What Are The "Bases" In A Relationship?

Updated April 6, 2024by Regain Editorial Team

There are a lot of euphemisms when it comes to describing relationships. A lot of it is relatively recent – terms like cuffing and ghosting have only come about in the past few years. Some have been around a little longer, such as using the phrase “bases” to describe the stages of a sexual relationship. In the United States, mainly among American teenagers, baseball metaphors for your physical intimacy with someone and sex are often used as euphemisms.

While explaining the entire game and its nuances would take quite a while, all you need to know are the basics and where bases come into play. In baseball, the pitcher throws the ball to the player up at bat, who tries to hit the ball. Points are scored by running around the basses, tagging all three if possible before returning home.

How this analogy of bases and physical involvement with someone became intertwined is not quite certain. It dates back many decades, and along the line, it has also become somewhat murky in its definition. Here’s a simple breakdown:

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Many people are insecure about discussing sex

First base

The first base is the first stop on this physical relationship journey. It is the starting point: kissing. While this can encompass more mild kissing, such as pecks, it generally means more meaningful kissing, such as French kissing or the term making out and open-mouthed kissing. Many people consider kissing to be a gateway to determining if you’re physically compatible with a person. The thinking is- if there’s no chemistry with the first kiss, you may have a harder time finding it later.

Second base

The second base gets a little bit more serious physically. Usually, it involves touching and is more intimate as to where that happens. The second base is touching about the waist. Areas such as the breasts and nipples are touched and fondled either above or below clothing.

Third base

The third base goes below the waist, entering new territory in that way. It involved touching or the oral stimulation of the genitals, including the penis, vagina, clitoris, and testicles. Oral sex, while it has the word sex and insinuates the “final destination,” is included as the third base. 

This leads us to our final stop as we run the bases:

Home base (occasionally referred to as fourth base as well)

The home base is universal. No matter your definitions for the rest of the bases, the home base always means sexual intercourse. Getting to “home base” can be exciting and is often representative of a deeper commitment between a couple, signaling that you’ve found someone comfortable enough to give your body with. You can express yourself clearly to someone else who is ready to accept you for who you are. 

If your partner isn’t ready for intercourse, is into asexual dating, or can’t have intercourse for whatever reason, it’s essential to respect their needs at this time.  Enthusiastic consent is always necessary, and consent can be withdrawn at any time by any person. 

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This term probably sounds familiar and is used quite often. In baseball, you get three attempts as the batter to hit the ball so that you can advance the game. Each missed swing is considered a strike. After three strikes, you are out, meaning your turn at bat is over, and the next batter is coming up to the plate. 

Within the dating world, striking out works a little bit differently. While in both universes, it means you did not reach first base, in the dating world, it is not numbered. You could strike out endless times or perhaps once. The “three-strike” rule does not apply; rather, striking out means you did not succeed with the person you wanted to be intimate with, and the first base was not reached. 

Again, it’s important to remember that consent is always necessary and that while striking out has a negative connotation, if someone does not want to be intimate with you, you should respect their decision, respect their space, and move on. Unlike baseball, striking out is not necessarily negative in the dating and sexual world. It simply means that the person you were interested in is either not interested in you and does not want to pursue a physical relationship with you or does not want to be physical at that time. 

Even if you are physically involved with someone, there can be times when that person does not want to be physical for various reasons. They do not owe you the act of being physical, and it is important to get consent every single time to have a safe and happy physical encounter. Be sure to be safe in your sexual encounters. 

Getting back in the game or taking a timeout

Sexual arousal is different for everyone. No matter what base you are on with your partner, it is important to keep the line of communication open to make sure you are both comfortable. People get aroused differently at each base, and talking to them during the process makes sure that everyone is on the same page.

The bases, while they have been generally defined here, can also be different for everyone. Even other vague terms – such as “hooking up” – can mean something different between two people. For some, maybe it is only first base and making out. For others, it could mean sleeping with someone and hitting the home run. And yet, for others, it could mean anything in between. If you have a conversation with your partner, be sure to clear up what each base means for you both.  

Some people may not want to talk outright about their sexual experiences. Having baseball euphemisms as an outlet can make everyone more comfortable and the conversation easier. Using these terms could make it easier to connect with someone, especially if they are shy when discussing more intimate details of their lives.

If you have problems expressing yourself sexually, you’re not alone. Many people find the topic difficult to broach or feel as if they don’t have enough experience to speak about it with a potential mate. Some have a hard time finding the confidence to make themselves available for dating at all. 

But there are ways to find your voice and gain confidence, whether it’s in communicating, putting yourself out there to begin a relationship, or overcoming obstacles with your current partner. Connecting with a professional specializing in relationships and intimacy is the best way to start. 

But whether they’re uncomfortable discussing it in person or are concerned about encountering others in an office waiting room- many people find it awkward to talk about sex in a clinical setting. In cases like these, online therapy is an excellent solution. 

Platforms like Regain match individuals with licensed professionals specializing in issues of sex and intimacy, relationships, personal growth, and more. You can speak to a Regain counselor online from the comfort of your home when it’s convenient for you via text, phone, video chat, and online messenger. Online counseling is often more affordable than conventional therapy without insurance and is as effective as conventional therapy for helping individuals with relationship issues, communication challenges, and personal growth. 

Below are some counselor reviews from Regain clients who are cultivating better relationships. 

Many people are insecure about discussing sex

Counselor reviews

“With Cassandra’s help, we’ve been able to bring our relationship to a new, healthier, and much happier level, working through painful situations, growing as individuals and as a couple, and with tools to stay on this path. She’s very responsive, and it has been great to have her facilitate our messaging through the app all week. I highly recommend Cassandra. She’s skilled, supportive, and down-to-earth. We feel comfortable with her.”

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“My girlfriend and I have been working with Alison for about four months now, and with her help and guidance, we have strengthened our relationship tenfold. Her communication style is amazing, and she strives to make the best of our time with one another. If you’re looking for a counselor you can put your faith in with the whole experience, she’s the one to go to.”

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