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Is it a big deal if someone doesn’t want to sleep with you right away?
Reflections on a date.
We want to hear from more voices and broaden our own perspectives, so we recently asked members of the Diem community to pitch their own stories for this newsletter. Our next guest essay is by Olivia Petter, a journalist, broadcaster, and the author of Millennial Love. Her debut novel, Gold Rush, will be published by 4th Estate in the summer of 2024.
The date was going well. At least, that’s what I thought. We had drinks in a cosy cocktail bar tucked underneath a winding staircase in the thrum of central London. Next came dinner in a French bistro followed by more cocktails in Soho. At one point, he even interrupted me mid-sentence to gush about how I looked that evening. “Sorry, I just had to say it,” he said
Naturally, after we left the bar, both of us lingered underneath the street lights, kissing softly and darting around the obvious question: What next? “You could come back to mine?” I asked, sheepishly. “Yes,” he smiled. “Let’s do that.” I smiled back as we skipped towards the main road to find a taxi. This was our third date and I actually fancied this guy, a rare feat for me. It seemed like he fancied me too.
Hence why I was so surprised when, a few minutes after I’d joked about “showing a little leg” to hail a cab, he changed his mind. There was no explanation and I was too embarrassed to ask for one. But just like that, he was off and it was like the entire date never happened.
Suffice to say, I was flummoxed. More so when, a few days later, this man ghosted me. Had I been too forward? Had I said something embarrassing that put him off? Had our entire attraction to one another been in my head? Those questions percolated around in my brain on repeat for the next 72 hours. And, to be completely honest, it’s still doing the rounds up there several weeks later.
Dating men as a straight woman usually comes with some stereotypical assumptions: They will arrive late, they won’t have dressed up as much as me, and they probably won’t ask me a ton of questions about myself. This guy did none of those things. But he did go against one other major preconception: That men are always up for it, so to speak.
This is a damaging assumption to make for numerous reasons. Namely, it puts a certain amount of pressure on men to perform, and it only adds to society’s troubling association between sexual prowess and masculinity. Then there’s the way it frames sex as something women do for men, which, frankly, is an entirely different essay. Nonetheless, this is still an assumption that, deep down, I’ve been guilty of making. Cut to: My profound confusion when this man was not, in fact, up for it.
In search of validation that I wasn’t horribly unattractive or, as I put it in one text to a friend, “desperately unfuckable”, I did the rounds in my group chat, searching for answers. “He was probably tired!” offered one of my girlfriends. “He must have had an early morning the next day!” tried another. “He was probably a bit nervous because he likes you so much!” And so on. But with every response, all I kept hearing was the now-famous refrain—he’s just not that into you
It wasn’t until one friend offered a different argument that something clicked. She explained that her current boyfriend refused to sleep with her for four months. And how another man she’d dated before wanted to wait to have sex until after they hung out at least 10 times. “I think we have very different ideas about men and sex to the reality of it,” she explained. “Neither of these men wanted to rush into anything, which goes against everything we’ve been taught about male desire. But in the end, it really allowed us to develop a deeper connection without relying on sex.”
It’s a refreshing change of dynamic, one that made me feel even more humiliated for trying to jump into bed with this man. Looking back on it, I now fear this wasn’t so much because I was desperate to sleep with him but because I was desperate to maintain his interest in me, which, despite everything, I’d rightly assumed had been waning.
In the end, the whole thing taught me a lot. Firstly, it served as a much-needed reminder that everyone has their own boundaries around sex, and instead of questioning them or making them about ourselves, we simply need to respect them. Secondly, we should unlearn the assumption that men always want to have sex right away. And thirdly, delaying sleeping with someone might be the best thing you could do if what you’re looking for is a genuine connection built on trust and intimacy. After all, the best things come to those who wait.
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This Week’s Diem Commentary
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