I’ve been in a situation where after only a couple of hook-ups, a partner played me a poetic love song stating that he can’t wait for our life together. I’ve also had the complete opposite situation where immediately after a hookup, a partner kicked me out in the middle of the night because he sleeps better alone and didn’t necessarily want me to be there when he woke up. I’ve also had a number of in-between situations, where I’ve left hook-ups with a lot of ambiguity regarding what the person was looking for, if we were going to see each other again and what, if anything, the hookup meant.

It sounds so simple: Sex = good. Cuddles = good. Some low key companionship = solid. Why is it that so many casual sex encounters end up falling apart so quickly or become overly complicated?

As a society, we are generally pretty awful at expressing ourselves sexually. This may be due to a lack of adequate sex-ed or good examples in the media of what sexual communication should look like. Or perhaps, it is because it is hard to know what we truly want, let alone express it to others. When folks decide to be in a relationship they usually have strong feelings about the other person, so their intentions are clear. However, in casual sex situations, often folks may not know the person that well or may not be sure how they feel about the other person, so a lack of communication is often easier than trying to express ambiguous feelings.

How do you make casual sex work?

  1. Don’t be a dick. I feel like people in casual sex relationships are scared to show any type of affection, lest they lead the other person on. For example, my friend slept with someone who refused to get her water in the middle of the night. Also, when they hung out around other people, she acted like he was a complete stranger. Regardless of your intentions, treat your casual sex bud like a full human being that you genuinely enjoy being around. Yes, holding their hand and telling them how much you like them might be a little bit over the top if you’re just banging, but there is definitely a middle ground where you can be thoughtful and considerate, but still casual.
  2. Clarify expectations and ground rules. There are a number of reasons that people may want to have a sexual relationship. For me, yes orgasms are dope, but equally enjoyable is the company, cuddles, and connection with another human. I therefore would only want to have sex with someone who equally enjoys these components of our casual relationship. However, some people may prefer the ol’ bang and leave. There is nothing wrong with this, but if partners don’t discuss their boundaries beforehand it can be very uncomfortable and potentially hurtful post hookup. I suggest, ideally before it gets sexual, especially if this may become a continuous hookup, for both partners to discuss what they are looking for. Are you hoping that this will eventually become a relationship? Are you having sex with other people? What are your thoughts on sleepovers? How shall we act around friends/in public? Can I invite you to my aunt’s wedding? If there is an extreme disagreement in any of these subjects, going too deep into the hookup game may be dangerous. It’s important to communicate to determine if/how both party’s needs can be met.
  3. Fuck stereotypes! As a straight woman, so many men assume that I am looking for a serious relationship, marriage, and then, of course, tons of babies without me mentioning a word. As a result, men may be too scared to be too affectionate post-hook up, lest I, as a woman get “ideas in my head.” Almost more annoyingly, men will sometimes explicitly say without meaning it, “Hey, you know I’m not scared of commitment,” or “You know I could actually see us dating” as a way to get me into the sack. I’m sure other components of identity such as age, race, sexual orientation, and social status may also impact sexual expectations. When you are engaging with someone new, try not to bring stereotypes or assumptions into it, as it often isn’t accurate, and it can be quite annoying. Just be upfront and communicate about what you are looking for.
  4. Be self- aware. My friend just had a weekend hookup with someone at a cottage. On the first night, he said that he doesn’t enjoy cuddling and went to his own room post-sexy-time. On the second night, albeit he was intoxicated, he said he wanted to cuddle with her all night and wake up next to her in the morning. There is nothing wrong with either of these things. However, being generally inconsistent can be very confusing and certainly gave my friend mixed messages. Instead, decide what you are looking for and do what you can to have your words and behavior match as much as possible.
  5. Know when to end it. It is inevitable that at some point a casual hookup will end. What is imperative here, is to know when the right time is to end it. It is common that folks will continue a hookup far beyond the time that it is fun and enjoyable for both parties. For example, in a situation where one partner wants a relationship or wants more than the other person can offer, it can become increasingly painful to continue having casual sex. Once this incompatibility is realized the healthy thing would be to end it. Of course, that is easier said than done, sometimes it takes a while to make the right move.

Casual hook-ups can be great if they are done in a way where both parties respect each other. If both parties start things off with an open line of communication and continue that throughout their time together, it will allow for much more success. If it starts to feel like the lines between romance and sex are getting blurry, discuss it! As long as both partners are on the same page, enjoy date sexy time!

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