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"Every woman and man should know their boundaries before they start dating, and most of us don't," says Cheryl Mc Clary, Ph D, JD, professor of women's health at University of North Carolina-Asheville.
When Mc Clary refers to boundaries, she's not talking just about the physical boundaries that come with sexual territory. "Emotional wholeness is crucial to the decision process of whether or not to have sex," Mc Clary tells Web MD.
While you can't apply a one-size-fits-all response to sexual dating rules regardless of age or experience, professionals who have studied the topic say it is a good idea to develop a set of prudent dating rules - before the big date.
By and large, Allen and other relationship experts endorse a cautious approach to the dating rules of sex.
To that end, Mc Clary often tells women, "If you value a committed relationship, ask yourself, 'What do I need to do to stay emotionally whole?
'" When directing her advice on dating rules to a male audience, Mc Clary puts things a little differently.
"You might find that you don't even like the person," Allen tells Web MD.
"If you just want a one-night stand, you owe it to your partner to tell them 'it's just sex I'm after,'" Mc Clary tells Web MD.
"It becomes much more difficult to objectively see each other's character traits" says Susanne Alexander, a relationship coach and author of Can We Dance? "Some couples then slide into engagement and marriage only to discover they have missed seeing major aspects of each other." While not every dating scenario that involves sex leads to marriage or even a serious relationship, couples do owe it to themselves to talk about where they see their relationship going and how sex might change the relationship -- before they get in bed together. The woman may assume sex implies a commitment; the man may not see it that way," Allen tells Web MD.
Having an honest conversation with yourself about sex is just as important as discussing it with your partner, experts say.
Concern about STDs and unwanted pregnancies can help create sexual boundaries, believes Mc Clary.
If, for instance, you're on the fence about whether or not to take sexual activity to the next level, a healthy dose of fear may cause you to pause, particularly if you're not prepared to take the necessary precautions.