Everyone’s at it – or, more accurately, not at it. I’m talking celebrities and celibacy.
It’s not just Justin Bieber and Hailey Baldwin that famously abstained from sex before they got married last year, supermodel Miranda Kerr and husband Evan Spiegel did the same, as did singer Ciara and NFL star Russell Wilson.
Actress Hilary Duff practised abstinence before marrying her first husband; even the outspoken, gregarious, Tina Fey waited until marriage before having sex with her husband Jeff Richmond.
Do they know something we don’t? Should we all be putting off sex until much later in the relationship? Does doing it early ruin your chances of the two of you going on to be an item?
Woman ponders having sex with her partner (stock image). You’re instantly thrust into a far more intimate space than you were -dangerous if you want the sex to turn into a relationship, writes Tracey Cox
What happened to the ‘three date’ rule?
According to Sex and The City, who made the three date rule famous, sleep with someone earlier and you appear too ‘eager’ (read ‘slutty’); leave it too long and you’ve wasted your time if they turn out to be a dud in bed.
But that was back then (nearly 20 years ago, who knew?). What counts as a date now? A coffee? Hanging out with the person with other friends present? Texting for an hour?
Even if you can define a date, what if you have one date that lasts a whole weekend? Or three dates over a month?
What if you were already friends? Life is one hell of a lot different now – do the same rules apply? The answer i …not really but kind of. How’s that for hedging my bets?
The argument for waiting: ‘lust blindness’
There’s one very good reason for not jumping between the sheets until you know the name of each other’s siblings: once you sleep with someone, there’s no excuse for not doing it again.
You’re instantly thrust into a far more intimate space than you were -dangerous if you want the sex to turn into a relationship.
To decide if someone will be compatible with you, want a relationship and want the same thing out of a relationship, requires logical thinking and objectivity.
Good sex rather effectively robs us of both – instantly.
It’s extremely difficult to look at your new partner sensibly and objectively while their tongue is working their way up your inner thigh.
Tracey Cox says waiting too long to have sex can lead to more pressure, whereas having sex early can up your chances of finding love
Psychologists call it ‘lust blindness’: you get so involved with your partner’s body, you forget to look closely at the person inside it.
This is how people end up emotionally involved with people they later find out are bad for them. That ‘I know he’s a b******, but I love him’ thing.
No-one falls in love with a b****** when they’re thinking straight.
But if you put your brain on hold and get involved with your body, you could stumble out of that glorious, lust-infused haze, rub your eyes and find you’ve made all sorts of promises and commitments to someone who wasn’t worth getting intimate with in the first place.
Women are particularly at risk of this happening because we produce more of the ‘cuddle hormone’ oxytocin, which encourages bonding.
The more confident you are of your judgement in people and the less you’ve been burned in the past, the sooner you’ll know when it’s safe to have sex.
If you haven’t made great choices in the past, it makes sense to make a month – minimum.
The cons of waiting too long
Wait too long, however, and you risk the person thinking you don’t fancy them and only want friendship.
“If a guy doesn’t hit on me after two or three dates, alarm bells go off,” said one 28-year-old single woman. “Is he gay? Doesn’t he fancy me? Is there unfinished business with someone else? It’s not a good sign and it makes me feel uncomfortable.”
Waiting also makes the first time more stressful.
First-time sex after two, intense months of dating is a much bigger deal than falling into bed, probably half-cut, sex with someone you’ve just met.
You’ve got a lot more to lose. In that sense, having sex early takes the pressure off.
Here’s another reason to say, ‘Let’s go ahead and do it!’- science is on your side.
Couple cuddling up in bed (stock image). Rather than ruin your chances, sex helps initiate romantic relationships between potential partners
Having sex early could UP your chances of finding love
New research suggests being intimate early on could actually increase the chances of the relationship working.
One study of (heterosexual) relationships published early this year indicated that, rather than ruin your chances, sex helps initiate romantic relationships between potential partners.
A team of psychologists (in an Israel-based institute and in the US) found sexual desire may play a major role in not only attracting potential partners but forming attachment between them.
Early sex ‘set the stage’: making it easier for strangers to develop a deep connection and motivating them to take the relationship further.
This held true for both men and women.
Another study, published in the Journal of Sex Research, found when the couple first had sex made little difference to the quality of the relationship long-term.
Researchers asked nearly 11,000 unmarried adults in ‘serious or steady’ relationships when they started having sex and how this related to how happy they were now.
Most (76 per cent) had been together for more than a year and nearly all (93 per cent) were sexually active.
Of those that were, 51 per cent said they waited a few weeks before having sex and 38 per cent had sex either on the first date or within the first couple of weeks. The remaining 11 percent had sex before they even went on their first date.
Which group were happiest now?
On average, all the groups were highly satisfied though those who had sex earlier were slightly less satisfied.
Researchers, however, assume this has more to do with long-term sex issues than when the couple first had sex.
Most couples have more and lustier sex at the start than they do later on and the earlier you start having sex, the faster this potent ‘newness’ factor wears off.
In short: it made little difference to the future of the relationship whether the couple had sex early or waited.
Couple enjoying some time together in bed (stock image). How comfortable you both feel with the decision of when to have sex is more important than when you do it.
So, when is the right time?
Like most things, the timing on when you should first have sex, is highly individual.
The ‘three date’ rule isn’t dead yet.
An OK Cupid survey found while 28 per cent of people wait one to two dates, 47 per cent have sex between date three and five. (Twenty per cent waited six dates or more and five per cent waited until after marriage.)
Statistics released by the dating site Match found only 25 per cent of their 5,500 members have turned a one-night stand into a relationship. (Though bear in mind that Match attracts totally different, more conservative users than apps like Tinder, where around half of all users think the purpose of the app is to find sex).
If you’re a baby boomer, research suggests you’re far more likely to jump into bed early than a millennial.
If you’re female, you’re more likely to do it with someone who is exceedingly good-looking.
UK research at Brunel University found a marked difference between men and women when propositioned for casual sex.
Men drop their standards: they’re more likely to say yes, regardless of what the woman looked like.
Women raise them and were more likely to accept if the man was ‘exceptionally’ attractive. Perhaps because women are far more likely to regret saying yes.
UK research of 3300 people between 17 and 40, half of whom had had a one-night stand, focused on how many people regretted having sex the morning after.
While 80 per cent of men had overall positive feelings, only 54 per cent of women did.
It’s important to consider this when making a decision.
What if it doesn’t lead to a relationship? You need to behappy just having a one-night encounter that includes sex before you go there.
More important than any of these factors, however, is your ‘sociosexual orientation’.
Here’s the one, crucial factor that should dictate when you have sex
Researcher and scholar, Justin Lehmiller, looked at existing research and concluded how comfortable you both feel with the decision of when to have sex is more important than when you do it.
Everyone has their own ‘sociosexual orientation’ – their willingness to have sex outside a committed relationship, based on whether you think sex and love go together or can be separate.
Obviously, the more you think sex and emotion are linked, the less likely you are to have sex early. If you’re perfectly cool with ‘no strings sex’, you’re likely to sleep with someone earlier and not regret it.
This is what should dictate when you have sex, not a ‘rule’ set by society and certainly not a decision made by the person you’re about to have sex with.
The right time to have sex is what feels right and comfortable for you. And that, apparently, is all you need to worry about.
Visit traceycox.com for more information about sex and love from Tracey. Find her products on lovehoney.co.uk