If you’re a young adult, casual sex has likely been on your radar for quite a while. After all, it’s referenced in just about every pop culture medium there is, from television to music to books.
But casual sex hasn’t always been an accepted practice. In fact, until more recent decades (and even in some communities today), it’s been taboo.
The good news is that with the cultural mood shifting on the matter, more and more young people can learn how to engage in fun, healthy, and consensual sexual relationships.
So if you’re single and just want to have casual, carefree sex, then this article is for you!
To learn more about casual sex, including the unspoken rules and tips for how to do so successfully, read on!
What Is Casual Sex?
The dictionary definition of casual sex is “sexual activity between people who are not established sexual partners or do not know each other well.”
The truth is that the understanding of casual sex varies from person to person. It could mean…
- A one-night stand.
- Continued sexual encounters with no intention of a relationship.
- Continued sexual encounters with no intention of monogamy.
So as we’ll discuss later, it’s important that you and any potential hookup partners are fully on the same page.
How Common Is Casual Sex?
If you’re a teenager or young adult, you may hear about casual sex and hookups frequently. But if you’re someone struggling to find a hookup partner, you may think the reports are widely exaggerated.
So how common is it really?
A 2021 literature review found that numbers are down overall, particularly among teenagers and young adults. But there’s still a significant percentage of the population who engage in casual sexual encounters.
In particular, when looking at men and women who were 1) between the ages of 18 and 23 and 2) unpartnered:
- Twenty-eight percent of women report having engaged in sexual intercourse in the past four weeks.
- Thirty-four percent of men report having engaged in sexual intercourse in the past four weeks.
With more than a quarter of young adults engaging in casual sex, there are plenty of partners to choose from if you just know where to look (more on that later).
Guidelines for Casual Sex
Before you get into a casual sexual relationship, you should understand the underlying rules of any casual encounter.
Consent Is Required
Just remember: consent at every stage.
You should only ever engage in casual sex with someone who is able to explicitly consent to the encounter. This means they are of the majority age (18+), they are not drunk or otherwise impaired, and they are of a sound mind (i.e. not in the midst of a mental health crisis).
Explicit consent should continue throughout your sexual encounter.
You don’t need to have in-depth conversations during sex. But with each new position, simply ask “are you okay with this?”
If at any point your partner seems uncomfortable or they explicitly say “stop,” “no,” or “I’m not sure” then stop immediately.
You and your partner have the right to revoke consent at any point in the encounter.
Always Use Protection
Protection against pregnancy and the spread of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) is a must. You should never assume your partner is prepared. The responsibility to protect yourself is always your own.
The best way to protect against both pregnancy and STDs is with condom use every single time you have an encounter. For additional protection against pregnancy, you can also use birth control pills, IUDs, or implants (if you’re a woman) or spermicide (if you’re a woman or a man).
Remember that protection against STDs is never one hundred percent. You should regularly (i.e. every 6 months) get tested for STDs and so should your partner.
Before getting involved, it’s necessary that you and any potential partners are honest about what casual sex means. The definition varies by person, so you both must be on the same page before you engage in sex.
Be very clear in your intentions and expectations.
- “I find you attractive, but I don’t want a relationship.”
- “I want to have a casual sexual relationship with no strings attached.”
- “I expect this relationship to be 100% physical.”
- “I will be hooking up with other people. Will you be doing the same?”
- “I will be wearing / I expect you to be wearing a condom 100% of the time.”
Only once you’re both on the same page regarding all aspects of a casual sexual relationship should you proceed.
Beyond a clear understanding of what casual means to each of you, you and your sex partner should continue to have conversations about likes, dislikes, fantasies, and sexual activities which are off-limits.
Where to Find Casual Sex
Now that you’re ready to initiate a relationship, here’s where you can often find casual sex.
Is it possible to find true love on dating apps? Sure! However, the fun (and sometimes frustrating) thing about dating apps is that everyone is looking for something different.
Apps like Tinder, Plenty of Fish, and OKCupid exist of course, but their aim is most often a long-term connection. That’s not to say you can’t find casual hookups there, but you have to be very honest on your profile and wary of anyone who may want more.
Hookup-specific apps do exist, like Kasual and Zoosk. You may have more luck there, but don’t be afraid to cast your net wide.
Bars and Clubs
Plenty of men and women go to clubs to let loose, have fun, and yes, maybe meet a hookup partner. Picking up a casual sex partner at a bar or club does require some confidence, though.
Say “hi” to that attractive woman glancing at you from across the bar. Try a cheesy pick-up line on the dance floor. “Bump” into a sexy potential dance partner and see where it goes.
For some people this is too much work, especially when hook-up apps exist. But it’s also a fun way to interact with people in a casual environment before engaging in an encounter.
Just keep in mind…
Alcohol and sex? They’re not a great mix, and sex should be avoided entirely if the ability to consent is ever a concern.
Are you attending a friend’s 30th birthday party? Or maybe you’re attending your middle school best friend’s wedding.
These types of in-person events, and more, can be a great way to naturally meet casual sexual partners.
To be clear, there are places you should absolutely not look for casual sex. These include at school, at work, and at religious events. If you’ll see the majority of people again, then it’s probably best to avoid looking for a casual hookup.
How to Have Casual Sex: 7 Tips for a Good Time
Now that you’re ready to engage in a casual sexual relationship, here are some tips to ensure you both have a good time.
1. Be a Good Host
Prior to a meetup, you and your partner should have an understanding what happens after sex. That is, will your partner need to leave immediately or are sleepovers okay?
In any event, you should make your home welcoming to any partner even if they’ll be there for just a hookup.
What does this look like?
First and foremost, keep your home in a clean and liveable condition. A hookup may not be able to get in the mood if they have to step over piles of trash and if they smell last week’s pizza.
You should also keep extra essentials on hand. This includes a towel and washcloth, a pillow and blanket, and a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt.
If your partner is staying overnight, be ready to offer them coffee and a quick breakfast in the morning. It doesn’t need to be heart-shaped pancakes and eggs (in fact, avoid that!), but even just some toast or toaster oven waffles will do.
And finally, do not fall asleep or leave your home until you know that your partner has a safe way to get home.
2. Understand Sexual Cues
With a one-night stand or casual sex encounters, you don’t have the benefit of years of knowledge of your partner’s sexual nuances. While cues and body language vary by person, there are some universal cues to know.
Body language is fairly universal. If your partner is enjoying the encounter, they will likely:
- Lean in closer
- Adjust themselves for more touch
- Look to you for approval or encouragement
- Fully relax
- Reach for you during particular pleasurable moments
You should also have a good understanding of female genitalia (or male genitalia if you’re partnering with a man). It’s a fact that most women cannot orgasm from vaginal penetration alone, so understanding how to stimulate the clitoris and other sensitive parts of her anatomy is crucial to pleasure.
3. Explore Your Fantasies
Casual sex is a great time to explore your and your partner’s sexual fantasies. This will help you to better understand what you like and what you don’t like which will serve you well in future erotic couplings.
As with anything that happens during casual sex, you should be fully transparent with your partner. While I encourage you to reasonably explore outside of your comfort zone, it must be with full content and enthusiasm from your partner.
While you should absolutely explore your and your partner’s fantasies, there are some fantasies that are best reserved for long-term partnerships. This includes BDSM which requires an immense amount of trust and post-sex care.
Instead, explore your more innocent fantasies like scenario roleplay (e.g. boss and employee, doctor and patient), erotic spanking, and introducing new sex toys.
4. Check In With Your Partner
It’s important to have regular check-ins with your casual sex partner. These should always happen before sex as it relates to sexual consent. However, you should also check in with your partner about the state of your relationship during non-intimate times.
It’s important that you and your partner continue to remain on the same page. A few questions to ask yourself and your partner include:
- Am I/Are you still happy with this arrangement?
- Am I/Are you developing romantic feelings?
- Is there anything I/you wish were different about this arrangement?
- Is there anything I feel/you feel you/I could do better?
You should also encourage your partner to speak up if they ever feel uncomfortable. It’s vital that you have strong and open communication at all times.
5. Avoid Romantic Gestures
For so many of us, romantic gestures are almost interwoven with intimacy. For casual partnerships, though, you should avoid any gestures that may be construed as romantic.
So what gestures should you avoid?
- Drawing them a bubble bath
- Lighting candles to set the mood
- Texting or calling because you’re thinking of them
- Making them their favorite meal
- Giving them a gift
- Sending them flowers or chocolates
- Bringing them coffee or breakfast in bed
- Telling them you love them
It’s true that feelings are complicated. As such, even some gestures not meant to be romantic may be construed as such.
It’s important that you 1) consider your intentions, and 2) consider how a partner may view your actions. If there’s any possibility of a misunderstanding, then it’s best to avoid it completely.
6. Be Discreet
There are many reasons to keep a casual relationship discreet. It’s not only polite, but it’s also a good way to prevent misunderstandings about the relationship, either from outsiders looking in or from the perspective of your partner.
So don’t kiss and tell and ask that your partner do the same.
7. Have Fun
What’s the point of a casual sexual relationship if you’re not having fun?
The flipside is also true. If your casual hookup ever becomes not fun (i.e. complicated, uncomfortable), then cut ties and move on.
Frequently Asked Questions About Casual Sex
Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about casual sex.
Are Feelings Inevitable with Casual Sex?
Of course, it’s always possible to develop feelings for someone when you’re engaging in intimate activities. However, casual sex should never be used to try and change someone’s mind about you.
Is Casual Sex Healthy?
When done with a full understanding of what casual sex means, as well as the use of protection 100% of the time, casual sex can be a healthy and fun experience for men and women of all ages.
Is Casual Sex Safe?
Beyond just your health, it’s important to be aware of physical safety at all times. This means “vetting” your casual sex partner to a certain extent and always telling someone you trust who and where you’re meeting with someone. You should meet up with the person in a public setting at least once before a hookup.
Casual sex can be a fun experience for two people just looking for a pleasurable and no strings attached relationship. If you think that rules don’t apply, though, then casual sex may not be for you.
The unspoken rules of casual sex – content, protection, honesty, and communication – are what keep such hookups fun and carefree.
Beyond that, just remember that feelings can change on either side and if that happens, it’s best to cut off ties to avoid complications down the line.
So have fun, but do so responsibly!