Sex: How Long Should You Hold Out?

What a great question! But the only person who can really provide an answer is you. If you feel ready, willing and prepared and have taken some time to consider how you feel, then you may very well be ready. If you feel unsure of your preparedness, then you should probably wait until you feel more comfortable.

I wish I could tell you that 5.6 dates or 904 minutes of dating-time means that you’re ready to hop in the sack, but the reality is that every person and every situation is unique. It shouldn’t matter what everyone else is doing (forget about that so-called third date rule), because your body is your own and you have to choose to do (or not do) as you feel fit.

As a sexologist, I advocate for sexual rights, health, education and pleasure and spending a lot of time talking about the many upsides of sexual activity. I also provide education to reduce the potential risks associated with sex and embracing a sex-positive approach. This in no way means that I think all sex is wonderful. I also don’t believe that people should be having more sex or that they need to make sex a greater priority — unless they want to. Sexuality is so incredibly subjective and personal and only you can decide what works for you.

My goal is to provide clients with accurate information and help them feel empowered to make decisions they feel good about based on their own values and conceptions of sex.  My clients range from those who opt to abstain from partnered sex altogether to those who live in healthy open relationships with multiple partners. My job is to support them in a way that respects their varied sexual beliefs and values. It is never a one-size-fits-all approach.

Having said that, I’ll offer a non-exhaustive list of questions you might want to consider before you have sex:

•  Have you talked about your sexual feelings, values, interests and limitations? I believe that it is important to be able to talk about sex beforehand.

•  Do you have the tools you need (condoms, dental dams, lube, contraception, etc.) to practice safer sex? Have you talked about safer sex with your partner?

•  Do you want to have sex? If so, why do you want to do so?

•  Do you feel comfortable and relaxed with your partner?

•  Do you trust your partner?

•  Do you respect your partner? Does your partner respect you?

•  What are your expectations with regard to sexual pleasure, expression and communication? Are you prepared to talk about these issues with your partner?

•  Have you considered the emotional elements of engaging in partnered sex? Have you considered that your emotional reactions may be different than your partner’s?

•  Have you considered religious or personal values that may impact your experience of sex?

•  Do you accept that sex can change relationships in both positive and negative ways?

These are just a few questions to get you started. I realize that we don’t always go through a checklist before every sexual encounter, but spending some time thinking about what motivates us can produce positive outcomes.

Note that you should never feel pressure to have sex. If you feel pressured by your partner, peers or perceived cultural expectations, this will not only detract from the experience and increase the risk of negative outcomes, but it is likely an indication that you should wait.

As always, have fun, experiment and always practice safer sex. And remember that you don’t always need a partner to get down and get frisky!

Dr. Jessica O’Reilly is a board-certified sexologist committed to helping clients enjoy healthy, pleasurable sex lives. She has completed her PhD in human sexuality with a focus on training teachers to deliver effective sex education. She loves her work (obviously!) and splits her time between public speaking engagements, freelance writing, program development and consulting in the field of sexual health. Learn more at

Related posts

Making Long Distance Love Last: Sexting, Webcams and More

While long distance love may make for lonely nights and the need to keep a few extra batteries on…
Read more

Sex Ain’t Nothing But a Number: Really?

I was having a conversation with a friend who was interested in having sex with a guy who was…
Read more

Lack of Sex: A Symptom of the Issues in Your Relationship

Have you ever heard yourself saying: Why don’t we have sex like we used to? He doesn’t want to…
Read more
Don't miss the latest on health, lifestyle, nutrition  - basically, the essentials!
Join the Family

Sign up for lisaliving's updates on the latest posts, and podcasts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *