10 Steps to Getting Casual Sex Right

At least half of all problems associated with casual sex can be traced back to its name: People think that “casual” means the sex takes no thought and fits as comfortably as sweatpants. But the truth is, you have to date for years before sex gets like that. (Monogamy does have a few benefits, after all!)

In fact, this is one of the reasons why the two of us often refer to casual sex as recreational sex instead — or rec sex for short. It’s a kinder, gentler term, making us think of sex on a picnic blanket — as opposed to the term casual, which makes us think of people being sloppy-drunk and mean.

Here are ten steps to getting recreational sex right:

1. Be Nice

Just because you’re never going to see someone again doesn’t mean that your manners should fly out the window.

2. Don’t Worry So Much About Inner Beauty

One of the best things about casual sex is that you can forget all about soul-mates and long-term compatibility and just focus on a pure, chemical connection: You can sleep with someone just because you like their accent, for example. Or you can sleep with someone who is far too young — or too old — for you. And you can enjoy a guilt-free rendezvous with someone who has a surplus of outer beauty but is somewhat lacking in other departments.

3. Be Honest

Just because you’re doing away with guilt, doesn’t mean you should do away with honesty, too. Don’t ever lie about your intentions to get someone into bed. Man up — or woman up — and admit you’re just looking for a roll in the hay. And never give a fake number or ask for a number you have no intention of calling.

4. Be a Decent Host…Or At Least a Polite Guest

We don’t care how casual the hookup, it’s just plain rude to kick someone to the curb at 5 a.m. Let them sleep over. And make them a decent cup of coffee in the morning. That said, be aware that snuggling for more than 15 minutes may send a mixed message — but that said, don’t be confused if your one-night stand wants to spoon all night. Some people like a little casual intimacy on the side. If you hate to spoon strangers, then go back to your hook-up’s place instead, so you can sneak out at 5 a.m. And be sure to leave a cheery note; phone number not required.

5. Be Safe

Always always always use protection correctly. And know that condoms may not always protect you from everything (herpes, HPV…), so ask questions too (e.g. “Do you always use protection?” and “When’s the last time you were tested?”). Oh, yeah, and don’t let a complete stranger tie you up during sex, either!

6. Don’t Be Yourself (Unless You Feel Like It)

Your one-night stand has no idea what you’re usually like in bed… so take advantage of this and don’t be your usual self! Casual sex is the perfect excuse to reinvent yourself sexually — to be extra dirty or to try something new. In other words, to potentially make an ass of yourself, because your flavor of the moment has no idea what you’re usually like in bed and will probably never see you again. Remember, too much missionary is missing the point. Women especially may relish this freedom.

7. Hold the Romance

The following activities are not appropriate foreplay during casual sex: drawing a bubble bath in a candle-lit bathroom; reciting your poetry; playing love songs on your guitar. Remember, a casual encounter is too fleeting and flimsy to bear the weight of such romance-laden activities — save those for your monogamous partner, who has no choice but to listen to your “modern take” on Extreme’s “More Than Words.”

8. Keep Things Light

Don’t talk about any prescription drugs you may be hooked on or what your therapist thinks of casual sex or how your parents’ divorce affects your ability to sustain a relationship.

9. Be a Grownup

When it comes to the sex, don’t sulk if you don’t get everything you asked Santa for — only people in relationships are allowed to complain when things don’t go their way in bed (and even then they should stop focusing on the negative and just be grateful someone puts up with them). Just because casual sex is supposed to be fun, doesn’t mean it comes with a money-back guarantee—nor is it necessarily consequence-free (especially if you don’t wrap up). In fact, it can often be just as complicated as a relationship, if more fleeting: the heartache, the jealousy, the awkward brunches, the unreturned phone calls, the bloopers, the bad pick-up lines, the hangovers, the STDs, and the earnest attempts to stave off soul-sucking loneliness by simply connecting with another human being.

10. Have Fun, Goddammit!

Enjoying casual sex doesn’t mean you don’t take sex seriously—it just means you enjoy a romp in multiple contexts. If you’re not having a laugh, then you’re missing the point.

Want your next casual encounter to be dirtier?
5 Ways to Spice Up a One-Night Stand