Should You Wait To Have Sex With The Person You’re Dating?

There are certain age-old questions we all must contend with at one point or another: What is the meaning of life? What is my calling? How long should I wait before sleeping with the new person I’m dating? OK, so the third one may not be quite as existential as the others, but it’s one that has boggled the minds of many a lost soul dater in this day and age. Countless books have been written on the subject, and people like Patti Stanger have made careers out of telling people, most often women, that they shouldn’t get into bed before being monogamous with a partner. But *Oprah voice* what is the truth? There’s no hard and fast rule (despite what the Three Dates Truthers tell you), but there are various factors to consider on both sides. I’ve compiled the arguments for and against waiting to have sex with the new person in your life so you can decide for yourself.

The Case For Waiting

Before you jump down my throat, many experts cite science when arguing that it’s best to wait before jumping into bed with someone. Dr. Nancy Lee, a clinical psychologist and author of Don’t Sleep with Him Yet: A Badass Guide to Dating in 10 Empowering Steps, points to brain chemistry to support her book’s thesis: “Waiting to sleep together allows for attraction-promoting mystery and eroticism to build in a relationship.” Building eroticism kind of sounds like the opposite of what you’d expect to happen when you wait, but she explains, “When we experience a powerful attraction to a dating partner, our brains release an amphetamine-like chemical, phenethylamine (PEA), which is known as the ‘love drug’ because it causes a temporary state of euphoria.” But, she says, “if you sleep with someone right away, you don’t give the spell-casting PEA time to synthesize—not only preempting that ‘can’t stop thinking about her/him’ feeling, but also derailing much of the romance in a relationship as well.”
In other words, sleeping together too soon impedes the process of attachment and bonding, which is aided by the chemicals in our bodies. I’m not usually one to argue with science, so I’ll take their word for it, I guess, but this seems a little… much. Is sleeping with someone really going to tank your relationship because of your brain chemicals (and not because the person you’re seeing just wanted to hit it and quit it all along)? Really, the idea is to take sufficient time to assess the relationship and build trust with your partner before taking things to the next level.

The Case For Doing Whatever The F*ck You Want

Of course, we can’t always reduce human behavior to a formula when every relationship and individual in one is so different. Those who eschew rules about waiting for sex have a problem with the fear-based beliefs that allow such rules to be born in the first place, like the idea that men are wild stallions who must be tamed and trained and women who refuse to do so will end up trampled and abandoned. Ideas like these lead us to create rules that provide some semblance of order, but are these fears really warranted? Andrea Syrtash, co-author of It’s Okay to Sleep with Him on the First Date: And Every Other Rule of Dating, Debunked, thinks not: “A recent survey of 1,000 18- to 35-year-old women found that over 83 percent felt that men will lose interest and respect if you hook up with them too soon. But 70 percent of men said that’s not true—if they’re interested, it doesn’t matter. Getting naked won’t affect if he calls the next day.”

It’s true that men and women are different, but according to experts like Syrtash, subscribing to the notion that biology equals destiny reinforces antiquated gender roles and potentially keeps us from taking risks in love that might very well pay off. While it seems indisputable may feel like every guy is a f*ckboy, that’s not actually the case.

So when is the appropriate time to have sex? One of the more enduring rules states that you should wait until the third date. However, one recent study found that the average was closer to eight dates. Ultimately, only you can know when you’re ready to sleep with someone new. There are compelling reasons to wait or to dive right in. On the one hand, rules allow us to feel safe and help to create order in what can often be a chaotic dating world. On the other hand, reinforcing old-fashioned stereotypes about sex is… well… not very 2020.

Rules are never one-size-fits-all, and these rules are no different. Being true to yourself and your desires is the most important factor of all. Whatever camp you find yourself in, it comes down to trust, both of yourself and the partner in question, whether that takes one date or one hundred. As long as you’re doing what feels right to you and not in response to pressure or some sense of obligation, there’s no wrong answer. You do you (or him/her/them).

Images: Becca Tapert / Unsplash; Giphy (2)