"Don't sleep with a guy on the first date." Why modern dating hasn't caught up to feminism.

Feminism and women’s rights have progressed significantly in the last decade.

The gender pay gap is closing, the tampon tax was finally abolished, and the #MeToo movement forever changed the conversation around sexual assault.

But, for single women, there seems to be one major area that hasn’t caught up to 2020 feminism.

Modern dating.

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Video by Mamamia

Now that dating apps are the norm, we decide whether we want to meet someone based on a selection of carefully curated images, and shows like The Bachelor and Love Island are among Australia’s most watched television shows, nobody knows what the rules are anymore.

Who pays on the first date? How long should you wait to have sex? Should you wait… at all? Can hook ups ever lead to love? What about marrying a stranger?

It’s confusing. And actually despite the fact that many aspects of dating – Tinder, reality TV shows, sliding into a stranger’s DMs – are so very 2020, it seems that many of the old-fashioned rules still apply.


Don’t believe me? Take a recent episode of Oprah Winfrey’s hugely popular podcast, Super Soul Conversations, in which Winfrey interviews Greg Behrendt, the author of He’s Just Not That Into You and his wife, Amiira Ruotola.

As the couple share their dating advice, Behrendt, 56, seems to blame women for the current state of dating.

“Women have lowered the standard for dating, that dating has become unrecognisable. It’s at a point where it’s like ‘tweet, tweet, sleepover, break up.’ That’s what dating is now,” he says. “The reason that this bar is low is because people’s self-esteem is low and they will allow themselves to accept something less than a date and that is the problem.”


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The couple then ask their panel of ‘everyday men’ to share what they think of common dating ‘mistakes’. On the topic of sharing too much information on the first date, they advise the following:

“On a first date, I don’t know that much about you, quite honestly, really. I’m just trying to figure out if we have chemistry, if we can talk,” says one male.

“Please don’t share how many kids you want to have right away. If you have ADD, or that your dad died when you were two. Or that you’re obsessed with cats,” answers another.

It gets worse. They also tackle the age-old question of whether or not to have sex on the first date.

One man says, “Ladies, as far as sleeping with a guy on the first date: that’s all good and well if that’s what you want to do. Just understand that you’re probably not the mother of my child.”

Another adds, “Anytime I ever had sex right away with a girl, the relationship never lasted. Anytime I’ve waited? Those were the relationships that have lasted. Those were the ones which were a little more memorable.”


An third man concludes: “It depends on what you were looking for. If you’re just looking to have a good time, then have sex right away, that’s fine. But if you really want a man that respects you, you want them to come back, then you have to act like a lady.”

Behrendt agrees.

“It would be great if it was different, but it’s not,” he says.

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Now, there’s a lot to unpack here. The advice is horrifically outdated, but if it’s dating-guru AND Oprah-approved, then surely there must be a contingent of women who think they need to hear it, as well as hoards of men who still believe in it.

Behrendt and Ruotola want you to know that as a woman, you’re ‘enough,’ that you need to ‘know your worth’ but therein lies the contradiction. Don’t be too vulnerable, don’t share too much of yourself, don’t put out, and most importantly remember that respect is earned, not given.

Thankfully this rhetoric will sound old-fashioned to many, especially millennials.

Image: Unsplash.

Speaking with Melbourne-based Psycho-Sexologist and relationships expert, Chantelle Otten, I asked why this 'hangover' from old-fashioned dating exists. Otten, who is currently working with the dating app Bumble, says it's down to differing views and levels of acceptance of feminism.

"It's probably that they [men] are not as woke about feminism, but remember that not all women are either. Some like the old-fashioned way, being courted by a potential partner. And that is really ok as well," she says.

It also comes down to how we, as a society, view women's pleasure.

"We haven't been taught a huge amount about female pleasure, so many women don't believe it applies to them and in turn don't know if they have permission (even though they absolutely do) to ask for it," Otten adds.


"That goes back to women wanting pleasure, wanting to be equal, wanting to initiate. I think it's a societal growth factor and the fact that everything takes time to become the 'new normal'. We still have a very conservative culture with sexuality and women's wants and needs in general, this is part of that equation."

As for how much you 'can' or 'should' share on the first date, whether it's a match made on an app or in person, Otten advocates "laying it all on the table".

"I'm a really big believer in laying it all on the table, with humour and having fun. I really think in 2020, we can actually just be ourselves," she tells Mamamia.

"I definitely know that when I met my partner, I just laid everything out there and just went: this is what we're dealing with and this is what could happen but if we're here on this journey together, then we're going to have a lot of fun.

"Dating really is meant to be fun and you're meant to feel okay with trying to get out there and show yourself to someone new."


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As for Otten's opinion on sex on the first date?

"If you want to f**k on the first date, then go have sex. Just use protection," she says. "We're woke."

And it's true. We are, on the whole, getting better. Many women are taking charge and creating their own dating rules - mainly, that as long as everyone is comfortable, safe and consenting - you do you.

But if we are searching for true equality, then the current dating sphere has a lot of catching up to do.

Do you believe in rules for dating? Tell us in a comment below.