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Sex on the First Date? Don’t Feel Ashamed

Accepting why you had sex on a first date may help you feel more in control.

Despite women’s progress in shedding some of the shame attached to their sexuality, there is an over-arching message that many women have received through time, warning them not to have sex on the first date "or it will ruin your chances for a second date." The religious, biological, scientific, and self-esteem related implications of this message are beyond the scope of this post. But the fact remains: In general, women are held to a very confusing and difficult standard when it comes to having sex early in a relationship. It just is that way.

Rather than exploring why there are differences between what is “expected” of men and women on a first date, this post is written for people who do not want to feel apologetic for how and when they express and respond to their own sexuality. It is for people who don’t want to blame themselves for getting lost in the experience, regardless of the outcome. Please keep in mind that while I am speaking to women, many men may have had similar experiences of struggling to feel OK with having had sex on the first date. This post is for you as well.

For the most part, when women are dating, embedded in their consciousness is the idea that if they give in to their desires on the first date, they have blown it for the long term. Thus, having sex on a first date can leave a woman feeling exposed, powerless, even shameful. While this dynamic may play out over and over in dating life, for many women it stands in direct contrast to the ways they conduct themselves in their careers and in their home lives, where they may feel more confident in the roles they have and how those roles are defined.  

As a woman who continues to find ways to feel more empowered, you may in turn become more aware of your needs and desires and feel more free to act on them, regardless of how early they emerge in a potential relationship. The difficutly results when you have indulged your needs and desires, and now you are painfully reminded in the light of day that you might have "singlehandedly" ruined the potential future of this connection because you gave into your desires too soon. Yes, it was mutual, and reciprocal, but in your mind, and in the minds of lots of people everywhere, it is your "fault," your responsibility if he doesn't contact you again, because even though he did as well, you gave into your desires and allowed yourself the intensity of the connection in the moment, rather than waiting for the relationship to be on more solid footing.

The amount of guilt and shame women can feel for acting on their desires “too soon” can be paralyzing, no matter how enjoyable the experience was at the time. Going against “conventional wisdom” especially when the relationship loses steam in the aftermath, and the anxiety and self-blame a woman can incur as a result, can contribute to eroding her self-esteem. What felt right, connected, and amazing when it was happening has now become infused with doubt, insecurity, and a feeling that a trust has been breached.

Work on shifting your perspective from viewing yourself negatively toward trusting how you felt at the time. You had reasons for your actions. At the same time, you may struggle with having surrendered to your passion “too soon.” But given all the mixed signals of society, family, history, religion, and the rest, it is not fair to blame yourself for an experience that felt right, even if later there are more complex emotions, responses, and perceptions that arise. Understand that whatever your reasons for having had sex on the first date were because you were feeling good, open, passionate, and alive. In the here and now, it's okay for you to search for middle ground: to decide for yourself on a case-by-case basis if what feels right for you very early on is intense enough to trump the discomfort that may be evoked later if the relationship doesn’t evolve the way you had hoped.


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Twitter: @DrSuzanneL

FB: facebook/DrSuzanneLachmann

Suzanne Lachmann, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist in NYC specializing in psychotherapy.

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