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rules for dating

What are the new rules for dating men and women?

Anouszka Tate answers more of your sex and relationship questions, this time on whether there are new rules in dating

I’m bisexual and dating both men and women with the ultimate goal of a relationship. I recently came out of a long term relationship so feel totally out of it in terms of what people expect and what the rules are now about when you should have sex with a new person?

There have been one or two people I felt really comfortable with straight away but didn’t pursue anything physical on the first date in case it put them off me or made them think I’m not serious.

Ok, the problem isn’t whether you do or don’t have sex on the first date. The problem is when you do or don’t do something because you think that’s what you ‘should’ be doing according to ‘the rules’ rather than because it’s what you want to do.

‘The rules’ apparently include, but are not limited to, the following: Wait until date five before you have sex if you want to be respectful and respected. Only have sex on the first date if you just want to nut and never speak to this person again. Certainly don’t have sex on the night of a full moon if you want your hamster to live to see her second birthday.

These are completely arbitrary protocols, dreamt up once upon a time to monitor morality and repress (female) sexuality. They attempt to compact the whole messy human experience of dating into one neat box. Imagine the millions of unique combinations of personalities, experiences, and sexualities daters create. You’re trying to tell me the same rules apply for all those people and scenarios?

By blindly following instructions that know absolutely bugger all about you you’re really just the master of your own misery.

Give yourself a bit more credit; you’re perfectly capable of using your own instincts, desires, and understanding of a situation to make up your own mind. So the question needs to change from ‘what are the rules?’ to ‘what are my own personal guidelines for sex?’

We rarely stop and think about the influences (family, religion, media, trauma) that have shaped how we feel about sex. So ask yourself what your beliefs about sex are, where they came from, and what sex means to you. What are your personal boundaries? What do you need in order to be turned on, and what are your red flags? How important is sex in a relationship? Is intimacy with a partner the same as sex?

These sorts of questions will help you home in on when in principle along the dating timeline you might feel comfortable introducing physical intimacy, but for the love of God don’t then just replace society’s rules with your own equally restrictive ones.

Just because you felt comfortable being intimate immediately with a particular date last week, that doesn’t mean you’ve set a precedent that you must follow on pain of death on every subsequent date. Remember that with each new person you’ll be combining your own beliefs and experiences with theirs, which will prompt different decisions each time.

Just as we’ve kindly been gifted stifling rules for when The Sex should happen, we’ve also been told that all actions have a pre-defined outcome attached to them. Sex on a first date? You won’t see them again. Waited three months? You’ll be putting a ring on it before the year’s out.

I call bullshit. You (and the other person) are completely in control of what happens next.

You could start a family with the person you went down on after one date. You might get ghosted by the person you shagged on your garden patio on date four. Similarly, when you do sleep together don’t worry that you’ve just locked yourself in to a relationship contract if that’s not what you want. Again, you have the power to decide (now that you have even more info!) if this is the person for you.

Basically, keep communicating afterwards regardless of whether the sex happened on date one or date seven. Don’t assume that the other person is following the same ‘rules’ as you are, or that they’ve acted a certain way for the same reasons you have.

TL;DR the word ‘should’ needs to get in the bin. The only thing you should ever do is the thing that feels good to you.

What are you confused, curious, or concerned about? Ask me a question in the comments below or on my Instagram page, and I’ll do my best to answer in my next column!

Photography by Max Budny.

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