Sex on the first date, OK or unfavorable? What the polls say

By Lee Cleveland, Polls and Trends - December 29, 2020

Is sex on the first date good or bad?

Perhaps it depends on who you ask.

Some will insist sex between two mature, consenting adults shouldn’t be frowned upon so long as both are emotionally ready and physically responsible. Others, however, consider it taboo for a variety of reasons.


Pros

Contrary to popular opinion, there are successful relationships and marriages that started off with a bang, figuratively and literally.

“It happens all the time,” said Peter Kanaris, PhD, a psychologist and sex therapist.

If there’s a natural and intense love-at-first-site-type chemistry, having sex on the first date will do little, if any, harm to the relationship. In fact, it could give the relationship an early boost so long as no one was pressured and neither regret it.

Secondly, advocates of first-date sex insist people can get a good sense, early, for whether they are sexually compatible with someone. Most of us have probably talked to someone who’s stated that although they were physically and emotionally attracted to a partner, their awkward sex was a relationship-killer.

Sex on a first date can make or break a relationship for the right and wrong reasons.

Cons

If the intimacy is disappointing, sex on a first date can also ruin what would have been a fantastic relationship because we’ll often make conclusions based on that one situation. As a result, the level of mutual interest can plummet because we fail to take into consideration someone might have underperformed because they were nervous, had a lot on their mind, needed time to adjust to your body or simply had an off-night.

Without a solid foundation in other areas, such as shared interests, good communication and overall companionship, the situation, your partner included, is primarily assessed on one (possibly misleading) night of sex. So, two people who would have eventually been great for each other inside and outside the bedroom, fizzle because one or both parties was disappointed with the first date solely because of the intimacy.

Consequentially, they never make it to Round 2 because they didn’t know each other well enough to have been able to mutually appreciate traits that would have otherwise justified giving it another go.

Even that, however, pales in comparison to the public stigma of first-date sex.

Obviously, longstanding social mores, whether just or unfair, suggest a woman who “gives it up” on the first date is loose or easy. After all, the woman usually determines when a couple has sex since men are natural “hunters” and are far less likely to refuse sex, often without regard to their genuine level of interest in a woman.

We’ve all heard stories about a woman being branded as easy or promiscuous due to having sex on a first date or simply sleeping with a bunch of men in a short period.

People are judgmental so a woman who has sex on the first date usually runs the risk of tarnishing her reputation and being judged harshly by men and other women.

Critics of first-date sex will also insist it can be bad from an emotional standpoint because having sex can lead to strong feelings. And yes, nature plays a role. Women, for instance, release oxytocin after sleeping with someone, which makes them feel more attached to their partner.

Someone, especially a woman, can become attached to a partner who is emotionally unavailable and/or simply wanted sex and nothing else. And while it is probably the female who is most often disappointed in cases of first-date sex that turn out to be one-night stands, a man can also be left feeling like his heart was ripped apart; Or, he could develop unrealistic expectations about his role in the woman’s life.

And lastly, there’s that popular theory that tells us that a couple that has sex on the first date jeopardizes long-term success because a couple skipped the process of getting to know each other, first, on an emotional and intellectual level and headed straight for the physical perks.

Some will say that couple could experience an early false sense of security about their connection, bonding because of sex but nothing else (shared interests and beliefs, good conversation, personality traits and etc.).

Of course, that hypothesis is of little or no relevance if both parties fully intended to be casual, and were responsible and prepared, physically and emotionally.

So, what do most people think about sex on the first date?

Still unfavorable

According to a Pew Research poll released in August 2020, 30% say it can be acceptable under some or all circumstances while 42% say it is never acceptable. The other 28%, perhaps mostly men, didn’t have an opinion or declined to comment.

Sex on the first date (Pew Research – Targeted, topical poll on relationships by top agency)
Acceptable: 30%
Unacceptable: 42%

It would be interesting to see how views change among men during their lifetimes. A man with a teenage or adult daughter might not have the same views he held as a childless, 25-year-old bachelor.

A BuzzFeed poll of about 40,000 participants seems to collaborate Pew’s findings. As of December 27, 2000, a whopping 74% said they would not have penetrative sex on the first date compared to 26% who answered in the affirmative.

Would you have penetrative sex on a first date? (BuzzFeed, poll of random visitors on a very popular media site)
Yes: 26%
No: 74%

Those numbers can’t be entirely accurate. I’ll address that later.

A YouGov Omnibus survey conducted in the U.K.in 2017 and published by Men’s Health had similar findings. Of the 39,000 Brits polled only 28% of men said they would sleep with someone the first time they met while just 7% of women would do the same.

When dating someone new that you liked, generally speaking, how many dates would you want to wait before having sex with them? (YouGov Omnibus UK poll)
Men:- 28%
Women: 7%

And among men, those between 35 to 44 recorded the highest score. Thirty-five percent of them said they were OK with having sex on the first date. Surprisingly, those aged 18 to 24 were most likely to be comfortable with sex on the first date among women, 14%.

While the public’s overall view of sex on the first date can’t be argued, the polls appear ill-reflective of the true societal sentiment.

One must wonder how many of those respondents were single, childless men in their 20s, 30s or 40s.

“Men have always been happy to jump into bed with any woman that shows the slightest interest and see it as a conquest, while women were often more served,” Hillie Marshall, relationship expert and author of The Good Dating Guide, told Men’s Health.

“Younger women are also more liberal. I think they believe it is now expected of them,” said Marshall. “People used to work up to a kiss, get a little more intimate and then have sex. Now people seem to go the full hog immediately.”

Very true.

Perhaps respondents, especially men, answered idealistically instead of realistically, putting more emphasis on societal expectations and what they consider virtuous as opposed to what they’ll do – or have done – when confronted with sleeping with someone on a first date in a real-life situation?

Bottom line: Sleeping with someone on a first date still has negative societal overtones, regardless of the intent of one or both participants and without regard to the number of people who have done it.

If you’ve slept with someone on a first date, be careful who you tell. Even if someone has done it themselves, they are still, on average, more likely than not to deem such behavior taboo.