How to Have Casual Sex Without Being a Jerk

Red lipstick kiss mark on white plaster wall

The number one rule for having healthy casual sex: Do not lose sight of your sexual partner’s humanity. Be present and generous with them—before, during and after your sexual encounter. 

Treat your sexual partner’s body with respect and care. Share your STI status, ask about their last STI test, and make a plan together to have safe sex. Follow through on that plan.

Be upfront about what you can and cannot offer your sexual partner. Do not coerce or mislead them into a sexual relationship under the guise of future commitment if that’s not what you’re looking for. Likewise, don’t pretend to be satisfied with a casual encounter if you actually want something serious.

Communicate your boundaries. Ask your sexual partner if there is anything they would like for you to know. 

Ask your sexual partner for what you need. Give them what they need if it is within your power to do so. 

Value your sexual partner’s pleasure as much as your own. Create a sexual experience together, as opposed to using each other for your separate enjoyment.

Pay attention to your sexual partner’s comfort level and check in with them frequently. If they ever seem uncomfortable, stop what you’re doing and ask if they’re okay. If you are uncomfortable, tell them you need to stop. You are always allowed to change your mind.

After having sex, see to your sexual partner’s needs. Are they hungry? Tired? Dehydrated? Sore? They don’t cease to matter once you’ve gotten off. Everyone can benefit from a glass of water.

Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep. If you don’t want to see them again, thank them for the experience and wish them well. Be honest and kind. 

Don’t play coy. If you want to see them again, say so! It’s 2021, you don’t need to play power games via text.

Above all: care. Care about them. Care about yourself.


If you liked this post, you’ll love my essay about praise kink and what care can look like during casual sex. Read THIS IS FOR YOU when you join my Patreon, where I write about intimacy and relationships every week.

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Ella Dawson is a sex and culture critic and a digital strategist. She drinks too much Diet Coke.

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