The Soho Sex column: What makes a good first date?

The Soho Sex column: What makes a good first date? | Soho House

This week, our resident sexpert Olivia Petter answers our members’ burning questions – from dusting off breadcrumbing to post-pandemic dating

Friday 10 June 2022    By Olivia Petter

What makes a good first date?
All it takes is a look. That one moment you share with someone from across a tiny table in the corner of a bar, or maybe even a restaurant. Blink and you’ll quite literally miss it, because it will last for just a few seconds, if that. But once it happens, it will set in motion a series of feelings and events you won’t be able to take back. Most of you will know what I’m talking about – and you’ll remember just how powerful that moment can be. 
Maybe it happened to you years ago when you met your current partner. Or perhaps you got lucky on your last Hinge date. But if you’re like me, it happened so long ago that you spend far too many nights lying in bed trying to remember what it felt like – and wondering if it will ever happen again.
I was thrilled when I saw this question had been sent in. Good first dates are something I think about often; mostly because the answer differs so vastly from the fantasy sold to us by romcoms. For a long time, I thought it meant having a serendipitous meeting at a house party or bumping into each other at your local pub, then ending up in bed with wine-stained sheets and at least three orgasms. I now know how unrealistic that is (particularly the orgasm bit). But it’s also not what I want from a first date anymore. 
I’ve done the ‘Let’s-order-another-picante-instead-of-dinner-so-we-don’t-remember-this-mediocre-sex’ first date too many times. It never feels good, particularly the next morning, when you’re awkwardly sitting at your desk in the backless top you wore the night before and a colleague quietly hands you the Jeremy Corbyn Christmas jumper they just got sent. 
Then there’s the inevitable morning-after angst: an internal dialogue that ricochets between wondering when you’ll hear from them again and trying to convince yourself you don’t care. The whole thing is exhausting.
My point is that sex on the first date almost always leads to disappointment or overthinking, or a delicious cocktail of both. Personally, I will be avoiding it. Instead, here’s what I prescribe. A dimly-lit, low-key venue that’s easy for you both to get to. Somewhere not too busy and ideally not with loud music, so you can actually hear each other. Some people favour activity dates: crazy golf, bouldering, exhibitions, etc. I’m not opposed to any of these – except maybe the golf – so long as they only take up a small part of the evening. 
That’s because all I really want is the look. And it’s not going to happen when we’re surrounded by fake grass and neon hole-in-one signs. To be clear, the look is not about lust. It can be, of course, but there’s more to it than that: a tacit but mutual acknowledgement of the connection you’re forming. Call it a spark, a vibe – whatever you like, really. Ultimately, a good first date boils down to that look and that look alone. If it doesn’t happen, don’t bother wasting your time on a second date. If it does, Godspeed.

Quick fire questions

What are you tips for post-pandemic dating?
Remember that the world has changed and so have you. Dating is not the same as it was: more people are approaching each other in real life now that they can, and apps have added heaps of new features to make you feel safer and more comfortable meeting people online. Be open to anything and don’t be afraid of taking risks.
I need advice on a man ejaculating very quickly and thinking that's sex… done and dusted
Call me crazy but I’m guessing this one comes from a straight woman. Listen, it’s not your responsibility to educate any man on a woman’s right to pleasure. But if you like this guy, I’d suggest telling him what you want him to do to you before you have sex. He’ll be into it, trust me.
What is Breadcrumbing and how do I stop it happening to me?
For the uninitiated, this pithy term refers to when someone leads you on (flirty texts, flame emojis in your DMs, etc.) but never follows through on anything like, say, making plans to meet up. If you like this person, it’s a legitimate form of emotional torture and should not be tolerated. Move on, you deserve better.

If you want to get in touch, please email me at All submissions will remain anonymous.

Olivia Petter is the relationships writer at ‘The Independent’ and author of ‘Millennial Love’, which is out now in paperback from 4th Estate

Interested in becoming a member?