Hooking Up: Back to School

Before you head back to campus, check your head when it comes to sex and dating: What's your relationship "frame of mind?" Are you content to happily hook-up or are you ready to seriously couple-up?

A lot can change over the summer and, in addition to getting ready to hit the books, perhaps you're also ready to turn a new leaf in the romance department?

With that in mind, here are a few simple rules for college dating.

If you're content to happily hook-up:

1.) Keep it simple - as in stay away from your roommate's ex, or your best gal-friend (who probably has a serious crush on you - as if you didn't know) or your ex twice removed. The whole point of casual sex is that it should require even less time and effort than that Pass/Fail Astronomy requirement you still need to take.

2.) Be safe. When you have casual sex, you're sleeping with your partner's partners' partners and so on.

"The more partners an individual has," according to the study "Sex in America," "the more likely he or she is to have sex with people who themselves have many partners, the more likely he or she is to have sex with virtual strangers; the more likely she or he is to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol during some sexual encounters, and while it is more likely that a condom was used, the rate of increased use of a condom does not seem great enough to offset the higher risks of infection." So practice safe sex, and that means make smart decisions - preferably semi-sober decisions, not inebriated ones.

3.) Have fun. Hooking up (safely) is a great way to learn about sex, try out new techniques, and express your desires without the fear of being judged by someone you really care about. Basically casual sex is like training-wheels for that future special someone. But make sure the pleasure is mutual. According to Emily Nagoski, a woman is less likely to have orgasms early in a relationship. "Her body needs time to adapt to the new partner, to learn to trust him or her, and to relax into the knowledge that her partner accepts and appreciates her body." So even if the sex is just casual, still aim for being an A-student.

If you're in search of something serious:
1.) Embrace the courtship process for what it is - a process! 

Renown anthropologist Helen Fisher describes love as a three-phase system:

* Lust, in which we can attach to anyone.

* Attraction, in which lust finds its focus and blossoms into romantic love. 

* Attachment, in which romantic love matures into a long-term relationship. 

So don't settle for Phase 1 lust. Movies like Friends With Benefits and No Strings Attached paint a picture in which casual sex leads to true love and happily ever after. If you're looking for love, don't settle for a hook-up. You're more likely to end up with a hangover than a happy ending.

2.) Break away from the pack. Sure it's fun to hit the cafeteria or local club with your posse, or just hang back with your buddies, but the problem with a group dynamic is that it doesn't let the real you shine through. The way you act around your buddies is probably not the way you would want to come off with someone you're seriously interested in, so if you want to find relationship bliss, fly solo.

3.) Approach the pursuits of love like you're buying a piece of art - you want to find someone unique and special that you're inspired to take home and frame. But too often we walk around with our frames, trying to fit someone into them: they need to be the right type, or have the right friends, or look or act a certain way. Rightfully so our standards for a relationship are higher than those of a hookup, but put away the frame and approach the search for love with a fresh set of eyes.

Whether you're ready to major in serious romance, or want to continue to minor in avoiding commitment, keep your goals front of mind and take heart: There's always graduate school.

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