’m not about to become a preacher for purity. That is categorically not what I’m about at all, and I really did put up a fight against this idea when some of my pals who’ve been much more successful in the relationship arena than I tried to explain it to me.

Basically, the notion is one of priorities. If you prioritise having sex with somebody over a second date when you haven’t seen them in the buff, sex is going to be the number one thing in your relationship, at least for the immediate future. If you prioritise that second date, and with it a bit of mystery, you prioritise the non-sexy stuff, at least for now.

Do you see? It took me ages to see. I’m not trying to tell anybody what to do, just that, in my experience, it’s loads easier for people to mess you about once you’ve slept together because you become just somebody they’ve slept with. You become somebody they can unmatch with on Tinder without giving over any other contact details (true story). Maybe I’ve just been going out with nasty boys, I don’t know.

The basic, and quite difficult, fact is that sex does not equate to love. I realise how puritan that sounds, but let me explain.

I took sex, not to mean love, but to mean at least affection. Maybe affection is even too strong, but I just took the very fundamental clicking needed to have sex with someone to mean something that it didn’t. Respect, maybe, which it definitely was not automatically equitable with.

I’d like to stress that I’m not saying at all that all men are pigs who will hang around till you have sex with them and then leave. I’ve had some really lovely one-night-stands who I thought were nice people, but would never be much more than a one-night-stand I tell my friends about and put on my list.

Just that, especially if you know you’re vulnerable to the opinions of other people, like I am, sex is something to watch out for. It’s complicated and emotional and can make things really messy and awful when your expectations are different.

Evidently, do what you like, but I think maybe sometimes – and I have been especially guilty of this – what you really want falls out of step with your sex life. Sex is a quick hit of human interaction, and the perceived validation / love / respect / whatever that goes hand in hand with that. It can mean all those things, and I’m sure it’s lovely when it does.


Mountain View

Does this sound too crazy?

I honestly don’t think it’s possible to be ‘too easy’, or too promiscuous or whatever, just objectively. Who’s to say how many is too many – if you’ve slept with 13 people, are you inherently worse than somebody who’s slept with 12, or 5, or 1, or none?