how many dates before having sex

Ask an Expert: How Many Dates Before Sex? Does it Even Matter?

We’ve all heard of the “3 Date Rule” when it comes to having sex, right? For so long, it’s been hammered into our heads that we should wait at least three dates before hopping into bed — but why is that?

The short answer: societal pressure. For some reason, society has always pushed the narrative that “if you wait X number of dates, then X will happen.” But guess what? It doesn’t work that way! Every relationship is different, and there’s no universal rule that applies to all of them.

Let’s look at some research:

  • A 2014 study published in the Journal of Sex Research found that 47.9% of people in a relationship waited a few weeks before having sex, and 35.5% had sex on the first date or within the first few weeks of dating
  • A 2017 survey by Groupon found that men waited an average of five dates before having sex, while women waited nine dates


So, what does this tell us? Just that it reinforces our initial point — no two relationships are exactly the same. There’s no concrete answer to the question “How many dates before sex?” In fact, it’s wildly ambiguous—the best time to have sex is whenever you feel ready to have it! It’s completely up to you to go for it if the mood strikes.

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To help determine whether you’re ready to have sex with someone new, here are are few questions to ask yourself:

What Does Sex Mean to You?

There’s no right or wrong answer here. Everyone has their own views on what it means to have sex, so what’s yours? Are you more of a no-strings-attached person that views sex as a casual thing? Or do you consider sex to be the ultimate act of intimacy and emotional connectedness? Moreover, is sex only sex when there's penetration, or does it include other acts, such as oral?

Your views on sex can help you determine how many dates before sex. For example, if you view sex as an act of love, it’s probably best to give your relationship time to grow. On the other hand, if you look at sex as a way to have some fun, you might decide to have it early on (as long as you’re both on the same page about it, of course!).


Do You Feel Safe Having Casual Sex?

Safety is one of the most important factors when determining how many dates before sex (and not something you should compromise on). If you’re into casual sex (which is totally fine), can you guarantee you and your partner are being as safe as possible? If you’re a few drinks deep at the bar and decide head back to your place, are you likely be more careless?

Whether you hit the bed sheets on the first date or the tenth, you should both be on the same page about practicing safe sex (especially if it’s early on). More importantly, the person you’re having sex with should be aware of and respect any boundaries you have in the bedroom.

Additionally, if you’re sleeping with more than one person, you should consider your level of risk when it comes to STIs (and whether you want to divulge that information to your new partner).

What Are Your Expectations for the Day After?

What are your expectations after having sex with a new partner? Are you assuming you’ll head out in the morning before they wake up — or right after — and they’ll be totally cool with it? Or do you picture a morning cuddle session followed by a brunch date?

If you’re just getting to know someone, it can make for a potentially awkward morning after if you’re not on the same page about what happens next. Part of deciding how many dates before sex is being prepared for (and okay with) different outcomes. If you’re envisioning a more “romantic” post-coital interaction, waiting a little longer might be the best option—unless you’re both ready for the rom-com experience after date two, of course.

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Have You Considered Other Forms of Intimacy?

Sure, "penetration" or "full sex" is great, but there are other forms of intimacy that can be just as exhilarating! Do you want to try a good old-fashioned make-out session first? What about some sensual touching, or simply holding hands? If you’re on the fence about having full-on sex, you can always start with other forms of intimacy until you’re more comfortable.


Does It Feel Right?

The ultimate deciding-factor is simple — do you feel completely ready? Does it feel right in your gut? If you’re not 100% confident in your decision, think about why. Do you feel pressured or like you owe it to the other person? Are you considering it only because you’re afraid they’ll stop dating you?

If any of the latter concerns are on your mind, we can definitively say it’s not the right time to have sex. Trust yourself! If something feels off, don’t rush it.

So, how many dates before sex, you ask? Infinity! Just kidding. There’s no right answer! It’s completely up to you and your comfort level. If it’s the first night you meet, awesome. If it’s after four months of dating, great. You know yourself (and your body) best, and whenever you’re ready for a new sexy encounter is the right time.

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