Is there anything more fraught than making the decision to have sex with someone for the first time? On the one hand, sex is a very serious business: women, in particular, risk disease, pregnancy, and physical violence, as well as the not-as-dire-but-still-sort-of-terrible possibility of having a really awkward experience with someone else while naked. On the other hand, orgasms. So what to do? Everyone’s sexual needs are different, and each one of us envisions sex being incorporated into our lives in our own way. Some people are happy with casual hookups; some only want sex as part of committed, long-term relationships; some want to hold off on sex until marriage. Some people aren't entirely certain what they ultimately want, but they do know that, for now, in this moment, it might include sex. These are all (you don't need me to tell you) absolutely acceptable things to want. That said, no matter what you want, or whether you’re looking to sleep with someone you’ve known for five years, or someone you just met five hours ago, there are a few constant preliminaries that you should take care of beforehand to make sure that the experience is safe, comfortable, and happy.
There is, of course, no failsafe way to make sure that you only have positive, multi-orgasmic, flowers-and-rainbows sexual experiences; Sometimes you can do everything “right” and still end up in bed with the wrong people. That said, there are some simple, practical measures you can take that will help to ensure that a good time is had by all. Read on:
1. Their full name and phone number
If you’ve known someone for ages, this shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you’re hooking up with someone you’ve just met at a bar, or you’re meeting someone you found online, it’s important that you have that person’s real name and contact info, if only so that you can Google them and make sure they're not an escaped serial killer. What?! You think there are no serial killers on Tinder?!
I suppose the exception would be if you’re trying to have actually anonymous sex, in which case...actually, scratch that. I’m just going to out myself as a stuffy old lady and say, Don’t have anonymous sex (Imagine me hunched over and wagging my finger at you). It simply isn’t safe. If you’re going to let someone else put his or her body parts inside you, you deserve a name and phone number. If you want anonymous sex, opt for an event or club that caters to providing people with that experience within a safe context of knowing that someone, somewhere has vetted these people whose names you would rather not know.
2. How safe you feel with them
Before you have sex with someone, you must feel safe, both practically and intuitively. Take common-sense safety measures (especially if you’re meeting someone for the first time): Meet your potential partner in public so that you can get a sense of who they are; Let a friend know where you are and when you should be back; Have a clear plan of how you are going to get home.
Furthermore, you should listen to your gut: Is this person giving you a bad vibe? Tamp down the hormones you have swirling around your brain, saying, “Oooo, sex!”, and take a minute to really think about whether you feel good and safe around this person. If you’ve already had some physical contact (kissing, for example), how was it? Did you feel like you were being pressured? If you feel insecure, hold off. You can always meet up again another time to get to know each other better.
3. Their relationship status
Is your partner single, in a monogamous relationship, an open relationship, married, or something in between? Find out. It’s totally up to you how you want to proceed, but you should at least have all of the info up front.
4. Their STI status (not sexy but fully necessary)
You know this drill: Have a real—and sober—conversation about both of your STI statuses.
5. How you're going to prevent pregnancy and STI transmission
Look, this doesn't to be some massive State Of The Sex Parts summit that you two have in the stark, sober daylight. I mean, it can be, but it can also be a quick, "Hey, do you have condoms at your place or should we stop and pick some up?" on the way out the door of the bar. You know when is not a good time to think about contraception? When you’re in the middle of a sex-fueled haze. Take time to think about and discuss how you’re going to prevent pregnancy and STI transmission before you get between the sheets, and make sure you have necessary supplies with you. If your partner hassles you about using protection (i.e., “I don’t like condoms.”), hastily get yourself out of there.
6. What kind of animals your partner has
This may seem kind of random, but it’s important to consider: If you’re planning on doing the deed at someone's apartment, and they have a cat, and you have a debilitating cat allergy, that is not going to work. Being blindfolded can be hot—eyes swelling shut? Not so much. Similarly, if the plan is for a partner to come to your place, and you have a 100-pound dog, let him or her know. If s/he has cynophobia, s/he can then let you know. These are the details that make sexual scenarios work, folks!
7. What having sex will mean for the relationship
Before you get into bed with someone, be sure that you have a clear idea of what the sex will mean for your relationship with that person. Is this going to be a one-time hookup? Is this a casual, but potentially ongoing thing? Is this the start of an LTR? Does sleeping together automatically mean you are no longer seeing other people, or are you both comfortable with making that decision based on some other measure of seriousness? How serious is sex to the two of you? There are no fundamentally "wrong" answers to these questions—but what is wrong is not making sure that both people have a clear understanding of the answers before you get each other in a vulnerable position. Again, finding this out can be the product of an intense discussion between two people in a relationship, or it can be a quick-but-effective as dragging someone you just met off to the side and being like, "I'm moving to Prague in two days but I very much want to spend the night with you tonight and never see each other again. Is that something you're into?" Bam! Info acquired, risk of drama diminished.
Of course, things can always change—your one night stand could turn out to be the love of your life!—but it’s good to be on the same page with your partner at the beginning. Relationships, even casual ones, only get more complicated when you add sex to the mix.
8. If they have any allergies or intolerances
A severe allergic reaction to latex could put a real damper on the proceedings, so figure these kinds of things out first. Also think about issues like food preferences—is your partner a hardcore vegan and you are a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore? He or she might prefer that you brush your teeth before coming over. (I mean, brushing your teeth before hopping into bed is probably a good idea regardless.)
9. Whether either of you has any triggers
If you have certain triggers that make you recall traumatic events, make sure that your partner knows what they are. Also ask your partner if he or she has any “no go” zones. You can do this in a casual, playful manner; just ask, “Is there anywhere you don’t like to be touched?” and then respect the answer.
10. Do you really want to have sex with this person?
“Wanting to have sex” may seem like a really obvious criterion for, you know, having sex, but I’m serious: Don’t sleep with someone unless you really, honest-to-God want to. You should never feel pressured to have sex because you think you’re expected to, regardless of how much you’ve been flirting or how long you’ve been dating.
Images: Laura D'Alessandro/Flickr; Giphy (6)