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Dating etiquette: exploring the sapphic dating scene with confidence  

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Nov 14, 2023

Dating etiquette: exploring the sapphic dating scene with confidence  

You’re sitting at dinner, across from that cute sapphic that finally agreed to meet in person off the dating apps. You’re getting butterflies. You completely forgot how to act. 

What should I do? What is my name? Ahhhh, she’s so pretty. 

This is where dating etiquette comes into play, for those moments when you’re caught blushing. Don’t panic. You’ve got this. The only thing that matters is to be kind and respectful. The rest is charming. 

Maybe you’ve just come out, or maybe you’re looking to brush up on your skills to date someone new. Either way, we’re here to provide some tips to help you enter the sapphic scene with confidence. While there’s no “manner class” to teach you the ways of queer dating, everyone wants to go into new situations armed with some idea of what to expect. 

As you prepare for your date by picking out your outfit, researching restaurants, and reviewing their profile, let’s get into some of the things that go unspoken. 

Do these “dating rules” apply to us queers? 

Women on a date drinking wine

We are all familiar with the rules of straight dating. They’re all around us. But do these rules apply to LGBTQIA+ relationships? I’d say a lot of them are pretty sexist. Maybe we don’t need the rules. That’s why we’re gay in the first place.

There is, unfortunately, no manual for sapphic dating. From flirting to first dates to relationships, each stage of a queer relationship has different challenges. And for all the experiences I’ve had dating as a lesbian, there will always be a new challenge to face down the road. 

But for fun, here are some “dating rules,” why I think they’re dumb, and what you can do instead. 

The 3-day rule 

Thou shalt not text until three days after the first date

Someone decided that texting on the first day after a date is too desperate, texting after the second day is too calculated, and the third day is the sweet spot. Even straight people seem to have left this one behind. I can’t think of a time when any of my friends, gay or straight, have abided by this rule. It seems extremely inefficient and, honestly, a little rude. 

So suffice it to say this rule does not apply to sapphic dating. My advice: text when you get home and say you had a nice time (if you did). 

Sex on the first date

Lying in bed, legs

Thou shalt not spread thine legs on the first date, or maybe not even kisseth. 

Apparently, this is still something straight people are worried about. There are a lot of people out there in 2023 who say that every time they sleep with someone on the first date, they can tell the person respects them less. 

Personally, I’ve done this before. The chemistry was there. The conversation was excellent. And she missed the last train to her house, so we had a sleepover. But it’s a personal choice and a choice that completely depends on context. 

Intimacy is always a personal choice and changes throughout your dating life. As long as you are getting informed, enthusiastic consent, and enjoying yourself, that’s between you and your gay god. 

Politics, religion, and money 

Thou shalt not talk about politics, religion, or money on the first date. 

What would two gay women talk about if we cannot discuss our religious trauma on the first date? Absolutely not, this rule does not apply to us. Talk about whatever you want. 

Splitting the bill 

Thou shalt not pay a cent of the bill, as it is the man’s duty to forketh over his credit card. 

Okay, so if there’s no man, obviously, you shouldn’t dine and dash on every lesbian date. You can definitely split the bill. My girlfriend and I have always gone back and forth covering dinner, which I think is kinda cute. 

Does this rule apply to sapphics? No. We’re going for equity here. 

Dating a friend’s ex 

Thou shalt abide by “bro-code” and not pursue a former lover of a friend. 

If you’re familiar with the L-word chart, you know that friend groups where everyone dates everyone are a part of lesbian culture.  Sometimes there are just not enough queer people! 

That being said, there’s no need to be disrespectful about it. You know your friends best and probably know the exes that would be off-limits. And when in doubt, always ask. 

Do’s and Don’ts in the sapphic dating scene 

Now that we’ve established the “etiquette” that doesn’t apply to us queers let’s get into some do’s and don’ts for the sapphic scene specifically. 

Disclaimer: none of these are rules! I don’t believe in dating rules. If I try to be rigid about anything related to my love life, I know the universe will find a way to prove me wrong and laugh at me. 

Here are my suggestions: sapphic to sapphic. And the best way to learn the scene is to get out there and see for yourself. 

DO find queer community 

LGBTQIA+ friend group in a park

Source: Pinterest

The best way to meet queer women and nonbinary people is by balancing the apps with meeting people in real life. Joining a club, frequenting queer spots near your home, and even dating for friends are all great ways to find queer community. 

“Being queer is so cool because you have this community, and people want to bring you in for the most part,” says TikTok creator Erin Wright. “Once you meet one or two people, they will introduce you to other people, and it’s this big community web, and it’s great!” 

A TikTok creator Erin Wright

Part 6| dating advice from a lesbian (making queer friends) #wlw #wlwtiktok #lesbiansoftiktok #wlwdating

♬ original sound – Erin Wright

This is also essential beyond dating and relationships. Once you do find someone, it’s still important to have friends and interests beyond them for a healthy and balanced relationship. 

DO ask her questions 

Asking questions on a date is essential, and there’s nothing more awkward than going out with someone who just talks about themselves. 

Research shows that asking questions makes a great first impression, and it also helps you get to know your date. Treating a date as an opportunity to get to know someone rather than find a life partner also alleviates some of the pressure and sets the tone that you care about them. So ask, and you shall receive! 

Come prepared with things you want to know: any current TV recommendations? What about that picture from their profile on a cool trip? Who are their people? What are they passionate about? The follow-up question is also the key to a smooth first-date conversation, rather than reading from a list of cards. 

DO make the first move

This is my number one piece of dating advice for anyone, regardless of sexuality. We can all agree the foundation of a good relationship is clear communication. So start there and tell them how you feel and what you want from the beginning. 

In queer dating, there’s no rule for who makes the first move, but this is often how we end up in the cycle of endless longing. How do you escape? Step up and tell them how you feel. 

I have made the first move in all of my relationships. To preface this, I am an Aries, so I am built different. But I still highly recommend this, even for water signs! 

DO be patient 

Lesbian dating can be hard. Even with all the progress we’ve made, it can still be a lonely world to be gay. There are fewer LGBTQIA+ people in the world, which becomes painfully obvious when you’re swiping through the same people on every app after two days. But I know from experience that it just takes time. 

DON’T ghost 

Woman on her phone in bed

After you meet someone in person, it’s common courtesy not to ghost. We don’t need to do too much and offer an explanation to every person we’re talking to on the apps, but once you’ve had a date, ghosting is rude. 

DON’T worry about ‘experience’ 

Entering the sapphic dating scene can be totally terrifying, and it takes a lot of courage to come out at any stage of life. But I promise you can figure out gay flirting, gay fashion, and, yes, gay sex.  Everyone has a first time. 

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when it comes to certain “firsts” in our romantic lives, and there’s even less information out there about how to navigate these milestones as a queer person. I can only speak for myself, but experience would never be a dealbreaker for me, and I know plenty of people share this sentiment. We’re just happy you’re here!  

DON’T U-haul  

I would go as far to say U-hauling after the first date is a little uncouth in the sapphic scene. For the purpose of this article, let’s count a marathon first date as U-Haul adjacent. I’ve been guilty of this myself, and it’s just not a good look. Why waste all your date ideas on one weekend? 

Yes, queer relationships often move fast, but sometimes these actions verge into Love Bombing territory, where grand gestures don’t come from an authentic place. It’s important to fall in love with the person, not the fantasy. 

DON’T sell yourself short

In my experience, queer women and nonbinary people are way too modest when it comes to dating. From the beginning, my queer friends are constantly shocked that people are flirting with them at all. And I say to my beautiful, brilliant, kind, spectacular friends — in public — How dare you sell yourself short? You are the most incredible human and I love you and a person who gets an hour of your time for even a first date is infinitely blessed, not to mention the person who gets to know and love you for the perfect and magical creature you are.

All that to say, don’t sell yourself short. You are deserving of love, and you will find it. 

Expectations after dating for one month 

So you made it past the first date, the second date, and the one-month mark. Now what?

One of the beautiful things about being queer is the way that our culture includes diverse structures for a relationship, and as you go down this road with someone new, every choice you make will start to form a completely unique relationship structure for you and your partner(s) that works best. There are fewer rules the farther you venture, and that’s freedom, baby!

By the time you reach one month of dating, you might have a sense of the relationship taking form. Or maybe you don’t, and that’s okay too. The only advice I can give is to talk openly about what you want from each other. Ask your partners — what are you looking for right now? Are you interested in monogamy, and what does that mean to you? What does a healthy relationship look like to you? 

Having intentional conversations only gets more important as things get more serious. 


Are you feeling ready? Nervous? Excited? The only real rule in dating is respect. And I promise it will all be worth it. 

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Catherine Henderson is a journalist based in Chicago. She has worked at a wide variety of newsrooms, including The Denver Post, Chalkbeat, Business Insider and In These Times, covering education, career development and culture. Catherine holds a master’s and bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Outside of work, she enjoys traveling, exploring Chicago, reading LGBTQ lit, and analyzing internet trends.

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