A Trans-Atlantic Dating Gap

By playing the clip below, you can get a sense of my level of bafflement when I read these remarks by French GQ sex columnist Maïa Mazaurette.

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In an interview with New York, Mazaurette summarized the difference between the American and French approaches to sex and dating.

So tell me, how would you describe the French attitude toward sex?
I can only compare it to the countries I’ve lived in — Germany, and now Denmark, and I’ve made some trips to the U.S. I’d say the main difference is that in France we’re so straightforward. We don’t have these dating rituals; we just start with sex! And then, if the sex was good enough or we feel connected somehow, then we would try to build a relationship.

So you always have sex on the first date, then?
Absolutely! But it’s not even an issue because there is no date. There is just first sex. You think someone is attractive, you give it a try. I think it really makes sense. (Of course I say that, because I’m French, right?) But if you don’t have sex first, you build up too much pressure. You start thinking, I have seen this guy for four or five restaurants, or however you do it in the U.S., and what if it fails? If you get sex out the way first, then you can only have good surprises.

I’ll concede that I love the phrase “four or five restaurants” and I kind of want to steal the malapropism for use in everyday life (“C’mon, how many more restaurants are you going to have before we all get to meet this guy?”).  But that’s pretty much the limit of what I agree with in this snippet.

Quite aside from Catholic concerns about sexual ethics, I just can’t imagine it’s worse to be surprised by bad sex than a poor conversationalist.  For one thing, sex is supposed to be more the kind of thing one can improve at, whereas people’s conversation styles and aesthetic tastes are a little more fixed.

For another, you spend most of a relationship euh, comment dit-on… restauranting rather than in bed.  Not that you have to pick, but, if you do, one of them is going to affect a lot more of your day to day life, not to mention the lives of the friends you introduce your petit-ami to, as well as any children you possibly have.

It’s possible (probably) I’m just unusually impatient, but I get tense and annoyed enough already when fielding unwanted, banal texts after an unsuccessful first date, and trying to figure out how to disentangle myself.  I would feel a lot odder/worse if I were doing it after a much more intimate encounter, where it felt more like I had done something un-casual with the gentleman in question.  I’d expect it would be harder to taper off contact without hurting his feelings.

And, finally, if this is the French approach to dating, I’m confused about the French approach to friendships.  In friendship, shared time and shared projects aren’t the filter for sex, they’re the end in itself.  I can’t think of any simple short-cut past the restauranting phase (ok, I can think of two: knocking out a twelve-foot mountain troll, and dressing up as ninjas to attack Richard Stallman).

But if getting-to-know-yous seems like that much of a waste of time when looking for sexual partners, I’m curious how Mlle. Mazaurette handles the process of forging platonic partnerships.

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The Word Gap Needs More Than Individual Effort
Ethical Sex: Paying attention to the consequences of “No”
Holy Fools Against the Mini-Maxers
About Leah Libresco

Leah Anthony Libresco graduated from Yale in 2011. She works as a statistician for a school in Washington D.C. by day, and by night writes for Patheos about theology, philosophy, and math at www.patheos.com/blogs/unequallyyoked. She was received into the Catholic Church in November 2012."


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