Hooking up is easier than ever thanks to the prevalence of apps and websites designed to help people look for a romantic (or purely sexual) connection. In fact, it’s inspired the development and sustenance of “hookup culture,” where single individuals freely look for physical connections without the need for any lasting commitment, romance, or emotion.
If you’re looking to recover from your latest breakup, or if you’re young and just want to experiment a little, hookup culture can be quite inviting. But before you delve into the now-thriving dating culture, it’s important that you recognize some foundational rules.
These rules are unwritten and unenforced, but they’re important to understand and acknowledge if you want to be more respectful, more polite, and ultimately more successful:
- Only use the best hookup apps and sites. There are a lot of options out there, but some hookup apps and sites are better than others. They offer a much richer pool of individuals to talk to, they have better features for ensuring your privacy and safety, and they’re simply easier to navigate. Do your research, look at reviews, and focus your attention only on the best candidates; you’ll have a much better time than someone who picks one at random.
- Avoid ghosting where unnecessary. Ghosting is a phenomenon that’s arisen from hookup culture, and most people agree it’s hurtful and unnecessary (in most situations). Ghosting is ceasing all communication with someone with no acknowledgment, explanation, or further responses, as if you’ve disappeared into thin air. It’s usually better to be direct with something like, “I don’t think we should see each other anymore.” The exception here is if you feel threatened or otherwise unsafe, or if you’ve tried to acknowledge the separation to no avail; in these cases, ghost away.
- Be upfront about your wants and needs. If you’re in the dating scene specifically to hookup, state that. Don’t lie about your motivations by saying you’re looking for committed dating or long-term partnerships. You may narrow your dating pool, but you’ll meet more people looking for the same thing.
- Respect the wants and needs of others. By that same token, pay attention to the wants and needs of the people you meet. If they’re looking for a one-night-stand, don’t pester them for more dates afterward. If they’re looking for a meaningful romantic connection, don’t lead them on if you’re only looking for sex.
- Don’t get jealous. If you’re entering a casual arrangement, both you and your partner are free to seek (and flirt with) other people. If you catch the person you’re sleeping with on a date with another person, don’t freak out; they’re allowed to do this.
- Don’t hook up with friends or exes. It may be tempting to pursue a platonic friend or an ex if you’re both in the casual sex market, but this is usually a bad idea. It may complicate your existing relationship or result in much heavier emotional damage to both of you.
- Be honest. Try to be as honest as possible. Nobody likes being lied to or misled. If you misrepresent your intentions, your desires, or even personal details about yourself, it could result in a much lower-quality hookup—and trust issues for the other person to deal with in the future.
- Use protection. Safe sex is a must. No exceptions. Use protection when having sex with a new partner, especially if you’re having sex with multiple partners in a relatively short span of time. While you’re at it, get tested for STDs before, and regularly during, your escapades, even if you use protection consistently.
- If it’s “no strings attached,” keep it that way. Many people in the hookup scene aim to have a “no strings attached” connection, but if it truly is no strings attached, you need to keep it that way. Don’t act like the other partner owes you something, and don’t get emotionally invested.
- Protect (and respect) privacy. Finally, maintain your own privacy and protect the privacy of others. That means avoiding stalking people on social media, resisting an urge or request to film/photograph your encounters, and being careful which personal details you share with someone you don’t plan on seeing again.
The Most Important Rule
Nearly all of these rules are based on one principle: be considerate of others. These are people you’re hooking up with, and you need to treat them like people. Respect their feelings and intentions, protect yourself, and make sure you’re hooking up with the best people you can find. If you follow these rules, you’re much less likely to suffer (or cause) heartbreak, and you’ll keep yourself safer in the process.