Thanks in large part to pop culture, and in even larger part to certain female relatives of mine, I was brought up to embrace the idea that any sort of a “sex on first date” scenario is an absolute no-no. “Wait until the third date,” and, even worse, “Who’s gonna buy the cow if they can drink the milk for free?” were common refrains in my house, and that vibe definitely influenced my perceptions about sex throughout high school and college. As a single, sexually active adult, though, I can’t help but roll my eyes.
I’ve been on 37 first dates over the course of the past year, and exactly two of them have ended with a man in my bed. Neither of those turned into bona fide relationships, but in both situations, I walked away feeling totally comfortable with my decision and—bonus—sexually satisfied. “Because we are marrying later than ever, fewer people are waiting till marriage to have their first sexual experiences,” sex and couples therapist Tammy Nelson, PhD, tells me. “This means that more women, as well as men, can make decisions based on what they find pleasurable, not just on what society expects from them.” She adds that while the current hook-up culture (thanks, Tinder) can be frustrating for some, others find it freeing (#itme). “There is less emotional risk when you can have sex without commitment, and that might mean include having sex with someone on a first date,” she says.
And those reasons are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the value in being open to sex on a first date. Below, the pros spill the dirty details as to why.
1. Sex on a first date can be, well, informative
Another added benefit of opting for sex on a first date is that doing it may help you weed out partners who are essentially unviable for long-term potential based on a lack of sexual chemistry. “It’s like trying on the clothes before you buy the outfit,” says Dr. Nelson.
“Wild chemistry and passion is one of the greatest gifts we have. If you can’t keep your hands off each other, and you’re both consenting adults, sex on the first date is of course okay.” —Nikki Lewis, co-founder of matching service The Bevy
And what does a professional matchmaker have to say on the subject? “Wild chemistry and passion is one of the greatest gifts we have. If you can’t keep your hands off each other, and you’re both consenting adults, sex on the first date is of course okay,” says Nikki Lewis, co-founder of matching service The Bevy. But does she and co-founder Greta Tufvesson encourage it? “Not really.”
2. It’s a choice best used when you’re prepared for every outcome
Lewis notes that hopping into bed after your first few rounds of drinks can add a layer of pressure to a budding relationship, which may actually hinder the possibility of things moving forward. “Sex on a first date can set certain expectations that sex will also then happen on every other date with this person going forward,” she says. “It can be awkward to backpedal after the fact, so decide if you’re comfortable with that expectation. If you’re not, perhaps don’t sleep with someone on the first date.” There’s also the risk that having sex on a first date could lead to someone getting hurt, according to Dr. Nelson. “If you decide you want to repeat the sex, and then your date decides they don’t want to see you again, your desire for a repetition could lead rejection,” she says. “Those hurt feelings might not happen if you both kept your clothes on.”
“If you decide you want to repeat the sex, and then your date decides they don’t want to see you again, your desire for a repetition could lead rejection. Those hurt feelings might not happen if you both kept your clothes on,” —relationship therapist Tammy Nelson, PhD
For what it’s worth, the pros all agree there’s no “right” amount of time to wait before hopping into bed, and that the idea of the three-date rule is totally meaningless (…sorry, Mom). “There is no ‘appropriate’ number of dates to go on,” says Lewis. “Go on one, go on fifteen. Every relationship is unique and moves at different paces.” So whether you want to jump someone’s bones after sharing your first dessert or wait until you’ve said “I do,” you do you, girl—just don’t judge yourself or others for choices that are ultimately made.
3. Bottom line? You do you
No matter what the experts have to say about it, doing the whole “sex on first date” thing really just comes down to your own preferences. Some people are into it, others aren’t, and either way, that’s fine. “Know yourself and know how to manage your feelings before you hook up,” says Dr. Nelson, who suggests asking yourself—before getting down with someone you just met— whether you can handle a casual relationship ending abruptly and whether getting ghosted may affect your self-esteem. “Think about the fallout from the experience and how well you can manage not just the sex but the after-sex experience as well,” she says.
And obviously, never have sex with someone because of a pressure or expectation you feel to do so. As relationship expert Susan Winter tells me, just because someone pays for drinks or dinner, you don’t owe them anything. At all. “If you don’t want to have sex, don’t have sex,” she says. “If you make the decision, make it for you, and take responsibility for the outcome.” And remember, be safe.
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