Unfortunately for men, casual sex and relationships often have very little nuance — well, unless you want them to. „Relationships, by their very definition, should be more than physical,“ says Rebecca Cowan, a sex and relationships coach and author. „However, it can be very easy to mistake casual sex for a relationship,“ adds Annie E. Casey Foundation researcher Stacey McGurk. They suggest slowing down and asking for commitment — and getting out of a casual romp when you’re not ready. Think of it as saving yourself for the person you marry.
Trying the conscious-sex thing doesn’t always pay off. „Women were expecting that I would save myself for marriage, and I really wasn’t interested in that,“ says sex therapist and writer Susie Bright. „I had sex with guys on the rebound, I had sex as a punishment, I had sex as a political move.“ See, sex is complicated, and it’s often not easy to figure out what you’re getting into before you commit.
Because it’s not always pretty to be in a situation where you’re asking for sex, the best way to avoid a bad experience is to have a good idea of what you’re looking for and be clear about that. „Read up on what you’re doing and how you are,“ suggests Stacey McGurk, who studied and then wrote about it for The Atlantic. „Read up on others‘ sexual experiences to see how yours might compare. Talk to people about your boundaries, both before and during the encounter, to be clear on what is and is not acceptable.“
Know your body.
Similarly, if you’re new to the game and not 100 percent sure what you want, it’s time to take a look in the mirror. „Be a big girl, be a responsible grown-up, and sit down and decide what you want,“ says Tamara Litt, co-founder of Hookups 101. „If you’re in a new relationship, it’s your responsibility to figure out what you want.“ Otherwise, you’ll likely end up experiencing post-traumatic stress (read: regret) and experiencing sex more often than you really want.
„Doing a little research before hand helps a lot,“ says Tamara Litt. „Know that it might be emotionally involved. It might be casual. It might be hot and heavy. Be prepared to meet new people.“ Because that’s a lot easier said than done, though, because, as Dr. Emba points out, people are
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So, the next time you find yourself preparing to jump into a casual (or random) hookup, consider the following options and you might find yourself more satisfied than you would with a sexless (or even fumbling) encounter. After all, if you’re the one who’s up for hooking up, why let others dictate your destiny?
You still get to discover new people, experience the thrill of uncertainty, and perhaps even learn something about yourself — and you don’t have to worry about contraception, the pesky girls code, pregnancy, or HIV/AIDS. So, feel free to spend as much time as you need getting to know a person before making a decision that could have a lasting impact on both of your lives.
It’s Okay to Have Casual Sex — But There’s a Catch
Research has long confirmed what we’ve all suspected: Casual sex can be highly enjoyable for the people involved, if the right amount of preparation and safety measures are in place. A recent paper from the National Opinion Research Center even reaffirmed what many people already believe: Casual sex is so much more common in the U.S. than many are willing to admit, with 12 percent of men and 20 percent of women having had it at least once in the last year.1
While that statistic may sound surprising, it’s actually pretty common knowledge in the circles that tend to discuss casual sex. Friends and family will tell you that they’ve heard about all sorts of great adventures that friends of friends have had. And there’s certainly no shortage of stories in the news about what people have had to say about out-of-their-ordinary adventures with strangers, either.
As the unifying theme among all of these stories, sexual scientists have also reached a consensus about the value of casual sex. While researchers have been more ambiguous about defining what casual sex is in the past, now they largely agree: The advent of the digital era has made casual sex easier and more pervasive than ever. Both times that scholars have asked about casual sex’s prevalence over the past 30 years, the numbers have remained remarkably consistent.
The most recent survey came from 2011, which only gave rise to a much more vague definition: “‘Casual sex’ means you have sex for fun with someone you don’t want to have sex with.”2 That’s hardly a question; people can of course think of countless scenarios in which it doesn’t



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