Don’t Catch Feelings, Catch Strokes

written by Nilan July 31, 2017

This is the first of a four part series on dealing with Casual Sex. Part One covers taking the first steps in deciding if casual sex is right for you.

Casual sex

Illustration by Wren McDonald / Source: The New Yorker

Casual sex is like a business transaction. You show up. Do the deed. Then leave.

Let me start off by saying that not everybody is built for the casual sex life. Far too often, people mistake sex for intimacy and intimacy for romance. It doesn’t help that people refer to sex as “making love.” Though sex and love can be mutually exclusive, that doesn’t mean they will be for you. If you’re contemplating foregoing the relationship and keeping it NSA, make sure you’re emotionally and mentally prepared for the differences.

Be Honest With Yourself

The first step into making this transition is being honest with yourself. Casual sex can be physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy but requires a good deal of emotional detachment and an amount of self-awareness with which you may not be comfortable.

Look back at your past relationships; romantic, platonic, sexual, and interpersonal. In these relationships, you want to look back on a few things:

  1. How quickly do you form these relationships?
  2. How quickly did they become serious?
  3. Do you have a history of taking relationships more seriously than others involved?
  4. How prone are you to jealousy/paranoia?
  5. How do you handle relationships when they end?

If you can honestly tell yourself that you aren’t likely to: read further into your relationships than your partner; move too quickly from one relationship to another; or feel secure in yourself and your partner, I can say with a good amount of certainty that you may not be ready for this lifestyle, unless you are willing to make a good amount of change.

Casual sex is a relationship that you don’t treat like other relationships. Unlike the relationships we build with friends, significant others, coworkers, family, even people we aren’t close enough to deem anything but an acquaintance, casual sex partners are people you meet for a few moments, for a very specific purpose, then you go on about your lives like nothing happened. Even if that casual sex partner is someone you already have a relationship with, you have to be able to detach emotionally. If you can’t do that in healthy way, or you’re just too likely to catch feelings, don’t put yourself in a position to make it awkward or get hurt.

Be Honest With Your Partner

Now that you’ve had an honest conversation with yourself, and decided that you may be ready to move on to casual sex partners, you have to be willing to be honest with your partners. Though casual sex and intimacy aren’t necessarily linked, many people never experience a sexual relationship with anyone other than who they are emotionally tied to, so there’s a level of vulnerability when you meet someone through apps, like Scruff or Tinder, or meet someone in a casual setting, like at a club or a bar.

In a very small amount of time, you have to decide whether or not you trust someone enough to have sex then actually go through with it. Sometimes a physical attraction and a few hours, or minutes, getting to know a bit about them is enough to quiet your insecurities, but when it comes time to do the deed, that can all change.

We’ll talk more about dealing with fuck buddies later in the series, but for now, we’ll focus on compromise and consent. What’s important here is that you communicate fully, to your partner, exactly what you are and are not comfortable with doing. It’s a lot easier to establish those boundaries with a significant other than with a potential stranger and a lot easier to regret your decision, so it requires a bit more communication.

You can be into whatever you’re into, or as adventurous as you want, but don’t let the idea of casual sex mean you aren’t in control. If you aren’t comfortable with something, let it be known and be confident. Casual sex doesn’t mean doing  whatever, whenever, or whoever and throwing your values out the window. It just means being able to engage in sex without the weight of a commitment and the freedom to explore your own sexuality and fetishes.

That being said, trusting your gut and inhibitions is a good sign that you may not be ready to move to the next level of keeping it casual with a specific person. Trust that feeling. If you aren’t ready, you aren’t ready. Trying to force yourself to do something you honestly don’t want to do can end in disaster and probably isn’t even necessary. Though it may not seem like it, other people feel the exact same way and may be willing to take it slow. That doesn’t mean they want to make whatever you may develop into something serious, it just means they want to vet who they’ll be getting into bed with and you should do the same.

Bonus Tip: Someone who is under the influence cannot provide adequate consent. Unless you are in a controlled environment with two consenting adults who set clear boundaries beforehand, limit your consumption if you’re actively looking so that you are in a clear state of mind before any decisions are made. This goes for everybody, no matter your age, race, gender, sex, religion or sexuality.

That it’s for now. Come back tomorrow for Part Two, which will focus on steps the pros and cons of protected vs unprotected sex and how to prepare to ensure your safety is always in your hands. Until next time!

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