I went to the movies with two people: a friend and a guy that I previously had gone on a date with.

He has never touched me before. I think maybe once lightly on the arm when he was guiding me through a crowded area. But other than that no shoulders, no back, nothing. He was very open on our date, but since then has almost closed up personally, but still is somewhat flirtatious and joking. I go back and forth between having a really good time with him, laughing and joking, to hardly talking and feeling like he doesn't really want anything with me anymore.

Then at the movies, I jumped, (it was a horror flick) and he tapped my mid thigh a bit asking if I was okay. Then a little bit later he he did again, but with his whole hand. And then he did a third time, but he let his hand rest there for longer than necessary, not like a quick gesture but more pointedly.

I at first thought that he was interested in me on a more genuine level, but with the way things have been going, I wonder if at this point he just wants sex.

How do you tell?

  • 6
    How old is he and you? Is he your first date/boyfriend?
    – user3114
    Sep 28, 2017 at 18:22
  • 30
    Whether he wants sex is sort of irrelevant if you don't. Also, you seem to think that someone can only have a relationship or sex. What do you want from the relationship? Why do you think both aren't possible? If you've gone on a few dates together, is there a reason to think that he's simply not interested in a more involved relationship with you?
    – Catija
    Sep 28, 2017 at 20:10
  • 5
    I've had some personal experiences that make dating difficult, and also make me uncomfortable/mistrustful if a guy is seeking sex. I'm not saying by any means that I'm right by this. I don't think I am. I do believe it is possible for someone to want both genuinely, I just don't understand it or how it works or why. I'm a confused person. @Catija Sep 28, 2017 at 21:07
  • 4
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this seems to be asking us about mind reading (does he want a relationship or just sex) instead of asking us about how to ask him without < insert negative things here >
    – Ael
    Jan 8, 2019 at 21:57
  • 2
    Can you edit to specify your goal? Maybe something like "How do I open a discussion about what he wants our relationship status to be?" or "How do I make sure he knows I am open to a romantic relationship, but not casual sex?"
    – Meg
    Jan 9, 2019 at 13:57

6 Answers 6


Friendships, dating and intercourse can be incredibly confusing even to those experienced in them, and if you are new to dating and those kinds of relationships it makes it even more difficult to know how to interpret gestures and contact.

I think (especially given your inexperience and your question here), your best course of action is to sit down in a neutral place with him and just ask him what he is pursuing. Find out if he wants a friendship, dating or something more.

Yes, this is difficult to do, especially if you are shy, but it is much better than over analyzing every time he touches you or doesn't, how he communicates, how he looks at you, etc. It may be a little disheartening if he says he only wants to be friends, but then at least you know. Some people are naturally more touch/contact inclined, whether that is familial or cultural background. His touching you may just be how he naturally interacts with people.

The biggest element though is trust. A lot of it comes down to how much you trust the person. Especially when you are naive and inexperienced, you are vulnerable to someone saying what they think you want to hear in order to achieve their own ends. It's manipulative and reprehensible, but there are men that are only in it for the conquest and then they move on. Be upfront with what YOU want, and what YOUR expectations are about a relationship. If YOU don't want to sleep with him, don't. But you do need to communicate that to him. Communication is the biggest part of just about any relationship, and unfortunately it's also one of the most misused and/or neglected parts. Find out what his aims are, explain what you want, and see if they mesh.

It may be that unwittingly you have been giving him mixed signals or that he has misinterpreted your actions and he is just as confused about your aims as well. Talk to him, explain your point of view, and see what his answers are.


My completely eastern european scientist perspective on this is very simple:

Ask him directly in private.

Just this, and only this. Measure Your tone and facial expression so that it doesn't influence his answer in any direction.

As other people already pointed out, intimate relationships and everything about them tends to be extremely complicated. My opinion is that most of these complications are created by:
- people needlessly guesstimating things they can just check
- people not talking honestly and sincerely when they should talk honestly and sincerely

Get a direct answer from him and proceed according to Your wishes (but always in a direct and gentle manner).


You seem to wonder why he put his hand on your thigh...

If he's interested in being your boyfriend, at some point physical contact will occur, holding hands, kissing, etc. But he understands you're shy, maybe he also is. So...

Situation "friends" would be you two sitting at opposite sides of a table, having dinner and an interesting flirtacious conversation...

Situation "in a relationship" would be, for example, you sitting on his lap, he's holding your waist and cuddling, etc.

But... how to get from one to the other, from his perspective?

Asking "Would you be my girlfriend?" would sound silly and awkward, plus it invites an even more awkward verbal rejection like "Let's just stay friends although we both know we won't see each other ever again..."

Also, since he's not sure you like him, going straight for a kiss like in the movies would be a very bad idea...

So he patted your thigh. If you had replied "don't touch me!" or tensed or had displayed other non-verbal cues of being annoyed then he'd have known you're not attracted to him, no need to explain or make a painful rejection scene. It's a part of your body that is still a bit "private" but not really offensive to touch (ie, not like your butt), so it leaves you the possibility to reject him without getting angry.

Apparently you accepted his contact, so he did it again, this time longer and more pointedly, and you also accepted.

This is why he touched your thigh three times, the first time just a brush or a pat so you could both think it wasn't intentional if you were annoyed or offended, this provides an easy way out of an embarrassing situation for both. Then the next times he added a bit more pressure to make sure you got the message. It's all non-verbal communication.

At this point he's a lot more hopeful about his odds of success I guess...

I at first thought that he was interested in me on a more genuine level, but with the way things have been going, I wonder if at this point he just wants sex.

You could be overthinking a bit. Well, in fact, a lot. Guys aren't that complicated ;)

Simply put: if he only wanted casual sex, he'd have pursued a woman more experienced, less shy, less religious, etc. Also the long and interesting conversations would have been shorter and less interesting.

You're 18, you say you never had a boyfriend, he's 21 so he's probably had a few girlfriends already, so he knows that even if you two have a perfect love story, it'll still take a loooong time before the clothes come off.

So to answer your question, I'd say he's a lot more likely to be interested in a genuine relationship. Which will of course lead to sexytimes, but you get to choose if/when/how that occurs.

Now it's up to you to decide if you trust this guy enough or not.

  • 1
    Yeah you make some good points. I guess I'm just worried that he doesn't like me very much and is just messing with me. Though his intentions don't seem to be so malicious. He also seems to be the type who could have any girl he wanted, though he claims he's not so confident. Leaves me confused as to why he would like me since I'm just a mess of a human being. Sep 28, 2017 at 21:20
  • 5
    Who chose the movie? (the secret reason horror movies exist is to give the girl a good jump scare so she grabs the guy's arm or something). What makes you think you're a mess? Most people are a mess anyway, so maybe he thinks you're a lovable mess ;)
    – user2135
    Sep 28, 2017 at 21:26
  • 10
    @W.Richardson - Don't pay too much attention to this. It is filled with misconceptions and stereotype beliefs. This is reinforced by the comment about why horror movies exist.
    – JohnP
    Sep 28, 2017 at 21:27
  • 2
    @JohnP Would you explain the "misconceptions and stereotype beliefs" ?... Also the comment was a very obvious joke.
    – user2135
    Sep 28, 2017 at 21:43
  • 3
    @peufeu No need. You have amply demononstrated what I was referencing.
    – JohnP
    Sep 28, 2017 at 22:46

There are plenty of grey areas when dealing with a situation such as this. It's easy to take either side (claiming whether he was being physically flirtatious or not) and justify it using the information presented in the question and interpolate it to whatever extent. Both have their own ramifications and so it's important that a conclusion is arrived at with a bit of judiciousness.

  • The way it's described in the question, the first tap by itself doesn't sound extremely odd. If that's where it was to end, I'd consider it more of a friendly reassurance 1 .

  • The second touch, where he is said to have used his whole hand, is where this starts becoming slightly murky. Strictly speaking, a reassurance from a friend, or an inappropriate touch can both be classified under this gesture. Yet, nothing conclusive just yet.

  • The thing about the third touch is very similar to the second, except its duration. I don't think you're completely incorrect in thinking / feeling that this was inappropriate. As far as my personal opinion is concerned, I wouldn't call it neutral, especially considering the nature and repetitiveness of touches.

It wasn't as if you asked for it, but then that shouldn't mean a friend can't reassure you. However, that also doesn't give someone a license to offer a reassurance in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable. Besides, hand reaching out to a specific body part, three times in a row, can't be totally dismissed as benign. Additionally, even if the intent was to check if you were doing all right, there can be other ways to express that concern, than to simply reach out with repetitive touches in almost flirtatious way.

This brings me back to "1" above....

Frankly speaking, once you're an adult, no one other than yourself can determine what's inappropriate for you, even if someone tries to use some vague standards to call it appropriate! Listen to your gut instincts, consider asking open ended questions to yourself, and try to validate your thoughts a few times to conclusively decide what you really felt about the incident. And then, if you still keep leaning in favor of identifying it as an inappropriate gesture, then be sure to have reasons and clarity of thought to explain why to someone who thinks it wasn't (and vice-versa).

This is surely not easy, but all I want to say is, the more you work on your instincts (and stay humble in the process), the less validation you'll have to seek from others.

Future course of action:

  • Going by the comments, it's all right to have your religious priorities in place, but don't expect the same from others. So, the natural progression of a friendship / relationship can't be uni-dimensional if two people have opposing views.

  • Next, if you did really feel uncomfortable, and might be willing to take the opportunity to talk about this incident with the person concerned, you could one day go up to him directly. Preferably not in a completely isolated place, but also where no one else might listen when you talk. Don't budge then and tell him upfront how and why you found the incident uncomfortable. Evaluate his expressions and reactions. See if he says "sorry". See if he tries to clarify his intents or make excuses — again, thin line of difference between the two, but can perhaps be spotted by the body language and the conviction (or the lack of thereof) in the tone.

  • If you would still be interested in talking to that person in future (and his reply to your admission of discomfort sounds somewhat reasonable to you), don't shut the communication off completely, but maybe make it clear that you were only upset about that incident (thus far) and just wanted to address the issue, before it created too many misunderstandings.

  • You could also maybe keep an eye on how he behaves with other girls. If one's a player, then you likely wouldn't be the first or only girl who would feel uncomfortable in their presence.

  • Finally, there's nothing wrong with taking your time to build a friendship / relationship gradually and even question the roots of it time and again — especially when in doubt — and figure out for yourself as to what you really want; how; if there's enough respect, desired level of sensitivity and consideration for you from the other end, and so on.... It's only when two people are able to establish a reasonable trust over each other that a frequent scrutiny is no longer necessary. In summary, there doesn't have to be a need to rush into placing someone on the pedestal or dismissing them right away.


On the issue of whether he just wants sex or something more, I think if you're up-front that you are interested in a relationship but want to take things slowly, if he's just interested in sex then he will probably bail at this point. Yes it's possible some men will pursue a woman for several weeks or even months just to sleep with them, but it's unlikely when they could just move on to an "easier" target.

Find somewhere private to have a conversation about what he's interested in, and if he says he is interested in you (and you are in him) then make it clear you aren't the sort of person to get physical too quickly and see how he reacts. There is a good chance if he's still interested then there is a genuine relationship potential there.


I will answer this from a guy's perspective, given my experience of talking to hundreds of men about relationships and seeings dozens of them unfold before my eyes.

How do you tell?

Lack or presence of touch is not a good indicator of anything besides general sexual attraction. A guy could be touching your thigh because he hopes to invite you for a night of fun or he could be touching the thigh of his future wife. Touch alone doesn't communicate that information.

Likewise I seriously question the suggestion of directly asking the guy about his intentions. Unless you've known him for a long time and know exactly how he behaves in dating, receiving an answer won't tell you the full picture. Many guys will respond with whatever the other side wants to hear or genuinely respond to your question while under the influence of sexual attraction, rather than through any long term planning.

A better way of measuring a guy's level or commitment is to analyze how much effort he has invested into the relationship so far. If he's driving every weekend for 2 hours just to see you for a coffee, he's probably interested in a relationship. If he insists you come over to his neighborhood and all you do is walk around in the park, he's probably looking for something casual. Obviously this will vary according to the person's income - there's nothing wrong with a poor student taking his date to McDonald's, but likewise an investment banker paying for a Michelin star dinner doesn't reveal much.

That being said, be aware that people's intentions can change at any time during the relationship, otherwise no one couples would ever break up or get a divorce. You might change your mind post-coitus and your partner has a similar right. It's hard for people to predict these kinds of outcomes in advance, even if they have the best intentions. At the end of the day all of us have to risk disappointment in dating and there's no magical solution that could resolve that ambiguity.

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