That promise didn’t last long.
While we studied the drink list, I couldn’t help but ask: “So, do you like beer?”
Actually, he prefers wine, so we each ordered a glass of sauvignon blanc and then spent about 5 to 10 minutes talking about the events of the past week. The conversations we’d had with people we agreed with, or didn’t; the unsolicited opinions we’ve received about what should or shouldn’t matter from a person’s past. Once I brought up the subject, I realized just how important it is to have these conversations on first dates. I got the sense that he believed Christine Blasey Ford, and that was the main thing I needed to know.
Believing accusations of sexual assault — and taking steps to prevent it — should not be a partisan issue. And yet, here we are.
The past few weeks have been triggering and deeply upsetting for so many. And in the midst of unearthing all this trauma, it’s an incredibly difficult time to cheerily log on to a dating app and be game to meet someone new. A few years ago, when I was getting back to dating after getting over a breakup, I told a friend about how I felt stuck in a paradox: I wanted to be open to love, but I also wanted to protect myself from the emotional wounds that dating and relationships inevitably can bring. At that moment, it felt difficult to do both. Now, I imagine a lot of daters feel stuck in this same dilemma.
While sexual assault or unwanted sexual contact can occur at any time, dating carries an inherent risk because the context is already potentially sexual. A quarter of rapes are committed by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, according to the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. A recent HBO documentary about the dating-app scene gave more airtime to all the ways these swipe apps can lead to danger than their potential for love. When social researcher Jackson Katz asked men and women what they do to protect themselves from being sexually assaulted, men typically answered that they didn’t think about it, while women listed dozens of precautions, with several of them relating to their dating or social lives: “Always meet men for first dates in public places”; “Be careful not to drink too much”; “Only go out in groups.”
If you want to take a break from putting yourself out there, now is an excellent time. And if you do feel up to it, please do ask your date what he or she thinks about the fight over Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
The conventional wisdom is that politics should be off-limits on first dates. But even before President Trump was elected, that wisdom has been shifting. Studies and dating experts are finding that singles are less inclined to date across the aisle these days. Melissa Hobley, OkCupid’s chief marketing officer, said that in the past two years, the dating site has seen a 1,000 percent increase in political terms showing up in daters' profiles. In the past year, OkCupid added the question “Would you ever date someone who didn’t support the #MeToo movement?” to its matching algorithm. Hobley said that 75 percent of female respondents and 43 percent of male respondents answered no. “What was interesting is women feel this way regardless of their political affiliation, age, or location,” Hobley said in an email.
Kavanaugh — or the latest person accused of sexual misconduct — can be a good proxy for talking about these issues. If the person sitting across from you seems more concerned about false accusations than they are inclined to believe credible ones, if they’re worried more about men’s reputations being sullied than about women’s safety, think about your own. Based on how the conversation unfolds, ask yourself: Would they listen to me if we were being intimate and I told them to stop? Are they comfortable talking about consent and assault? Can they do it with compassion and without getting defensive?
You might not get all the answers you need in one conversation. And unfortunately, if someone says all the right things, it doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily do the right things in the moments that matter. But we have to start talking about it . . . even as early as on a first date.