What are the 4 bases of love? Here’s everything you need to know

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Wondering what the 4 bases of dating are?

You’re in the right place.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the bases, what they mean, and how they relate to intimacy in a relationship.

We’ll also talk about our version of what we believe the four bases should really be.

What Exactly Are “Bases” In Dating?

People use ‘bases’ as metaphors to describe how far they have gone with someone physically.

These euphemisms are mostly used in the United States, so people tend to interpret the bases in different ways.

Generally, however, the four bases are:

First base – Kissing
Second base – Touching and fondling
Third base – Stimulation below the waist
Home run – Sexual intercourse

Funnily enough, the base system originates from baseball and you do need to have a good sense of how the game is played to understand the metaphor.

Baseball is a complicated sport that’s difficult to explain in great detail, so here is a basic explanation for people who have never played or watched baseball in their life:

  • There is a pitcher who throws the ball at the batter, who needs to hit the ball as far as they can.
  • There are three bases and a home-plate, which is where they hit the ball.
  • After hitting the ball, the pitcher has to claim these bases around the pitch by running to them and touching them in succession, before returning to their home-plate.
  • Points are scored depending on how many bases you run, so if the batter makes it back to the home-plate, it’s called a home-run and the team wins.

It’s unclear how bases became a code to talk about sexual experiences, as the system dates back many decades.

Some people say that it became popular around the time of World War II, back when the topic of sex was still a very taboo subject and no one knew how to talk about it openly.

The base system spread rapidly in popular culture during the 90s and the early 00s, partly due to films like American Pie.

There is also no uniformity to the base system.

The definitions aren’t universal, so what each base signifies depends on who you’re talking to and what they know.

If you’re not familiar with the terms, you may only know that something sexual happened — but you’re not sure what.

This could potentially lead to some miscommunication when talking with friends or even sexual partners.

In cases like this, it’s especially helpful to know how the bases are most commonly used.

The Four Bases

With the base system, there’s plenty of room for interpretation.

Some people may not count kissing without a tongue as part of the first base, while others consider oral sex as a part of the home base rather than third.

Certain acts like sexting don’t even fall under specific definitions, so it’s usually up to the individual to determine where each act counts.

Generally, here is how most people define the four bases:

First Base: Kissing

As the starting point in baseball, the first base is considered to be the first glimpse of success.

It means that as the most innocent of romantic actions, kissing is the starting point for everything else because it leads to more meaningful touches and leads up to deeper physical intimacy.

While first base can encompass mild kissing, like quick pecks, most people typically think of first base as open-mouth or French kissing, making out, or snogging (as the British call it).

If it’s your first time in a relationship, going to first base is a pivotal moment.

Not only does a good kiss cause the brain to release happy chemicals throughout the body, but most people gauge physical chemistry with their partners based on how they kiss.

It’s likely that both partners perceive the kiss differently from the other as well, so it’s important to tell your partner if you don’t want to go further than kissing.

There is also no steadfast rule as to when you’re “supposed” to move onto the next stage after first base.

Sometimes, your partner may expect to do more after intense kissing. However, it’s important that you’re both comfortable and ready for each other.

Second Base: Touching and Fondling

In baseball, getting to second base is already a big deal.

Since there are only four bases, you’re already halfway home and the possibility of winning is much higher.

For many people, second base is a step up from kissing to more steamy, sensual territory.

Second base involves stimulation or petting above the waist, which includes touching, feeling, and fondling the chest, breasts, and nipples either above or below clothing.

Second base is a natural progression from kissing, as it becomes more intense and your hands begin to move around.

There is more skin-to-skin action while the mood builds and chemistry flows.

However, the notion of second base being limited to “fondling breasts” was likely decided by straight men, since their counterparts wouldn’t have much to focus on above the waist.

This, others consider second base to include touching and groping the butt as well.

Sensual touching around the erogenous zones may also be counted.

The erogenous zones are areas with massive numbers of nerve endings, so they’re very sensitive to the touch.

Stroking the erogenous zones help connect you to your partner and discover what they like.

Aside from the ears, mouth, lips, chest, breasts, and nipples, your partner may have unexpected, personal erogenous zones like the inside of their wrists, the thighs, or the hip bones.

Third Base: Below-The-Waist Stimulation

Third base can be vague and difficult to define for many people, as it shares many elements with the second and fourth bases.

For many lovers, third base is the closest one to sex as it goes into new territory below the waist.

In a sporting sense, getting to third base is pretty close to reaching home, so it usually involves direct contact with the genitals.

Reaching third base means leaving behind chaste kissing and groping over the clothes.

It often pertains to touching, feeling, fondling, stroking, or fingering the vagina, clitoris, penis, or testicles.

This when you and your partner start to forget where you are and concentrate on pleasing each other.

Aside from stimulation with the hands, many people also consider oral sex to be part of third base — although some still count it as part of home run.

At this point, you’re likely to be getting undressed with your partner.

If it’s your first time, you may feel nervous or self-conscious, but you shouldn’t worry.

You’ve already made it this far, so your partner is definitely attracted to you.

Home Run: Sexual Intercourse

Getting a home run or reaching home base are common euphemisms for penetrative sex.

Of all the bases, this term is the most universal; everyone agrees it means genital interaction.

As reaching the home base is the objective of baseball, it’s considered to be the ultimate form of sexual intimacy.

You’ve already done everything with your partner at this point. And if it’s your first time to ‘hit a home run’, it means you’re no longer a virgin.

Before you progress too far into the final base, it’s important to communicate well with your partner.

Having sex is something you can’t take back after the fact, so sharing the experience with someone is significant — whether it’s a casual fling or a serious relationship.

And even though it’s not super sexy to talk about, mature adults should also discuss using protection to prevent contracting STIs or an unexpected pregnancy.

Once you’re ready to have sex, it’s important to relax, have fun, and not to take the experience too seriously.

Sex can be awkward, clumsy, and messy — especially if it’s your first time with someone new — and most of us have high expectations or an ideal experience in our minds.

However, it’s perfectly okay (and even encouraged) to laugh, let loose, and focus on building a bond with your partner during the act.

What are our new four bases of love?

1. Lust and infatuation

First base is lust and infatuation. It’s where all physical feelings and intimacy start. If you’re not infatuated with someone, you’re not going to want to have sex with them.

You meet someone and you realize you’re crazy for them. Everything about them, from their physical features to the way they talk, makes you want them more.

The more you find out about this person, the more you like them, the more want to get to know them, and yes, get physical.

If it’s pure lust, that’s good too. Sometimes strong physical attraction is all it takes to let the sparks fly.

This base is the easiest to reach because infatuation is something we can’t help. Lust comes naturally, whether we want it to or not.

When infatuation happens, all you can do is think about how to spend more time with that person. Here’s how to know if it’s turning into love.

2. Respect

Second base is respect. It may not seem like a relevant part of intimacy, but it’s crucial to forging a bond deeper than selfish gratification.

The original baseball analogy for sex is geared to objectify. The person doesn’t matter, only the act.

Mutual understanding of the fact that neither of you is an object, nor a tool to be used for selfish personal desires, is crucial to an intimate relationship, even if it’s only a few hours old.

The objectification of women and the commodification of sex has caused huge problems in society; erasing those age-old constructs is so important to improve the lives and relationships of so many people.

Respect comes naturally with getting to know a person. If you’re infatuated with them and interested in them, you will come to respect all the amazing things that make them so special.

3. Consent

Just like in baseball, you can’t make a home run without reaching third base. Perhaps the most important of the bases, consent is vital to reaching intimacy.

It’s not just about how far you can get with a girl (or a guy). This kind of thinking creates a rape culture that is extremely damaging to both sexes, and especially women. It’s important that everyone not only be aware of it but also take a proactive stand against it.

Setting your boundaries before getting physical with someone is an extremely important thing to do.

Even in the heat of the moment, taking the time to make sure both parties are okay with what’s happening will lead to greater understanding, closer intimacy, and a better time. And who doesn’t want to have a good time when they’re getting intimate?

4. Intimacy

If we’re using the baseball analogy to describe the intimacy of relationships and love, the home run is still going to be sexual, reaching those intimate moments with someone.

This stage is built upon all the others; the enjoyment and intensity of the intimacy at this point depends upon the bases that came before it.

In the traditional analogy, though, only the physical aspects of intimacy are broken up into different stages.

The reason for that has always been a bit of a mystery to me. Of course, different types of physical affections mean different things to different people. But in a lot of ways, even a simple kiss is a form of intimacy.

Following these bases from first to home run–whether a home run is just a kiss, steamy foreplay, or full-on sex–will make it that much more enjoyable, special, and rewarding. For both of you.

Here’s how to round the bases of love

Understanding the bases is the first step. Following them to that moment of intimacy is a different story. I’ll take you through each one, and explain how best to put them into practice.

1. Lust and infatuation

Don’t be afraid to let the sparks fly. With infatuation and lust come all kinds of chemistry. It’s one of the most enjoyable facets of exploring an intimate relationship.

If you’re unsure of your abilities to flirt, here are some really good tips.

Do what comes naturally. Follow the infatuation, give in to the lust, as long as you’re comfortable.

You decide how quickly things happen. Whether it’s waiting until the third date to kiss, or going straight to the bedroom after the first date, it’s up to you and how you feel about the relationship. Make sure you go into things with clear personal boundaries.

And as long as both of you are comfortable, don’t be afraid to give in to the infatuation.

2. Respect

Remember that the person across from you is just that, a person. No matter how strong your lust for them is, they are an individual with unique desires and needs, just like you.

Always show respect, avoid selfish behavior, and don’t objectify them. Even if it’s a one-night stand, no human is only a sex object.

Giving them that decency and respect will not only make intimacy that much more enjoyable, but it will also bring it closer. Making sure you’re also getting that respect is really important, too.

Wondering why it’s so hard to find a decent guy? Here are some reasons why it’s so difficult.

3. Consent

Some people might think that it’s going to “ruin the mood” to ask for verbal consent.

Some women might have the tendency to think that vocalizing when they’re uncomfortable with something will turn a guy off and ruin the moment.

But intimacy without consent isn’t intimacy at all.

Each situation is different, so there’s no cut-and-dry way to ask for consent or receive it. Consent can take various forms, along with how somebody tries to tell you, “No”.

Consent boils down to clear and open communication. Every step of the way.

Both parties need to be clear about their boundaries and comfortability and respect them. Any violation of that communication is a violation of consent.

When communication is open and boundaries have been set, it’s easy to round the corner for the home run. Whether that home run is a romantic first kiss or having sex with someone you’ve been in a relationship with for years.

Here are some tips to get that home run and master the art of seduction.

Just remember, consent is more than just “No means no”.

4. Intimacy

The end goal of rounding the bases is to get a home run. There’s no doubt about that.

This stage can always be nerve-wracking. Showing your most vulnerable self to someone is not an easy thing, but trust your instincts. Trust the chemistry you’ve experienced up to this point.

You’re into them, and more than likely they’re totally into you, too. There’s nothing wrong with feeling nervous about dialing the intimacy up a notch, especially if it’s with somebody new.

And there’s nothing wrong if it’s a little bit awkward, clumsy, or unfamiliar. As long as you both know your boundaries and are respecting them, relax and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Sex doesn’t always have to look or feel exactly like porn, that’s just unrealistic. And frankly, porn isn’t focused on intimacy.

An emotional fulfillment and closeness are what can bring even deeper satisfaction from any intimate experience.

It’s also important to make sure to use protection. One in two people will contract an STI before they turn 25, highlighting the importance of using safe-sex practices.

In the moment, it may seem like the last thing you want to bring up, but it’s one less thing to worry about later. When you practice safe sex, it’s one less thing that gets in the way of achieving healthy, satisfying intimacy.

Following these bases will make that intimate moment all the better, even if it’s just a one-night stand.

What these new bases mean for you

The traditional baseball analogy regarding sex just isn’t suited for understanding what sexual intimacy is all about.

The bases of love should be about more than just how far you go with someone.

To focus on physical stages alone breeds a superficial mentality regarding sex, and objectifies both genders, especially women.

To achieve healthy intimacy, more than physicality is involved.

Here’s how to know if he wants more than just a sexual relationship.

Even in a relationship–for instance a one-night stand–where it’s purely about the physical, there has to be respect and communication from both parties to make it work. Without it, it’s not intimacy, it’s something entirely much worse.

The new four bases of love–lust, respect, consent, and intimacy–will bring you more satisfying sexual experiences no matter the nature of the relationship.

When you meet somebody new, trust your instincts and stick to your boundaries.

Remembering to follow these bases as you get physically closer to them will make that moment of intimacy all the more exceptional.

Other Terminology People Use

Comparing the stages of romantic intimacy to running the bases is a useful metaphor for many people, despite being a little outdated. I

n fact, there are other baseball terms people tend to use, such as:

Strike out: “Striking out” may be a familiar term to you, because it gets used quite often. In baseball, a batter has three attempts to hit the ball in order to advance the game.

Each missed swing is a strike and after three strikes, the batter is “out” — which means their turn is over and the next batter is coming up to the plate.

In the dating scene, it means you got rejected and did not reach first place, or you were not able to engage in any kind of foreplay successfully.

Switch-hitter: A switch-hitter in baseball is someone who bats both right-handed and left-handed. In the dating scene, a switch-hitter refers to someone who is bisexual or “playing for both teams”, as they are attracted to both men and women.

Pitcher/catcher: Pitching in the act of throwing the ball, while catching is (as the name suggests) the act of catching it.

As relationship terms, however, these two words are related to anal intercourse between gay men.

The “pitcher” is the partner who is penetrating and the “catcher” is the recipient of the act.

These terms are considerably more outdated, as they were used decades ago when homosexuality was largely differentiated from heterosexuality.

Playing the field: Someone who is “playing the field” is a person running the bases by casually dating several people at once, over a short period of time.

Aside from sleeping around with many people, they could also be experimenting and trying different things within their sexual relationships.

Playing for the other team: The term “playing for the other team” refers to someone who is a homosexual.

Specifically, they are a gay or a lesbian, as the term hasn’t been updated since the 60s to encompass the other genders and sexualities in the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Do The Bases Actually Matter For A Relationship?

Admittedly, using baseball slang to describe and understand sex is a little weird.

The reality is that metaphor might be getting a little too old and worn out to suit modern ideas about sex, especially as the base system places a hierarchy on different sexual activities and oversimplifies extremely nuanced human sexual behavior.

The bases also fail to account for the range of sexual preferences, genders, fetishes, and activities.

Another criticism against the base system is that there isn’t one form of sexual touching that is “more” or goes further than the other.

After all, some people may consider kissing to be an intense sexual experience already, while others may not think of them as overtly sexual at all.

And as long as you’re using the analogy of a “game” to categorize something as complex as sex, people (especially men) may think of sexual intimacy as something competitive.

Aside from potentially rushing partners towards a sexual goal all the time, counting on the base system may also rob you of creating a real, fulfilling, and healthy experience with your partner.

Sex is natural; all of it should be understood and performed with care in any relationship. It’s really not about how far you can get with someone, since sexual arousal is different for everyone.

It doesn’t matter which base you reach or if you forget what each base stands for. The most important thing in the situation is how you feel about your partner.

Instead of counting bases, a better practice would be to establish boundaries and mutual consent before, during, and after sex.

This can guarantee that you’ve expressed what you want, you know what your partner wants, and consent is present on both sides — so no one gets hurt or disappointed.

Keeping this line of communication open helps ensure you’re both comfortable and focused on pleasing each other, rather than achieving an end goal.

Relationship Milestones You Should Pay Attention To

In any relationship, sexual experiences are just small milestones in a much larger journey so there is absolutely no shame in taking it slow with your partner.

Instead of focusing on each intimate step in the relationship, why not pay more attention to other milestones such as:

1. Sleeping over

After 3 – 5 dates, you would already know who you’re dealing with and if you want to further the relationship.

Staying over at their place or having them stay over at yours is not just about sex — which may not even be on the table at all.

Rather, it’s an investment in the relationship because it requires you to let your guard down and expose your unglamorous self.

To do this successfully, both partners would have to achieve a level of trust that your vulnerabilities won’t be violated or disrespected.

2. Visiting each other’s homes

Don’t wait more than a month before asking if you can drop by their house (and vice versa). Our living environments speak volumes about who we are as people because we have complete control over these private spaces.

You can learn a lot about a person’s psyche, personality, taste, and habits from how they live.

Are they messy or neat? What kind of colors, textures, and aesthetics do they like to surround themselves with? And are your tastes aligned?

3. Meeting each other’s friends

Meeting someone’s friends after a month is a great way to learn about them and their character.

Our peer groups reflect back on our personality, because who we choose to spend time with speaks volumes about what we value in the world.

It’s important not to achieve this milestone too soon because you wouldn’t want to be influenced by your partner’s friends (and their glowing character reviews) while you’re still getting to know your partner.

4. Discussing your finances

Money (and all its related issues) is a leading cause of stress and break-ups, worldwide.

It would be wise to understand your partner’s views on money early on in the game, perhaps after a month of dating.

However, finances are very personal and it could be a short-term relationship in the end, so feel it out before letting your partner possess that kind of knowledge.

5. Attending work functions together

Although going to work events together isn’t as serious as meeting their family members, it’s still a significant level of commitment as you’re telling your colleagues that you’re together.

It’s good to consider taking your partner to work functions after two months to get an insight on how they’re viewed as a professional, or if they have a potential for success in the world outside your relationship.

6. Meeting family members

If your partner is close to their parents, chances are you’ll experience an early introduction to gain their “approval”.

Usually, meeting the parents happens after at least 3 months of dating, as family introductions are significant and indicate the relationship is serious.

Aside from building rapport with potential, future in-laws, meeting your significant other’s parents will give you insights into his upbringing, values, and issues that may emerge later on.

7. Going on vacation together

Traveling is one thing that can either make or break a relationship.

Some couples like to go on holiday after a few months of dating, while others wait until half a year has passed to consider going on vacation together.

As both of you are going to be in an unfamiliar place, traveling as a couple can be paradise or a headache.

Before taking this step and making it official, you should get a good idea of their character by watching how they handle stress, challenges, day-to-day responsibilities, and disagreements in and out of your relationship.

8. Moving-in together

For many couples, moving in together is one of the biggest steps in a relationship, just before marriage.

It’s important not to rush this, as moving in together is much easier than moving out.

It’s good to consider sharing space if you’ve been together for more than a year at least and if you’re already keeping a toothbrush and half your clothes at your partner’s place.

Follow The Unique Timeline of Your Relationship

Every relationship grows and blooms at its own pace.

Aside from building sexual intimacy, there are a number of other milestones you can achieve and enjoy together.

The “next step” for you and your partner will come naturally, according to what works best for both of you.

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