July 20, 2017

Why Do We Sleep With Them on The 1st Date?

Can I buy you a drink, gorgeous?

‍Ah yes, that old chestnut. The simple offer of a drink.

‘Can I buy you a drink?’ the easiest chat-up line around, and many women are happy to accept the offer whether they are interested in the man offering it or not. But have we ever really stopped to think about the connotations behind that acceptance?

There is something in our psyche known of as the ‘Rule of Reciprocation’. It has kept us safe from sabre tooth tigers (because we looked out for one another), allowed us to barter for goods and services, and enabled us to live in a society where one favour deserves another. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours and I owe you one(and so on). In fact, it is this rule of reciprocation that has led to the need for money, because we need to pay for something given to us either with these tokens, or in kind.

This is ingrained in our psyche. We know, at least at a subconscious level, that if someone does something for us we need to do something back. Think of the phrase ‘much obliged to you’ (now synonymous with ‘thank you’). Much obliged to you. I am obliged to give you something in return for the thing you just did for me.

Most of us feel uncomfortable if we are beholden to someone, we don’t like that feeling of imbalance. We don’t like owing money; we don’t like not being able to ‘give back’, partly because it isn’t in our nature, but also because people seen as ‘moochers’ are often rejected from their social group. It’s not in our favour to be seen to be taking without giving back. In fact, we will even go so far as to repay someone with a far bigger favour than the one given to us to release us from that feeling of burden.

Think about the psychology behind the free sample. You go into a supermarket and you are offered a free sample of cheese. You take it. How many of us are then completely comfortable walking away without either buying some of the cheese, or at least looking as if we are thinking about buying it. It would be rude to just take it and walk off! Wouldn’t it?

Just a little story to show the power of this: In WWI a British soldier was alone in his trench when he came face to face with a German soldier who had crawled across no-man’s land to attack. The British man was eating bread. He pulled it apart and gave a piece to the German soldier who ate it and was then incapable of carrying out his original intentions. He couldn’t kill a man who had shared his bread with him – the psychological cost of that was too much. To think: a piece of bread saved a man’s life. Pretty powerful stuff eh?

So let’s go back to my opening point. A man buying a woman a drink, or perhaps paying for a meal, or cinema tickets. Is the woman then indebted to him? Well yes, she is. And I would put my neck on the line and say that half a century ago, the only obligation was to spend time with him (and yes, I know, check us women out thinking a man has to pay for the pleasure of our company…) but I doubt he expected, or would have accepted, any more than that.

But fast forward to today and things seem different. There does seem to be a sense of the woman ‘owing’ the man something, even if she insisted they go Dutch and was refused. I am wondering if there is an expectation, in both parties’ minds, that the returned favour will be a sexual one.

So, a woman is wined and dined for the evening. When the man takes her home she feels obliged to invite him in for coffee. After all, he has just taken her out and spent money on her! Is making him a coffee enough? No, it doesn’t seem it is. Maybe just some kissing. That would be ok. But what if he wants to go further. Should she say no? He has been really nice to her this evening after all, so to refuse would be ungrateful, wouldn’t it? She can’t seem ungrateful, that would be uncomfortable, and he seems to be expecting sex. Well, he did buy her the lobster, so it seems only right that he should get sex in return…

It does seem that sex is as easily given out as anything else in today’s society and that a woman is a ‘prick tease’ or some other charming moniker if she doesn’t oblige. In fact, I would say it doesn’t even need to be as extravagant as being bought a drink, it could be anything ‘given’ to someone, even if it’s unrequested, and sadly it seems the younger the female the more likely she is to feel the need to reciprocate.

Take for example the worrying (in my mind) trend of sending ‘dick pics’. Let’s say a young man sends a young woman a picture of his penis and asks for one of her in return. The woman didn’t ask for this picture, she may not even have wanted it, but the rule of reciprocation might be so strong that she feels she must return the ‘favour’ and send him a picture of something she would rather keep private. She does so, and afterwards feels shame and self-loathing. But she didn’t feel able to say No.

The psychological repercussions of this are huge and I worry regularly about the mental health of the young people of today because of it. It feels as though the expectations are becoming almost out of control.

And before I finish there is one more thing I feel I need to mention, and that is the ‘Reject and Retreat’ technique. I won’t go into it fully, but the basic premise is that someone asks for something and is refused, so they ask for something smaller instead, knowing that they are unlikely to be refused this smaller favour. This is utilised all the time in sales to get people to buy all kinds of stuff they don’t want or need.

The example I will give is an alternative from the scenario presented above:

The man buys a woman dinner. He takes her home. She feels beholden to him so invites him in and he asks for sex. She says no, but he is then in a position of power because she ‘owes him’ something and has now refused (rejected) him. He knows (whether consciously or unconsciously) that she ought to repay him somehow, so concedes that they won’t have sex (retreat), but she could give him a blow job instead. She can’t say no again, she is beholden to him and has already refused him once, so she gives him one.

Can you see how that could happen?

The reason I wanted to write this article is because our behaviour is shaped by unconscious drivers and I wanted to alert people to what is going on inside them. We are not really aware of what is going on deep in our psyche – we don’t know why we bought that cheese at the supermarket, why we bought bottles of cleaner because we were given a free sample, why we set up a regular donation to a charity because they sent us a free pen, why we gave that man oral sex on the first date. We just know that we do it. And, as is often the case, when we are unaware of what is driving us, we are powerless to stop it.

I wanted to bring this into your consciousness so that you have a choice about what you do. If you are taken out for a nice meal, you can either accept it as a gift, or repay the favour by paying next time. Sex doesn’t have to be part of the deal if you don’t want it to be. Just be mindful of this need to reciprocate so that you are in control of it, rather than it being in control of you.

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Rachael Blackmore

Rachael Blackmore is a qualified counsellor and relationship therapist. She focuses on helping you explore yourself and your patterns of behavior in order to find successful, committed relationship with a partner who deserves you! She provides support for men and women searching for The One and wondering why they haven't found them yet.

Rachael believes in the power of relationship: she will build a relationship with you where trust and acceptance facilitate open communication about the things that are troubling you. She is  passionate about her work and committed to helping you explore your difficult feelings and experiences to find a way to feel better and experience life differently. With a Diploma in Therapeutic Counselling, Rachael works as an integrative  therapist. This means she draws on the Person-Centred approach and  Psychodynamic theory to work collaboratively with you to improve your mental  and emotional well-being.

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