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A guide to casual relationships- are they worth it?

Kendal Davids

27 January 2022

Hooking-up or casual sex can be fun - but it's not for everyone. Find out if it's right for you and if there are any risks to think about

Young woman using a dating app on her phone
Photo credit: iStock/FilippoBacci

Sex should be a fun and pleasurable experience! Some people have sex exclusively with their romantic partners while others prefer to have casual sex.

Casual sex, also called ‘hooking up,’ ‘no strings attached’ or ‘friends with benefits’ means having sex outside of any romantic or committed relationship.

While hook-up culture might be popular, if you’re tempted to try it, or already doing it, there are a few things to think about.

It can be great but only if you are comfortable with the person

Casual sex can be exciting and can feel adventurous. But sometimes, hooking up with a stranger or somebody you are not entirely comfortable around can make you more tense and so less likely to enjoy the sex. You also might be too shy to express your needs or talk about safer sex.

Try talking openly about what you want from sex including how you can protect your sexual health and prevent unwanted pregnancy (if this is relevant). This might sound hard or embarrassing but talking about sex can be a turn on! And remember that using condoms can help you and your partner feel more relaxed as you don’t have to worry about putting your health at risk so you can just enjoy the moment.

It can be a good way to explore what turns you on

Interested in exploring your sexuality? Having casual sex can be a great way to discover what you’re interested in and what turns you on as it gives you the opportunity to try different things with different people.

Remember that while exploring your sexuality is great it’s important that you don’t feel pressured into doing anything you’re not comfortable with. No matter the sexual activity and who it is with, it should always be based on mutual consent – meaning both people want to do it.

Make sure you are in control of your sexual health

Hooking up with people can be risky if you don’t know their HIV status or whether they have recently tested positive for any sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It’s good to be honest and open about any concerns you may have when it comes to safer sex. Talking about using protection like condoms before you get into the heat of the moment means you are more likely to use them

Remember that condoms are the only contraception method that prevents unwanted pregnancy, HIV and STIs.

Consider using PrEP

If you are HIV negative, have casual sex and don’t always use a condom, taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is recommended to protect you from HIV infection. PrEP can be taken by anyone at higher risk of HIV and gives you an added layer of protection. 

Don’t expect a lot of romance

Although having casual sex can feel great, having sex without the relationship can feel less romantic. If you are having sex with somebody that you don’t necessarily share romantic feelings for, you may miss a deeper emotional connection. If that is important to you, then casual sex might not be the right fit. And while it’s true that some casual relationships do turn serious many don’t, so remember to check in with yourself about what’s important to you.

Hook-ups aren’t for everyone

While many people enjoy casual sex – it’s not for everyone!

You should never feel pressured to hook up with anyone or take part in any sexual activity you don’t feel comfortable with. Making a decision on if, and when, to have sex is always yours. Being honest with yourself about what YOU want, what you enjoy and how you feel emotionally will help you make that decision and do the right thing for you.

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