Welcome to #AskCam, a column where sex and intersectionality are not divided but welcomed together.
I’ve been dating for a few months, and there’s one person in particular that I’ve been really into. Our dates have been fantastic, but I’m ready for something more. When is the right time to move to getting physical with someone new?
-Taking The Plunge
Dear Taking The Plunge,
For many of us who date and have sexual experiences, this is a frequently asked and pondered question. In monogamous culture, there’s an assumption that there’s a timeline that folks need to hit to ensure that the relationship is “on the right path”; at certain times, we’re expected to date, kiss, become exclusive, and everything after. There’s an expectation that everyone who dates has the same goal of falling in love, getting married, having children, and living happily ever after – there’s nothing at all wrong with these things – but isn’t it kind of fucked up to assume that everyone will want these exact things, in that exact order? Whether you’re monogamous or not, there’s no escaping the cultural pressure to subscribe to this kind of dating and relationship model.
The first part in my response to you, TTP, is something that you might already know but is worth reiterating: you don’t have to hit a timeline or do things by a certain time for them to be valid. Every relationship – romantic, platonic, monogamous, non-monogamous, and everything in between – evolves at its own pace, and placing a one-size-fits-all model to how relationships should look does a disservice to our individuality and places unnecessary pressure on the folks in that relationship.
For BIPOC, the connection to these typical relationship markers is a way for us to assimilate more seamlessly into the white supremacist society that we exist in. It’s a human desire to want to love and express those feelings for another person or persons in a public way–even throughout the worst examples of violence in human history, the desire to love and express affection to others still prevailed. There were examples of expanded family structures, community structures, and marriage models during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Reconstruction, meant to keep the bonds between Black folks affected by oppression and violence to remain connected and give recognition to the relationships in their lives. That’s powerful.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with you if these models genuinely work for you. The problem comes when we are automatically assuming that all relationships will unfold the same way and our ideas of their validity are connected to an unconscious subscribing to the only relationship model we are offered.
But back to your core question, TTP: when is the right time to move into getting physical with someone new? The short and long answer is that there is no magical time. It’s whenever you both are ready.
For some relationships, having sexual experiences on the first date creates a strong partnership that can last a long amount of time. For some relationships, sex is completely off of the table and that is also a way to create stronger bonds with each other. There is no one magical time for you and your partner(s) to become physical because it all depends on your own relationship. I will say that it’s worth examining the reasons why you want to have sex. If it’s simply because you feel that you really like this person and want to experience this with them, that’s great. But if there are deeper feelings that are coming up as well–especially if you feel that you need to have sex with them at this point, that is worth exploring a bit deeper as well before engaging.
As I mentioned in my last entry, talking about boundaries and consent should be done as soon as possible. Talking about getting physical – what that means for you and your partner(s), and everything that comes with it – is crucial for a positive sexual experience for everyone involved. Even if the conversation itself seems embarrassing or daunting for you, it’s a necessary step to deepen the connection with your partner(s) and lead to an ultimately more satisfying sexual experience.
It’s also important to make this an ongoing conversation between you and your partner(s). What safer sex measures will you and your partner(s) be taken? Are you compatible with interests that you feel strongly about–and how will you navigate if one of you isn’t as into something that someone else is? What does after-care look like? What system will you have in place during play or a sexual experience to check in with each other? If you’re non-monogamous or following an open relationship model, it’s also important to think about boundaries for your own relationship and how to tackle jealousy, metamours, and figuring out your own relationship markers–but that’s another entry altogether.
In the end, I’m so excited that you’re ready to create a new experience with the person that you’re dating, TTP. Communication is key, but it’s also a way to make your sexual experience all the more enjoyable. And who doesn’t want that?
#ASKCAM WILL BE BACK ON JULY 21!