Dear gentlefolk, we’re talking about sex. I would usually advise you to avoid seeking advice about hooking up and relationships from a guy who unironically says “gentlefolk” (he’s usually a breath away from his fedora taking control of his brain). But I’ve been the subject of enough terrible hookups to have a special interest in curtailing the problem.
You’re at college. A good chunk of you likely live in the dorms. If modern hysteria about hookup culture has anything to say about it, you may very well be having hookups of your own, or at least considering it.
I’m not here to comment on whether hookups are ethical or moral. But it’s your best interest to at least know how to have hookups that are safe, consensual, and actually fun. Whether this is your first rodeo or you’ve got a string of notches in your metaphorical belt, here’s how to have hookups with as few worries as possible.
1. Know thyself
You can’t know what to expect from a partner, even a casual one, without knowing what your boundaries and interests are. Whether that means a lot of, erm, self-exploration or some reflection after romantic/sexual encounters, the best hookups come from when you (and your partner) understand what you do and don’t enjoy.
2. To app or not to app
Some of y’all might meet your casual liaisons at parties or campus events. For the rest of us, there are apps. No shame in using apps like Tinder or Grindr, depending on where your sexual preferences lie.
Be clear about what you’re looking for on your profile and if you’re open to hookups (or “right now”). And make sure you approach people interested in the same thing.
The best dates/flings/whatnot come when you find someone who’s mutually interested in you. Don’t settle for the first person who gives you attention if you’re not all that excited about them.
3. Meet in public
If you meet someone online, there’s always a risk, however small, that who you thought you met on Tinder or wherever isn’t who they say they are. Always meet, even if it’s a casual fling, in public. I recommend a brief coffee date but even a quick jaunt to a favorite meeting place on campus will do.
Get to know who you’re going to be with for the night. If it turns out that whoever you met doesn’t meet your expectations or you’re having second thoughts (which is perfectly normal!), trust your gut.
4. Decide where you’re meeting ahead of time
Decide who’s hosting and where and what you’re doing ahead of time. Don’t wait for the heat of the moment to decide. Consider roommate situations. If you live in a shared space, find a private room and be sure to turn on the radio or TV before things get heated. Your roommates aren’t hooking up with your date or you.
5. Always carry protection
And I do mean always. Whether that means condoms and/or dental dams. Never assume your partner will have it. And never assume your partner has gotten tested (don’t worry, I’m touching on that too). Always assume, at any given time, that you’re at risk for STIs and/or pregnancy (if relevant) out of any given sexual encounter.
The nice thing about college? Condoms and things like dental dams are everywhere. Your residence hall. The LGBT center. Your student health clinic. Places like this tend to have free condoms for the taking. It’s never a bad idea to stock up ahead of time.
6. No means no
No always means no. And the absence of a no is never an automatic ‘yes’. Before having sex, communicate. Make sure that the two of you (or however many people may be involved, this is a judgment-free zone) know what’s going to happen and that you’re both okay with it.
If your partner changes their mind in the middle of the act? Stop immediately. Consent can be withdrawn at any time. Respect your partner’s boundaries.
Avoid drugs and alcohol. If you’re not okay to drive, you’re not okay to ride a partner. Anything that impairs consent is to be avoided.
7. Pull out the planner
After the deed is said and done and the two of you (or more) have parted ways, pull out your phone and open up your calendar app. Mark when you had sex on your calendar.
Does it seem excessive? Yes. But trust me on this. This isn’t to track how many times you’ve done the deed. But when it comes to getting tested, whether for STIs or pregnancy, it helps to have an idea of when you last had sex. If you’re worried about your ma stumbling upon it, give it a memorable but discrete name. I suggest Mamba Knitting Club, but you do you.
8. Get tested
Finals aren’t the only tests you need to be doing every few months. Take advantage of your student health center and get tested for STIs. HIV, syphilis, HPV- the works. If you can get pregnant, test for that too. Buy a set of cheap pregnancy tests and test every couple months or a couple weeks after every sexual encounter if you’ve had penis-in-vagina sex.
Even hookups can be safe(r) with special care and consideration.