“Six dates. Nothing below the waist for at least six dates,” my mom, a psychiatrist, always tells me, silencing my sexism accusations by reminding me she tells her male patients the same thing.
I never listen. I’ve had sex on the first date; I’ve had sex on the third date. Never in my life have I waited six. Since I’ve been single for a year now, I decided to swallow the bitter pill of chastity and listen to my mother. Though I am morally opposed to conversations about “putting out,” my desperation, coupled with the idea that perhaps merely not playing the game isn’t furthering the feminist cause, convinced me to try it out. The next guy I met, I would wait six dates before allowing him access into my pants.
Oliver (not his real name, of course) was 25, employed in a real, adult way, and looked great in a button down. Definite boyfriend material. The perfect test subject. We had four fun dates. We bantered, we flirted, we made out all over rooftop bars. Though I was determined to keep my clothes on, I also liked the guy and wanted to be intimate with him, more so than public make out sessions would allow. So, we had sleepovers. Penetration-less adult slumber parties full of heavy breathing and feeling his boner against my back while we spooned.
“It isn’t casual for me,” I lied during a particularly intense kissing and second base session. I was going to hold out because girls who put out don’t get boyfriends. Ask the Internet. He was a gentleman about it, though praising someone for not forcing or pressuring me to have sex with him seems to be too low a bar. The future looked bright. Sexless, but bright.
What happened? I made it to four dates and he canceled the fifth, promising to reschedule the next day. It’s been 13 days. I have been, as the kids call it these days, “ghosted.” He just disappeared; probably to the ever more populated island of assholes where guys who have hurt my feelings move. My befuddlement is matched only by my smugness about my mother’s puritanical advice. Obviously my sample size (1) is too small to really draw conclusions, but I don’t think this six -- or any arbitrary number -- dates thing works.
I have a lot of reasons for not playing the waiting game, but before I get into that, I want to state the obvious: everyone can sleep or not sleep with anyone whenever he or she wants. I am neither slut-shaming or… prude-shaming? I’m sick of making and abiding by rules for women’s sexuality; so let me be clear, I’m talking about my experiences, not giving prescriptive advice.
New York Magazine just published a particularly timely article comparing American and French attitudes toward sex and dating. French GQ sex columnist Maia Mazaruette explains, “We don’t have these dating rituals; we just start with sex! And then, if the sex was good enough or we feel connected somehow, then we would try to build a relationship.” Maureen O’Conner, American, pushes on: So you always have sex on the first date? There is no date before sex, Marquette explains.
Admittedly, my two serious relationships have been with Frenchmen (both of whom I slept with before we made it to our sixth date milestone). I like to think I’m ideologically attracted to the French as opposed to what has often been said of me, that I’m a sucker for an accent. Both are true, actually.
Holding out for sex when you want it turns your sexuality into a prize and validates the antiquated notion that a woman’s value hinges on her sexuality. When she “gives that up,” she’s no longer valuable. I am not an object and a sexual experience with me isn’t something to be “earned.” Plus, any guy who disqualify me from the potential girlfriend pool for something we both wanted and both participated in isn’t exactly someone I’m dying to date. I’m not only morally opposed to these silly rules, though. I also happen to like sex, like having it with people to whom I am attracted, and find it to be a great way to get to know somebody. Some of my greatest “get to know you” moments have been post-coital. Maybe there’s something honesty-inducing about nudity.
Though I know I am never trying this experiment again, I don’t think not sleeping with Oliver got me ghosted/ Writing me off for not sleeping with him would be just as terrible as writing me off for sleeping with him. Maybe Oliver’s just an asshole. Maybe he didn’t have as much fun as I did on our dates. Either way, what this journey on the blue ball train taught me is that dating rules are stupid.
To be honest, if waiting six dates could guarantee me that someone I’m dating won’t disappear without a trace, I would certainly keep my legs together. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule. A man (or woman) can disappear after nine dates just as they could after two. And if I have to be in this horrible world of 20-something heterosexual dating, I’m going to do it on my own terms. So, from now on, I’m going to sleep with someone when I feel ready, and if he ghosts me, at least I’ll have gotten laid.