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Oops, I had sex on the first date.

It doesn’t take a Carrie Bradshaw themed ‘then I got to wondering…’ memo to realise that in 2020 there’s no strict guidelines broadly applicable to the frequently pondered question of timing when it comes to having sex with someone new. But, there used to be. Classic dating manuals like “The Rules”, published in 1995 and the male authored manifesto, “The 10 Date Rule” of 2014 both give an explicit timeline for intimacy. And by explicit I mean lock yourself into a chastity belt and adhere to the rules or shame yourself in a corner. In 2020 we’re exposed to far more variables than ever in the dating world and our brains are gradually learning to fold around these new complexities of relationships. With this in mind I wasn’t at all surprised to find such diverse commentary on the topic. However, more than any particular answer the attitude towards the question threw me. The responses were equitably laissez faire, but it was the subtext of what felt like mild frustration directed towards the validity of the question that impacted me more. Most people were passionate about there being no formulaic response to the “when should i…?”, and intimated instead that sexual connection is built on a unique combination of trust, connection, timing and individual personalities. All it took was a gentle nudge and I could sense the cogs changing direction as each respondent mentally flicked through their little black books to offer findings from their own best of/worst of sex memories. Before I do what I do best and dissect this fucker let me say this: overall we seem to be more driven by emotional motivators, particularly chemistry and connection and they are generally labelled the champions of ‘what feels right’. Gone are the days where we choose partners and lovers based on security, how many cows they have or simply their ability to procreate. Shockingly (not at all) I have an ever changing perspective on the topic and the more I read, listen or write the more this beast grows legs. You’ve probably realised by now that I am not going tell you that the magic number is 4.73 dates and 12 phone calls, sorry. Nevertheless, here’s some alternate perspectives to consider before you decide (to undress): Applying a formula to sex turns it into a commodity One response side swiped me with it’s poignant lucidity, especially as it was something I was peripherally aware of, yet had not yet been able to articulate. Applying a formulaic timeline to the physical evolution of a relationship puts us all at risk of turning sex into a commodity. This means that we are using sex as a potential ‘reward’ for displaying right behaviours or ticking preconceived boxes, regardless of whether or not the person being subjected to these criteria are aware that they’re part of a complex vetting process. On the contrary, instigating ultimatums or rewards (around sex, birthday presents, use of grammar etc) can prompt or validate bad behaviour in the future. More dangerously it can obfuscate true intentions and hinder you from getting to know someone else in an authentic way. I think many of us naturally and consistently ask the ‘when can we have sex?’ question on a subconscious level, especially when there’s chemistry (or alcoholic beverages) at play. Before a date (if you own any level of self awareness) there’s a rough idea of where things may lead. Back down in reality though, that fantastical notion allows for very little real life and behaving like an actual human to play out. At some point, anytime between the lead up to the date and drink #4 your (very human) sexual self creeps into the equation, throwing rogue question marks and a few a subtle knee touches in your path (of temptation). It’s normal. Don’t hate yourself if you have sex before the date that you had circled in your yearly planner. Waiting to have sex creates positive tension In my opinion waiting to have sex is beneficial to the outcome of the (potential) end relationship for an entirely different reason to others. There’s definitely truth in the fact that waiting to have sex gives you an opportunity to find out more about someone, to work out what feelings you have for them (if any) and is more likely to reveal true intentions but it’s definitely not foolproof. FYI we all masquerade in relationships for about a year (stick that in your pro’s list). What is an undeniable fact though, is that if you do like someone and you’re dating for the purpose of cultivating a relationship then waiting to have sex creates positive tension and heightens desire for one another. Whilst it’s probably not necessary and to that end won’t alter the outcome of the officiousness of the relationship, there’s something quite romantic (and exciting) about waiting to have sex. If you suspect you’re about to enter into one of those life altering, long long term relationships then you will never, ever, ever get the chance to recreate the natural friction that comes from the initial stages of falling for your partner. So, if you have an inkling that your casual dating is about to turn into the love of a lifetime, and in 4 years time you’ll be fighting about how to hang the laundry then my advice is to hold off on granting front row access to your full sexual repertoire for just a moment or two. Sex is a language (of sorts) To apply an even more lateral view to the question, I started to think about what sex can provide for a couple in terms of it being a communication platform in itself. Despite the fact that I’m a writer, words play a big role in my life and I have boundless (annoying) amounts of curiosity that I’m not afraid to flex, communication can still be a struggle. At times words only get us so far, and to fill in the gaps we have body language, actions, insinuation and overtones. But we also have sex. Sometimes we forget that sex is a language in itself and through it our bodies are able to organically communicate for us. The communication that takes place through sex has the potential to be so seamless, so raw and so unfiltered that it can be far superior to the carefully constructed and neatly edited conversations that we rehearse repeatedly before shyly (and often awkwardly) raising with our (potential) other half. As intelligent adults we know the difference between sex that is empty, transactional fucking and sex that carries more weighting, even if that weighting can’t quite be translated into words yet. Quite simply put, sometimes sex is the actual bridge between two people meeting, and understanding that they quite like each other. Other times it can be the very indicator that makes it clear that the connection isn’t interesting enough to pursue.

Jess Matthews Writer and Dating & Relationship Coach

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