“There is still some holding onto what people might call outdated dating values,” says Lawrence Siegel, a clinical sexologist and sex educator. “Either there is still a stigma, or there is a fear that there is a stigma.”
But while we typically think of the “should I have sex on the first date?” question as exclusive to women, men struggle with this question, too — albeit in a different way. If a guy has sex on the first date, it’s essentially a signal to the other person that all they care about is sex, even if that’s not necessarily the case. And if it is the case, having sex on the first date can send mixed messages to the other person.
“I’ve been on dates before where I turned down sex on the first date, despite being attracted to the other person, because of the potential repercussions,” JC*, 34, told Men’s Health. “I could tell she was feeling a more emotional connection than I was.”
Luckily, the stigma surrounding sex on the first date is rapidly changing. According to a survey conducted by OkCupid, 46 percent of users would consider having sex on the first date. “Today I think we are having much more sex on the first date because of technology, as well as more relaxed attitudes about sex, especially for women,” says sex therapist Dr. Debra Laino.
So should you have sex on the first date? The answer, for Siegel, is “a resounding: it depends.” Here are some times when you should and shouldn’t have sex on a first date.
Hell, yes, you should have sex on that first date!
There are a few reasons why sex on the first date isn’t just not a bad idea, but a really great one.
1) It helps establish whether you have chemistry.
More often than not, it takes time to figure out if another person is the right one for you. But every once in a while, you meet someone and you just know.
“I’ve had three, three-year-plus relationships and they all started with sex on the first date,” says Alex, 38. “The way I look at it is, if you lust after somebody that you don’t know terribly well, it can still be a damn good start to a longstanding relationship. And I think it alleviates a lot of pressure.”
If you really like someone, you shouldn’t let outdated dating rules get in the way of that. “If a guy/girl doesn’t call the guy/girl after a first date that ended with sex, it wasn’t because of the sex,” he says.
2) You get to, uh, have sex.
“If it feels good, right, and there is enthusiastic and very clear consent, it’s kind of hard to find a downside,” Siegel says. If you both are attracted to each other, why fight that or put off pleasure? And if you’re not as into them afterwards, you only expedited the inevitable end. Waiting to get intimate wouldn’t have changed your lack of interest following sex.
Eh, maybe you shouldn’t have sex on the first date.
1) You might lead the other person on.
If both partners are looking to have fun, hook up, and part ways, then that’s one thing. But if she’s looking for something serious and you’re not (or vice versa), then that’s another story altogether. “[Your partner’s] post-sex expectations can be painful if both parties aren’t on the same page,” says JC.
If things are getting hot and heavy, and it starts to look like first-date sex is in the cards, you need to ensure you guys are both on the same page. That can be as simple as saying, “Hey, I’m down with this if you are, but I just want to be clear that I’m not looking for anything serious right now.” You’re not a jerk for being honest, and it can mitigate the risk of hurt feelings later on down the road. (You definitely don’t want to hook up with her, and then tell her you’re not looking for a serious relationship. That’s a jerk move.)
2) You might do something you’re uncomfortable with, particularly if you’ve been drinking.
There’s a stereotype that all guys are interested in having sex with all women, all the time, but there are many legitimate reasons why you might not want to have sex on a first date — maybe you’re not attracted to the person, or maybe you have a history of unsatisfying one-night stands and you want to reverse the pattern. Whatever the reason, if adrenaline (and alcohol) are flowing, that ups the risk of you doing something you might later regret.
“When you’re in the heat of the moment, you’re trying to figure out your policies, belief system, and what you will and won’t do,” says Siegel. “Figuring all those things in that moment is not an instant calculus. When there is doubt and when you think ,’I’m not going to say NO and ruin the evening or upset my date, but I’m not totally into this,’ it may just end up being, ‘I will give in and bide my time.’ And that’s not consent.”
3) First-date sex can be pretty terrible.
Even if you’re super attracted to your date, the sex still might not be great, simply because you don’t know what they like in bed. If this happens, you might be more likely to write the other person off (or have your partner write you off), when in truth, all you guys really needed was more practice.
“If the chemistry is right and it feels special enough that it doesn’t feel like a first date, then the sex can be terrific,” Joe, 31, says. “If you’re both bombed in a crowded club and nodding even when you can’t hear her, just to keep her happy enough to drop her pants later, then it probably won’t be very good. You probably won’t even remember her name.”
So what’s the ultimate takeaway on sex after a first date?
It depends. The key is to remember the importance of honest communication—both with your date and with yourself. If it feels right, and if you’re open and truthful about what you’re looking for, then go for it. If not, then there’s no harm in waiting. And remember: Outdated societal norms should not influence your decision one way or the other.
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health