Casual hookups are the supersized fries of dating. They’re not nourishing, they don’t satisfy for long, they’re not great for your heart, and they usually come with a small packet of regret. But oh boy, sometimes nothing else will hit the spot.
And these days, we’re serving them up more often than you’d think, with researchers reporting that more women than ever before are seeking no-strings casual sex—or are at least open to the idea.
In a 1989 study, not one woman said she’d agree to casual sex with an attractive man who propositioned her, even though seven out of 10 men would do so if the tables were turned.
These days more women are on board. Last year, nearly half of women in a Match.com poll reported having had a one-night stand.
We women, it’s clear, have transitioned. The trouble is, male courtship is stuck in the past. You no longer have to be a hunter. Be a gatherer. This isn’t about winning a heart.
It’s just about scoring. When we’re in that mood, it’s a headboard-rattling, sweat-soaked adventure that we agree to take with you.
In other words, we don’t need you to be Hugh Grant in a romantic comedy, but we also don’t like that disrespectful pickup-artist crap.
There’s a difference between being sleazy, which can be fun, and feeling sleazy, which can be depressing. A sweet spot exists between the two. Just follow my lead to find it.
The Connection: Be Confident
Theoretically, eyes can meet across almost any crowded room—a bar, a club, or even Chipotle as you’re standing in line swiping your phone. What matters is that you see the situation clearly.
It can take the form of anything from a shared appreciation of a wry moment to a knowingly whispered “Want to get out of here?” However it goes down, don’t get scared and don’t look away. Just be confident, courteous, and open to whatever happens next.
The rest of the preliminary rules are simple: First, if we’ve just met and I’m agreeing (or offering) to leave with you, I know what this is. Respect that we’re on the same page—anything else plays into the fantasy that you’re fooling me.
Repeating something pathetic like “Just for tonight, right?” will only anger me. Besides, you should have already spelled out your intentions in less obvious ways.
For instance, explain how you’re really enjoying the dating game (but don’t call it that), or say that you’re not long out of something serious, or chat about that golf trip you have coming up with friends. I’ll get it—if I don’t fall asleep while you’re saying it.
So stay snappy. This may not happen to you again. For you and me both, it’s a case of innocent until proven guilty—a one-night thing unless it becomes something else. I won’t expect anything more than for you to be normal—but hopefully above average in bed.
The Transition: Make It Fun
Don’t ever actually say the words “Do you want to come back to my place?” That’ll just make you sound desperate. Instead, give me a good reason to go home with you that has nothing to do with sex. It could be that good bottle of Pouilly-Fuisse (practice saying that) you’ve been chilling, or the rare vinyl copy of What’s Going On.
The excuse doesn’t matter. Just keep it fun and interesting. Know this: Ninety-nine percent of us would rather brave your man cave than let a complete stranger into our oasis of tranquility.
Our homes are intimate spaces. Putting up with the fact that you don’t have face wipes and that your towel rack is your floor is a small price to pay for skipping the awkward chat about the photos on the bedroom wall. We’re not with you for the decorator accents.
But once I’m in the Uber with you, give me a heads-up about where we’re going—I’ll probably want to safety-text a friend in case you turn out to be Dexter. Letting me know where you live is a way of saying, “I’m not a psycho!” without actually saying, you know, “I’m not a psycho!” And we promise the “friend” we’re texting isn’t five guys all named Tiny.
Finally, we can kiss and hold hands in the car, but let that be the end of it—for now. (I might need to visit the bathroom.) If you feel you have to crawl all over me in the backseat to make your intentions clear, you’re wrong.
The Deed: Keep It Playful and Sensible
Unlike in the movies, odds are slim that we’ll arrive at your place half naked and do it on the welcome mat. Expect some awkwardness.
Start with some upbeat, casual conversation while you put on some music. Ask me if I’d like a drink. Throw together a snack and make small talk to keep the mood light.
Don’t talk to me in the same tone of voice you use with your dog. Be witty! (But do not tell jokes if it sounds like you’re telling jokes.) When the time is right, kiss me—and move into the bedroom—but make that move more of a waltz than a wrestle.
Once we’re in there, three words of advice: Wrap it up. You don’t know where I’ve been any more than I know where you’ve been, and waiting to be asked is as rude as not offering.
Only a special brand of moron doesn’t have the foresight to use protection nowadays. Carrying a condom or having one in your nightstand isn’t presumptuous. It’s sensible. And in this case, sensible is good. Sensible is sexy.
When it comes to the sex itself, you shouldn’t need me to tell you what to do. Just keep it playful and fun, and err on the side of vanilla. If I want edge, I’ll lead you to it.
Christian Grey is fictional, and most women think he’s a dick anyway. Try to focus on my orgasm—go slow and have some lube ready just in case.
That said, here’s a comforting thought balloon: There’s only an 11 percent chance I’ll orgasm the first time, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Those odds will increase if you’re sensitive, take it slow, and are open to giving oral.
This may be a short story, but it should have a happy ending. And by the way, the ending is my ending—but if I seem to lose interest, don’t overdrill. Go ahead and come, and hope for a better result in the morning.
The Minutes After: Lighten the Mood
A little postsex spooning is fine, but avoid creepy displays of intimacy like caressing my face, whispering sweet nothings, and asking whether I’d like to go to your mom’s for brunch.
Instead, just chat. Lighten the mood. Offer me a shirt—one that’s long enough to cover my butt so I can visit the bathroom without looking like a high-class hooker.
While I’m in there, pick my clothes off the floor (and ceiling fan), but don’t fold them and leave them by the door. That communicates one of two things: “I want you out” or “I’m a weirdo who’ll ask to wash and iron them next.”
Just drape them over a chair. I’m not looking for assurances, but I do want some respect. And privacy. If I do decide to stay over, give me space when it’s time to go to sleep.
The Morning After: Offer Coffee, but Not Breakfast
You might think my emotions run highest right after sex, but in the 12-hour window that defines the stringless hookup, the morning after is the real psychological minefield.
Assuming you’ve made sure I’m satisfied, the immediate postcoital glow shelters me (and you) from serious emotional conflict. But by dawn that’s long gone.
If I’m slipping on my shoes at the end of the bed, don’t beg me to stay. Offer me coffee, even insincerely, and let me go. Don’t, whatever you do, suggest breakfast. I’ll think you’re clingy—or, worse, expecting me to fry eggs.
If I’m awake and still lying close to you, assume that I’m comfortable and may be interested in a second round.
That said, suggest morning sex subtly—with gentle desire rather than pressure. (A hand around my stomach or a gentle stroke of my breast is good; an uninvited prod in the thigh is not.)
Mention how great last night was, but do not say, “Damn, I got lucky!” Many women are also self-conscious about morning breath, so have mints or bottled water handy to help alleviate that anxiety.
But if you’re not getting a response, drop it. I may have a hangover the size of Belarus, or stuff to do, or stuff to do in Belarus. Offer water, perhaps some Advil, and a cup of coffee in a sloganless mug. Oh, and a towel—a clean one.
When it’s time to say goodbye, walk me to the door. If you haven’t asked for my number yet, now’s the time.
But take this as an emphatic decree handed down by all womankind: “Thou shalt not ask a woman for her phone number if thou dost not intend to use it.”
You might think you’re being polite, but if you’re not going to call or if you’re just going to send a that-was-fun-it-was-really-nice-to-meet-you-take-care text, taking my number is actually quite rude.
In addition to being like a big bag of fries, a 12-hour relationship is like a board game. (Note: A woman is also allowed to mix her metaphors.) It’s designed specifically for good times, and when you respect the rules, there’s plenty of fun and merriment to be had.
But as soon as someone starts taking himself too seriously, everyone wants to forfeit and go home.
Phone number or not, kiss me properly, say you had a fantastic time and, if that’s really it, say nothing more. Your work is complete. Just put your hand on the small of my back and escort me out.
In your old pickup life, the “hello” was the artful part. With stringless sex, the “goodbye” is everything. Your lovely parting gift should be a warm-all-over, non-radioactive glowlike thing.
Now go make your bed.