Smart Feminists Know 10 Things About Hooking Up

1. The “appropriate” time is when you feel like it.
You’re not a slut if you hook up the first time hanging out with someone, and you’re not a prude if you “hold out” until your 20th date. You’re a person who is in fully in control of making a decision that feels right for her. Literally nothing is more appropriate than that.

2. Defining virginity is super outdated.
Most people seem to agree that penis + vagina = Official Sex. Okaaaaay, but are you still a virgin if you’ve had oral but not vaginal sex? What if you regularly get down with your girlfriend — and have never been with a guy? Answer: There is no answer, because virginity is a dusty old concept that’s historically been used for gross purposes . Try this term instead: sexually active, which is judgment-free and applies to all hookups.

3. Masturbation isn’t just a dress rehearsal.
At some point you might have heard that touching yourself can help you figure out what you like so you can report back your partner. True, but it’s not just about practicing for someone else! Lots of people touch themselves to learn more about their bodies, deal with stress, feel unstoppable, sleep, bust up a bad mood, even alleviate period cramps. It can be just for you, and it’s all cool in terms of how, why and how often.

4. Communication makes every hookup hotter.
Assuming you and bae aren’t mind readers, communicating openly is pretty much the secret to ensuring everyone feels amazing. So be sure to check in throughout. Try lines like, “How does this feel?” or “Want to see if you like XYZ?” And know that your partner/s should be checking in with you, too. If something isn’t quite working, speak up and make your feelings known (“Hey, let’s try this instead”). Everyone wins!

5. Pressure tactics can be sneaky.
No question: Initiating sexual contact with someone who straight-up says no (or who is unable to say yes) is assault or rape. But what happens when the initiator acts “nice” and says something like, “Baby, you’re so hot, I can’t help it”? Nuh-uh. Still not OK. Beware of manipulative statements that can mess with your willingness to withdraw consent, and don’t hesitate to shut it the eff down if you start to feel uncomfortable about anything.

6. You don’t deserve to feel guilty for going “too far.”
Listen, sometimes plans have a funny way of changing. If you meant to stick to kissing only but wound up making out with your shirt off, focus on how you felt in the moment: Was it fun? Did it feel good? Is everyone cool? Fantastic, no harm done. Are you having misgivings? That’s OK, too. Instead of beating yourself up for a choice you can’t change, map out what you’ll do differently next time. That’s how we learn and grow in life!

7. Safe sex is happy sex.
Being distracted by thoughts of pregnancy or an infection isn’t exactly hot. (It’s the opposite, actually.) So make every effort to prepare for hookups. Stash a few condoms in your bag — in a pinch, you can even use scissors to cut them into a square shape for dental dams. And if you’re on the Pill, be sure to bring your pack with you if there’s any chance you’ll crash at your hookup’s place overnight. You have more fun stuff to concentrate on!

8. Your “number” is cosmically meaningless.
Numbers worth caring about: the date of your next history test, your locker combo, the length of your Snapchat streak with your BFF. Number not worth stressing about: How many or how few hookups you’ve had. While it’s tempting to compare yourself to other people, literally everyone’s experience is different. Yours is 100 percent valid, so quit counting!

9. Personal grooming = personal choice.
Can you imagine pausing mid-hookup to be like, “Hmm, your nail polish is not my favorite color, so unfortunately I have to leave now”? That would be insane. Likewise, if someone takes issue with some aspect of your pubic hair (or any other physical feature), they’re probably not the best person to get down with anyway. Good riddance! You do you.

10. You’re hot.
Trust: The more you believe it, the truer it becomes.