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.
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.