When I think back to sex education class in school, I mostly remember a lot of awkward diagrams and out of date educational videos from the 1970s. To say it left a lot to be desired, is the understatement of the century. Although we covered the basics of the "birds and the bees", when it came to casual sex and hooking up the general message was "Don't do it!" Although I hope sex ed class has changed a lot since I was a teen in the mid-90s, I'm not holding my breath. Most of what I know about casual sex (and sex in general) I've learned through personal experience.
From learning how to be comfortable in my own skin to dealing with those messy things called "feelings," here are a few things I really wish someone had told me about casual sex.
1. Casual sex happens and there's nothing shameful or wrong about it. When I think back to my high-school sex ed classes, the message was always very clear: "Don't have sex, but if you are going to do it, make sure you love the person and are in a relationship." While that's decent advice, it's not necessarily realistic. Sex in a relationship is great, but life doesn't always work out that way. Maybe you haven't found "the one" or maybe you're not looking. In the meantime, as long as you're playing safe and not hurting anyone, there's nothing shameful or wrong about having sex because you enjoy it.
2. You might develop feelings for the person you're sleeping with or hooking up with. This is a reality that I was completely unprepared for. When I was 18, I started seeing a guy who was quite a bit older than me. The first time we slept together, he came over, we had sex and then he went home five minutes later. Nothing could have prepared me for the pit in my stomach that I felt after my first casual sex experience. Although I tried to brush it off as "no big deal," the truth was I got attached to people after I slept with them. When those feelings weren't reciprocated it hurt.
3. It's Ok to have feelings. We live in a society where we're often hyper-exposed to sexuality. If we're not being taught that sex is shameful, we're being encouraged to have as much of it as possible. It can get pretty confusing. When I was in my early 20-something, I thought that in order to be empowered as a woman I needed to "have sex like a man" -- which means having as much as sex as possible with zero feelings attached. This also isn't realistic.
Both men and women can get attached to the people they sleep with -- I still do sometimes. It's OK to develop feelings...or not develop feelings. There is no one way to feel about the people you get naked with. However, keep in mind, if you find yourself continually developing feelings for your casual hook-ups and getting hurt in the process, you may want to re-examine whether casual sex is really for you.
4. People will use ridiculous excuses to get out of using condoms -- don't believe them. I thought this would improve once I got out of my 20s, however now that I'm having sex in my 30s I feel like it's only gotten worse. A lot of the guys I meet have either come out of long-term relationships or marriages and have been "spoiled" in the sense that they haven't had to use condoms for years on end. Luckily, condoms have made great technological strides in the past few years as far as fit, comfort and pleasure. Lacking knowledge about condoms is one thing. However, choosing to remain ignorant about the realities of STDs is just stupid.
I recently had a 35-year-old man tell me "condoms just feel impersonal" (and getting/spreading an STD is way more personal?!) Recently, I also heard another 30-something guy say that his method for protecting himself from STDs is to "pull out" (I don't think it works that way buddy). Lastly, I recently met a man in his 40s that argued that he shouldn't have to wear a condom because I should "just trust him." Clearly, these people are morons. Which brings me to my next point...
Until proven otherwise, assume everyone is as clueless as the people I mentioned above and take your health into your own hands. Always use a condom and practice the safer sex.
5. You can have really great sex with someone you don't necessarily love -- I think this is one of the biggest take-aways for me. If you practice safer sex, feel comfortable with yourself and the person you're with, you can have really great sex without the "L" word entering into the equation. There's nothing wrong with exploring your sexuality on your own terms!