6 Safety Tips For Hookups At College Parties That Are Actually Pretty Helpful
Hooking up with someone at a party can be really thrilling — but it's important to make sure you're as safe as possible when doing so. Here are some useful safety tips for hookups at college parties so you can maximize your fun and minimize your risk. It's totally valid to want both safety and sexual autonomy when hooking up with people. I talked with sex therapist Dr. Stefani Threadgill, host of the @SexWithDrJess podcast Dr. Jess O’Reilly, , and RAINN public speaker and survivor JoAnn Buttaro about ways that you can make sure you're as safe as possible when you hook up at college parties. Dr. O'Reilly says, "Remember that it’s OK to hook up and it’s OK to abstain."
If you or a friend is assaulted, seek out a trusted authority figure like your RA, medical professional, campus police, or your university's assault advocate office as soon as possible. You can also call RAINN's national sexual assault support hotline or your university's emergency counseling center line. The survivor of an assault is never at fault or to blame. There are numerous resources and people waiting to help you and, most importantly, try to remember that you are not alone.
1. Bring Condoms With You
All three experts recommend bringing your own protection with you on a night out. O'Reilly says, "Avoid carrying condoms in warm places like a glove compartment or in your wallet in your back pocket where you might sit on them." Warmth and pressure put your condoms at risk of being damaged, making them less effective. "Instead, put them in your bag, purse or jacket pocket," O'Reilly explains, and make sure that they are not past their expiration date. If you don't need condoms that go over a penis, bring dental dams or finger condoms. You can also make your own latex dental dam by cutting the top of a condom off and cutting down the side. The internal condom FC2, also known as a female condom, can be inserted into the body prior to leaving the house.
When used properly, condoms are effective at preventing pregnancy 98 percent of the time, Planned Parenthood says. They also lower the risk of sexually transmitted infections. Condoms that go over the penis are the most commonly used protection method for penetrative sex, but one should also consider using protection for oral sex. According to O'Reilly, "The risk of STIs associated with oral sex varies according to several factors including (but not limited to), open cuts in the mouth, open sores, immunity, fluids in the region and the specific STI itself. For example, the CDC reports that there is little to no risk of getting or transmitting HIV from oral sex, but other STIs like herpes (HSV) and hepatitis can be transmitted via oral sex."
When hooking up with a partner at a party, where you don't necessarily know each other and their status, using protection during oral sex can ensure you have a lower risk of getting an STI. Consider purchasing flavored condoms, lube or dental dams if the texture or taste of latex is a deterrent for you.
2. Consider and communicate your boundaries.
Before you head out for the night, consider what you might be comfortable doing if you do wind up hooking up with someone, O'Reilly recommends. Though your desires might change throughout the night, it is helpful to have an idea of what you want to do so that you can communicate that to partners.
Once you've met someone or are in a space where you may begin hooking up with a person, clearly communicate desires and boundaries, O'Reilly explains. You have the right to do as much or as little as you choose — with the enthusiastic consent of all parties involved. O'Reilly explains that, "If you want to make out while naked, but avoid genital touching, that’s your call. If you want to have P-V intercourse without oral, that’s OK too. And if you want to do naked body shots with 10 strangers in the kitchen, but don’t want to engage in any sexual activity in a private room, that’s your prerogative."
Make sure that as soon as you are engaging with someone that you are both communicating what you want to do and what you don't want. If this communication isn't occurring, leave the situation. You always have a right to exit a situation and to say no.
3. Give and Receive enthusiastic consent.
Enthusiastic and frequent consent from all individuals involved is vital and required when hooking up, no matter where you are or if you've been with this person before. "Once you’ve communicated your desires and limits, remember that you can make changes and revoke consent at any time. If something doesn’t feel good, speak up. If you want to slow down, say so. If you’re not sure what your partner likes, ask." O'Reilly explains, "'No means no' doesn’t suffice. Check in verbally throughout the encounter: 'Do you like this? Do you want more? Does this feel good?' If you’re not sure, take a break and ask them what they want. Be aware of body language: Are they reaching for you and pulling your closer?" If you say no, a partner should immediately adhere to this statement, and if they do not, you have every right to leave.
If you're nervous about asking questions like these, you're not alone. It can be super nerve-wrecking to ask questions about what some one wants to do sexually with you. The more you ask and engage in conversations about consent and sex, the more confident you can feel in doing so. Communication is the key to safe, consensual sex with anyone.
4. Use the buddy system.
The buddy system applies to parties too. Dr. Stefani Threadgill explains that a circle of friends can share their locations with each other in a group message on iPhones or on a location-tracking safety app like Life360. Communicate with each other about your intentions for the evening so that if one of your friends is not where they said they would be, the group can make sure to check in on them.
Going out with friends that know your plan is a safety net, explains Buttaro. It's a net you may not need but it doesn't hurt to cast it anyways. It also means that you can travel home together and walking at night in pairs is exponentially safer than walking alone. Check in with your friends throughout the night and let them know if your plans change or if you feel unsafe and need to leave.
5. Be aware of your drink and your surroundings.
"Keep an eye on your own drink at all times," says Buttaro. Though it would never be your fault if someone tampered with your drink, you can maximize your safety by bringing your own alcohol, making your own drinks, and knowing your limit for alcohol consumption. A good rule of thumb is to only accept drinks from others where you saw them open the sealed drink, or saw a bartender make the drink.
6. Pay attention to your potential partner's behavior.
"It goes without saying that verbal or physically aggressive behavior is a red flag, but someone who is not taking no [for an answer] or keeps trying to change your mind is also a red flag," explains Buttaro. It can be hard to read a person's behavior when you're at a loud party trying to have fun. And dangerous people don't often exhibit signs of untrustworthiness at first. Trust you gut and make sure whoever you're considering hooking up with listens to you and is respectful.
Hooking up at parties can be really thrilling when both partners are safe and enthusiastically consenting to everything taking place. Follow these tips and share them with your friends to ensure you have the safest time possible during a night out at a party.
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