It’s 2020 and we still haven’t figured out how dating works properly. You’d think that in this age of sexual enlightenment and candour, there’d be a formula for actually landing a catch.
Sadly there’s been little progress since the sexual revolution in the 1960s in regards to modern relationships. Our society has made it easier than ever before in human history to pursue multiple sexual partners, but it’s as challenging as ever to settle down.
Myriad factors can help explain this: challenging economic conditions, attitudes around casual sex, the double-edged sword of modern technology, the historic decline of religious adherence…
But let’s get back to the topic at hand. There’s still endless debate on what the ‘right way’ to date is, and there’s so much conflicting advice out there.
One of the most persistent adages is the myth that you shouldn’t shag on the first date.
Triple J’s relationship program The Hook Up explored this myth by examining the popular Netflix reality series, Too Hot To Handle.
If you haven’t seen the show, it’s similar to other reality TV shows like Bachelor in Paradise, Love Island or even Adam Looking For Eve in that they drop a whole bunch of botoxed, sex-crazed influencers on an island and watch them doink.
Except Too Hot To Handle has a much more unique gimmick: the contestants aren’t allowed to kiss, have sex, or even masturbate.
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Any time the horny holidaymakers were caught canoodling, they lost some prize money. It didn’t stop most of the contestants from getting a little… uh, hands-on. But at the close of the show, they all agreed that the ‘experiment’ helped them learn more about developing meaningful bonds.
Obviously a situation like Too Hot To Handle is worlds away from a more everyday ‘should I sleep with this person on the first date’ situation but there are still some lessons we can learn.
There’s still a lot of stigma and uncertainty about how long you should wait before sleeping with someone. Conventional wisdom would say that you should hold off jumping into bed with someone until well past the first date if you’re looking for a meaningful, long-term relationship. But let’s interrogate that for a second.
There’s a weird double standard in heterosexual relationships where many men will push to have sex on the first date, but are at the same time generally uninterested in pursuing something serious with women who do so. The implicit understanding is that a girl who ‘puts out’ on the first date isn’t ‘wife material.’
It’s a tired, hypocritical thing we’re conditioned to believe that might have been more relevant before the contraceptive pill was developed but has little merit in today’s society.
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The Hook Up consulted sexologist Chantelle Otten (you might also know her as Dylan Alcott’s partner), who said the key is good communication. Sleeping with someone on the first date doesn’t have to consign the chances of developing a meaningful relationship to the dustbin as long as you’re transparent and upfront about your feelings and expectations, she relates.
“Having a relationship conversation which is not ‘*the* relationship conversation’ is a good thing to do prior to the date or on the first date, so just seeing what the other person is there for,” Otten explains.
Having the conversation is important. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to have sex (hot take: sex is great!) or having a casual thing – as long as you’re clear about that and don’t lead anyone on.
There’s also nothing wrong with f***ing on the first date as a precursor to a long, meaningful relationship. It’s not a zero-sum game. In fact, it’s arguably a good thing to do, Otten says.
“I think it’s really good to try out what your erotic life is going to be like with someone because if the sex is good, your body is going to feel good and it’s going to produce those bonding hormones and the happiness hormones. You also don’t want to go into a relationship where you have a really great connection but the eroticism isn’t going to be quite what you need to meet your needs.”
can’t believe I just have to keep dating until someone likes me back or I die
— Brandy Jensen (@BrandyLJensen) December 2, 2018
If they’re sh*t in bed, you don’t want to plough right into a long-term relationship with them. Don’t get it twisted: sometimes when you’re really into someone, the first time you’re intimate with them can be awkward and a bit of a let-down, so don’t write someone off entirely just because the first time wasn’t amazing.
But if you’re just not really doing it for each other, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later.
Look, if you’re not having much success finding meaningful connections, maybe consider not putting out on the first date. Like the contestants on Too Hot To Handle, you could potentially be attracting a better class of partner by being choosier with who you sleep with.
But don’t get suckered into the old myth that f*cking on the first date will ruin your chances of building a relationship with someone, because it’s just not true.