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Love and Relationships

Bases of Dating | The Old and "New" Meanings of this Classic Metaphor

Join us as we look at the Classic 4 Bases of Dating, The Modern Version of the Bases, Signs and Signals to take a Base, and just How Fast Should You Round those Bases?


Dympll Staff Writer


Feb 25, 2023

What are the Four Bases of Dating?

In this article we'll discuss:

  • The Classic 4 Bases of Dating
  • The Modern Version of the Bases
  • Signs and Signals to take a Base
  • How Fast Should You Round the Bases?

When you’re young and just starting to explore dating and sex friends would get together and ask each other,

“What base did you get to with so and so???” or “Are you gonna let…get to second or even third base tonight???”... “Are you seriously going for a HOME RUN?!?”

It was fun when you were young and it made it easier to say a “base” and let all your friends interpret for themselves without you having to elaborate what you really meant by it. You’re not lying after-all, it just might mean something different to you!

Traditionally, the "four bases" in dating is a metaphor that is used to describe the level of physical intimacy that a couple has achieved. The metaphor uses the “bases” in baseball to represent a different level of physical intimacy, usually starting from the least intimate (1st base) to the most intimate (4th base or Home Run).

The Original "Bases of Dating" Meaning

Here's the original and commonly accepted interpretation of each of the bases:

1. First Base

This typically involves simple kissing, often referred to as "making out." It can also include the more intimate “French Kissing” which involves open mouth and touching of tongues.

2. Second Base

This base often involves above the waist action, commonly associated with heavy petting, including touching of breasts and/or nipples either over or under the clothing.

3. Third Base

This base is interpreted as action below the waist and consisting of stimulation of the genitals by either your fingers or mouth (oral sex).

4. Home Run or Fourth Base

This would be full sexual intercourse or penetrative sex involving the penis, vagina, and/or anus.

Modern Version of the Dating Bases

It’s now been more than 75 years since the whole “bases” metaphor came into being, happening shortly after World War II and during the heyday of Baseball as the American past-time.

The descriptions of bases and baseball as a metaphor for intimate and sexual contact might be a bit outdated. People these days are moving away from it in favor of more direct and respectful conversations about consent, boundaries, and dimensions of a relationship that develop over time rather than steps that are achieved in a certain order. 

These are some example of some more modern thinking on the “bases” metaphor which goes beyond just the four bases and involves six stages or phases:

1. Attraction and Romance Stage

This is the stage of infatuation, also known as the honeymoon phase, where both partners are attracted to each other and everything seems perfect.

2. Reality and Disillusionment Stage

As the initial excitement wears off, couples start to see each other as they really are, flaws and all. Disagreements may start to occur as each person's true personality starts to shine through.

3. Disturbance Stage

This is a stage where significant challenges and conflicts might occur. These might stem from personal habits, differences in lifestyle, etc. It's a stage where the ability to communicate effectively is truly tested.

4. Development and Working Through Differences Stage

In this stage, couples begin to work through their differences, learning how to compromise and solve problems together.

5. Commitment and Stability Stage

By this stage, couples have weathered many storms together and feel more comfortable with each other. There's a sense of commitment and the relationship becomes more stable.

6. Deep Attachment and Long-Term Love Stage

This is the stage where partners feel a deep sense of attachment and a deep, lasting love for each other.

This more nuanced view recognizes that relationships aren't linear and don't always follow a prescribed path.

Stealing Bases and Signals

Sticking with the baseball theme for now, there are always signal that people give off to communicate whether going for any of the bases is potentially welcome or plain "not gonna happen". It's important to note that consent for any physical contact or intimacy and proper communication is required and goes without saying!

Body language and non-verbal cues can often provide insights into a person's feelings and comfort level. Just remember though, these cues can vary from person to person and are not 100% foolproof. But, generally speaking these could be some signs your person is open to that kiss or caress:

Maintained Eye Contact

Frequent and prolonged eye contact can be an indicator of interest and attraction.

Physical Contact

If your date initiates or reciprocates subtle physical contact, like touching your arm during conversation, it might indicate comfort and interest.

Body Language

If a person leans in close during conversation, mirrors your body language, or faces you with their whole body, these can be signs of interest.

Lingering at the End of the Date

If your date lingers when saying goodbye instead of quickly departing, it could suggest they're open to more, like a goodnight kiss.

Positive Conversational Cues

If the conversation is enjoyable, full of laughter, and your date seems engaged and interested, these are good signs of overall interest.

Lip-Related Gestures

Some people might subconsciously touch their lips or mouth, or maintain a smile, which can sometimes indicate an interest in a kiss.

Of course, these signals are not guarantees, and the absence of these signs doesn't necessarily mean a lack of interest. The most reliable approach is open, respectful communication. If you're unsure, it's completely okay to ask for consent directly, such as:

"I had a really nice time tonight, can I kiss you?". And again, consent is crucial in any situation involving physical contact, so if you're unsure about how your date is feeling, it's always best to ask.

How Quickly Should You Round the Bases?

Age and relationship experience can significantly influence the pace of relationship progression, including how quickly you might move through the "bases" of physical intimacy. Some of the reason for this are:


Those with more relationship experience might have a better sense of what they're comfortable with and what they want in a relationship, which could potentially speed up or slow down the progression of physical intimacy.


Older individuals may approach relationships differently than younger ones. They might have different expectations, life experiences, and relationship goals which can influence the pace of physical intimacy.

Communication Skills

With age and experience often comes improved communication skills. Being able to effectively express one's feelings, desires, and boundaries can greatly influence the pace of relationship progression.

Personal Beliefs and Values

Age and experience can also shape one's personal beliefs and values. For instance, attitudes towards sex, love, and relationships can shift over time and affect how quickly one wants to progress physically in a relationship.

Life Stage

Depending on what stage of life one is in (e.g., studying, starting a career, settled in a career, retiring), the approach to relationships can differ, influencing the pace of progression.

Younger vs. Older Adults

The timeframe for progressing through the "bases" can vary significantly from person to person, but a general idea of how age and experience might influence the pace of a relationship might look like this:

Younger Adults Just Beginning Dating

For those who are new to dating, the exploration of physical intimacy might progress more slowly as they're figuring out their comfort levels, boundaries, and desires. They might spend more time in the earlier bases as they navigate their first romantic and sexual experiences.

Younger adults new to dating might spend several dates or weeks getting to know each other (First Base: Conversations and emotional bonding) before moving on to more intimate physical contact like kissing (Second Base). From there, progressing to Third Base (More intimate touching) and Fourth Base (Sexual intercourse) might take a matter of weeks to months, or even longer, depending on the individual's comfort level and readiness for these experiences.

Older Adults with More Relationship Experience

Those with more dating and sexual experience might progress more quickly through the bases, particularly if they're clear about their desires and expectations in a relationship.

They might move from first to second base within the first few dates if there's mutual attraction, and could potentially reach third and fourth base within the first few weeks or months of dating.

Just because someone has more experience though, doesn't necessarily mean they'll want to progress quickly. Some people might prefer to take things slow, regardless of their age or experience, in order to establish a strong emotional connection before engaging in more intimate physical activities.


The 'bases' metaphor in dating, encompassing stages from an initial kiss to full sexual intercourse, is deeply ingrained in the fabric of Western, particularly American, dating culture. Nevertheless, its interpretation is not monolithic, and variations can be found even within the same culture.

Beyond the United States, this baseball-inspired metaphor may not hold the same significance, revealing the diversity of global perspectives on dating and intimacy.

Other cultures and societies have their own unique systems and practices to understand the progression of physical intimacy in relationships.

It's crucial to understand that factors such as age and relationship experience can profoundly impact the pace of relationship progression.

Younger or less experienced individuals may approach the bases more gradually, while those with more experience might progress more swiftly. This underlines the importance of personal comfort and readiness in deciding the pace of physical intimacy.

Your journey of physical intimacy in dating is a personal and nuanced experience, influenced by various factors including cultural norms, age, and personal experience.

Regardless of societal expectations or personal pace, the pillars of any progression in physical intimacy should be open communication, mutual consent, and respect. These key factors help ensure a healthy and positive dating experience for all involved.

Now that we've got all this covered...

Batter up!

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Disclosure: This article was not written by a medical or legal professional, unless specifically stated otherwise. Advice or support content is not intended to be either professional medical or mental health advice or recommendations. All support and advice is from direct and/or anecdotal contributor/author experiences and topic research. If you are experiencing a physical or mental health emergency or mental or physical abuse, please seek professional support. Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links, which can provide compensation to us, at no cost to you when you decide to purchase a reviewed product.



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