I never know when to have sex with the person I'm going out with.
Well, obviously, I should have sex whenever I want to. Two (or three or four or five) consenting adults should have sex whenever they would like.
But there are all these rules that confuse me. Don't have sex on the first date, because no one will buy the cow if they can get the milk for free (women are cows, apparently). Wait until the third date — yeah, the third date is definitely the right time to have sex!
Actually, wait until you're monogamous. Wait, no, just wait until you're married!
To settle the question once and for all (although, is there any one-size-fits-all answer, really?), I asked Dr. Nikki Goldstein, expert sexologist and author of Single But Dating: A Field Guide to Dating in the Digital Age, about when you should start having sex with the person you're dating.
Dr. Goldstein explains, "When to have sex is one of the most complex issues. The reason is because every situation is different, and there cannot be one blanket rule, but there are a few things you need to consider."
So, when is actually the right time?
1. If He Respects You
If he isn't treating you well, then yeah, don't have sex with him, whether it's "date three" or if he's your "boyfriend."
"The biggest issues will be where you see the situation going and how much you think this person respects you," Dr. Goldstein says.
When it comes to the respect question, I always like to ask myself, "How does this person probably talk about me when I'm not around?"
She continues, "If things are just casual or that's all you are up for, it doesn't matter when you really sleep with the person. Casual might just mean easy come, easy go, so if they are not sticking around after you have done the deed, then you will easily find someone else who can fill those shoes."
2. If You Trust Your Gut Instinct
A woman's intuition is her superpower. You know in your heart when it feels right to have sex, and when it doesn't.
"If you are more seriously dating you are going to have to look out for the clues. The best weapon a woman has is her gut instinct," Dr. Goldstein explains. "You can't always listen to the fables and rules around you, as you are the one who will truly know when is the best time, and you need to be in tune with that instinct and learn how to trust yourself."
3. If You Know Your Boundaries
For me, I need to feel emotionally connected and safe with someone in order to have sex with them. It wasn't always like that, though (believe me, my 20s were a mess), but now, I can only have sex with men I'm dating seriously.
It's important to know what works for you and to make that your rule.
Dr. Goldstein stresses the importance of personal boundaries:
The best way to ensure you don't have sex too soon for yourself is knowing your sexual boundaries. For some people, sex on the first date or early on is fine, and they are comfortable with it. For others, they need to feel connected, intimate, and safe with someone before they jump into bed. It's important instead of looking at a specific number to explore what you require for sex, so you are able to recognize when it's there (e.g. if you need safety and trust, it's not a matter of how many dates, but knowing when that is there in a situation).
4. What About That "No Sex On The First Date" Rule?
We all know that echo in the back of our heads: Don't have sex on the first date. Don't have sex on the first date.
Dr. Goldstein explains that the risk related to having sex on the first date will always be there, but it's only a risk:
He might think he has gotten what he wants and then doesn't call you back, but why would you want to continue dating a guy with that attitude? He has done you a favor by showing you who he really is. He might think if you have sex too soon, it's just a casual hookup thing, and if that's the case, you might need to have a chat about why it's not in your eyes.
Any guy who will ditch you to the curb for embracing your own sexuality is not the right guy for you anyway.
But where did this belief that we shouldn't have sex on the first date come from?
According to Dr. Goldstein, it may stem from fearing that "if he sleeps with you on the first date you become too sexual in his mind, and he doesn't want to seriously date you."
However, she believes this fear comes from somewhere else:
I feel as though that belief stems from self-doubt in a woman. Is that all you think you are good for? Is that all you think he will see in you? Just sex? Maybe you are selling yourself short even thinking that. There is also this shame on women for being too sexual, and sexual outside of a relationship. We are still a society that punishes women at some point for wanting and having too much sex. You don't see this question so commonly coming up for men ('when should you have sex with a girl you are dating?') but it feels so common for women.
Yeah! Why aren't men sitting around going, "Hey, guys, when is it appropriate for me to have sex with the girl I'm dating without her or society judging me?"
Dr. Goldstein summarizes, "Don't let society, shame, or negative self-beliefs dictate when you should be having sex. Let your mind and your trusted gut instinct guide you."