Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

That's way too far for a first date

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I was having a great time on my first date with P, a charming and funny agent who had been introduced to me by a mutual friend. Great, that is, until he started masturbating in public.

It was even more shocking because our date had started out so normally. We went for Italian food, shared a plate of tiramisu and retired to an intimate bar for dessert wine. To get some privacy, we settled into a back-room sofa beside a roaring fire. Then he leaned in, I steadied myself for our first kiss - and that's when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw it.

Somehow, while we were chatting, he had unbuttoned his trousers and released his member, which he was enthusiastically stroking like a pet hamster. "Do you want to touch it?" he asked, in the same conversational tone he'd used to ask what my dad did for a living. I grabbed my coat and bolted.

He called several times and left apologetic messages, saying that he'd always had a thing for sex in public places and thought I would be "up for it". I deleted his number. Our mutual friend kept calling to ask why I hadn't "clicked" with P (or, as my girlfriends nicknamed him, The Flasher), and told me that he'd really liked me. So I had to wonder: if that was the case, what the hell had this guy been thinking?

Maybe it was partly my fault. It's known that I'm hardly a shrinking violet in the bedroom: I've dated men with foot fetishes, tried anal sex and braved candlewax burns. I've even indulged an ex-boyfriend's alfresco sex obsession before - though our back-alley trysts were more 9.5 seconds than 9 1/2 Weeks.

But generally, I think that first-time sex with someone I like should be relatively straightforward. We're probably already nervous about seeing each other's naked bits, so it would be great if boys could wait until at least date four before breaking out the leather gimp mask.

Occasionally, I've done outrageous things in first-time sex, but the kinky behaviour has been discussed at length first, not sprung on me by some guy dry-humping a sofa.

In most cases, even with open-minded girls, trust takes time to build. For women, there is also the safety issue to consider, which is why I'm a huge fan of well-vetted sex parties for acting out fantasies. That way, I can be reassured that someone in the room knows the surname of the guy hog-tying me to the bedposts.

Most of my girlfriends have horror stories, whether it's Amy's mild-mannered doctor with the torture closet, or the guy who casually told me before the appetisers that he wanted to shave off my pubic hair. "I once had guy open a drawer and pull out a bunch of sex toys he had used with his ex-girlfriend. It was our second date," Victoria told me. "That was just wrong."

Most of these guys seemed nice and normal, but because they were too pushy too soon, they will for ever be defined by funny nicknames. Which brings me back to The Flasher. He texted a few days ago to say that he hoped we could be friends, then invited me to the movies as a peace offering. It's a nice gesture, but I'm not exactly keen to hang out in a dark location with him. Or to share popcorn; I know a bit too much about where his hands have been.

c.townsend@independent.co.uk

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