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How long people wait before having sex (and why it doesn't matter)

By Lea Rose Emery

Remember the three date rule? The guideline (that still exists in some circles!) that claims the third date is when it’s time to get down and dirty. It was really popular for a long time, but I don’t buy it. In fact, I don’t think a lot of people buy it. There are still a lot of people who wonder how many dates you should wait to have sex — or just want to know how many dates other people are waiting. And the three date rule was alive and well for a long time — but it’s time we say goodbye. 

Because really, the question is a pointless one. Who cares how long other people are waiting? Why do you think what’s right for them will be right for you? If you want to have a healthy and happy sex life, it shouldn’t be by anyone else’s standards but your own. Especially because, as you’ll see, the amount of time that people wait varies so much. 

We also need to rethink the language of how long people “wait” to have sex. It makes it sound like it’s something from which we should hold ourselves back. It encourages the idea that it’s an instinct we should fight. In reality, some people don’t “wait” at all.

And why should they? If they want to do it, there’s nothing to wait for.

Here’s why the idea of waiting to have sex doesn’t matter. 

Really, it's a free for all 

When you look at the numbers, there is no clear picture of how long “most” people wait— and that’s a good thing. One YouGov survey says that only 12 percent of people follow the three date rule, compared to 18 percent who go right for it on date number one. But another survey, this one from Glamour, says that a much higher percentage — 46 percent of men and 33 percent of women — have had sex on the first date.

Why don’t the numbers add up?

Well, because everybody is doing different things. People have such varying attitudes toward sex that when you ask one group you’ll get a totally different answer than if you ask another. And that’s a great thing. There’s no right, no wrong, nothing you should do or not do. It really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re happy with your decision. 

Men might be more keen than women 

There are some signs that men are more open to having sex earlier in a relationship than women are. A YouGov survey found that men were four times as likely as women to be open to sex on the first date, with 28 percent of men saying they were keen compared to just 7 percent of women. But it’s silly to think that this means the old gender stereotype is true — that men want sex and women withhold it. Plenty of women get down on the first date. Plenty of women have casual hookups without any date, period. And they love every second of it. Every person is different — and that makes a bigger difference than gender. 

Sex is a lot more complicated than just doing it 

Here’s what I never understood about the third date rule: what are you supposed to do on the first two dates? Like, is it a gradual increase in sexual touching or do you not touch at all for the first two meetings — and then suddenly jump right to penetration on date number three? It sounds ridiculous, but sex isn’t the same thing to everyone. Saying what date you “have sex” is really oversimplifying it. Some people might do everything but penetrative sex for weeks, some people might not even go for foreplay, and some people have different definitions of what sex even is. Do we really want to boil it all down to a single thing you do on a single date? Sex is complicated. Sexual relationships are nuanced. Let’s keep it that way. 

Not everyone measures by "dates" 

One interesting part of the YouGov survey was that, though most people gave the number of dates that they would wait to have sex, others used a completely different metric. Nine percent of men and 21 percent of women said that they would wait until they were in love, whatever the number of dates that is. Now, that might sound cheesy, but it strikes on a much larger point. Different people have different markers on how they decide to have sex with someone — and it can even vary within the same person. When I’ve been seeing someone for just a casual hookup, I’ve totally had sex with them right off the bat. But when I was dating someone who I really liked, I waited longer. It’s just not as simple as saying “X number of dates” — and it doesn’t have to be. 

Trying to figure out “what date you should have sex on” is pointlessly limiting. You don’t need to base it on anyone else, you don’t need to follow in anyone’s footprints — especially when the footprints lead you all over the damn place. You should have sex when you want to have sex and when a person wants to have sex with you. The end. 

Image Source: Elena Koycheva

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