They Lied: You Should Have Sex On The First Date

Debunking the rules of when to bunk down.


Dating is hard. We’ve heard that a million times. It often seems like those few people saying “dating is fun” are the ones who simply chose to turn over a new leaf rather than give up when the going got tough. There are rules: old rules, new rules, classic rules that are easily applied to the modern age of dating, and others… not so much.

One rule that we’ve all heard: never fuck on the first date. And sure– it sounds antiquated. But, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t echo in our heads when the time comes to hug goodbye at the end of the night or propose that things go further. Some dates happen like ordering an entree before that brownie that looks really, really good: you just do it, because it’s the way things are done, and you worry you’ll be judged if you skip a step. But, most people who don’t feel that way are looking for a partner. And, it’s strange looking through a barrel of single people for someone you’ll share some (or all) of your life with. It sometimes seems wrong to online shop for your other half the same way you do for a new pair of sweatpants, but it’s how you get a view of all the options. 

I went on my first “date” (in the classical sense of the term) at 25 after ending an 8-year-long relationship. My waiter at a restaurant had slipped me his number, and we went out for drinks the following week. The evening of our date, I told myself as I re-setting-sprayed my makeup and threw back a preparatory glass of pinot grigio that no matter what happened, I would not have sex with this man tonight.

On the sidewalk afterwards, we kissed in the street beside the Citi bikes and the traffic gently swooshing the summer air. I didn’t know much about dating, but I knew making out on the street was not usually the end of a night. I leaned into my warm tipsiness just enough to turn my promise to myself into what I hoped would come across as some kind of Manic Pixie Dream Girl exit.

I handed him my styrofoam cup of ice cream and whisked away without warning. The truth was no matter how 6’4 with muscular arms and great taste in wine (that I’d had many glasses of) he was, I still didn’t have any interest in going home with him. For this reason, I was thrilled I’d made a non-negotiable deal with myself. The truth was, I wasn’t worried I’d want to fuck this man; I was just worried I’d agree to it. When I got home, he texted me, “You’re cute.” Ah, I did it! I aced the date.

He and I went on some more dates. The sex happened eventually, and it wasn’t good. He wasn’t good either, and it ended after I invested a few months and had exactly zero orgasms. What followed was countless Hinge dates. They ranged from me making a plan to clock someone over the head with his own dumbbell in case he attempted to attack me to enjoying wine with a man who I’d have bet a large sum of money would never voluntarily fuck anyone who identified as a woman until he paid and said: “my mom says if you want to see a girl again, you pay.” I no longer needed to tell myself I wouldn’t have sex on the first date. I just told myself I wouldn’t have sex unless I wanted to. It sounds simple; it’s not. But, I mastered it. And no matter how many dates, hopeful Tinder conversations, or invitations at the end of the night I racked up, sex right after meeting someone never interested me. 

Another old saying about dating? “When you know, you know.” After applying a hefty dose of demystifying, I think this one is actually true. I took a date to my favorite bar. He lived outside of the city, and I was happy to show him Manhattan. We decided to go elsewhere to get dinner. I knew I didn’t want it to end, and we’d already beaten my record for most locations logged on a first date when we entered the second establishment. I suggested a third, and we went. I was many drinks in at this point, staring at his lips while they spoke. I had a sneaking feeling that the last train of the night out of the city had already left. I didn’t mention it; I didn’t want him to leave. “I’m not sure I should drink anymore,” he said. He was probably right, but I didn’t know the next move. I listed some options for things we could do next, burying “you could come back to my place” in the middle like it was no big deal. “Yeah, okay– let’s go back to your place,” he said. He later revealed that he knew the last train out of the city had already left, but he didn’t mention it, because he didn’t want to leave.