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How To Have (Good) Casual Sex

Cyndi Darnell, MHSc, MNT
Sex Therapist By Cyndi Darnell, MHSc, MNT
Sex Therapist
Cyndi Darnell is a clinical sexologist, sex therapist, and psychotherapist with over 15 years of experience. She has a master's degree in Sexual Health from the University of Sydney and a master's degree in Narrative Therapy and Community Work from the University of Melbourne.

Times certainly have changed when it comes to sex. Today's modern sexuality is influenced by many factors which even 10 years ago just weren't feasible. Life after divorce, increased visibility of LGBTIQ folk, easy access to online dating and the abundance of travel and off-grid living means more of us are choosing nontraditional ways of engaging our sexualities. The truth is that not everyone is able to be (or wants to be) in a long-term relationship. Yet there is no rule book for how to negotiate the often tricky terrain of casual sex, so many of us are left to make it up ourselves.

One thing I have learned over 20 years working with sexuality and years negotiating myself, is there is no one true path when it comes to sexuality and its expression, casual or not. We may have our preferences and moral codes, but ultimately, we must honor ourselves, not at the expense of our lovers, but because of them and alongside them.

So in order to celebrate casual encounters while also maintaining our integrity, here are a few considerations to make the journey of casual sex as pleasurable as can be.

1. Own your eroticism.

Unlike conventional hookups where "it just happens" passively, make a point of discussing your expectations, what you enjoy, what you're offering and your turn ons. This can help not only build erotic tension but also help you decide if your dynamic with this person will be fulfilling. On a more basic level, this kind of communication will minimize confusion, hurt feelings and the potential for violated-boundaries. Whether you like rough sex, oral sex, alternative sex or have certain no-go zones, these things need to be discussed, ideally in advance.

Sexual dynamics are inherent to both casual or long term relationships. Power, friction and balance are a very real and robust part of our sexuality, so learn to honor and respect them within yourself. Denying their presence will not make them go away but create miscommunication and problems. Nothing says "I'm a good lover" more than taking responsibility for your own pleasure and minimizing the guesswork.

2. Consider what you're offering — not just what you're getting.

Being a desirable lover means being clear about what you're offering. Great sex is about much more than just going through the right motions. It's about mindful intentions. When you know what you're doing, what you're offering and most importantly, WHY you're there, your sexual potency increases. This is because you are:

  • less inclined to be strategizing to "get your way"
  • less anxious about being wanted.
  • able to focus and stay present with that you're feeling, experiencing and doing, leading to more fulfilling sex.

When we enter an interaction thinking only of what we can get, unspoken desires can sometimes interfere by leaking out as needy conversations or creepy gestures. Don't be that guy. Instead, know what you're offering for honest and playful encounters.

3. Recognize the importance of sex.

What differentiates mediocre sex from sensational sex is connection and reverence. Sometimes in the pursuit of pleasure, we forget that sex is a core human need, like food and shelter, yet doesn't command the same levels of respect. Historically, sex is often blamed for unconscious or despicable behavior in dating. But it needn't be this way.

Respecting sex as something of value is a choice. By honoring its value, you are also creating permission for your lover to do the same. In fact, honoring sex, no matter how fleeting, means honoring yourself, your lover and the moment between you.

4. Don't be mean.

This is one of my favorite lessons from Kate Bornstein. The principle, in context, is in recognizing that sex, emotions and boundaries are sometimes difficult to discuss. The antidote is to cultivate compassion for your lover and for yourself. Recognize the person you're negotiating with has needs and vulnerabilities just like you. No need for intense conversations about them, but if your new lover sets a boundary, don't undermine them by insulting their request, mocking or pushing your agenda. It may mean that you are actually not a good pairing, but that's better to know in advance, rather than resorting to nasty tactics later.

5. Learn safer sex practices.

This includes making condoms and lubricant part of your permanent erotic repertoire. Be risk aware regarding the body fluids including saliva, vulva juices, semen and (menstrual) blood and have regular STI checks (6- 12 months depending on your lifestyle). Visit your doctor or find a sexual health clinic in your city.

The good news is many (but not all) STIS are treatable. But many have few symptoms; so you could be a carrier of conditions like herpes, chlamydia or warts (HPV, the condition which has been associated with cervical cancer) and not even know it. Unfortunately, no amount well-wishing will prevent you contracting an STI. From a holistic health perspective, prevention really IS the best cure.

Honesty, compassion and mindfulness will not only make you a better lover, but will help you cultivate positive communication with your partner, and a healthy attitude toward erotic pleasure more generally.

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