Casual sex takes many forms. You know the obvious ones: the one-night stand, the booty call, sex by appointment. More recent variations include "rec" (recreational) sex, which exists because, as one friend told me, "every great athlete needs practice." And then there's "cereal" sex, which is a one-night stand amid a dry spell that, like cereal, is satisfying in the moment but leaves you needing further sustenance shortly thereafter.
Yet, every flavor of casual sex—uncommitted, unemotional, purely carnal—is governed by the same rules. We list them below to help you fornicate better.
1) Check your emotions at the door.
When I hosted my ninth birthday party at a Japanese steakhouse, we were instructed to remove our shoes prior to sitting in our little elevated wooden booth. Then we enjoyed a fiery display that dazzled the senses and whet the appetite before a positively succulent meal.
In casual sex, you should similarly check your emotions at the door. What happens next may not involve an Asian man lighting a table on fire before your eyes or flipping a shrimp tail into his breast pocket but will, if all goes well, prove equally entertaining, satisfying, and, well, hot.
If you or your partner can't ignore your feelings, reconsider the arrangement. Casual sex should be unemotional, not sociopathic. Don't hurt anyone or set yourself up to be hurt—unless, you know, masochism is your thing.
2) Be yourself, only different.
Remember how the Wedding Crashers guys made up all those bogus back-stories? They were foreign legionnaires. Then New York Yankees. Then WASPs. Take a lesson from those masters of casual sex: be yourself—but different.
Don't lie to your partner: "I'd like to be pimps from Oakland or cowboys from Arizona, but it's not Halloween," Owen Wilson said in character. But you can appear more uninhibited, mysterious, and spontaneous than usual. You have permission to adopt somewhat of a character, a romanticized or heightened or self-actualized version of yourself. It's like role-playing, which, it turns out, many people really like.
3) Be a gentleman—and an animal.
Casual sex requires a delicate balance: respect and generosity and safety, coupled with unadulterated, unabashed corporeality. You're a gentleman and an animal, like a werewolf in a top hat.
Find your perfect combination: You're a (more upbeat version of) Edward Norton's polite narrator and, at the same time, Brad Pitt's six-pack-jacked Tyler Durden. You're Steve Urkel and Stefan Urquelle. You're Clark Kent in the streets and Superman in the sheets.
4) Control your portions.
Imagine a food pyramid, only for casual relationships. The base (reserved for grains) should be occupied by sex. When you're having casual sex, have lots and lots of sex. Have the most sex.
At the tippy top of the pyramid, (where sugars and sweets live) are what's to be done sparingly: Host a full-on sleepover followed by brunch the next day, a day in the park and then—why not?—a romantic dinner. That's the opposite of casual.
In between those extremes, you'll find activities like foreplay, showering, watching TV, talking, and preparing post-sex pastrami sandwiches. Handle non-sex, especially arrivals and departures, with self-awareness and courtesy. If you're hosting, don't kick someone out with the brazenness of a World Cup red card; also don't force or expect someone to stay over. If you're a guest, don't sneak out (wake me up before you go-go!), but don't overstay your welcome unless they're offering—and you're up for deli meat and spooning.
5) Pop the questions.
One-night stands, vacation sex, and whatever happened with your masseuse that one time can be anonymous, disorganized, and fleeting.
But if your arrangement appears ongoing, it's best to establish some ground rules. Ask some or all of these questions of yourself and your partner: Is this actually casual for both of us? What happens if our feelings change? How often and when do you want this to happen? Do you expect a date beforehand? Are you cool that I'm also seeing other people? Is this is a secret from friends and coworkers? Have you been tested? Do you like it when I put it there? How does that feel? Do you mind getting on top this time? Really? Right now? In the kitchen?
6) Stare death in the face.
The moment you start having casual sex is the beginning of the end. The arrangement, while enjoyable and healthy, is transient and unsustainable. It may last for a while, but ultimately, your little microcosm is destroying itself, which, in the words of famed sex columnist Al Gore, is an inconvenient truth.
Maybe the sex will get old. Maybe you'll find someone else. Maybe you'll start to like each other. Those definite maybes mean things will change. And when they do, be honest. Say something. Don't pull a Michael Jordan and just fade away. Leave the situation gracefully and respectfully, or get left humbly and patiently. No one likes a bad breakup, especially if there was no relationship to start.
—Ben Kassoy is on a politely provocative quest towards enlightened living and loving. He tweets @bkassoy.