Image via flickr / Leonardo Stigliari
“So, did you sleep with him?” asked my best friend. It was one of those customary sessions after a first date. We were perched in my kitchen as she questioned and I answered that yes, in fact, I did.
“On the first date?” she quipped back quickly, incredulously. I reacted with the same speed, ready to lie.
“No, not on the first date. I just thought you meant slept with him in general. It was the second time I saw him.” There hadn’t been a second date at that point, but she believed me, and that was good enough for me.
That exchange stayed with me. My best friend and I are the kind to corner you at the bar with the worst-timed women’s studies lesson. She is my shoulder to cry on when sexist comments (on the internet) upset me, and she doesn’t even scold me for continuing to venture into that minefield. She is the last person on earth I would ever expect to judge me for sex on a first date, and that’s especially considering the fact that I know her sexual history.
I called her up to tell her the truth and explain why I lied. I half expected her to defend her decision to judge me for doing it on the first date, but she gave a kind of laugh that sounded like a realization.
“You know I wouldn’t judge you for having sex on the first date. I don’t even know why I said that.” I could practically hear my best friend shaking her head over the phone as she spoke. “You know I do it, too.”
There it was. We were both first-date-sex offenders. I also have a vague memory from university of us drunkenly yelling over music at our male friends that women had the right to want sex on the first date without being labeled a slut or easy. But she was shocked when I told the truth, so I lied not wanting my best friend to think of me as a slut or easy. Even now when I think about these few minutes in my kitchen I cringe a bit — how could we be such hypocrites?
A Google search for “sex on the first date” brings up a flurry of studies, statistics, and advice columns. For the most part the content is safe, either just spitting out numbers or advising daters to take it on a case-by-case basis (though reminding them to use protection), but most of these results focus on women. Should women have sex on the first date? What should women consider before sex on the first date? Isn’t it surprising that women are okay/want/seek sex on the first date? After a browse in the comments section (and a call to my best friend to cry about sexist internet strangers), it seems to be an unspoken rule that men are always down for sex on the first date, but the issue gets hazy when a woman makes the decision for herself at the end of the night. That’s why women need countless articles about what to do in these situations, because it’s our call that differs.
Here is where that best friend and I would interject with accusations of slut shaming and double standards, but I fear we’ve lost credibility in this area given our readiness to conform to an archaic way of thinking. The idea that women are a goal to be attained and striven for is so ingrained in us that we can’t be open and honest about the fact that we want sex too. In fact when I go on a date, I hope I get lucky and I know many young women who think likewise.
The idea that a man won’t want us in the long run if they know they can get us naked up front is frankly insulting. What’s more insulting is that there’s never any consideration of whether women will still want these men after they give it up on the first date. This is the same line of thought that’s created the ‘nice guys’ that have been trending lately. It’s abhorrent to these self-proclaimed nice guys that they can treat a woman well, and she still won’t sleep with them, as if she’s required to since they behaved appropriately. Then the women are cursed for their pursuit of ‘bad boys’ when these nice guys were there all along, and in the end it’s all her fault because she’s a shallow, self-centered bitch — and God forbid she have a say in who she pursues. Whether it’s a popular opinion or not, or something we want to admit to ourselves or not, there is still this underlying current that women don’t get a say. We can choose to be a virgin, or we can choose to be a whore, but we don’t get a choice in the gray areas. And the onus is not solely on the men we date, as demonstrated through that dialogue in my kitchen, women allow it to happen by not speaking up, or being afraid to express how they really feel.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve brought up the subject of first-date sex with various friends and acquaintances. Across the board the general consensus was that it depends on how much you like the other person, which isn’t surprising. What was surprising was how many of them brought up online dating. The second the idea of a woman meeting a man online came up, it was like we were back in the fifties.
“Well, if she’s never met him before then she definitely shouldn’t sleep with him [on the first date]. What if he’s like the Craigslist killer?” (You have no idea how many guys brought up the Craigslist killer.) “It’s too dangerous for a girl to go out with a stranger.”
While I would have preferred that male friend of mine use “woman” instead of “girl,” he brought up an interesting point, so I pushed it a bit further. “Would you go out with a stranger?” I asked.
“Well, yeah. I mean, I’m not going to get raped or pregnant, so it’s not like it’s dangerous for me.” It’s here that he wants me to add that he would never do the aforementioned to a date; “It sucks, but it’s how the world works.”
According to this friend of mine, the way the world works is that women must be extra careful because we can’t trust the men around us. While women are expected to watch their back be it whether they fuck on a first date, dabble in online dating, or meet with a stranger, these men we’re doing it all with are the ones that get to act with wild abandon and place the blame on us should something go awry. There are no expectations on the backs of these men who warn against women in situations they would happily put themselves in. That’s not to say that all these men are automatically going to screw over the women they date, but they know there’s a safety net for them that we are unfortunately not privy to.
To make matters worse, we know what the men around us are thinking. We know they believe that women should behave a certain way, and whether we agree with it or not — these are the men we want to date. I have not had a single date who didn’t share — in some way — a slight belief that there are different codes of conduct for females in such settings. So we shut up. Or we lie. Or comply. We allow our choice to be taken away.