The 6 Hook Up Etiquette Questions No One Wants to Ask

Warning: #awkward ahead.

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To say casual sex is a new thing would be misleading. One night stands, hook-up apps,  few-time lovers and racy romps have been exercised with liberty since the dawn of time. However, the so-called current ‘hookup culture’ has made the act of getting it on with a stranger or an acquaintance more socially acceptable to talk about. Even so, there are some nitty-gritty parts about no-strings-attached sex that aren’t easy for anyone to talk about. And if you’ve always been hopping from one long-term relationship to another, the whole concept of sleeping around may feel foreign to you. What are the rules? What are the limitations? What should you talk about — and what is dangerous territory to trek?

No matter how seemingly-strange your questions may be, keeping an open line of communication is the key to a successful hook-up relationship, according to online couples therapist Dr. Sarah Schewitz. “Often, topics about hooking up are awkward or difficult to talk about because people start hooking up before they know each other well enough to be really open and vulnerable,” she explains. “It can also be uncomfortable due to the stigma out society places on talking about sex.”

Forget anyone else’s opinion but your own — and that person you’re ringing up tonight — and find some peace in answers from experts about hooking up. Since you never wanted to ask them in the first place, these might offer you some guidance for your next fling.

Do I have to wear a condom? What are the rules?

While there is no hard-fast regulation on how to use condoms in casual sex since you’re an adult, sex and relationship therapist Courtney Geter explains. However, using common sense and prioritizing your health will keep you safe — and free to keep on gettin’ it on. Because the nature of hooking up means you aren’t committed to one person and one person only, it’s safe to assume your partner could be sharing a bed with someone else. To protect yourself against sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), Geter suggests the using contraception. Even if you think you’re most likely clean, you can’t always be sure. “Keep in mind that many STIs are undetectable without a lab test. Meaning, your partner could have an infection though not have any outward symptoms. Therefore, your partner might not even know they have the STI,” she warns.

Though it definitely isn’t the best way to experience a 69 or have foreplay before the main act, Geter also says STIs can be spread through any sort of bodily function, and should be utilized for oral sex, anal sex, and even sex toy play. If you’d like to ride bareback, have a candid conversation with your hookup buddy. If you decide to sleep with one another only (even if you aren’t in a romantic relationship), both get tested and agree to the terms — you’re safe to go condom-free.

How do I tell her I want something more?

One of the most complicated parts about hooking up is allowing your body to get involved — but not inviting your heart to the party. Though some people are better at separating physical connections from emotional ones, it’s normal to have intimate feelings about an intimate partner. Even if you both lay your intentions down on the line when you start getting naked on the reg, developing feelings can change the dynamic of your relationship. If this happens, it’s okay — but don’t ignore it. And don’t have the ‘Um, I like you’ conversation in bed, Geter adds. She suggests asking your partner out for coffee or a drink and discuss what’s happening. In the best case scenario, she’ll share your sentiments, but be prepared if she doesn’t. “You need to be honest about what you are looking for and not looking for as well as respect if you choose to end the relationship if she declines,” she explains. “Be very clear about what you are willing and not willing to do as part of the relationship.”

How do I tell her I don’t want there to be something more?

Truth be told, you should have the DTR chat before you ever bump uglies, but if you’re a few booty-calls in and she’s wondering if the relationship is going somewhere, you need to pony up and be brave. It isn’t easy potentially breaking someone’s heart or spirit — but the alternative is worse. No one wants to be led on for months, only to be disappointed in the end. While Dr. Schewitz says many women are totally fine keeping things casual, many aren’t. “Don’t try to trick someone who might be looking for a relationship into thinking that’s something you are open to when the truth is you are not,” she urges. “By being open and honest about what you’re looking for from the start, you are much more likely to find someone who wants the same things.”

If you aren’t sure how to put it into (kind) words, here’s a recommendation from Dr. Schewitz on how to break it to her easily: “I’m excited to date but I don’t have the time or energy for a relationship right now, given that I am really focused on my career [or insert another reason here.] Are you open to casually dating and hooking up or are you looking for a relationship?”

How do I tell her what I like?

When you really need to finish, you need to take her from behind. Or, when you want to last longer, you prefer the control the missionary position gives you. You don’t mind a little biting or hair pulling, either. In a long-term relationship that’s built on trust and acceptance, it’s easy to direct your partner toward what turns you on. But with someone you just met? It can be tricky. Sexpert at Sssh.com, Coleen Singer encourages everyone to discuss their sexual tastes and fantasies with your hookup pal… but take it slow and keep it PG-13 to start. “These are good things to discuss via text messages prior to the hookup — but don’t get too explicit and definitely don’t say the words ‘anal’ or ‘fisting’ in these conversations if that is your thing,” she adds. When you’re in the act of sex, you can gently give cues like ‘harder’ or ‘faster’ or ‘just like that’ — but if you want to cross any lines, have the chat after or before. When in doubt, Singer shares, keep it vanilla so everyone is comfortable.

How do I tell her I’m sleeping with someone else? Or I want to?

This is another one of those things that should be presented on the playground before you dive in — but most of the time, a hookup relationship starts messy. Or rather, you are both keeping it casual and free-flowing, until someone meets another person they want to crawl into bed with. By definition, this is allowed — but not everybody is on board for this arrangement. While Dr. Schewitz suggests it is not 100 percent necessary to have this conversation since — technically — you aren’t exclusive, it is a nice gesture of respect to be honest. “It’s best to be direct, and tell her you’re not into being exclusive. You can say something like ‘you said something recently that makes me think you aren’t seeing anyone else and while I’m really enjoying spending time with you, I’m not in a place where I want to be exclusive with anyone. Is that ok with you?’,” she suggests.

Or, perhaps you’ve had a friends-with-benefits dynamic for a few months or whenever you’re in a dry spell. And now, you’ve met a person you think you could be serious with. It’s important to inform your hookup buddy of where your head (and frankly, your body) is at, so no mixed signals are sent.

How do I leave respectfully?

Sure, every muscle in your body might twitch post-coital, urging you to dash out the door — but you need to be clear with your hookup partner first. Geter suggests talking about how you’ll handle sleepovers or pillow talks before you strip down to your birthday suit. Not everyone wants to snuggle with someone they don’t intend to date — or more to the point, most people can’t handle it without getting attached. “Let them know you are interested in seeing them though can’t stay after or need to leave by a certain time. This avoids any awkward moments and states expectations prior to the sexual encounter,” she suggests.

Sharing what you enjoy sexually increases the pleasure of sex. If at all possible, I suggest this conversation prior to a sexual encounter with a partner. This ensures that you each are aware of each other’s likes, dislikes, and off-limit sexual acts. If you have an ongoing conversation outside of hooking up with each other, that is also a good time to bring up sexual interests. You could start the conversation by sharing your thought or interest or send your partner a picture of a sex toy of interest or article you found to gauge their interest and start a conversation. If during sex you or your partner is uncomfortable with anything, make a rule that either of you can say “no” or stop the sex and the other person will respect and comply.

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