I was bored one Wednesday night in college, so I started texting people. And not just any people—boy people, friends with benefits people, I’m-bored-so-you-should-come-over people. Yeah, you know the drill. It was my junior year of undergrad, and I’d been consistently hooking up with two guys at the time. One was a guy I’d met through the campus newspaper, and the other was my ex-boyfriend (LOL messy, I know—let’s not dwell on that).

I was juggling two guys at once because The Ex was hardly ever available. He was terrible at making plans when we were dating—and just as bad when we weren’t—so when Newspaper Guy appeared out of nowhere to fill in the gaps of my sex life, I welcomed him with open arms. (…And legs. Sorry, had to.) I’d established that I wasn’t exclusive with either, meaning we were free to hook up with whomever, whenever. So naturally, I took advantage of that (using protection, of course!). And I expected them to do the same.

Back to Wednesday. My friends were bogged down with homework and somehow I wasn’t, so it was FWB time, obviously. It wasn’t rare for me to text them both at the same time—usually at least one would be unavailable, so doubling up increased my chances of having someone to hang out with. Newspaper Guy, as always, responded immediately. I could pretty much count on him to be free and text me back (we’d once hooked up 12 days in a row, after all), so I happily invited him over. Then, in the midst of our, err, hangout, The Ex replied. Now there was a shocker. He was just as bad at responding to text messages as he was at making plans, so hearing back from him (and on a weekday!) was a rarity. I *had* to take advantage of that situation.

I wrapped things up with Newspaper Guy—who I knew wasn’t sleeping over anyway—and shot a quick text to The Ex. I learned he’d been drinking with his roommates (explains why he was A. Not busy on a weekday and B. DTF) and told him I’d be over in a bit. I arrived, we hung out, I slept over, and that was the end of that. I’d hooked up with two guys in one evening—a personal record, but kind of an anticlimactic one.

Whenever I tell people this story, I’m usually greeted with some combination of shock and awe. “You hooked up with two people back-to-back?” “OMG I could never do that.” “I can’t believe you just told me that story!” But for me, it’s kind of a no-brainer. What I did isn’t embarrassing or shameful—or even wild or badass. I’m not a player, I wasn’t cheating on anyone, and I didn’t hurt anyone. I was just bored. So I spent some time with one guy, and then I spent some time with another. There’s really nothing else to it.

So no, I’m not ashamed. Why would I be?

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Also: 31 Things That Cross Everyone’s Mind During Sex

Photo Credit: Illustration by Jocelyn Runice

I woke up in a strange bed, naked, between two naked men. My brain felt like it had been soaked in beer and Jägermeister, the furniture seemed to dance in front of me, and for some reason my nose felt very present on my face. I had taken cocaine! I remembered the rolled up £20 note and a bloke slurring “feel any different yet?”. The taste in my mouth was hideous, as though tobacco had been glued to my tongue.

I peeled myself off the mattress and peered at the faces of the men I’d had sex with the night before. To my left, an acquaintance – an unclean, predatory type of guy – whom I had never had a liking for. To my right, my friend’s boyfriend.

I grabbed my clothes, stumbled to the toilet and threw up over and over until the only thing left in my stomach was guilt. It wouldn’t go. That’s when I learned just how strong physical emotions are – it burned in my belly for weeks.

Exactly a year before this awful morning, I left a relationship that had felt increasingly suffocating. For the first time, I found myself free, and I was excited to flirt, kiss and go to bed with other men. So that’s what I did, repeatedly, from October 2014 to May 2015.

I would walk though my front door at 10am, hair looking like dead grass, last night’s high heels dangling limply from my fingers. My housemates would smirk with knowing looks as I gently shook my throbbing head, and laughed.

One-night stands were casual and thrilling, and in the cloudiness of ignorance I thought I was being careful. It wasn’t even particularly regularly – maybe once every two months – but when it did happen it was always with a stranger, I was always drunk, and it was always unprotected. It seemed funny at the time, but then the summer hit, and things started to change.

The problems began when I started working in a pub, to earn a bit of money and occupy my then bountiful amount of spare time. I was surrounded by alcohol, most of which was free to me, and queues of men who loved to flirt with barmaids. I had, unknowingly, placed myself at the heart of my weaknesses.

But if I’m honest, I loved the attention. I loved it when guys would text me telling me I looked pretty as they watched me pour drinks, or would wait until the end of my shift to walk me home. I started going back with a careful selection of these men. It used to make me feel giddy giving in to their attempts, but the moment I left their house in the morning, I would feel like a used and discarded tissue.

It seems the fun for them was only in wanting, not in having. Once they had slept with me, even those I had thought of as friends would simply ignore me. They would look at me and walk away, make a point of being served by a different bartender or even talk to someone else over my shoulder. What interest was I to them after they had conquered me?

These rejections made me need constant reassurance. I probably reeked of desperation. I ended up spending the majority of my time at the pub, even when I wasn’t working. I was addicted to the place, to the way it made me feel more wanted, yet more alone than ever. That’s when I stopped being picky and let any man pull me. Men who would kiss me briefly by the public toilets then push hard on my shoulders so I would go down on them. Men who kicked me out early, claiming they had work, when really they were going to have sex with some other girl. Men who made £100 bets with their friends that they would be the first to get me in bed. I wanted so badly to stop, but it was easier said than done.

The morning I woke up between those two men was the same day I returned back to university for my second year. As I drove away from home, I spent a lot of time thinking and calculating.

In one year, I had slept with 12 people, six of whom in the space of those two summer months. I had had unprotected sex on eight occasions, and taken the emergency contraceptive pill after three of them. Three men had cheated on their girlfriends with me. I had tried drugs for the first time, and smoked and drank more in one night than I ever had before. Totting this all up in my head was exactly the shocking realisation I needed.

What came next was my “rehab phase”. Whereas before I’d been getting drunk every day, I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol for two weeks. I went to the sexual health clinic, where I had tests done for pregnancy, chlamydia and HIV, all of which miraculously came back clear. I made a promise to have sex only when sober, and I have now been abstinent for three months. Finally, I decided to forgive myself. And I haven’t changed my mind.

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The First Time I Had Sex With Two Guys… On The Same Day!

I was in my mid-20s when I had my first sexual experience. Perhaps it was social peer pressure or the media; but, I felt I had missed out on this stage of life and hence, was determined to get as much experience I could, in a short span of time. To heck with a decade of missionary school education which preached propriety and modesty as the only way for a woman to make her mark in the world! Realising that sex was, well, fun and felt so damn good, I was going to have as much of it as possible.

A quick context to this: I had also broken up with my first boyfriend because after two years of long distance, I just couldn’t do it anymore.

I went about swiping left and right on Tinder as if my life depended on it. I went on dates and had interesting conversations with men I would never see again. Some of them, I kissed and made out with in the dark corners of various pubs. Few had the privilege of making their way into the shambles of my dorm room. Cuddling after sex was always an option. A single bed offered such luxuries even to dire strangers.

As it turned out, I was kind of exclusive even with my one-night stands. I met an engineering student who was all about getting down and dirty whenever I wanted, wherever I wanted. He didn’t ever ask me out on a date, but, boy, did he know how to treat a lady right or what. However, after a month of fooling around with this gorgeous hunk of a man, I decided to break the pattern.

I left his house in the morning after a nice hot session only to meet another guy that very afternoon. The idea was to keep it in the daytime so I could easily scoot if I wanted to. But Mohit, in spite of his awkward personality, managed to impress the pants off of me (literally)! With every glass of wine we had, we broke into giggles and mumbled incoherently into each other’s ears. One of those times, as his stubble lightly brushed against my cheek, I couldn’t resist the impulse of kissing him. He cupped my face, and kissed me back.

This Cheeky Cherry Lube from Durex (Rs 300) will help heat things up in the bed!

Although he wasn’t expecting it, I asked him if he’d like to come home with me. He looked ecstatic and that short 5-minute walk back was rife with sexual tension and anticipation. As soon as I locked the door to my room, he turned me around to face him and kissed me passionately. We began undressing each other as fast as we could. His crisp white shirt came undone in seconds, I kissed him while leading him to my bed. His 6’4’’ frame struggled to fit into my bed, but we didn’t stop. Come morning, the cupboard, carpet and chair had all been overturned and displaced during our sexual exploration. It was as though the world was coming to an end and we had one night to live it up and make it count.

That one day, with two back-to-back instances, has inspired me to live with abandon. To not worry about the future but revel in the present which hardly disappoints us as much as we’d think it could. And I never looked back!

Safety is always sexy, ladies. You gotta stock up on these Durex Condoms (Rs 131)

Images:

Here’s Why Casual Sex Isn’t Actually All That Casual

/ Paul Matthew Photography

Hooking up isn’t for everyone. Depending on your personality you may be more or less likely to benefit from casual sex. But regardless of where you stand on that continuum, there are certain things you can do to maximize your chances of benefiting from your hookup experiences and minimize your chances of being harmed by them. If you’re having casual sex, here are some things that help make it a positive experience—rather than one you’ll regret.

1. Do It for the Right Reasons

Hooking up for the right reasons, such as being attracted to the person(s), feeling horny, and wanting a pleasurable, new sexual experience, can improve your overall health and happiness. Research shows, however, that when you have casual sex for the wrong reasons, your well-being suffers. Some of the wrong reasons for having casual sex include needing to feel better about yourself, being peer- or partner-pressured into it, believing the hookup was more than just casual, or doing it because you’re too drunk to think clearly. So before you hookup, ask yourself why you’re doing it and what you’re trying to get out of it. If you’re doing it for the right reasons, you’re more likely to have a great time.

2. Say an Enthusiastic “Yes” to the Things You Want

The good news: Getting sexual pleasure out of your hookup is key for your well-being. The bad news: Your partner will not be psychic about your needs and desires – especially if they don’t know you very well. What that means is that if you want to enjoy your casual encounter, you shouldn’t expect your partner to know your body and what makes it tick. Sometimes they may be lucky enough to guess what you like or pick up on the faintest of signs, but most of the time they won’t. If you want a good experience, tell your partners what you want by explicitly asking for it, verbally or non-verbally. Whisper in their ear how you want them to touch you, lead their hand to where you want to be touched, get them in the position that works for you. A lot can go wrong when you’re jumping in the sack with someone you hardly know. This is not the time to be shy.

3. Say a Firm “No” to the Things You Don’t Want

Just as your partner can’t know for sure what will make you moan, they probably also won’t have a clue about what makes your cringe. Casual hookups are often ambiguous situations and the lines of consent are easily blurred. Subtle pressure or unwanted (yet consensual) sex is common in hookups, and this uncertainty is often the main culprit for feelings of regret and distress in the days that follow. The bottom line: Don’t get pressured into something you’re going to regret the next day. Know your limits and express them as clearly, loudly and forcefully as is necessary.

4. Communicate Your Expectations

People often get hurt after casual sex when they aren’t aware that it was casual. Sometimes people misrepresent their intentions on purpose to get others into bed, but more often, it’s a simple misunderstanding resulting from an ambiguous situation in which both partners project their own intentions onto the other person. Don’t leave things to chance. If you’re certain that you want nothing more than casual sex, let your partner know and make sure they’re on the same page. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something more than just casual sex, voice your concerns and give your partner a chance to share their expectations.

5. Be Safe

In casual sex, a condom is the only thing that keeps you truly safe. When you don’t know your partner, you can’t trust them to tell you the truth, and you shouldn’t assume they’ll try to keep you from harm. Carry condoms and lube on you at all times. And use them. Properly.

6. Avoid the Jerks

At least when it comes to men, research suggests that those who are into casual sex may also be more likely to be manipulative, aggressive, narcissistic, arrogant and sexist. While they may have excellent seduction skills, they are often not particularly good at caring about your pleasure, safety, consent, reputation or well-being. So if you are someone who likes hooking up with men, do yourself a favor and try to stay away from these kinds of guys. There are plenty of nice, respectful men out there to hook up with. (Similar advice may apply when it comes to hooking up with other genders, although statistical evidence is lacking).

7. Adore Your Partners

Casual sex may be not be built on a deep emotional attachment, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about your partner while you are with them. Even if your hookup consists of a few short minutes in a bathroom stall, giving your partner all you’ve got will make for a much more pleasurable, fulfilling, and memorable experience for everyone involved. Be genuinely passionate, caring, attentive and respectful of your partner at all times.

8. Control Your Infatuation and Commitment

Infatuation with new partners is often an involuntary, neurochemical process. The more you have sex with them, the more your commitment will grow. If this is someone with whom, for whatever reason, you wish to maintain a purely casual relationship, you might have to fight your infatuation with reason and be cognizant of the involuntary nature of the neurochemical process. Keep yourself occupied and resist the need to text them 20 times a day, arrange to meet them five days a week, or talk about them and nothing else with all your friends. If you’re really trying to keep things casual, you might also consider keeping a rotation of other partners.

9. Surround Yourself with People Who Won’t Judge You

Many people will reject you for having casual sex, especially if you do it often. If possible, make sure you surround yourself with friends and partners who accept your sexual lifestyle, even if they don’t share it. Move to a more liberal social circle if you have to. And if you must be surrounded by people who will judge you if they know that you partake in casual sex, keep your sexual exploits on the down low. Being judged and criticized won’t make for a positive experience, so be as discreet as you need to be.

10. Do NOT Get Wasted

Getting super drunk or high is probably the single worst thing you can do before/during casual sex. A little buzz to get you in the mood is probably OK, but anything beyond that will likely inhibit your ability to evaluate your motives, give and get pleasure or consent, be safe and even to remember the experience. If you need to be wasted in order to hookup, you’re probably doing it for the wrong reasons.

11. Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Mistakes happens. Even if you do everything right, sometimes hookups don’t turn out well. Maybe the condom broke, your partner ended up being a jerk, the sex was horrible, the wrong people found out, or you ended up drinking too much. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just proof that you’re human, and one bad hookup probably won’t have serious long-term consequences. So, go easy on yourself. earn from your mistakes, try not to repeat them in the future, and move on with your life.

Sex should be fun, right? Unfortunately, there is no one, fool-proof way to ensure casual sex will always be fun, pleasurable, safe, and enriching. That said, these 11 rules will help ensure that your hookups are more fun and more fulfilling more often. Here’s to safe, smart and sexy hookups!

This post originated on Kinkly.

How To Have Casual Sex Safely

We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to tap into your sexual potential and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those stressful sexual health situations that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous. This week’s topic: staying safe during casual sex.

Q: I’m newly single and loving it! However, I must confess I’m a bit rusty on how to protect myself from STDs. I was monogamous with my ex for five years and I’m on the pill, so after we got tested we stopped using condoms. Now I’m free and on the prowl, but I want to make sure I’m taking care of myself. Yes, I know I should use condoms, but if I’m hooking up with different people, is there anything else I should be doing to protect myself from STDs? I want to have fun but I don’t want to end up with baby or a disease!

A: Sex is so fun, but it can also be stressful, and a big part of that is exactly what you’re talking about — unwanted diseases. The other main health-related component is of course unwanted fetuses. The reality is that no sex is 100 percent safe. However, there are some simple things you can do to put yourself in the safest situation possible, so you can have fun with minimal stress.

One note before we get into this: lots of sexual health websites and educators say things like “you’re more likely to get a sexually transmitted disease if you’re having sex with multiple people, so if you want to protect yourself, have sex with fewer people,” as if safer sex were a first grade math problem. This is slut-shaming in its most base form and we are going to dismantle that right now with some good old-fashioned knowledge. Because the truth is, it’s way more complicated than that, and— spoiler alert — you can have way safer casual sex with 100 people than with one partner, depending on a couple of important factors.

1. Know How You Get An STD In The First Place

First off, an STI is a virus, parasite, fungus, or other thing that can make you feel not great (or be asymptomatic) that you get through sexual activity. This usually means that these microscopic unwanteds enter your body through your vagina, the urethra of your penis, anus, or mouth, hitching a ride on semen, or vaginal fluid. Some STIs are transmitted through skin to skin contact, though, which means you don’t even have to have sex to get them — any contact with infected skin can do it.

Second, and equally importantly, you can’t get an STI from someone who doesn’t already have it in their system. By which I mean to say, your sexual partner needs to have an STI in order for you to get it. Even then, this doesn’t mean you will end up with an STI yourself. It just means you’ve put yourself at risk. A bunch of different factors go into how risky a certain act is, but it’s never 100 percent safe or dangerous. Think of it as a numbers game — if you’re not 100 percent sure all your lovers are negative for all STIs, then the more people you’re sleeping with, the more risk you’re taking on — but that doesn’t mean sleeping with three people who’ve been tested is inherently more dangerous than, say, practicing unprotected sex with one person.

Barrier Protection

While there are a bunch of methods for preventing pregnancy on the market, there are really only three that also protect you from STDs. These are: abstinence, condoms, and female condoms. The latter two are called barrier protection because they are literally physical barriers between your parts and fluids and the parts and fluids of your lovers. (Just think of Gandalf: YOU SHALL NOT PASS!) Condoms are around 82 percent effective if used typically and 98 percent effective, if used perfectly. This means that even if you use a condom every time you have sex and you put it on right, it still has a chance of falling off or breaking. This is another example of why sex is never risk-free.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis

There’s a new daily pill you can take to greatly minimize the chances of getting HIV. If this is an STI that you think you might be exposed to during your, ahem, adventures, talk to your doctor about getting on PrEP, also called Truvada. It can protect you by at least 90 percent if you take it every day.

3. Set Up A Testing Schedule

It’s always a good idea to get tested routinely for STIs, and that’s even more the case if you’re sleeping with multiple people. Why? Because you’re potentially being exposed to more STIs, depending on if your lovers are carriers. Best practice is to get tested every three or six months. If you feel comfortable, tell your doctor about your lifestyle. Based on how many partners you have and how often you have new partners, she can help you set up a testing calendar for how often you should get tested.

4. Know About Lag Times

It’s also important to get tested if you ever have an incident that you think may have exposed you to an STI. This could include having unprotected sex (hey, it happens) or if a condom breaks or slips.

Unfortunately, you can’t rush to the clinic Monday morning after a Saturday night slip-up and expect accurate results, because the tests only work a few weeks after a potential incident. This has to do with what the tests are looking for — most STI tests don’t actually look for the virus or parasite in your body; they are looking for the antibodies your immune system has made to fight the unwanted visitor. It takes a few days for your body to notice the STI and mount a response to fight back. So, basically, it takes two weeks for a Gonorrhea or Chlamydia test to turn up positive. Syphilis can take anywhere from one week to three months. You can test positive for HIV and Hepatitis B and C as soon as one month after infection, but in certain cases it can take up to six months to show up. That said, if you’ve just had an encounter that you’re worried about, tell your doctor — she will let you know when you can come in for accurate testing.

The lag time (also called the “window period’) between when you are exposed to an STI and when you can test positive for it can not only be stressful — it also means that everyone is walking around with outdated STI information. If my tests all come back negative today, it means that I was negative a few weeks ago. I could have become positive for, say, Gonorrhea in the meantime and not know yet. I say this not to stress you out, but just so you understand how these tests work in your life.

5. Talk To Your Lover(s) About Contraception

Chances are if you’re having a one night stand you don’t want to end up with a baby or infection, which means you need to communicate about contraception. This may come as a surprise, but everyone has different ideas about how to stay safe sexually, so make sure you’re on the same page. I like to tell my partners that I have an IUD and that I also have a big box of condoms next to my bed that they can choose from.

6. Always Have Supplies On Hand

It’s also a good idea to have everything you need if you think you might end up having a sexual experience, so you know you’re covered in the way you want to be. Keeping an extra birth control pill in your bag means you can sleep wherever you want without stressing about having to go home, and carrying condoms means that you will always have them. If having loose condoms bumping around your bag embarrasses you, there are some new condom companies (like L and Lovability) that design condoms specifically to be cute so female-identified people will be excited about carrying them. Or, you can always decorate an Altoid case into a cute discreet carrying case.

7. Talk To Your Lover(s) About Sexually Transmitted Infections

This means both theirs and yours, and yes you should talk about it. I know it’s stressful because STIs are stigmatized and talking about disease isn’t sexy, but as I always say, “Communication is the best lubrication,” and finding out later can feel like a betrayal. So talk to your lover about STIs — I have found it usually works best if you start by telling them the last time you got tested, disclosing if you have anything (asking someone “Are you clean?” can be pretty intense and aggressive, especially if they do have an STI), and then giving them the opportunity to respond and tell you about themselves.

Why all the talking? You have to have a conversation about STIs because you can’t usually tell if someone has them — not by looking anyway. Some STIs do include visual markers, like herpes sores or genital warts, but even these only surface sometimes and for the rest of the STI options, you really can’t tell by looking at someone’s parts.

If you do happen to get an STI, it’s truly not the end of the world. It is important to disclose your status, which can be scary, but it’s necessary — wouldn’t you want to know if you were being exposed to something? I’ve written elsewhere about tips for disclosing STIs to partners, which you can use as a guide to help you with this difficult conversation. But I’m telling you, it isn’t as scary as you might think. Often, lovers will surprise you and react better than you anticipate.

Want more women’s health coverage? Check out Bustle’s new podcast, Honestly Though, which tackles all the questions you’re afraid to ask.

Images: Pexels, Giphy

How To Stay Safe(r) When Using Hookup Apps

by Colin Gentry 1/20/2016

Apps like Grindr, Scruff and tinder have revolutionized dating, but also increase users’ risk of being subject to harassment, violence or worse. The same vastness and anonymity that draws many gay men online can also spell disaster.

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In the UK, crimes involving hookup-app “romance fraud have increased 700% in the past two years. One London teacher is currently on trial for poisoning four men he met on Grindr, while, in December, news reports surfaced of a gang targeting gay men on hookup apps for robbery.

Assaults, thefts and even murders of app users are becoming all too common in the U.S., as well—including a 25-year-old Pennsylvania man found bludgeoned to death after making plans to meet a man on Grindr.

These victims were simply looking for a connection, be it physical or emotional. The profiles they read said nothing of violence, as their attackers hid behind innocuous photos and flattery.

Any encounter comes with risk—meeting a stranger, even more so. But there are steps you can take to make your experience safer and, should things get ugly, to help you take control of the situation.

Do your research

Most people are on social media, so it’s not hard to do a cursory background check of their behavior on Facebook, twitter and Instagram.

If a guy is eager to send you some very NSFW pics, but is gun-shy about giving you personal details, that’s a red flag.

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Agree on expectations

He may be expecting to get laid, whereas when you said “coffee” you actually meant coffee. Managing expectations before you meet lessens the chances of an unpleasant encounter.

Likewise, if the two of you have no problem listing all the positions you want to get into, you should be able to be upfront about your HIV status, relationship status and other issues before you meet up.

Red flag: If he’s not big on clear communication, he might not be right for you.

Trust your gut

Does he seem too good to be true? If his photos look like two different people, or he doesn’t include any face pics, consider letting the opportunity pass.

When you meet

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Slow it down

Going to a stranger’s home, or giving him your address, is putting yourself at risk. Meeting someone in public first isn’t just safer, it also gives you a better idea of who they are.

Out in the open

Unfortunately, things don’t always wait until you’re behind closed doors to turn ugly, so be aware of your surroundings.

“It’s important to acknowledge that hook-up violence can happen anywhere—including public spaces like bars, sex parties, public parks, and more,” explains the Anti-Violence Project’s Beverly Tillery. “For many in our LGBTQ communities, public spaces are the places that are available for us to hook up, and we need to ensure that those spaces are safe for us as well.”

Know your limits

Don’t feel pressured into anything you don’t want to do—be it drinking, drugs or sex. Don’t let a fear of killing the mood or being awkward push you into an area you’re not uncomfortable in.

Stand up for yourself

Feel confident in protecting yourself if things get out of hand. “Self-defense is anything we do — yelling, running away, negotiating — to be as safe as we can, and to survive, in any moment,” explains The Center for Anti-Violence Education (CAENY).

Yelling is actually one of the best self-defense techniques out there: “It breaks the ’victim role,’ attracts attention, distracts the attacker, and puts you in touch with your power and anger.”

CAENY’s Safe and Proud campaign offers tools for self-defense and de-escalation.

Ring the alarm

Bsafe You might not feel comfortable blabbing about your hookup to your roommate, but there are several apps that can help get you out of an escalating situation.

bSafe , which is free, can discreetly alert friends and set up fake phone calls to help you make your exit. It can also start recording video footage of what’s happening, should you press the alarm.

Kitestring sends users text messages to check that they are okay. If you don’t reply in a given time frame, your contacts are alerted that you may be in trouble.

Emergencee, meanwhile, sends your GPS location to three selected contacts in real-time, so they know exactly where you are. The app even has its own security team that will contact police and ensure you get help fast.

Speak out

If your date turned into something far more unpleasant, you need to talk to someone. Notifying the authorities can ensure no one else has to go through such a harrowing experience, and talking to a counselor or therapist can help you process what happened.

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“It’s important to destigmatize the violence that folks face when dating or hooking up online by saying loudly and clearly: nobody has the right to pressure you to do anything, or act violently toward you, no matter how you met,” says the Anti-Violence Project’s Beverly Tillery. “Even if you don’t feel comfortable reporting hook-up violence to the police – as many LGBTQ survivors do not – you can safely and confidentially report to AVP, and access our services.

Outside New York, you can find groups affiliated with the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs.

Casual hookups aren’t all that taboo anymore—in fact, 35 percent of Americans have had a one-night stand, according to new YouGov survey of more than 2,000 men and women.

While there are countless things running through your mind during a random romp, using a condom should top that list—but according to the survey, 1 in 4 men have had unprotected sex during a one night stand.

What’s more, 14 percent of Americans reported never practicing safe sex, the survey found. And unfortunately, past research backs up their results. Only one third of men said they used a condom during the last time they had sex, according to a recent report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

While unprotected sex always comes with risks, they’re that much higher with casual partners. If you’ve been with your partner long enough, you may feel more comfortable talking to them about using other forms of protection, like the pill, once you’ve both been tested for STDs.

Sex Ed: Condoms:

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But with a one-night stand, it’s easy to get lost in the moment. If you don’t really know the person, asking questions about their sexual history can get awkward and even kill the mood—but that shouldn’t take priority over your health.

That’s why using a condom is so crucial. It’s one of the easiest ways to protect you (and your partner) from transmission of diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and other STDs. (Here are four STDs you might already have.)

Plus, wrapping it up can help prevent unintended pregnancies. According to the survey, 33 percent of adults have used the “pull out method” during sex, but withdrawal can be a risky form of birth control if you don’t do it perfectly.

So why are people avoiding condoms in the first place? Sixteen percent of adults have skipped the glove because their partner didn’t like how it felt, the survey found. (If that’s the case, we recommend these LELO Hex condoms from the Men’s Health store. They’re ultra thin and pre-lubricated.)

But until you feel completely comfortable with a single partner, forgoing protection shouldn’t be an option. The fix? Finding a condom you actually like and using a little lube (like this one from the Men’s Health store) will keep your hookups sexy and safe.

Alisa Hrustic Senior Editor, Prevention.com Alisa Hrustic has spent her entire career interviewing top medical experts, interpreting peer-reviewed studies, and reporting on health, nutrition, weight loss, and fitness trends for outlets like Women’s Health and Men’s Health, where she both interned and worked full-time.

What I Learned From 10 Years of One-Night Stands

I waited until college to lose my virginity, an overwrought decision I made with my long-term conservative boyfriend. We practiced safe sex for a few months, and then the relationship fizzled around the same time as my conservative Protestantism. I completed my undergraduate education with a string of whiskey-soaked hookups, with that dramatic song that often finds its way into cell phone carrier commercials blaring in my head: “Freedooom, freedooom, talkin’ ’bout freedo-o-om!”

I figured I’d settle down shortly after that, but instead, I entered a decade of mini-relationships, casual flings, and plenty of one-night stands. Today, my partner count is higher than my age, but I have zero regrets-rather, I’m brimming with knowledge about what works for me in bed, not to mention a heap of great stories, like hotel sex with a C-list celebrity and my night with the visiting Tantric practitioner.

What I don’t have: STIs or any unintended pregnancies! Proving that, aside from any messy emotional stuff, behaving like what less-evolved humans would call a slut can be consequence-free-as long as you’re safe. But in addition to the obvious sex-ed stuff-get the HPV vaccine, always use a condom, get tested on the regular-I’ve learned some valuable sexual health lessons from the notches on my bedpost. Here, some hard(ha)-earned wisdom about safe sex. (For another woman’s take, check out Sex Advice I Wish I Knew in My 20s.)

Partner #3: Demanding safe sex is YOUR responsibility.

“Why don’t you trust me?” is an actual thing an actual, regular hook-up said to me, in a frustrated tone, whilst trying to convince me we didn’t need condoms now that we’d been sleeping together for a few weeks. Which is insulting, obviously, but also baffling: Why should he trust me? Shouldn’t he be concerned that I could unknowingly give him gonorrhea, which would lead to swollen testicles, gross discharge, and pain while peeing? (Note: Here’s How to Talk to Him About Your STI Status.) This was an important life lesson: Like walking home alone at night, STDs are just not as terrifying to (many) men as they are to women. (Fair: Symptoms are generally less debilitating and more easily treated in guys, plus it’s easier for us to lose our fertility.) Bottom line: You need to be the one looking out for your own sexual health.

Partner #20: If he hates condoms, he might just be wearing the wrong size.

This guy begrudgingly wore condoms because he didn’t, in fact, want either of us to die (reminder: STIs literally can kill you), but he would always grimace when it went on and complain about how they made him lose wood. Homeboy was 6’4 and well-endowed, yet he had never considered that maybe condoms felt like too-tight rubber bands because they were, in fact, too tight. He was wearing the wrong damn size. I made him pick up Magnums and became his new favorite sex partner ever.

Partner #1: Good guys understand that birth control is a shared burden.

Back in the days before health insurers had to cover the pill (#gobama!), my oral contraceptives cost about $30 a month-kind of a lot for a poor college student. My then-boyfriend, recognizing that an accidental pregnancy would involve us both, would split the cost with me. Similarly, I always expect guys to buy their own condoms and have them at the ready in their apartments. Condoms are expensive and, unlike Carrie Bradshaw in the pilot, I don’t feel an obligation to carry a string of them in my purse. That said…

Partner #14: Carry a condom in your wallet.

Just keep an eye on the expiration date, and occasionally give the package a squeeze to make sure the bubble of air is still in there (that means it’s sealed). Oh my god, that was great vacation sex. (P.S. Epic Vacation Sex at Home is possible!)

Partner #9: Always pee before and after sex. Always.

One particular gent really enjoyed cuddling-so much so that when I tried to get up to tiptoe to the bathroom, he playfully pulled me back down, locking me in those big hot muscular arms. I went with it, but let me tell you, I really came to regret not flushing out the bacteria pushed up into my urinary tract.

Partner #26: Disclosure isn’t a sexual death sentence.

I was half-naked in bed with a new guy I really liked, one I could picture myself dating and potentially getting serious with. “I have something awkward to tell you,” he said, sitting up. “I’ve never had any symptoms but I tested positive for herpes. I’m on medication so it’s really hard to transmit, but, yeah.”

We didn’t have sex that night because I wanted time to chew it over and do my own research. And yeah, I was a little freaked out, but I also really admired the respect and honesty he showed when he could have just not told me. A few weeks later he turned out to be a total jerk, but hey, at least we didn’t break up over his herpes.

Partner #4: Your pharmacist is your friend.

One supremely hungover Saturday, I was waiting in line to pick up my birth control-I had to start a new pack the next day. In that groggy, sludge-like way, I was trying to piece together exactly what had happened the night before: I’d woken up with an equally hungover bro in my bed and a condom wrapper on the floor, but I wasn’t positive how it all had gone down, which is especially nerve-wracking considering I was at the tail end of my no-pills week. Did I need to see a doctor? Who’d see me on a Saturday, anyway? (Is this one of the 13 Questions You’re Too Embarassed to Ask Your Ob-Gyn?)

Then I reached the front of the line, and a lightbulb went off: pharmacist! A consultation desk! I could ask this nice lady if she thought I needed Plan B or not! In that case, she said no and had me just pop the Saturday pill from the end of my new pack for extra insurance.

  • By Amanda Dennis

She’s quick to highlight the risks of using the withdrawal method. I hadn’t heard pre-ejaculate referred to since I was a reader of teenage magazines, which were obsessed with it, but Noble cites a study indicating that sperm is present in 41% of samples. Noble also mentions a patient who had never had penetrative sex and yet became pregnant through contact with pre-ejaculate.

Luke, 25, told me a similar story. “Unwanted pregnancy has happened to me twice. The first time, the first relationship I was in, I got a girl pregnant from using the pull-out method,” he says. “It was through the magic of pre-come. It was quite stressful as a 17-year-old.” The second time he made a girl pregnant was due to a defective coil. “It’s made me massively more careful now.” Noble says that most women are happy on Microgynon 30, the default contraceptive that the NHS offers, and, though she admits there can be some side effects, these might be bearable considering the alternative. “Pregnancy is also life-altering,” she says. “I want my patients to get the most effective contraception that is acceptable to them. I take hormonal contraception and am happy to recommend all hormonal and long-acting reversible contraceptions to friends and family.”

Many of the women I interviewed expressed regret at the fact that they had used the withdrawal method or had unprotected sex when they were younger. Elise, for instance, says, “There’s no excuse for being so stupid and I don’t know why I did it.” Jane, a 32-year-old civil servant, caught chlamydia when she was 19. “I have never felt so dirty,” she says. “I wish I’d used a condom. True, they make sex less spontaneous, but I’d swap that for an internal examination and accompanying swabs, quite frankly.”

There’s a palpable sense of embarrassment from those who feel that the unprotected sex they had was a result of carelessness. Several of my friends avoid the pill because of concerns about weight gain, despite the fact that studies reveal it to be minimal. Others, like Harriet, find the mood swings unbearable. Having had an abortion and been fitted with the implant, she finally had it removed and went back to relying on the pull-out method. Earlier this year the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended that young women should be allowed to keep a supply of the morning-after pill at home in case they need it. At the moment you can purchase only one pill at a time, but the British Pregnancy Advisory Service has argued that allowing women to buy packets of pills will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies. In the same report, Nice also recommended that health professionals not be too quick to prescribe the contraceptive pill, and to make other long-acting methods available to all young women.

So has the pill liberated us? On the one hand, I am of course relieved that I can have regular sex and not get pregnant. But on the other, after speaking to so many women who would rather use withdrawal because of the side effects, I agree with Grigg-Spall that we have become blindly accepting of its use. “It’s very difficult to criticise publicly,” she says. “Sexual liberation has trumped other kinds of liberation. We’ve basically linked hormonal birth control with sexual liberation, which is interesting because many women experience a negative impact on their sexual libido. And that is apparently fine.”

Grigg-Spall points out that there has been a long history in the women’s movement of ambivalence towards the pill, but that objections have been sidelined. “The pharma industry has a real grip. We’ve been led to believe that the choices women have are hormonal birth control or pregnancy and nothing in between. “Women having unprotected sex, relying on withdrawal – they should see that as a warning sign that we’re not doing enough.

Harri Wright, 25, exams officer, in a long-term relationship

Harri Wright: ‘Pulling out is our main method of contraception.’ Photograph: Felicity McCabe for the Guardian

I’ve had unprotected sex probably hundreds of times. I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for eight years, and more often than not we don’t use any form of contraception. I had been on and off many different kinds of pill – because of moving around during my university years I wasn’t able to settle on one. The hormones always made me feel a bit weird and later on I started experiencing nausea. In the end my partner and I were happy for me to stop taking the pill. We’ve never consistently used condoms as neither of us like the feel of them.

Pulling out is our main method of contraception. I keep an eye on my cycle and we avoid peak times or use a condom. We would prefer to plan a pregnancy, but a surprise wouldn’t be the end of the world. We wouldn’t have made the decision for me to come off the pill if we didn’t feel we could handle the repercussions.

Jess Tyrer, 23, travel advisor

Jess Tyrer: ‘Naive as it sounds now, I didn’t really have any worries about STDs or pregnancy.’ Photograph: Felicity McCabe for the Guardian

As a teenager I was vigilant about my sexual health, but after a couple of years, my friends and I became more lax with contraception. We were being irresponsible and testing our limits.

I’ve had unprotected sex quite a few times, and I used the pull-out method with my former partner. Looking back, I don’t think we even discussed it. Naive as it sounds now, I didn’t really have any worries about STDs or pregnancy. I knew that neither of us had any STDs, and with other people, if we did have unprotected sex I always went to the GUM clinic.

Unprotected sex happens for several reasons. It may be that you don’t want to stop to put a condom on, sometimes you may be embarrassed to ask your partner, or they may think that you have an IUD or are on the pill. Obviously if you have been drinking, that increases the risk.

I think I’m more mature now. I sort of want to go back and shake the younger me and make her see sense.

Emma Alfonso, 26, business owner, single

Emma Alfonso: ‘Condoms are disgusting and sometimes funny, and no one wants to feel those emotions when having sex.’ Photograph: Felicity McCabe for the Guardian

I’ve had unprotected sex with five different men, three of whom I was in a relationship with. The other two were casual.

It starts when you are a teenager and your loving boyfriend suggests you don’t use a condom, because he’ll lose sensitivity. You, being the cool, chilled out kind of girl you’re desperately trying to be, go with it. Once you’ve done it once and survived, you lose the fear.

Condoms are disgusting and sometimes funny, and no one wants to feel those emotions when having sex. No matter how you colour, flavour or add little ribs and dots “for her pleasure”, condoms are a mood killer.

The pill is a pain to keep track of and has caused me and my friends horrible side effects from headaches and acne to weight gain and mood swings. Similarly the contraceptive injection turned me into a “psycho bitch from hell”, according to my boyfriend. Then there was the coil. I was one of the 0.1% that managed to get up the duff anyway with it in. Not that I am complaining, my daughter is a delight.

Many people would judge me for having unprotected sex but it is a risk I take in the same way I don’t always use sunscreen, and I binge drink. Having unprotected sex is one thing, but not getting checked and having unprotected sex when you’re not sure whether you are “clean” or not is quite another.

• Some names have been changed.

Are you tracking your sexual activity in Clue?

Casual sex. Hooking up. Getting lucky. Whatever you choose to call it, sex that happens between people who are not in a monogamous relationship can be a natural, healthy form of sexual expression. But as with any type of sexual activity, it’s important to take steps to protect your physical and emotional health. Here’s a step-by-step guide to staying safe when you’re getting lucky.

1. Commit to safer sex—not “safe” sex

A sexually transmitted infection (STI) is an infection caused by bacteria, viruses, or parasites, which can be passed between partners during sexual activity.

The truth is, no form of sex that involves another person is 100% safe, including sex that does not involve penetration (1).

But while you may not be able to completely eliminate your chances of contracting an STI, practicing “safer sex” through the use of barrier methods (like condoms, gloves, and dental dams) can significantly lower this risk (2).

2. Use a barrier method

While there are many contraceptive options for reducing risk of pregnancy, barrier methods are the only contraceptive options that also reduce risk for STIs (3).

Barrier methods include:

  • external condoms (sometimes called “male condoms”)

  • internal condoms (sometimes called “female” condoms)

  • latex or nitrile gloves

  • dental dams

Internal and external condoms work by providing a physical barrier that prevents each partner’s genitals and body fluids from coming into contact with the other partner’s body (4).

It’s especially important to use a barrier method to protect yourself and your partner against STIs if either of you is unsure of your STI status, or if one or both partners are also having sex with someone else (1,3).

3. Be prepared

When you’re having sex with a new partner, barrier methods need to be used consistently and correctly to maximize your protection against STIs—so it’s smart to have some with you at all times (4).

4. Get regular sexual health check-ups—at least every year

While barrier methods do provide protection against most STIs, they provide only limited protection against STIs that are spread via skin-to-skin contact, such as the herpes virus and human papillomavirus (HPV). This is because the condom (or glove or dental dam) may not completely cover all of the skin that contains infection (4).

That’s one reason why it’s important to have regular sexual health check-ups and STI screenings—try to get tested for gonorrhea or chlamydia every year (5). Another reason to get checked, is that it’s possible to have an STI but not notice any symptoms. STIs with no noticeable symptoms can still be passed on to sexual partners, and if left untreated, they can pose a long-term risk to your health and fertility.

STIs that are often without symptoms in women and people with cycles:

  • Chlamydia

  • Gonorrhea

  • Herpes

  • HIV

  • HPV

  • Trichomoniasis

Visiting a healthcare provider and getting tested allows you to quickly identify any issues and get appropriate treatment if needed.

5. Get vaccinations for hep A, hep B, and HPV

Vaccinations are available to protect against hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV (6). Hepatitis A and hepatitis B are viral infections of the liver that can be transmitted via sexual activity. The CDC recommends that all infants (7), as well as people with certain risk factors, be vaccinated against hepatitis A and hepatitis B (6).

HPV is the most common STI worldwide, affecting more than 290 million people each year (8). There are many strains of HPV, and some strains can cause genital warts or lead to cancer. In the United States, a vaccine is available that protects against nine strains of HPV which can cause harm. Ideally, this vaccine should be administered to adolescents aged 11 to 12, but can be given to adults if they haven’t had it already, or people with certain risk factors (9,10).

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6. Check in with your partner

You can’t tell if a person has an STI just by looking at them (or even just by looking at their genitals). In fact, it’s possible to have an STI without having symptoms, so be aware that you or your potential sexual partner could have an STI—and pass it on—without knowing (4).

This is why communication is key when it comes to safer sex. If you’re planning to have sex with someone (even if it’s just once), it’s important to have a conversation about your sexual health. This may seem unsexy or embarrassing, but it doesn’t have to be awkward.

One idea is to begin the conversation by sharing your own sexual health history, which can help your partner feel comfortable enough to share their details. This is also a good time to set up expectations about contraceptive use.

Sexual health questions to ask your partner:

  • Have you had any STIs before? If yes, which ones? Did you get them treated?

  • When were you last tested for STIs?

  • Do you usually use a condom when you have sex?

  • Have you ever shared needles with someone for tattoos, piercings, or shooting drugs?

  • Are you having (unprotected) sex with anyone else?

  • Do any of your other current partners have any STIs?

Tip: it’s usually easier to have this conversation before things get hot and heavy.

7. Have a back-up plan for contraception and STI exposure

In a perfect world of casual sex, we’d all use a barrier method correctly, consistently, every single time. But sex doesn’t always go exactly as planned—sometimes the condom breaks, sometimes people neglect to use a condom altogether. It’s a good idea to make a back-up plan ahead of time, so that you’ll know what to do if things do go awry.

If pregnancy is a possibility for you and you do not want to become pregnant, your back-up plan should include emergency contraception. The most commonly used option is the emergency contraception pill, that can be taken either up to 72 hours or up to 120 hours after having unprotected sex, depending on the dose and active ingredient (12). This option is also known as the “morning after pill”.

The copper intrauterine device, or copper IUD can also be used as emergency contraception. This option has been shown to be a highly effective form of emergency contraception, and can be left in place long-term for continued use as a contraceptive (13). The downside is that the IUD must be placed by healthcare provider, so this option may not be easily accessible to everyone.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) refers to taking medications to prevent HIV after possible exposure to the virus (such as unprotected sex with a person who is HIV-positive). PEP must be started within 72 hours of possible exposure, requires a prescription from a healthcare provider, and must be taken for 28 days. While PEP is effective at preventing HIV, it is not 100% effective, so it should be reserved for emergency situations and should not be used in place of a barrier method (14).

A healthcare provider can help you decide if PEP is right for you. If you are planning on having sex with someone who is HIV-positive, consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications, which can be taken daily to decrease the risk of contracting HIV if exposed (14).

8. Check in with your emotions and mental state

Finally, know that taking care of your emotional health is just as important as your physical health. Non-committed sex can be a great way to learn about your own wants and needs. Some people find that they enjoy this form of sexual expression, while other people may find that they don’t.

Remember to check in with yourself before, during, and after sex. Make sure that you are making decisions that are right for you—those that are consensual and make you feel confident, happy, and fulfilled.

People are finally, blessedly starting to realize there’s absolutely nothing wrong with having casual sex. Yay for arriving in the 21st century. If it’s what feels good for your body and your mind, you’re well within your rights to explore what it feels like to connect your genitals with different people via one-night stands and any other form of sexual experimentation. But even as you revel in the frivolity of a fling, you have to be willing to remember that no-strings-attached still comes with all the typical dangers of sex—and then some.

The less invested you are in the sex, the more you have to be on top of protecting yourself, and part of that involves learning the truth behind prevalent casual hookup myths. Here, ob/gyns debunk six of the most common ones.

Myth #1: You can “tell” when someone has a sexually transmitted infection.

No, you can’t. “There are a number of sexually transmitted infections that have outward signs, but those outward signs requires inspection of the genitals—that’s not something one can routinely count on during a sexual encounter,” board-certified ob/gyn Antonio Pizarro, M.D., tells SELF. Busting out a magnifying glass to evaluate the goods before getting down to business isn’t exactly common.

But even if you were to get up close and personal with someone’s below-the-belt area on the hunt for any STI symptoms, coming up empty-handed wouldn’t necessarily mean they’re in the clear. There are certain STIs people can have without knowing it, aka they don’t necessarily present with symptoms in every person. Take herpes, for example. “It’s common to have asymptomatic shedding, which means somebody is contagious and able to give the virus to someone even though they don’t have an obvious outbreak,” Alyssa Dweck, M.D., assistant clinical professor of obstetrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine and co-author of V is For Vagina, tells SELF.

Myth #2: Condoms are all you need to truly be safe.

“Condoms help reduce the risk of most infections, not all,” says Pizarro. Specifically, condoms help ward off STIs that are passed via bodily fluids, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, but they don’t do jack to stop the passage of things like herpes and HPV, which only need skin-to-skin contact to move from person to person. That’s why bringing up your STI history is an important, if uncomfortable, part of the one-night stand process.

Myth #3: Condoms are just for the penetration part of a hookup.

You can in fact catch or pass STIs when enjoying things besides intercourse, so it’s important to stay safe during all sex acts. “It only takes one time to get that infection,” says Dweck. “So many young women come in and are absolutely flabbergasted to find out you can get genital herpes from someone with an active cold sore on their mouth giving oral sex to them,” says Dweck. There are condoms for penis-focused oral, and you can lay dental dams over your vagina or someone else’s to keep you both safe. “I can’t stress enough how important it is to protect yourself,” says Pizarro.

Myth #4: If you’re with a guy and he pulls out, you’re golden.

Gyns warn that pulling out isn’t a good idea, in most instances—and that’s especially true during a casual encounter. It doesn’t guard very well against pregnancy—22 out of every 100 women who use this method typically will get pregnant each year—and it doesn’t do a single thing to prevent against sexually transmitted infections, which can be carried in pre-ejaculatory fluid.

Myth #5: Asking about someone’s STI status will kill the mood.

Instead of being a buzzkill, checking in with each other about this can actually make you feel freer and more able to focus on enjoying yourself. You’re both adults about to engage in some very adult practices, so just ovary up and put the discussion on the table. “There’s no reliable way to be sure someone isn’t infected, all you have is their word,” says Pizarro. “You need to be on the most honest level possible and simply ask, ‘Have you been tested? What’s your status?'” It’s the mature, smart, safe thing to do. If they freak out or get offended, it might be a clue that they’re not the best one-night stand candidate around.

Myth #6: You’re a paranoid freak if you text your friends pertinent details about where you’re going and who you’re doing.

Not to sound like your mom after a Law & Order: SVU marathon, but your life isn’t a game. “It’s so important for patients to take their personal safety into their own hands,” says Pizarro. “Letting people know where you are is crucial, so is having very clear boundaries, especially in the context of casual interactions with others you don’t know that well.” If things start happening that you feel uncomfortable with, or if your intuition starts setting off warning bells, don’t feel ashamed to put a stop to things and leave, or ask this person to go if you’re at your place.

Myth #7: All you need to be aware of is your physical health.

“We probably underestimate the emotional tolls one-night stands can take,” says Dweck. “No judgment, just make sure you’re emotionally equipped to deal with them.” Not everyone is, and even that can change depending on where you are in your life. With that, go forth and have plenty of one-night stands. Or don’t. Really, whatever you want to do is right.

You may also like: Try These 8 Things To Have Better Orgasms

Sally, 29, lives and works in London

I’d never dabbled in casual sex until Tinder. I was a serial monogamist, moving from one long-term relationship to the next. I had friends who’d indulged in one-night stands and was probably guilty of judging them a little, of slut-shaming. I saw the negatives – that merry-go-round of hook-ups and guys never calling again. Then, in February 2013, my partner dumped me. We’d only been together eight months but I was serious, deeply in love, and seven months of celibacy followed. By summer, I needed something to take the pain away. Big loves don’t come every day. Instead of “boyfriend hunting”, searching for an exact copy of my ex, why not get out there, enjoy dating, have a good laugh – and, if I felt a connection, some good sex too? I could be married in five years and I’d never experimented before. This was my chance to see what all the fuss was about.

There’s a hierarchy of seriousness on the dating sites. At the top is something like Guardian Soulmates or Match – the ones you pay for. At the lower end are the likes of OKCupid or PlentyOfFish (POF) which are free, more casual and less “Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?” I started with OKCupid but the problem was that any creep can message you out of the blue – I quickly moved to Tinder because both parties need to indicate they’re attracted before either can get in touch.

It’s playful. You put in your pictures and add some information if you can be bothered. I started with one line “Single Canadian girl in London”. It’s superficial, based purely on physical attraction, but that’s what I was looking for. You go through what’s there, if you see someone you like, you swipe right. If he swipes you too, it lights up like a game, then asks if you want to keep playing.

My first Tinder date was with someone I’d seen before on OKCupid – the same faces crop up on all these sites. “Amsterdam” was a hip, scenester guy with an amazing job. He knew all the cool restaurants, the best places and, as he was only in London occasionally, things moved faster than they should have. After just a few dates, he booked us a night in a fancy Kensington hotel. I met him at a pub first – liquid courage – and knew the second I saw him that my heart wasn’t in it. The connection wasn’t there for me. But he was a sweet guy who was paying £300 for the room and, though he’d never have forced me, it was the first time in my life I’ve felt obliged to have sex with someone. Not a great start.

But Tinder is addictive. You find yourself browsing and swiping and playing on. The possibilities pile up. I’m ashamed to say it but I sometimes went on three or four dates a week. It could be to a bar around the corner, or somewhere fabulous – Berner’s Tavern, the Chiltern Firehouse. Most of the guys I met were looking for sex, rarely were they after a relationship.

With Tinder, I discovered what it could be to have sex then walk away without a backward glance. That was liberating. Sex didn’t have to be wrapped up with commitment, and “will he?/won’t he?”. It could just be fun. Sometimes I had nothing in common with the guy but there was a sexual spark. “NottingHill” was one of those. In “real life”, he was the ultimate knob. He didn’t fit with my politics, my views, I’d never have introduced him to my friends. In bed, though, he was passionate, eager, energetic. For a while, we’d hook up every six weeks. “French Guy” was another positive – I found out what the fuss about French lovers was all about.

But there were a lot of negatives. It could feel … seedy. Where do you go for sex? I didn’t feel comfortable taking someone back to my place, as he’d then know where I lived, and I live alone. If we went back to his, I’d have no idea what to expect. With “Aldgate East”, we had to walk through a pub to get to the bedroom and I swear there was a train going through the lounge.

You’re trusting people you barely know. After a few dates with “Manchester”, I agreed to visit his hotel room next time he was in London. I’d always been diligent about practising safe sex, but he had trouble getting in the mood with the condoms and went against my wishes at the last moment. The next morning I wrote him an angry text. He replied that he would wire me £40 for the morning-after pill. I’ve never felt so violated.

Most often, though, I didn’t have sex at all. Of the 57 men I met in a year, I probably had sex with about 10%-15%. I generally left home open to the possibility but found, when my date showed up, that I didn’t want to see him again, let alone see him naked. There was no spark, or he was dull or gross or just too pushy. One date chased me to the tube trying to shove his tongue down my throat. Another – who started promisingly – changed after his second drink, spilling a glass of wine on me without apologising, and cutting me off each time I spoke. It can be harder to walk away when you’ve met through Tinder. When you’re matched, you can spend days – in some cases, weeks, months – exchanging messages, texting and working yourselves up, filling in the gaps with your imagination. By the time you meet, you’ve both invested so much, you’ve raised your hopes and his.

In some ways Tinder can even work against you finding a partner. I met one guy who was a likely contender for a boyfriend. “Eton” was hot, hilarious, he spoke five languages – everything on my wish list. Our dates weren’t fancy – we probably spent £10 between the two of us – but each time I met him, my cheeks would literally hurt from so much smiling.

We went on five dates without sex, just a kiss and a hug. Then one night, he arrived at my place stinking of booze and likely high on something. The sex was over in seconds – a massive anticlimax after such a build-up. We never saw each other again. If we’d met another way, that could have been a blip, an awkward beginning. On Tinder everything’s disposable, there’s always more, you move on fast. You start browsing again, he starts browsing – and you can see when anyone was last on it. If five days pass with no messaging between you, it’s history.

At times, Tinder seemed less like fun, more like a gruelling trek across an arid desert of small talk and apathetic texting. More than once, I deleted the app, but always came back to it. It was more addictive than gambling. I never dreamed I’d end up dating 57 men in less than a year.

I’m off it now. Four months ago, I met a man – “Hackney Boy” – through Tinder and at first, I carried on seeing him and dating others. After a while, he wanted to get more serious. He’s older than me and didn’t want to waste time with Tinder any more. I had one last fling with “French Guy”, then made a decision to stop.

What did Tinder give me? I had the chance to live the Sex and the City fantasy. It has made me less judgmental and changed my attitude to monogamy too. I used to be committed to it – now I think, if it’s just sex, a one-night hook-up, where’s the harm? I’m more open to the idea of swinging, open relationships, which is something I’d never have expected.

At the same time, it has taught me the value of true connection. It’s really obvious when you have it, and usually, you don’t. I hate to say it, but sex in a relationship beats casual sex. Yes, the rush of meeting someone new – new bed, new bodies – can, occasionally, be great. More often though, you find yourself yearning for a nice partner who loves you and treats you well.

And 14% of Americans say they never practice safe sex

In the age of Tinder hookups, it likely comes as no surprise that 35% of Americans have had a one-night stand. However, are these brusque sexual encounters safe? Further data from YouGov reveals that one in four men have had unprotected sex with their one-night stands, as well as 14% of women.

However, it isn’t just during trysts that Americans aren’t using protection: 14% of respondents say they never practice safe sex.

One of the many common reasons given for not regularly using condoms is that they dull sensation and sexual pleasure. While perspectives on this assertion range dramatically, 16% of US adults have forgone a condom because their partner didn’t like how it felt.

Numerous reports show that the number of individuals infected with STDs is on the rise, especially for young adults. One of the likely sources of this influx is unawareness that many infections can be spread orally, including some of the most prevalent types of STDs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea. 34% of Americans never use protection during oral sex.

On the bright side, 31% of US adults always practice safe sex. However, these numbers fluctuate in regards to level of education and age. 25% of those with only a high school education always practice safe sex, compared to 37% of individuals with a post-grad degree.

Similarly, 26% of Americans in a lower income bracket—people whose income in under $40,000— always practice safe sex, while 40% of those who make over $80,000 do.

The correlation between safe sex and income may in part be due to how difficult it is to access affordable birth control for many women – especially for undocumented individuals, or those who don’t have suitable insurance coverage. In fact, 74% of US women do not currently use any form of birth control (excluding condoms, but including the pill, the patch, an IUD, etc)—this includes 52% of millennials.

Aside from traditional forms of birth control, there has long been debate over the legitimacy of the “pull out method” as a viable option for reducing the risk of pregnancy. Regardless of its effectiveness, a third of US adults, 33%, have used this technique.

Full survey results available here

This Woman’s One-Night Stand Story Will Leave You Inspired

I met HIV advocate Kamaria Laffrey in 2012 when I worked as a sexual health educator for teens. Laffrey spoke at an event we both attended, where she talked about her life leading up to her HIV diagnosis.

I was very intrigued by her courage to reveal her HIV status along with the challenges she faced living with the virus — a story which many people living with HIV are scared to tell. This is Laffrey’s story on how she contracted HIV and how it changed her life.

A life-changing decision

While sexual attitudes have changed a lot over the past few decades, there are still plenty of expectations, disappointments, and emotions that go along with sex, especially when it comes to the casual one-night stand. For many women, the consequences of a one-night stand can sometimes lead to guilt, embarrassment, and even shame.

But for Laffrey, a one-night stand changed much more in her life than her emotions. It had an effect on her forever.

During her college years, Laffrey recalls having attractive friends, but always feeling slightly out of place. One night, after her roommate left to hang out with a guy, Laffrey decided that she, too, should have some fun.

He was a guy she had met at a party the previous week. Excited about his call, Laffrey didn’t require much for him to sell himself. An hour later, she was outside waiting for him to pick her up.

“I remember standing outside to wait for him … I noticed a pizza delivery truck across the road with its headlights on … that vehicle sat there and sat there,” she remembers. “This strange sense came over me and I knew I had time to run back to my room and forget the whole thing. But again, I had a point to prove. It was him and I went.”

That night, Laffrey and her new friend party-hopped, going to different houses to hang out and drink. As the night dwindled down, they went back to his place and, as the saying goes, one thing led to another.

Up to this point, Laffrey’s story is far from unique. It should come as no great surprise that lack of condom use and drinking are both common occurrences among college youth. In a study on condom use and heavy drinking among college students, 64 percent of participants reported they didn’t always use a condom during sex. The study also included the influence of alcohol on decision-making.

A life-changing diagnosis

But back to Laffrey: Two years after her one-night stand, she met a great guy and fell in love. She had a child with him. Life was good.

Then, a few days after giving birth, her doctor called her back in to the office. They sat her down and revealed that she was HIV-positive. It’s routine practice for doctors to give mothers-to-be a test for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). But Laffrey never expected to get this result. After all, she’d only had unprotected sex with two people in her life: the guy she met two years prior in college and the father of her child.

“I felt like I failed at life, was going to die, and there was no turning back,” remembers Kamaria. “I was worried about my daughter, no one ever loving me, never getting married, and all my dreams being pointless. In that moment at the doctor’s office, I had started planning my funeral. Whether from HIV or taking my own life, I didn’t want to face disappointing my parents or being associated with the stigma.”

Her baby’s father tested negative for HIV. That’s when Laffrey faced the stunning realization that her one-night stand was the source. The guy in the pizza truck had left her with more sorrow than she could ever imagine.

“People ask how I know it was him: Because he was the only person I had been with — without protection — besides my baby’s father. I know my child’s father got tested and he is negative. He has also had other children since my child with other women and they are all negative.

A positive voice for HIV awareness

While Laffrey’s story is one of many, her point is incredibly powerful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that in the United States alone, there are 1.1 million people living with the HIV virus, and 1 out of 7 people don’t know they have it.

It’s possible for some babies to avoid contracting HIV even if the mother is HIV-positive. After several HIV tests and close monitoring, it was determined that Laffrey’s child was not HIV-positive. Today, Laffrey is working to instill self-esteem in her daughter, something she says plays a big part in sexual health. “I emphasize how she should love herself first and not expect anyone to show her how to be loved,” she says.

Before meeting HIV face-to-face, Laffrey didn’t think much about STDs. In that way, she’s probably like many of us. “My only concern with STIs before I was diagnosed was as long as I didn’t feel any symptoms then I should be fine. I knew that there were some that had no symptoms, but I thought only ‘dirty’ people got those,” she says.

Laffrey is now an advocate for HIV awareness and shares her story on many platforms. She’s moving forward with her life. While she’s no longer with the father of her child, she’s married someone who’s a great dad and dedicated husband. She continues to tell her story in the hope of saving women’s self-esteem — sometimes even their lives.

Alisha Bridges has battled with severe psoriasis for over 20 years and is the face behind Being Me in My Own Skin, a blog which highlights her life with psoriasis. Her goals are to create empathy and compassion for those who are least understood through transparency of self, patient advocacy, and healthcare. Her passions include dermatology and skin care as well as sexual and mental health. You can find Alisha on Twitter and Instagram.

Let’s talk discharges and your V’JJ…

What are vaginal discharges?

Vaginal discharges are fluids that are made by glands inside the vagina and cervix. The purpose of this fluid is that it plays an important house keeping role in a female’s reproductive system, it carries away dead cells and bacteria. This helps keep your vagina clean and helps protect it from infections.

Discharges various in colours, smells and amount on different people. There are certain colour and smell of discharge especially if your vagina itches after you urinate, this can indicate that there’s something wrong with your vagina and that you need to see a doctor.

DID YOU KNOW?

LADIES, a clear, elastic discharge that looks slightly like raw egg whites\ is totally normal. So don’t stress if you see this in your underwear. But if it’s cottage cheese-y, yellow, grayish-green, watery, or more than you usual, then yes, see a doctor.

SAFE SEX TIP:

YOU claim you’ve been tested for everything, but did you know that different doctors test for different STD’s? So make sure you know what you’re actually being tested for! Ask questions while being tested and know what is what.

Question:

Dear Lolita Frikkadel,

I had a one night stand and we didn’t use a condom.

I’ve been freaking out since it happened last weekend and don’t know what to do. I just met the guy that same day, and we were having a jol at a friend’s place and before I knew it we were in my friend’s parents car doing it.

I was totally out of it. I would have never done this if I hadn’t been drinking and smoking. He didn’t rape me or anything like that though, I wanted it. I’m just worried that we didn’t use a condom. What now?

– From Missy

Lolita Frikkadel: Girlfriend, do not panic. That’s not going to help you at all! You should be worried that you didn’t use a condom, but also about a few other things.

But first things first, you need to stay calm and try to keep you head on your shoulders. So listen up Missy, you need to make sure that you always use a condom in the future – and that this never happens again.

That means not relying on the guy to have one on him, but to carry your own condoms. Depending on the guy to have protection is so old school – and not in a cool way.

♨️ برای تقویت اسـپرم با آب داغ حمام نکنید. بهترین دما برای تولید اسـپرم بیشتر در بدن مرد، حدود ۳۴.۵ درجه است که تقریبا ۲ درجه از دمای ایده آل بدن کمتر است. 👇👀 لینک عضویت 👀 👇 🆔 @zendegi_zenoni_condom @zendegi_zenoni_condom #زنون #کاندوم_زنون #کاندوم #فروش_کاندوم #condom #zenon 🆔 @zendegi_zenoni_condom

A post shared by zendegi zenoni – زندگی زنونی (@zendegi_zenoni_condom) on Jul 18, 2017 at 11:25pm PDT

Don’t place yourself in a difficult position where you question why you’ve done something, or someone; by drinking too much, or smoking God knows what – I’m assuming we’re talking about drugs here!

I do hope you are sure about the fact that you wanted to have sex and that this guy had your consent- and that this wasn’t rape.

You need to be aware of what is happening to you and your body at all times, and be in charge of what happens to you sexually, and how far it goes. I’m not saying be a party pooper and don’t have a drink at the party, but know your limits, girlfriend. And watch your drink, don’t take the chance of having some guy pop in a pill, date rape drug, or whatever in there so he can have his way with you at the house party.

Now you also need to deal with the situation at hand – which is that you had unprotected sex with a stranger and doing so exposed yourself to the chance of getting pregnant, contracting a STD or even HIV.

I know it’s scary as hell, but it’s the truth, and if you are having sex with strangers you need to know what the consequence are. Being a grownup and doing grownup things come with serious consequences, so empower yourself with the knowledge to be safe in all circumstances.

Now, are you using another form of contraception such as the birth control pill, or a ring, implant, or so on?

That might protect your from getting pregnant, but not from things like STD’s and potential HIV infection. If you have unprotected sex, you could get the morning after pill at some pharmacies, and if you take it within 72 hours of having unprotected sex, it can prevent pregnancy.

Îmi doream o amintire frumoasa si artistica inainte de nastere,deci mam hotărât la o imagine extrem de colorată. 😊 😘 🌸 #bodyart#maternitate#gravidez#pictures#pregnant#37недель

A post shared by Lungo Natalie 💎 (@lungonatalie1525) on Jul 19, 2017 at 3:47am PDT

In your case, I would advise going to a doctor, gynecologist or Marie Stopes Clinic to get a pregnancy, STD and HIV test done. I know it’s scary, but it’s better to be safe rather than sorry.

Contact the Marie Stopes Clinic on 0800 11 77 85 and get educated and tested.

You need to make a promise to yourself that you will never ever place yourself in a scary situation like that again.

If you do feel unclear about what happened to you, call the Rape Crisis 24 hour crisis line – 021 447 9762 – at any time of the day or night and get some advice.

Lolita Frikkadel is here to answer all your sex questions.

If you have any questions, please email us at theyoungindependents.co.za

– Daily Voice

Categories: Education News Sex

Sex for one night

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