How Long Should You Wait to Have Sex?

Answer: As long as you darn well please.
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Sex researchers David Buss and Cindy Meston have found that there are 237 reasons why women choose to have sex, ranging from love to pleasure, duty to curiosity, pleasing a partner to seeking an ego boost. Especially among young women, many in their study chose to have sex for the experience or adventure, even the conquest.

One 27-year-old graduate student in Boston, MA has always planned to wait three months (“the amount of time it seems like it would take to get to know someone seeing them once a week”)—but so far, that plan has never worked out. Reasons like physical urges, convenience, and alcohol have always gotten in the way. “This issue may be one of the reasons why I hate dating,” she says. “The protocol is so unknown and it feels weird to talk about it.”

No matter how uncomfortable, talking openly about sex can help both of you. “Sexual communication is important for compatibility,” says Chen. “It’s fine to put it on the table. The assumption is that women over-obsess about this while guys don’t care, but that’s not true. This is a subject that impacts them as well and they also feel insecure about how you view them.”

Ultimately, knowing what you want and need is a matter of self-awareness. Taking an honest look at your own limits and desires requires “a lot of trial and error,” says Chen. “Women are taught to be independent nowadays and not need a man, so there’s this assumption that sex should just be easy, we shouldn’t care. It’s not weakness to acknowledge that sometimes you feel closer to someone after sex, or to realize there are things that make you doubt yourself and make you feel insecure. Working through the insecurity helps you gain self-awareness.”

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For a 26-year-old publicist in New York City, her insecurities helped her clarify who she wanted to date. Reflecting on her less serious sexcapades, she recalls, “While there are a few flings I definitely don’t regret, the majority of them ended up not feeling that great in the end. It probably was not really a matter of waiting or not waiting—they were just the wrong people.”

She’s waited “anywhere from two hours to six weeks” and half-jokingly believes in waiting “long enough to learn their last name, or even their first name.” But when she wanted something more, she put the brakes on. With her now-fiancé, she waited six weeks and found that “sleeping together solidified the bond we’d already formed.”

For many women, how long they wait comes down to what they want out of the relationship.

“The amount of time I wait to have sex is very dependent on the situation,” says one 26-year-old grant writer in New York City. “If I want to commit some real time to someone, I take the sexual relationship much more seriously and really demand that waiting period of and for myself.” But when it’s a casual attraction, “timing goes out the window and I just go with the flow.”

On the flip side, Chen points out that she slept with her boyfriend of four years on the first date. They’re still going strong today, highlighting that there are no cut-and-dry rules.

The better you know yourself, the better you can make these choices. But allow yourself some mistakes. “You can be as sexually progressive as you like, but when confronted with the actual situation, you might really feel like you made a mistake,” says Chen. “It’s okay to admit that.” The trick is to learn and move on so you can have better sex next time.

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