The Tortoise and the Hare of Sexual Desire: Taking Your Time on First Dates


Is it okay to want to wait before being physically intimate with someone? Is it normal for sexual desire to take time to develop?

  • Look, JP, I don’t know if you’d like to kiss me or if you were thinking about it, but I need you to know that I won’t kiss you tonight. It’s nothing personal. Actually, it’s because I’d like to see you again. If we kiss tonight, it will set a precedent; it will create an expectation for us to kiss again the next time we see each other. I know that the pressure will be strong enough for me to simply decide to stop seeing you. So, since I do want to continue spending time with you, I’m not going to kiss you tonight. How do you feel about that?

  • Well, since we’re being honest, yes, I would like to kiss you. But, I completely understand your apprehension. Take all the time you need. When you’re ready, let me know. I want you to know that there is no pressure.

Is this exchange weird or out of the ordinary for a date? Is this a conversation anyone would ever want to have? Or, on the contrary, is it too good to be true?

What if I told you that this is an exchange I’ve already had? (Yes, really!)

We were on our third date, each with a pint of beer close at hand, sharing white wine and garlic mussels. By expressing my concern to my date, I freed myself from a huge weight: the pressure of implicit expectations during the first date.

I wanted to eliminate that pressure, which I think exists on a cultural scale.

This pressure is generated by the belief that the absence of a physical component “early enough” in dating—at least a kiss—necessarily signals a lack of romantic or sexual interest.

If a person perceives that there is no interest, their hope for intimacy fades, and they will put an end to the dating.

This erroneous belief places me between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, if I want to continue to date someone and get to know them, there is enormous pressure to signal my interest in a physical or sexual way, to give them a glimmer of hope in order to maintain their interest.

On the other hand, I also know that if we kissed on the first, second, or even third date, it would be way too fast for me. It would set a precedent: “If she kissed me last time, she’s probably down to kiss me again this time.”

With just one kiss, physical and potentially sexual proximity would now be on the table.

When “sexual desire” rhymes with “love”

You may be wondering whether I’m just repressing my desire, if, deep down, I would like to kiss the other person or even slip under the covers with them and am just showing self-restraint. Nope. If only it were that simple!

First of all, I don’t fall in love easily. For me, the process of developing romantic feelings is as slow as molasses. It can take me anywhere from several months to a year.

The same goes for sexual attraction. I can find someone physically attractive but still find the idea of sleeping with them—or even kissing them—super awkward.

For me, love and desire go hand in hand. I don’t experience sexual desire for someone before I know them well, like who they are, find them interesting, care about their well-being, and actually want to spend time with them. 

However, that didn’t stop me from having casual sex. A lot, even (sorry, mom and dad!). That’s because sexual desire isn’t an essential condition for sex. A person can very well have sex without feeling desire. The body adapts well in its absence. Getting wet is often reflexive.

The pleasure I felt during these sexual encounters was much more psychological than physical: I was mostly excited about being desired, about having been “chosen.”

These sexual encounters weren’t necessarily unpleasant, just… ordinary. Mechanical.

Also, I have never had an orgasm during casual sex. I faked all of my “orgasms” in these contexts. The times casual sex was more enjoyable, it was usually with people I knew—especially friends. We loved spending time together. I liked them and I felt comfortable with them.

Setting clear boundaries

However, my desire doesn’t depend solely on my liking the other person and my level of comfort when in their company. I also need them to be interested in me, to know me, to appreciate who I am, to enjoy spending time with me, to trust me, and above all, to see me as a whole person. I need them to see me as much more than just a body.

I don’t want to be just a hole, an orifice, an object to masturbate with.

In our society, it’s so easy to see a woman as a sexual object and ignore her desires. The slightest doubt that I am being objectified is enough to stifle my burgeoning desire.

When I started dating JP—this stranger I had met on OkCupid —it was with all that in mind that I wanted to give myself the luxury of taking my time. I didn’t want to see someone just to fuck. And if we were going to have sex, I wanted the sex to be good.

I wanted to give myself the possibility of experiencing desire, of following its natural trajectory. I wanted orgasms. I wanted to make sure he didn’t see me as something to screw. I wanted to be fully authentic and in the present moment rather than in my head. I didn’t want to sleep with a stranger.

Good things come to those who wait

A month after my moment of radical transparency with my date—a month of dates and daily texting—I was becoming curious about how he kissed.

I didn’t feel any spark yet, and therefore, no sexual desire per se, but I was curious. 

Curiosity mixed with fear: the fear of discovering that he’s a bad kisser, but also that he might perceive me as a tease given that I didn’t have a crush on him while I suspected that he had one on me. Was a curiosity kiss worth the risk of hurting him or of never seeing him again?

We met at L’Amer à Boire for a pint and some munchies. I was determined: our first kiss was going to happen tonight. Since the ball was in my court, I felt nervous.

How was I going to approach the subject? Should I sit closer to him first? Should I surprise him? I was so caught up in my thoughts that at least a third of what he said went in one ear and out the other.

He offered to walk me home.

We walked down Saint-Denis towards Sainte-Catherine. He had the hiccups. We continued talking. Light snow started to fall.

I was so agitated with anticipation that my stomach felt like it was doing backflips. However, the time was flying by. Our first kiss might not happen tonight after all. I’ll be braver next time.

Since he still had hiccups, I shared lots of tricks to help him get rid of them, but nothing worked. We laughed.

A lightbulb suddenly went off in my head.

“Wait, I know what will make your hiccups go away!”

“Yeah? What?”

I gently pulled on his sleeve to invite him to slow down, and I turned to him. My heart was pounding. I brought my face closer to his, then placed my lips on his. Relief: he was a suuuuuuuch a good kisser!

I pulled back to see his face lit up with joy and surprise.

His hiccups were gone.


Thank you so much for respecting my boundaries and welcoming my apprehensions with kindness. Thank you for your patience and acceptance. Thank you for creating a space that fostered my authenticity, where I never had to fear any repercussions for my refusal.

Thank you for giving me all the time I needed to let my love and desire for you grow. It’s because the hare was able to wait for the tortoise that we will soon celebrate our eighth anniversary. ❤️

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