Here's how to be safe–and have fun.
Let’s say you’re on vacation, you get hot and bothered, and you decide to get naked with a stranger. NBD, right? Well, it shouldn’t be. Travel is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Soak up all the good feelings that come from escape and shaking up your everyday routine, and turn that freedom into casual vacation fun. The stigma that surrounds casual sex is real but, when done safely, it can make for some incredible mental souvenirs. These are 11 tips for hitting the road and having safe, casual sex.
Don’t Be Afraid to Use Dating Apps to Find What You’re Looking for
Dating apps like Bumble, Tinder, and OkCupid can help you find a hookup (They are also useful tools for meeting like-minded locals and travelers along the way.). Change your dating location ahead of your trip and be clear in your profile what it is you’re looking for. Tinder Plus is excellent for perusing profiles around the globe.
Obviously, you do not want your first blind date to turn into an episode of Dateline, so be smart if you plan to meet up with any sexy chat-friends. Once you have made a date, let a friend know and share your phone’s location (Life360 is a great app). And remember, it is much safer to meet in a public place than, let’s say, your date’s fourth story walk-up apartment.
Know Your Motivations
“Not everyone is hooking up for the same reason. And your reason for hooking up on a trip may vary night-to-night or trip-to-trip,” says Dr. Juliana Hauser, a marriage and family therapist. Know why you want to hook up so that you can be clear with your boundaries to yourself and to potential partners. “Are you interested in one night only? Do you want to hook up to try a new sex experience? Are you feeling an emotional connection and want to ride it for several nights/days? Are you wanting anonymity and the freedom to try on a new or different part of you in an area or country where you will never return?” she asks.
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“Knowing your ‘why’ before you go into the encounter can help create boundaries that keep you safer, can help create a mutually-enjoyable experience, and enliven your travel journey.”
Have Minimal Expectations
If you can set expectations accordingly and not get caught up in what other people think, there’s really no reason for casual sex to be fraught with so much unnecessary regret and stigma.
“Always remember that a one-night stand is only a guarantee of one intimate moment,” says dating coach Jonathan Bennett. “Hoping for something more, like a relationship, isn’t realistic. You have to go into the one-night stand expecting that’s all there will be.”
Have the Tough, But Necessary Conversations Beforehand
Not everything about sex is sexy. Before you get intimate with a new partner, there are some crucial topics you should discuss. This means consent, boundaries, STI status, and safer sex practices. Whether it’s a one-night stand or you’re trying to build a serious relationship, being crystal clear from the start avoids a lot of confusion.
Dr. Jill McDevitt, CalExotic’s resident sexologist, likes to remind people that you already possess the necessary skills to navigate conversations around protecting your health, asking for what you want, and checking in. These are needed to have safe and pleasurable sex.
One of her favorite exercises is to have people in her workshops work in teams of two to make a pizza together. Without skipping a beat, two strangers can communicate about who rolls the dough, how much sauce they want, cheese or no cheese, which toppings (ex: “do you like pepperoni?”; “I’m not a huge fan of olives, but I can handle a few if you really want some”; ” no, I don’t like pineapples on my pizza”). “They almost always ask each other to go wash their hands before they start rolling the dough,” says McDevitt.
“I suspect if you did the same activity, you’d behave the same way,” she says. “Because you also possess these skills. If you can ask someone to wash their hands before touching their food, you can ask someone to wear a condom before touching your genitals. And if you can ask ‘do you want pepperoni, and if so, how much do you want?’ then you can ask about consent, and ask ‘do you want fingers in your vagina, and if so, do you like it like this?’”
Sure, these conversations may be awkward, but if you’re going to have sex, you need to be able to talk openly.
Accountability is important, especially when traveling solo. You should not feel pressured to be in touch constantly, but it’s a wise idea to schedule regular check-ins, whether it’s via text, phone, or email. Give a heads-up to someone when you head out for a date, whether it’s hotel staff or a quick text to someone at home. That way, if someone does not hear from you by such and such a time, they know when actually to worry. Another option is to leave a quick note with your plan in an easy-to-spot place, like a desk or bedside table.
Be Mindful of Alcohol Consumption
“If you are drinking in a foreign country with people you don’t know, always be mindful of your consumption and your drink in general,” says Dr. Jess Carbino, a former sociologist for Tinder and Bumble.
“Individuals should always be mindful of their alcohol consumption when dating someone new, particularly in contexts where you are not familiar. Having too much alcohol potentially exposes you to unnecessary risk.” Be aware of your alcohol intake limits and stick to them.
It should also go without saying: if a bartender or server does not directly hand you a drink, think twice. There is no good reason to compromise yourself. Sexual assault is a real occurrence, both at home and on the road. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates indicate that about 1 in 3 (35%) women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
Always Be Safe
It is important to budget extra time and money for safety precautions. It is worth the added expense of booking your own room so you have a place to retreat if a situation isn’t right.
If you feel uncomfortable with something, listen to your gut. It is one thing to push yourself a little outside of your comfort zone, but you should never stick out a weird or potentially unsafe situation just because you do not want to offend someone.
That said, it’s important to think about personal safety–there’s a lot of scary stuff going on in the world these days, but don’t assume everyone is out to get you. Whether you’re walking home from a bar in your town or backpacking abroad, bad things can happen anytime, anywhere. Be smart, but don’t let fear stand in your way of exploring.
Always use barrier methods (gloves, condoms, dental dams, and finger cots) for protection, not only to prevent pregnancy, but also STI’s (sexually transmitted infections) and HIV.
“Since you’re not in a serious relationship with the other person, you have no way of knowing his or her sexual history or background,” says Bennett. “You don’t want one night of sex, unprotected, changing your whole life.”
“It’s advantageous to have condoms on your person,” says McDevitt. “With pizza workshops, participants rarely ask about wearing gloves to make the pizza. But if I have gloves available, many will ask their partner about wearing them. So just having a condom there greatly increases the chances that it will be used.”
Here are Planned Parenthood’s guidelines on safer sex practices.
Advocate for Your Pleasure
“Your pleasure is critical to every single sexual experience, no matter how casual or otherwise,” says Gigi Engle, certified sex coach, sexologist, and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: a guide to sex, love, and life. “We have this notion, especially for those raised female, that we are somehow only responsible for the pleasure of our partner, and our orgasm doesn’t matter. If we have one, cool, but if not–that’s OK. It’s really not OK.”
Engle encourages people to tell their partner what works for them and even show them if that’s needed. “If you’re with someone who isn’t willing to take feedback or simply ignores you, don’t hook up with that person, leave the situation,” she says. “Call it a day/night. It’s simply not worth it to ‘just get through it.’” Every sexual experience should leave you feeling sexually fulfilled and emotionally healthy.
Be Cyber Aware
“Hooking up while on vacation is part of the fun of being out of town and away from your standard life,” says Dr. Chris Donaghue, a sexologist and SKYN Condoms’ sex and intimacy expert. You may want to share the play-by-play of your adventures (and maybe brag a little bit)–I totally get it. But you do not want would-be predators to know your whereabouts in real-time, especially if you are using hashtags like “#solofemaletraveler.” Instead, wait until you leave a bar, event, landmark, or restaurant to post to any social media platforms. Instant (virtual) gratification isn’t worth compromising your personal safety. Donaghue emphasizes that being cyber aware is always necessary, but especially when you are in a foreign place and away from home.
Screw Any Guilt You May Experience
There’s a lot of stigma and shame in our society around sex and promiscuity. “So many folks experience sexual shame in our society for a variety of reasons: beliefs instilled in them by family, church, or just the silence around sex and lack of sex education in general,” says Philadelphia-based sex educator, Erica Smith, M.Ed. “What better time to practice casting off some of those belief systems and liberating yourself from sexual shame than while traveling? When you travel, almost everything is a new, exciting experience and you have a real opportunity to do some self-exploration in this area.”
“Depending on where you are, you may be in a culture where there is an entirely different attitude around sexuality,” says Smith. “Some countries in Western Europe–most notably France, Germany, and the Netherlands–separate sex from religion. People raised in these countries do not carry the same sexual shame that Americans do. Live like the locals!”
The bottom line is that safe, vacation hookups can be a lot of fun. Having sex (or sexy fun) in a way that makes you feel good about yourself is what’s most important.