Baseball is the quintessential American sport with easily recognizable language: bat, ball, pitcher, catcher, bases, home run, etc. It’s hard to ignore baseball metaphors in common language: joining “the big leagues” might mean you’ve received a promotion or a better job, “hit or miss” refers to an opportunity that could be great or bad depending on the context, and “be thrown a curveball” means that something happened that you might not have expected. Around the 1950s, when sex was still mostly a taboo topic, people began to use baseball metaphors as a way to talk about various sex acts. The baseball metaphor explains the sequential steps
in order to score a “home run,” or engage in penetrative sex. Although the exact meaning is intentionally vague, “first base” typically refers to kissing, “second base” is sexual touching above the waistline such as fondling breasts, “third base” is fingering or a handjob, and “home run” is penetrative sex of the penis-in-vagina variety resulting in a male orgasm.
There are several things wrong with this baseball metaphor. When the primary goal is to make a “home run,” this re-writes the sexual script into a game to be won. This set-up implies lower bases are not as important even though they can be just a pleasurable and fun for both people! When male orgasm is the primary goal, there could be incentive to take things as fast as possible and without paying attention to the pleasure of everyone involved; notice how there is no mention of the female orgasm and same-sex couples are overlooked entirely. Many sex acts fall outside the baseball metaphor like fisting, toy play, or kink. Additionally, the order doesn’t have to matter! Consent to one act does not mean that everyone consents to any other act.
Elimination of the baseball metaphor brings consent to the forefront. You or your partner may want to do sex acts out of the order that the baseball metaphor mandates, not do them at all, or try something outside of its realm. Starting a conversation about your limits and desires can be really useful. Remember, communication is lubrication and there’s no “correct” way to have sex!