A few weeks ago, I faced my worst fear. After much cancelling, re-organising and then cancelling again, I finally went on my first tinder date.
Before my date, I did as any smart young woman would, and sent a screenshot of his Facebook profile to my housemate so she’d know his name if he murdered me. As I walked out the door she turned to me and offered a piece of age-old dating advice, “have fun…but make sure you don’t fuck him.”
Don’t have sex on the first date; it’s a rule every woman has heard before. Women are constantly bombarded by rules and guidelines on how long to wait to do the deed with someone new – some swear by the three date rule, and others believe we should wait until marriage. Even the most sex-positive of us feel the pressure to ‘hold out’ until an appropriate time (whenever the hell that is). It appears that while our attitudes towards sex, intimacy and dating have evolved, the notion of the tramp who dares to have sex on the first date seems to have endured.
A quick survey of my friends found that while we all said sex on the first date wasn’t ideal, we’d all done it before (mum please stop reading here)…including myself. The data from this very legitimate and scientific study also revealed that there was no direct correlation between how long we waited to have sex and the longevity of the relationship. In fact, several of us had serious long-term relationships sprouting from first-date hookups. Hell, even Chrissy Teigan admits she had sex with John Legend on their first date, and they’ve been married for 5 years now! So if there is no strategic value in waiting, why do we shame first date sex?
Sex is an extremely personal and complex human experience, and as such there are varying attitudes towards it. Whilst each person brings their own beliefs to the table, there are a range of cultural, social and religious factors which shape our views as a broader society towards sex and those who do it (see what I did there).
In the past, Western views towards sex have largely been influenced by religion, namely Christianity, with approximately 88% of Australians identifying as Christian in the early 1960s. This dominance of religion, in conjunction with generally-conservative social norms, resulted in a great deal of importance being placed on remaining pure and chaste until marriage. Although in existence at the time, pre-marital and LGBT+ relationships were extremely taboo. In fact, criminal charges were pressed against people engaging in homosexual activity well into the 1970s.
These attitudes begin to shift in the late 60s and early 70s with the invention of and widespread access to the oral contraception pill. Paired with the second wave of feminism, access to birth control triggered what is known as the ‘sexual revolution,’ where conversations about women’s sexual needs and desires moved to the forefront of public discourse. This newfound ability for sexual expression without risking the lifelong commitment of a child resulted in a dramatic increase in premarital and casual sexual relationships.
Fast forward to 2018 and it’s obvious there has been a huge shift in how we view sex, as an overwhelming 87% of Australians now approve of premarital sex. We are also having more sexual partners, and are more accepting of lesbian and gay sexual relationships. Whilst many factors have contributed to these societal changes, the rapid decline of religion in the West has played a large part. In fact, ‘no religion’ overtook Christianity as the most common religious identity selected on the 2016 Census.
The ‘Third Wave’ of feminism has also played a major role in changing ideas about the morality of sex in modern day Australia. Focusing heavily on choice, this wave of feminism is advocates for not only domestic and economic equality among the sexes, but also promote sex-positivity and open discussion about women’s sexual behaviour and needs. This is reflected across popular culture, as shows such as Sex and the City, and more recently Broad City centre around the dating and sex-lives of women.
So all of this might make you think that 2018 is sex-positive era where we’re all free to do as we want, right?
Well, not exactly.
Despite progress in women’s rights, the god-awful concept of the ‘slut’ appears to have survived. In a 2012 study of over 19,000 U.S. university undergraduates, a striking 50% agreed with the statement “if women hook up or have sex with lots of people I respect them less.” This response makes it clear that heterosexual women are still seen as sexual gatekeepers, who must limit the amount of men they let pass, or else be labelled promiscuous.
It’s from these antiquated ideas of the past that rules like ‘don’t have sex on the first date’ originate. As humans, we are risk-averse by nature, and as a result women often abstain from having sex too soon in order to avoid being deemed ‘easy’ and therefore reducing their chances at a relationship with the partner in question.
However, experts suggest this isn’t the best advice to follow. Contrary to public perception, sexologist Dr Nikki Goldstein argues that it may in fact be better to have sex early on in your relationship. Goldstein explains that “we live in a dating world where people are more sexual and if you’re a sexual person and intimacy is important to you, you’re going to want to find out in the beginning.”
This brings us to consideration of a critical, but often forgotten, factor in the decision of whether a woman should have sex on the first date – does she actually want to have sex? A recent study published in the Clinic Psychology Review found that while women tended downplay their interest in sex, most admitted to researchers it was something they were very interested in.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter how soon you choose to make a relationship physical. Human beings are complex and multidimensional, and the decision to have sex is an extremely personal one. There can never be a one-size-fits-all guide to when you should share your body with someone new. Whether it’s on your wedding night or an hour after you first meet, as long as it’s safe and consensual there is no ‘wrong’ time to have sex. So go ahead, have fun, be yourself and if he’s hot… then fuck him.