If You're Going to Hook Up, Hook Up Right
Hookups play a key role in how we get human touch and intimacy when we're not in a relationship. However, we often find it difficult to get the amount of pleasure we'd like from a one-night stand. We all know about the orgasm gap during heterosexual couples, and for hookups, it's even worse: 80 percent of men reach climax compared to 40 percent of women, according to a 2017 article by the Australian Broadcast Corporation.
"One-nighters are actually a way to learn about sexual variety, communication and what you especially like or don't," says Carol Queen, Ph.D., a staff sexologist at Good Vibrations. "It's also a good way to practice skills, from talking about your desires and boundaries to putting on a condom to introducing someone to your vibrator."
Then why are so many one-night stands a huge disappointment? Sex and relationship experts explain how to make our hookups a little more hook, line and sinker.
Is this hookup right for you?
The first step before you initiate a hookup is to have an honest conversation with yourself.
"There are some people who really need to have an emotional connection with someone before they're willing and able to open their body to sleep with them—and there are people who don't. Both are totally okay and totally normal," explained Leah Carey, a sex and intimacy coach and host of the Good Girls Talk About Sex podcast.
If you're in the first camp, hookups might not be the best choice for you. Remember, don't force yourself to do something you're not comfortable with. If you're in the second group though, a hookup can be a great way to get pleasure when you crave it.
People will naturally feel awkward talking about sex, whether in a one-night stand or a long-term relationship. We often try to deal with this discomfort by hooking up with people at bars or parties, numbing the whole experience with alcohol—a move experts don't recommend.
"While a bar is a logical place to meet up, don't drink so much that you don't have the same sense of safety and can't evaluate them," Queen said. A better hookup starts with an open conversation with zero pressure. Have the conversation in a neutral location, like a coffee shop, a restaurant or even a park.
After all, good sex starts with clear communication. Leah recommends The STARS Talk, by Evelin Dacker, a format for having an open conversation before sex. STARS stands for STI Status, Turn-ons, Avoids, Relationship Expectations, and Safety Protocols, like birth control and condoms.
Here's how STARS works.
Communicate your STI status
STI status is the bare minimum you should discuss with a hookup. Even if you feel awkward talking about everything else, like turnons and relationship expectations, you need to stay safe.
Lead the conversation by saying something like, "I recently got tested for STIs and my results were negative/positive. What about yourself?" If you don't feel comfortable even talking about STIs with someone, ask yourself if you should really be having sex with them.
"If you feel comfortable talking with somebody about your expectations, STI status, and things you want to happen, then that is an indicator that you can have a great hookup," Carey said.
Share sexual likes and dislikes
It's not a surprise that talking about turnons can make sex much better. Of course, we might be afraid that telling our partners what we want will freak them out or turn them off. But, seriously, how else can they know?
If you're not sure what turns you on, you're not alone. In a TED Talk about this very strategy, Dacker said one-third of people she studied in her research didn't know what turned them on and another third didn't want to tell their partner if they did.
If you're not sure what turns you on, think about what you like. Giving or receiving? Cuddles? Conversation? Getting a small bullet vibrator or sex toy can help you learn the amount of pressure you need to orgasm and your erogenous zones.
If you take the conversation toward sexual turnons, it makes sense to talk about turnoffs. In the STARS acronym, the A stands for Avoids. This isn't just for pleasure, either. Talking about boundaries is important for consent, because what's normal to one partner might be triggering for another.
Discuss relationship expectations
We get it, the "What are we?" conversation is something nobody wants to have—especially with a hookup. As a result, we often assume the other person feels the same way, but this is how feelings get hurt. Though it's completely optional, asking your partner what their expectations are before you hook up is a good idea.
Maybe you both want one night of mental and physical escape, only never to speak again. Or perhaps one of you wants a true one-night stand, but the other wants a recurring friend with benefits relationship.
"Asking what the other person is looking for ensures you're not a mismatch," Carey said. "If there is a mismatch, then you can decide if you're okay with that or protect yourself and not do that at all."
Share safety protocols
Finally, discuss with your partner whether you're on birth control, and/or if you need to use a condom, dental dam or another form of protection. If you feel safe, you're much more likely to feel more pleasure and enjoy yourself.
When we think of having better hookups, our first thought might be extending foreplay or introducing sex toys. But for many people, especially women, good sex is as much mental as it is physical. Make time for a conversation about STIs, relationship expectations, turnons, the avoids and safety, and the guarantee is there—the sex is going to be 1,000 times better.