To each her own…
I could easily have tweeted the gist of this piece as follows: “I have sex on the first date 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.
(Well, except for one who was kind of a douche and proved that the 30 Rock “Toofer” character is not that far off in 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 wrote my reason down as “I like sex, but don’t want a relationship right now,” and then I realized that giving that “reason” plays right into the problem I have with most of the aforementioned death-of-courtship pieces.
Much of these conversations focus on holding off on sex as a tool to use in order to take a relationship where you want it to go.
The standard narrative goes like this:
“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 a committed relationship is formed and then, around the time it’s appropriate and mutually acceptable 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 women being told that sex is our power and we are supposed to leverage it to get what we 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 whole “We’re both into each other and 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 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 with Sid.)
On the contrary, when I was single and in my 20’s I believed 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,” because I knew if I had sex with men they would run away never to be heard from again.
And 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 and we went out again. Great story. It involves what my friends call my Love Actually text. Why? Because, “At Christmas, you tell the truth.“)
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 recently 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 led me to become 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 I’m attracted to end with a bang. Sorry, that one was too easy.
Am I saying everybody needs to get down on it on date number one? Hell no! But, just as I have my own reasons for doing it, I would hope that folks who don’t (and even other folks who do) have their own reasons they’ve come to of their own accord as well. I hope 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 labeled “dating” that makes anyone feel abnormal or like they are messing it all up if they don’t find themselves quite fitting in.
Oh, I know, I know …
“But, JoEllen! Hook-up culture!”
Yes, folks do “hook-up” more than they used to, 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 its aura of romance). But, again, it is simply another option we all have.
You don’t want to have casual sex or 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 New York Times piece, “The End of Courtship.” It doesn’t describe a crisis caused by courtship dying. It describes the crisis faced by people who want courtship but settle for less.
If you want it, go for it.
Courtship is not what I’m into, at least not right now. If that was all dating was and could be about I would probably withdraw from it 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 set 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.