what are the bases in dating

Have you ever heard someone (usually guys) talk about trying to “get past first base” or bragging that they “got to the home base last night”? This might sound confusing—surely they aren’t talking about baseball? Unless they are sports players talking about a game, they are probably using dating slang. If you are trying to find out “what are the bases in dating?” we will explore everything you need to know here!

What has baseball to do with dating?

Baseball itself does not specifically relate to dating. However, baseball terms as euphemisms for sexual activity have been used for almost as long as the sport has existed. The conservative culture of 1940s America meant that people were often more comfortable using sports terms than biological ones. Even though we can be more open about these things nowadays, this slang has stayed popular.

The metaphor of bases in dating became popular after the Second World War. It has been used in many movies, TV shows, and pop songs. You may know Meat Loaf’s single “Paradise by the Dashboard Lights,” where you can hear it being mentioned.

In baseball, the “hitter” (or the player who uses the bat to hit the ball) must run around the field to reach four different bases. The game’s goal is for the hitter to reach as many of the four bases as possible before being struck out. If the hitter reaches the fourth base, this is known as a “home run,” which is the ultimate goal.

For many young people, especially during the early stages of dating, sexual activity can seem like a challenge in the same way that sports such as baseball are. The use of different “bases” to help describe sexual activity has become a tradition that has continued worldwide. So, what are the bases in dating?

First base of dating

Like in sports, the “first base” is the first notable milestone reached. When it comes to dating, the first base is reached when a couple kisses each other. However, this does not mean any kind of kissing. A kiss on the cheek or even a quick peck on the lips is not usually considered first base.

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Generally speaking, the first base refers to a more sexual type of kiss that lasts longer, the partners use tongues, or touch and stroking the hair or the neck. This is often known as “French kissing.” Sometimes, people may skip this base. In casual relationships like “friends with benefits” situations, people might reach every other base except this one! However, this is usually the first milestone in dating and romantic relationships. A great first kiss can signal how much of a spark there is between two people. Of course, any other bases can also include kissing, but kissing is known as “first base.”

The first base refers to a more sexual type of kiss that lasts longer, the partners use tongues, or touch and stroking the hair or the neck. Click To Tweet

Second base of dating

The second base is where things heat up and become even more physical. While it may be common to see people kissing or even French kissing in public, it is unusual to see people taking things to this stage.

The second base of dating involves touching other body areas rather than the face, head, or neck, yet staying above the waist (however, squeezing someone’s butt is often included in this). We’re not talking about grabbing the arm or a quick shoulder stroke, but more intense and prolonged touching. Rubbing and grasping the chest, including breasts and nipples, is usually what the term “second base” refers to. By this point, couples may want to move to the next base as quickly as possible. However, staying in the second base for a while can really build excitement and be surprisingly intimate.

Third base of dating

When the second base goes on long enough, couples can find it difficult to resist going further. The third base is quite a broad category encompassing various acts, all “below the belt.” If there are hands in pants, you’re at the third base.

The third base is anything that involves the genitals but falls short of full penetration. This could mean either or both partners touching or manually stimulating the other’s genitals. It can also mean oral sex—either performed by one or both members of the couple, either in turns or sometimes at the same time. Any act within the first three bases can be known as foreplay, although these acts can also be enjoyed as their own ends!

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You may think that only full penetration carries risks of sexually transmitted infections. However, this is not the case. The need for practicing safe sex (whether you choose condoms or other forms of protection) arises at the third base, as some infections can be passed on through these acts.

Home run

When you reach the third base, it can be hard to resist going “all the way.” Like in baseball, the fourth and final “base” is known as a “home run.” In the sport, this means the hitter is making their way all around the field to home base, and in dating, it means having full sexual intercourse. Having sex is not just a single act—there are many different positions that couples can try.

It is vital to ensure you are safe when things get this far. As well as sexually transmitted infections, there can also be the risk of pregnancy. You can practice safe sex by using at least one contraception form (e.g., condoms, the contraceptive pill, or an IUD). In casual, non-exclusive relationships, using condoms and both partners’ regular sexual health tests are also essential.


In baseball, a “strikeout” is when the “pitcher” throws the ball straight to the “catcher” three times in a row without the hitter hitting the ball. This means that the hitter scored zero points. In dating, a “strikeout” refers to a failure to reach any sexual bases.

“Striking out” can be a little disappointing for either or both partners, but unlike in baseball, it should not be considered a loss! It is better to avoid an ill-advised sexual encounter than to regret it later. Besides, it’s only fun if both participants are enjoying themselves. If you “strikeout” in a relationship, there might be plenty of opportunities in the future if the two of you like and respect each other.

In dating, a 'strikeout' refers to a failure to reach any of the sexual bases. Click To Tweet

Are the bases agreed upon?

Generally speaking, each of the bases has a meaning. However, the specifics of certain definitions are sometimes argued over. For example, for many gay couples, oral stimulation is considered going “all the way.” Lesbian couples may refer to this as a “home run,” as penetration with a penis is impossible. Some heterosexual couples also consider oral pleasure as much of a milestone as intercourse.

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The “bases” metaphor has been criticized by some for being vague, for focusing just on heterosexual behavior, and for comparing sexual relations to a contest. Regardless of how useful you think it is, it is best taken as something subjective rather than “set in stone.”

Ultimately, what matters more than the specifics of which acts fit into which of the bases is what personal significance each individual gives to it. If you are more comfortable participating in a “home run” than other physical acts, your feelings are valid! The “bases” metaphor is best taken as a guideline rather than a list of objective definitions.

Other baseball metaphors

It is not just reaching bases and striking out that can be used as sexual metaphors. Other related baseball terms can also have a sexual and literal meaning (and no, I am not talking about the word “ball”).

Pitchers and catchers

In baseball, a pitcher throws the ball to the catcher. When it comes to sexual matters, “pitcher” is a term used to refer to the partner who penetrates the other, and the “catcher” would be the one who is penetrated. These terms are used commonly by gay men, but the metaphor is not specifically limited to the gay community.

Switch hitters

In baseball, a “switch hitter” is a hitter who can bat either right-handed or left-handed. In dating, the term is also used to refer to someone who is bisexual.


In baseball, one team is the batting team, and the other is the fielding team. In dating and sexuality, the phrase “batting for the other team” is often used to refer to a gay person. A bisexual person can be said to be “playing for both teams” or “batting for both teams.”

Unlike in baseball, it is important to remember that sexual activity is not a competitive sport! If your partner does not want to move on to the next “base,” your goal shouldn’t be going further. Your partner should also respect your boundaries.

Different relationships may progress at different speeds. Some may be comfortable covering every base on a first date if they feel a connection. In contrast, others may require months of dating to build enough trust to go for the home run. It is important always to respect your partner’s boundaries and ensure you are comfortable with anything. Just like sports, dating, and sexual activity are only fun if everybody involved wants to play!

Andy is a storyteller who loves good books and good jokes. In the rare moments he isn't writing, you can find him jogging in the park or perfecting barbeque ribs.

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