I could easily have tweeted the jist of this piece:
I have first date sex because I like sex.
I didn’t tweet it because I’ve been getting increasingly up-in-arms about the “death of courtship” debate going around lately and all the talk of “hook-up culture” and then I witnessed a whole debate about how men are becoming accustomed to women who “put out” early and have no patience for anything else so the romance and mystery have died etc etc blah, blah, blah, blah, blah and I got all stabby so clearly, I ended up with a bunch to say about it.
Here’s the what: I have first date sex. I will not couch this. I do not do this because I feel pressured by society or the men in question (except for one who was kind of a douche and proved that the 30 Rock “two-fer” character is not that far off on representing people who constantly point out they went to Harvard- at the end of our date I actually had to say “Oh, yeah, I’m not having sex with you”) I do not do this because I drink too much or am desperate for approval or affection. I do it because I like sex.
I originally had my reason down as “I like sex but don’t want a relationship right now” and then I realized that that reason played right into the problem with most of the “death of courtship” pieces. A lot of that conversation talks about holding off on sex as a tool to use to take the relationship to where you want it to be. The standard narrative is “Men want to be free and always want sex- they fear commitment. Women want husbands, houses and babies- they are desperate for the commitment. Also they may have heard of sex, possibly. The way women get the men to commit is by dangling the carrot of sex until the “relationship” is formed and then, around the time it’s appropriate to start referring to themselves as “we” sex is permitted.” Okay, I know very few people live by that narrative these days and it’s more of a “3 date rule” type of situation but still it all feels like sex is your power and you are supposed to leverage it to get what you really want. But what if what you really want is sex? Because, frankly, I think even if I wanted a relationship right now I would struggle with the “we’re both into each other, we just had a great date but in order for this to have relationship potential society dictates that there can be no orgasms tonight” thing.
This same narrative says that the life I’m describing is empty and soulless and will just end with me chucked aside after being used by countless men until I am sad and alone in a room at the Chelsea with a needle in my arm screaming “SIIIIDD!!!!” (Although, for what it’s worth, Nancy Spungen had a relationship) but, on the contrary. When I was single in my 20s I believe in the standard narrative above (I also didn’t date much, but that’s another story for another day). I felt there were definite rules. I lived in fear of conducting myself like a “slut”. I knew if I had sex with men they would run away never to be heard from again. I was miserable. Now, being single in my thirties, I think most of that is bullshit and I’m so much happier. Do I occasionally end up never hearing from a date again? Yes but it’s only really bothered me once and so I found him (great story, it involves what my friends call my “Love Actually text” why? because “at Christmas you tell the truth“) and we went out again. The thing is I don’t think my power in that, or any other situation lies in my ability to withhold or grant access to my vagina. My power lies in the fact that I’m fairly awesome.
I was just over on Tumblr and saw this:
That really sums up how I feel about dating. Sex is not the big thing I bring to the table. This philosophy has lead me to be extremely picky about who I go out with. I’m smart and funny and not the least bit afraid to be smarter or funnier than my date. Frankly, I suspect the type of gentleman who would “hang in there” just for the sex couldn’t hang with me and the type of gentleman who would think less of me for “giving it up” wouldn’t get half of what I said anyway. According to that math I have nothing to lose (as long as I’m safe) by having a date with a cool, cute guy who I’m attracted to end with a bang- sorry, that one was too easy.
Now, am I saying everybody needs to get down on it on date #1? Hell no! But, just as I have my own reasons for doing it I would hope that folks who don’t (or even other folks who do) have reasons they’ve come to on their own as well. That those folks aren’t doing what they think is expected of them, what they’ve been told will get them something in return or what someone who wrote a book or article told them to do (even if that writer was a fabulous redhead.)
One of the main reasons these “death of courtship” pieces drive me crazy is that yes, dating has changed. Things are different. But what I think that means is that there are more choices. You can still go through all of the old courtship rituals if that is your choice and if the person you’re courting isn’t into it, then they’re not for you. You can be like me and look for witty, smart conversation over a couple of drinks and if there’s a spark maybe get physical and if the person you’re out with is put off by that, again, they’re not someone who should be out with you. The big difference is that there isn’t one structured box that is “dating” that one is abnormal or messing it up if they don’t fit into.
Oh, I know, I know “But, Bedhead! Hook-up culture!” Yes, yes folks do “hook-up” more (or at least we’re calling a hell of a lot more attention to it now, from what I’ve heard back in the day Studio 54 wasn’t exactly known for it’s aura of romance…) but, again, another option we have. You don’t want to deal with someone who plays the hook-up game, don’t. You have choices! Don’t settle for someone whose dating style doesn’t match yours. Read the story at the very end of the NY Times piece. It’s not a crisis of courtship dying it’s a crisis people who want courtship settling for less. If you want it, go for it.
Courtship is not what I’m into, at least not right now. If that was what dating was all about I would probably withdraw from dating altogether. I don’t have the interest or the patience. Laughter, good conversation and sex, that’s what I’m into right now. The possibility of having all three in one night is enough to get me to put down my takeout, put on my cowboy boots and leave my house in the dead of winter.
I don’t think courtship is dead, I just think other choices are alive and well and to some people that’s scary.
I don’t think that there’s a “right” way to do it, just the way that’s right for you. I know what’s right for me right now. That’s why I have first date sex.