What Try If You're Not Ready For Sex But Still Want To Hook Up With Someone, According To A Sexologist

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During my first two years of college, I'd tell my friends all about my hookups. So, when I had sex for the first time at age 20, some of them were surprised to learn I hadn't already. We don't always acknowledge all the ways to hook up without having sex (at least as it's traditionally defined), but there's no reason to put one act of many above all the others.

"'Hooking up' is a term that is often taken out of context," Astroglide's resident sexologist Dr. Jess O'Reilly tells Bustle. "Like sex, it means different things to different people. Some people consider intercourse sex, and others classify oral and manual sex as sex, so when you’re communicating your desires and boundaries to a partner, it’s important to be specific."

However you define it, there's nothing wrong with waiting to have sex (or never having it), no matter your age. It's better to err on the side of waiting longer than you need to than having sex before you're ready. Plus, there's so much else you can do, and if you rush into sex, you'll miss out on a lot of fun. Here are just a few things you can do if you're not ready to have sex yet.

1Making Out

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Making out for hours on end isn't just for teenagers. "Kissing can be red-hot, and it’s often hotter during the early phases of the relationship," says Dr. Jess. "Not only does locking lips result in a flurry of feel-good hormones that promote relaxation and bonding, but from a evolutionary perspective, kissing may help us to gauge compatibility." It's all very scientific, obviously.

2Dirty Talk

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Whether it's through sexting, phone sex, or in person, talking about what you're going to do can be more exciting than doing the thing itself. It can also be a great way to prepare to eventually have a stellar sex life. If you're not sure where to start, Dr. Jess suggests thinking of the five senses: What would you like to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste? Of course, it's also OK to talk about things you don't plan on doing in real life. Just let your partner know what you want to try and what's just a fantasy.

3Erotic Massage

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"You can get all riled up touching, exploring, kissing, and caressing your lover’s body and avoid the genitals," says Dr. Jess. "In fact, many who explore erotic massage find that you can reach orgasm from the stimulation of various body parts ranging from the bellybutton and feet to the breasts and lower back." She recommends using Astroglide O, a lube/massage oil that enhances G-rated and R-rated activities alike, to make your skin extra slippery.

4Mutual Masturbation

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"Just because intercourse is off the table doesn’t mean you can’t orgasm," says Dr. Jess. Masturbating together can not only be hot but also help you each get to know what the other likes. If you need to break the ice, bring out some sex toys and try them out on yourselves or each other. Or, put on porn and talk about what turns you on.

5Manual Sex

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To some people, this is sex, depending how you define it. But if you don't want to have intercourse but are comfortable with genital contact, fingering and hand jobs provide a way to connect sexually without exchanging bodily fluids, says Dr. Jess. It also gives you more opportunities to focus on each other and give each other direction than intercourse might.

With all these activities on the menu, there's no reason to feel pressure to have sex. Even if you've already been having it, there's a lot to be said for switching it up once in a while.