Speed Dating Gets A Sexy Makeover

Non-verbal flirting, erotic fingertip touching and blindfolded snagging; Grazia's dating columnist Laura Jane Williams takes us to the sexy new frontier of silent speed dating

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by Laura Jane Williams |
Published on

I’ll admit it. Speed dating has never been for me. The idea of meeting men in a busy bar and having the same three-minute conversation over and over filled me with dread. First dates can be excruciating in their small talk at the best of times, so willingly signing up to what would essentially be 20 first dates, all within the space of an hour? No thanks.

Thank God speed dating in 2016 has come a long way. It's now a lot… quieter, as I found out recently. Speed dating these days is wearing a blindfold in a low-lit basement, being consensually kissed by every bloke in the room after three hours of intense eye-gazing, all done in silence.

Let me explain. Sick of apps and friend set-ups, I’ve been looking for a new way to meet men. I stumbled across Shhh! Dating on Google (pronounced ‘shush’), and roped in my mate Charlie to come along. We thought it’d be a bit of staring at fit blokes as we got drunk, reasoning: what’s the worst that can happen?

It didn’t click that we’d gotten our wires crossed about what to expect until Adam, our host – a handsome man with a handlebar moustache and spandex leggings - came over to explain how the evening would unfold. ‘There will be three sessions of non-verbal flirting games,’ he said, ‘with things getting more physical as the night progresses.’

Charlie looked like she might throttle me as Adam added, ‘This is like speed dating, but up a notch – this event is designed for the more… adventurous.’ We downed what was left in our glasses, nervously. ‘Well,’ I said to Charlie, ‘We’re here now. We can leave any time you want to if this gets weird, okay?’ She didn’t have time to respond: we were called to go and stand in the middle of the room to begin.

It was tame, to start with. We were told to walk around and make eye-contact, smiling at each of the twenty or so men, and twenty or so women. This progressed to a handshake, an air kiss, and then a ‘Namaste’.

It progressed to partnering up (‘This isn’t the person you’re going to marry,’ said Adam, reassuringly. ‘Just the person you’re going to look at for the next five minutes!’) and ‘mirroring’ each other. When I raised my hand in the air, so did my tall, fair-haired and shy opposite. When he spun in a circle on the spot, I was to do the same.

My face hurt from smiling. I think that was how my nerves displayed themselves: an embarrassed grin. I switched to work with a short black guy with big eyes who gave a me cheeky wink. Nothing about what we were doing was confrontational with the other person, though - it felt like I was somehow confronting something within myself. Seeing somebody else properly wasn’t as vulnerable as letting myself be seen. I had to lower my guard in order to keep eye-contact.

About an hour into the night I had the most erotic experience of my recent life - and it involved only the touch of a fingertip.

Adam explained, first of all, that words can muddy our relations, whereas our bodies don't lie. He said the evening wasn’t about using your body to seduce somebody else – it was about learning how to sit within your own body. To know yourself. It’s only when you know yourself that is when you can be intimate with somebody else apparently.

And so, I faced a man about my height, maybe a little taller, with shoulder-length black hair and lots of stubble. We were to lightly touch index fingers – but barely. Hardly at all. We had to follow the movement of the other as they went up and down, around and around, staring at them the whole time. It was such a delicate, light thing, that it felt like a trust exercise. A dance. When we stopped for a break Charlie said to me, ‘Wow, are you okay?’ I was flushed and short of breath. ‘That was... That was really hot. I can’t explain why, but going so slowly, being so deliberate… Wow.’

After the break the women had to ask the men, ‘May I blindfold you?’

‘Men, you are trees,’ said Adam, ‘And the women, they are butterflies’. The ‘butterflies’ moved around the blindfolded ‘trees’, gradually beginning to lightly touch them. ‘To get consent to touch,’ Adam instructed, ‘You must first touch him on the shoulder. If he meets your touch, that is your permission to proceed.’

We were invited to stroke their torsos, then use a feather to tickle them. After that we could ask permission to kiss their cheek, their neck, and eventually, and only if we wanted to, their mouths – no tongues, though.

By the time it was the women’s turn to be blindfolded I was absolutely comfortable. At ease. It didn’t feel seedy or dirty like I’d have expected. It felt sensual, like an important way to discover more about myself. What felt good. Before the blindfolds went on I caught a glimpse of Charlie: she looked as happy and relaxed as I felt.

Every man who asked for permission to kiss me, I said yes to. That they had to get my consent in the first place was reassuring. Intimate. Charlie said she'd done the same: said yes to everybody. It was interesting to compare all the different ways you can be lightly kissed. Not one man felt slow enough to me, gentle enough, and I never realised before that night just how tenderly I need to be touched. It's made me feel more confident in asking for that tenderness from a man, moving forward. I genuinely learned something about myself. About my needs.

Afterwards, the silence broken, everyone drank together and excitedly swapped stories like old friends. We’d bonded. I saw at least two couples snogging in a corner, and though I turned down the offer of a phone number from my finger-dancing partner, Charlie scored an email address from a very cute chap.

Not only would I do the whole thing again, but I’d love to be dating somebody and take them to do it, too. Sure, it felt uncertain and different to begin with, but the whole thing was executed with such skill, not to mention knowledge of both consent, and how to encourage people to willingly push their boundaries, that I just can’t recommend it enough. I’m telling everyone about it. It might be called Shhh! Dating but you can’t shut me up about it.

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