How to Explore Your Sexuality Safely and Without Strings Attached
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When you're young and in college, you're searching for ways to express and discover yourself—and often do so through other people. You might have even had some thoughts or fantasies that led you to believe that you might be LGBTQ+. While you're in the perfect setting for sexual exploration, you should take the opportunity to be curious and let yourself dabble in some same-sex shenanigans.

It's easier said than done, though, because not everyone is quite so sure where they should start. If you find yourself unsure of how to experiment with your sexuality in college, try to keep these in mind:

1. Stock up on necessary protection

No matter who you're hooking up with, protection will never be any less important. Consider using a female condom or a dental dam if you're hooking up with a girl. If you're getting with a guy, always use a condom and even think about bringing lubricant with you in case you have penetrative anal sex.

On that note, it's a common misconception that men who have sex with men are inherently dirty and diseased. Their sexual practices can be really risky, though (like anyone's), if they don't use condoms or aren't careful about how they have anal sex. You're also mistaken if you think that sex between two women doesn't carry any STD risks. While you are less likely to contract chlamydia, gonorrhea, and HIV through lesbian sex, women are still capable of transmitting nasty infections like HPV, herpes, and pubic lice. So regardless of what's in your partner's pants, it's critical that you're guarding yourself against STDs and other unwanted surprises.

SEE ALSO: 8 Excuses To Use To Get Out Of Wearing A Condom

2. Educate yourself on same-sex relationships and sexuality in general

How can you expect to explore your sexuality if you hardly have a grasp on how same-sex relationships work? Like with any other unfamiliar topics, do some research before you dive into a world you barely know. You can even ask your LGBTQ+ friends for some information and they'll happily give you some pointers about same-sex love and even the sex itself. If you'd rather keep your questions to yourself, simple Google searches like "what is it like to kiss a girl/boy" and "how do gay men/lesbians have sex" will suffice.

3. Be honest with yourself about what YOU want

What are you looking to take away from your same-sex experience? Are you looking for a little bit of drunken fun with one of your gal pals? Are you genuinely questioning your sexual orientation and want to put your feelings to the test? Whatever your reason is for sexual exploration, remember that you are always in control of how you act upon the thoughts you've been having. Whether or not you choose to experiment is solely your decision and no one has the authority to pressure you one way or the other. You need to be honest with yourself about your intentions before you can even consider moving forward.

4. Visit your campus's LGBTQ+ center for some advice

Almost every college and university has an on-campus LGBTQ+ center that's fully equipped to answer any questions you may have on the subjects of gender and sexuality. The staff members are likely LGBTQ+ individuals themselves, so they can offer you personal words of wisdom on how to gently go about questioning and experimenting. And who knows, you might even meet someone there who's willing to help you along, if you catch my drift…

5. Be picky about who you choose to experiment with

Life isn't exactly like a John Green novel. You probably won't find the perfect hookup as soon as you go looking for them. Go with your gut and don't be afraid to hold your potential hookup to your dating standards. You might not want to go out with them, per se, but if you're planning on being physically intimate with them, it's in your best interest to find someone you can trust to be kind and understanding of your situation. Whether your ideal partner is someone you bumped into at a party or your best friend, ensure that they respect your boundaries and are open to being your "guinea pig."

6. Tread carefully if you're thinking about hooking up with a friend

A friend might seem like the best option for a no-strings-attached hookup, but complicating the emotional relationship you already have with physical intimacy might spell out disaster in the future. Even though you know and trust this person with the connection you already have, you're moving on to completely unchartered territory when you decide to make out or have sex with them. Unrequited crushes and awkwardness may very well ensue when you least expected them to. There's no telling how either of you will react to the encounter after it's over, so you have to be prepared for the worst.

If you're that certain that your friendship will be unharmed, though, then by all means, go for it.

7. Always go into a hookup with a clear, (mostly) sober mind

It's okay and perfectly understandable if you need some liquid courage to jumpstart your self-exploration. At first glance, experimenting with your sexuality can seem like a daunting task, so approaching it in a buzzed state might be a good way to keep yourself moving. However, with drinking to calm your nerves, moderation is key. It's important that you're not so drunk that you become vulnerable to unwanted advances from the people around you. Being too drunk to control yourself is never the answer to any problem, no matter how intimidating it seems. If you plan on drinking to psych yourself up for a same-sex hookup, make sure you limit your intake and surround yourself with trusted friends who can keep an eye on you.

Also, it's best that you don't use same-sex exploration as a coping mechanism for a bad breakup. Don't save the decision to hook up with a random person for the heat of the moment. Make sure you've given the idea plenty of thought and that you don't use your emotions as an excuse to act out sexually.

8. Be honest with your partner about your intentions

Before you set someone up as your homosexual "test drive," make sure that they are fully aware of what's happening and why it's happening. Your partner deserves to know that your connection is strictly physical and that it was initiated in your quest to explore your sexuality. Clarifying the nature of your relationship from the start prevents either of you from reading too far into your interactions, sparing you both from hurt feelings later on.

Also, keep in mind that not every LGBTQ+ individual is open to bi-curious hookups. Your desired partner might be looking for a relationship with somebody who is more sure of their identity, and that's okay! There will definitely be another person down the road who's willing to guide you through your experimenting. Finding the ideal partner may take some time, but the search will be well worth it when you finally meet someone who satisfies all of your expectations.

9. Pace yourself and only go further if you're 100% comfortable

Regardless of your and your partner's sexuality or gender, consent is ALWAYS mandatory. BOTH of you must be consenting to what's happening at all times with the utmost enthusiasm for it to be a consensual encounter. As you explore your sexuality, know that you can revoke your consent at ANY TIME without having to make any excuses. Should you lose interest or start to feel anxious, you have every right to stop and remove yourself from the situation. Just because your partner is also a girl or is also a guy doesn't mean they are entitled to your body any more than a partner of the opposite sex is.

Don't feel ashamed for giving up on a same-sex hookup because you got too self-conscious or even felt afraid. You can experiment in small doses and go as slowly as you need to so you can maximize your comfort.

10. Don't be afraid to admit that experimenting isn't for you

So you kissed a girl and you didn't like it. Or you got with another guy and didn't feel any sort of spark when he touched you. It's okay for you to acknowledge that your same-sex encounter didn't ignite a major transformation in how you see yourself. It could have been that you didn't vibe with your partner or that you just don't vibe with the same sex altogether. Only you can determine why it didn't work for you. Don't assume that you MUST be heterosexual if your hookup didn't leave you feeling any different. Likewise, don't assume you must be gay if your hookup DID affect you physically and emotionally.

11. Don't let anyone label you— not even yourself

Labels do not determine your self-worth, nor do they get to dictate how you "should" behave and feel. Just because you had a homosexual encounter doesn't mean you're automatically gay, lesbian, bisexual, or anything else. Sometimes, a kiss is just a kiss, sex is just sex, and a crush is just fleeting and not deserving of a full-on identity crisis. You can apply a label to yourself if you feel it fits, but don't force yourself into a rigid mindset that doesn't work for you. Only use a specific label if you are 100% comfortable with what it entails. And if you're still confused about who you are, give yourself time to sort it out. In terms of your sexual orientation (and gender identity, for that matter), when you know, you know.

12. Let your feelings go wherever they're meant to

So what you anticipated to be a one-night stand seems to evolved over time into a romantic crush that you can't stop thinking about. Your first instinct might be to panic because "this wasn't supposed to happen," but honestly, how can you be so sure of that? If you are meant to develop feelings for someone of the same sex, then so be it! Clearly you are attracted to this person in more ways than one and clearly they have the potential to make you happier, so why not go for it? You deserve endless love and adventures with your special person, whomever they turn out to be. Let your heart guide you in the right direction and it will all work out in the way it's destined to.

Whether you're gay, straight, bisexual, pansexual, asexual, or whatever else, you are every bit as valid as anyone else and you are entitled to love and happiness however you come by it. Experimenting may be a defining experience for you or it might not turn up any revelations at all, and it's okay either way. At least you know you put yourself out there and were brave enough to challenge conventional society and explore your sexuality.

Literally, so hot RN

Literally, so hot RN

11 Thoughts You Have While Losing Your Virginity

Oh my god, it's happening!

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Everyone has an idea of how they want the first time they have sex to be like. And while you might have this idea, and you might be prepared, you definitely aren't prepared for how awkward it can be. (Or for those awkward thoughts that are racing through your mind as it's happening.) So I surveyed former virgins about they were thinking about it when they had sex for the first time.

Here are all the thoughts they had when they lost their virginity:

1. "Is it over yet?"

OK, so this one was me. But it was so BORING. He laid there and didn't do anything, I was on top and I thought it was going to hurt but it didn't... I'll let you guys connect the dots. But anyway, I lied to him said that it hurt and asked if we could stop just so it would be over.

2. "I hope I'm doing OK."

Let's be real here though, this was probably everyone.

3. "This is happening. This is happening."

Probably everyones thoughts right when things start heating up.

4. "Well, this isn't what I expected. It's nothing like the movies."

Losing your virginity is nothing like "Fifty Shades of Grey." It's more like fifty shades of red from, embarrassment and putting in work.

5. "I hope it doesn't hurt—it hurts, when is this going to end."

I would bet that a lot of girls had this thought.

6. "He's not going anywhere."

I got a bunch of these comments.

7. "She's amazing."

Once again I got a bunch of these.

8. "This is happening fast."

It probably did, one minute you're putting on Netflix and the next you're naked...

9. "Do I really want this?"

If this is what you're thinking, just stop... yes even in the middle of it.

10. "I don't want this to end."

#CantRelate

11. "Will I look any different?"

I mean you don't look like your orgasm face, but no you won't look different.

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Contrary To Popular Belief, Friends With Benefits Can Work—But Only If You’re Willing To Take 'Friends' Out Of The Equation

The beauty of being friends with benefits is that if you find someone you trust, you can have that intimacy, without any expectations or jealousy.

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I was involved in a very toxic, controlling and jealousy-fueled relationship a few years back which was why, upon breaking off from it, I swore to myself that I will never ever commit into another relationship until I truly found The One.

After all, I'll be the one to admit—the college dating scene sucks. Every time I convince myself to try going out more and to start dating again, I end up instead going on one god-awful first date after another, relying on friends to set me up with guys, and being stampeded by that anxiety-inducing responsibility of having to text, call and snapchat a boy around the clock just to convince him that I'm into him.

I never actually considered having casual relationships or god forbid—even a friends with benefits situation with any guy I met. Maybe it's just my conservative upbringing in which my parents constantly drilled it into my head that I definitely shouldn't go around messing around with a different guy each week. Or maybe it was my reluctance to give it up to some random guy I just met and consequently come off as “easy."

But then this guy came along. And he completely transformed me, and how I viewed casual relationships.

Let's just call him "John."

But John is someone who I hit it off with from the moment we met and he's probably the only guy I've met who I had a physical attraction to, but not an emotional attraction to.

I have to admit that although he portrays this “bad boy" persona on the exterior, he does truly have a kind soul on the inside which I'm usually able to see right through. But this “bad boy" image is probably why I wouldn't consider dating him in a serious relationship. I mean, because if I brought a guy like him home, my dad would most likely flip shit and my mom would throw a plant at him.

On top of that, our interests and career paths are so different from each other that it's hard to find things to relate to or build mutual respect for each other. He's graduating in a few months, heading off to grad school or perhaps even starting a entry level corporate job, and I don't ever see myself trying to commit to someone like that when I'm still stuck in school with a gazillion responsibilities to keep track of.

But well I'll put it this way—we were extremely attracted to each other, and one thing led to another and we hooked up. And as we sat next to each other talking unanimously for probably an hour after doing the deed, we both decided that we weren't looking for a relationship but that we definitely didn't want this to be some kind of one-night stand.

So we decided to be friends with benefits.

Now, I think the reason why friends with benefits is so looked down upon in our generation is that it defines everything that's wrong with dating culture today. It takes away the conventional method of wooing someone, going on a few dates and then using intimacy as a way to express your love for one another. And also, many people don't like it because it's easy to catch feelings for someone, and that's it's nearly impossible for it to actually work out.

But contrary to popular belief, it actually works.

But here's the catch: friends with benefits is NOT a balancing act of being friends and being sex partners. Rather, you have to be willing to give up one side of the equation in order to successfully obtain the other.

And in the case between me and John, we gave up trying to be “friends" in order to maintain the “benefits" and as a result, it works out perfectly.

The beauty of being "friends with benefits" is that if you find someone you trust, you can have that intimacy, without any expectations or jealousy. And if you stop considering them to be your “friend," then you don't constantly have to think about them or try to make time to see them and you don't even need to freak out if you haven't heard from them for a few days.

But when you do get to see them and get to hang out, it's just this beautiful time you both can savor and really be in the moment without having to express all your emotional thoughts and feelings. Everything is stress-free between me and John, because of the lack of expectation of trying to either make this into an intimate relationship or trying to still be “friends" on top of it.

So here's my main piece of advice to anyone who wants friends with benefits without catching feelings: do not start texting each other all the time or try seeing each other too much. Because if you do, that's when you start catching feelings and try developing something more in the relationship.

If I had the choice, I probably wouldn't have followed John on Instagram (and I encourage you not to), just so I don't ever have to have that thought of whether he was watching my Insta Story or not, or who that girl was in his picture.

My other advice is to take try to take the notion of "friends" out of the equation. As mentioned above, I feel as if most of the time when "friends with benefits" doesn't work out, it's because you both are trying so hard to keep up the "friends" part of it that it begins to blur the lines together, which leads to confusion and heartbreak.

And if you find yourself still wanting to be his "friend" after enjoying the "benefits", I would recommend you to STOP what you're doing and have a conversation with him ASAP.

Be honest, be upfront and don't impose.

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