Hooking Up Can Be Awkward - Until It's Great

Hello! I’ve been a big fan of Scarleteen for a while now. I’ll be fully honest: I love Scarleteen!

So, it’s truly an honor, thrill, and excitement to get to call Scarleteen a new home for my writing. Hey, they say home is where the heart is! While here, I’ll be mostly writing about that magnificent phenomenon we call consent. And I can’t wait to share with, hear from, and learn with you!

In my experience, getting to the heart of consent has usually involved paying close attention to detail. For example, I host consent workshops professionally, and at one point during past workshops, when the audience is generally settled and feeling comfortable opening up, I have asked, “Who here has ever had something silly and awkward happen during a hookup? Even slightly awkward.” (When I say hooking up, I'm referring to sexual activity.) Hands have shot straight up and we all ended up getting a good laugh out of it. It just goes to show how awkward connecting with sex can be, whether you're in bed, thinking about it, or just talking about it!

For a lot of reasons, including the rapid response that seems so fast it should be an Olympic record, I fully agree with my audiences and I raise my hand too -- after they do since I don’t want the audience to be biased or I end up being the only one with their hand raised. I think a lot of these awkward moments happen because of the conversations we are having around our romance, or, should I say, the conversations we aren't having.

From my experience, the conversations that end up getting a little awkward are often times those important discussions that are valuable in developing healthy sexual partners. Like asking someone for their status with sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Wow, that’s not always so easy! But, without knowing, you’ll not only have to deal with the possibility of getting an STI - you’ll have to deal with the uncertainty of whether or not you’re going to get an STI before, during, and after the rendezvous. So there’s a clear purpose to having conversations around our intimacy! For your consideration, here are some conversations you might want to have before you jump into a hookup:

  • STIs – What is your sexual partner's health status? You probably want to know this.
  • Pregnancy – Are you engaging in activities that may result in pregnancy? Then you’ll probably want to discuss what the outcome would be in case things don’t go as planned.
  • Relationship model – Are you looking for a one night stand? Are you looking for something short term, long term? Exclusive, non-exclusive? Exclusively sexual? Are you uncertain of what you're looking for?

Sound intimidating? Don’t worry! I’m not going to leave you hanging. Here are some ways we can make these conversations easier so we can keep them as fun, exciting, honest, and sexy as we can:

  • Be realistic – Are you expecting this conversation be perfectly easy and effortless. Well, it’s probably not going to be 100% comfortable, especially when it's new to you or others. But, that’s okay!
  • Be bold – You’re probably going to have to go out on a limb and express your genuine interests about your desires.
  • Be honest – Being inauthentic can only push us away from discovering mutual desire. It’s always such a challenge to find our interests, but you if do know what they are, say them! If not, that’s okay! Either way, be honest.
  • Be clear – If you’re referring to something, say it clearly.
  • Be open and respectful – When you hear somebody suggest something sexual that you’re not interested in, if you react with, “EWWW! YOU LIKE TO DO THAT!? GROSS!” I’m willing to bank on the outcome that their reaction will probably not be so positive – or hot. Plus they’ll probably be less willing to share with you some really great sexual idea both of you might be interested in. Even more, they might also now be turned off. Consider saying things like, “I think it’s totally awesome that you’re into X, but I’m not personally into that.” And then maybe be willing to follow it up with, “…but I am into Y, are you?”
  • Be ready for surprise – The element of surprise is always present. Everyone has their own unique sexuality, so assuming you and the person you’re with are 100% compatible for everything all the time might not be so realistic.
  • Timing – This one is key. If you like, you can have the conversations ahead of time. Instead of asking in the heat of the moment, try having these conversations in those casual moments before you hookup. Maybe your on the second or third date and it’s been going great and you think there’s a chance of it developing into something greater, perhaps you could ask, “How fast were you planning on moving?” If it’s fast enough for these conversations to be necessary, then you have a great opportunity to cover your bases and start these important questions so when it’s time, you’ve already got it covered!

Keeping these guidelines and ideas in mind is a great step you can take. Aside from your sexual partner, there are still some things you can grapple with to make sure the consensual grappling continues. One great addition is emotional self-awareness. By being present and aware of your attitudes and responses to these conversations you can help make these conversations happen and continue to happen. Some folks find conversations about sex and consent to be:

  • Intimidating
  • Scary
  • Stupid
  • Unsexy
  • Unromantic
  • Scripted
  • Formal
  • Awkward
  • Structured
  • Inauthentic or not real
  • Or, something else

No matter what your reactions are, you’ll soon find out that the more you try to express yourself with communication through words, the chances of these types of responses happening are greatly reduced. Translation -- in the near future this may mean that asking for dates, kisses, and a whole lot more may become a lot more comfortable and sexier! A conversation that felt scripted once might even feel totally natural once you get some practice, or one that felt unsexy at first might later turn into something that really turns you on.

So let’s recap: discussing what you’re into and discovering what you’re hookup is into by talking about it can be awkward, that is, until it’s great.

Until you both know what each other want, when, and how. That is the point when consent has given you something amazing. Consent has given you a glimpse into the desires of the person that you're with so now not only have you expressed your wants, and you’ve found out theirs, but you’ve found the overlap and that is the amazing opportunity to consensually satisfy your wants. So let's avoid the awkwardness of silence, we know that it gets us nowhere. Let's find ways to talk about something new, talk with somebody in a new way, and continue to move forward.



Thank you so much for your kind words! I'm so happy you found this post to be valuable. I'm not sure when I'm going to update next. Hopefully soon!

Dear Ben,
Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and wisdom with young men and women. Sex is scary and it's even scarier when one needs to take a stand for their safety and health. The spread of STD's and HIV is growing daily and it is through people like you that positive message get shared. When I was younger I did not feel like I had resources such as this to learn about sex. I come from a family where we don't talk about anything (and ESPECIALLY sex)! Communication is key, and it is obvious that in order to be safe sometimes things need to get a little awkward. I work at a Children's Hospital and I was suprised to find that we do not offer very many programs for sex education. Educating young people about sex is so valuable; I have seen too many young parents at the hospital to know this. I am hoping to learn more about resources our facility has, and hope to get more invovled in this venture at the local level. Thank you for sharing.