Sex On The First Date Is A Fictional Fuck

I went on a date a month ago with a boy I met on an online dating site. "Met" meaning he'd sent me a few witty messages and his pictures were decent enough to warrant an IRL pass. "Date" meaning we made plans to grab a quick drink in Brooklyn after work. When he walked in, 20 minutes late, I perked up –- he was model handsome and maneuvered through the dark bar with a confident, sexy air. My expectations, which were set sensibly low, leaped.

He was a strong conversationalist. We talked politics and he impressed me with a nuanced understanding of the debt ceiling debate. He knew about the Arab Spring. We discussed the unexpected but peculiarly gratifying direction our late 20s had taken both of us. He made me laugh. One drink turned into two, two neighborhood bars into three, and when he kissed me in the street, I was elated. He wanted to see me again, he said. I agreed, the enthusiasm audible in my voice.

I was giddy on our physical chemistry, on vodka sodas on an empty stomach, on the fact I'd met someone who challenged me intellectually. (The fact he looked like Joseph Gordon-Levitt's taller cousin didn't hurt either.) It was the first time I had felt this way in a year.

As he walked me to the train, he asked me if I would come over for a nightcap. Just one. He offered to pay for a cab to take me home afterwards, as I had to work early.

Decision time.

I'm not a prude when it comes to sex. I love sex, and I love men. However, I — like many women I know — harbor a quiet but persistent internal voice that cries, "If you like him, don't go!" The voice that says men don't respect women who sleep with them too quickly. The voice that says despite the fact that you're turned on, you're a grown-ass adult and goddamn it you want to, as the female you should be the one to decline, to demur, to hold off for another night.

I'd never understood the reasoning behind that voice. I suspected I was internalizing cultural judgments about "easy" women. The traditional refrain, "don't buy the cow if you can get the milk for free," which implies women should withhold sex to ensnare a partner, insulted me.

Yet I recognized in a purely practical way that the voice pleading, "wait if you want more from this" was often right. Years of dissecting dating mishaps with my friends taught me that if you want a relationship or even just the potential of one, it's best to wait. In my mind, the waiting period was for no other reason but to increase the odds of a relationship. It was like dating lore passed on between friends. We don't know why it works but it does.

But the way my date kissed me up against the brick wall outside the subway stop was enough to convince me my internal voice was an antiquated Debbie downer, squawking nonsense irrelevant for the modern woman.

I went to his house. We headed straight to the bedroom. Sex — intense, unexpected, rough and satisfying. Afterwards, as promised, he called me a cab.

By 3 a.m. I was home. And utterly freaked out.

Hung-over and exhausted at work the next day, I spent hours worrying about what had happened. I had doomed our prospects, I thought. I'll never see him again. I blamed myself. I felt like I should have waited but I couldn't intellectually articulate why.

We were both consenting adults. We weren't that drunk. Why shouldn't I have gone home with him?

I hashed this over with multiple friends during the next few days. One suggested I just forget about the guy and be happy I'd had good sex. Another brought up respect — if he wanted a real relationship with me, he would have proceeded with more respect for my body.

I received a single lackluster text from him a few days later. The truth of the situation sunk in. It was not the frisky beginning to a new relationship. It was just a one night stand.

Get over it, everyone told me.

I ended up at my mom's the next weekend on my way to a wedding. Still distraught over the experience, I told her the bare-bones version of the story: I slept with someone four hours after meeting them and now I felt shitty and I couldn't identify why.

I wanted to know what she — a world-experienced, non-judgmental woman — thought about sleeping with someone you're interested in dating so soon? What she said was the best argument I have ever heard for waiting to have sex.

When you first meet someone, she said, you don't actually see them. You see a flimsy construction of their personality, created by your interpretation of the signals available. The way they make eye contact. How they interact with the bartender/waiter/homeless man asking you for change. The facts they choose to divulge about themselves. Because you have no other point of reference, every little detail resonates with added significance. Your mind, faced with a scarcity of information, is forced to create a projection of them.

It is fiction.

The fiction fades over time, as you get to know someone, she said. You witness them in different moods, interacting in multiple environments. Your construction of their personality deepens, nudges closer to reality. But on that first meeting, while you may get a peek, or even a full throttled gaze at their character, it is impossible to see the real person in front of you. It is a grand mirage.

The mirage is sexy. But herein lies the danger. The potential for a schism to exist between the mirage and reality is huge. The probability of being disappointed is gigantic. That disappointment is compounded when intimacy is involved. You sleep with a stranger. You feel like you know them. But you likely don't at all.

This may not be an epiphany for other people. But it was for me. After that night, I felt shitty not because I'd been "slutty," whatever that means, but because I felt foolish.

I slept with an idea of a man. I slept with how that man made me feel. But that man didn't exist, except in my mind. When I realized this, I felt betrayed, naïve, stupid.

It took me a month to feel okay about what happened, but the insight I gained into my own personality made the whole experience worth it.

I'm still going out with guys and getting tipsy; I'm still desiring to go home with many of them after a satisfying first date. But something has changed.

I'm more aware of the power of my mind to create elaborate fictions. When I meet someone, I can see the limitations of my knowledge about them. I can appreciate our interaction for what it is. It's easier for me to detach, to step back and say, you know, this can wait.

It can wait.


Image by Steve Dressler.