Ah, the joys of hooking up: the walks of shame, the first-name confusion, the awkward "position" talk, that weird noise he makes with his mouth (just go with it). OK, sometimes hooking up isn't as joyful as it is in the movies. However, as my high-school theology teacher, Mr. Dolan, said, "sex is the kind of thing where when it's good, it's amazing, but when it's bad, well, it's still pretty damn good!" Hooking up is supposed to be a fun, safe way of exploring your sexuality, no matter whom or what you're into at the moment. But as with any exploration, there is a set of basic rules that can keep you safe and off the radar of the town's gossip queen, with your reputation in intact. So whether you're new to the game of hooking up or an old pro, be sure to hook up in a way that keeps your bedroom free of any twerkers with hidden agendas and puts a smile on your face.
Never hook up with friends. Hooking up with friends automatically changes the dynamic of the friendship. Friends should stay just that: friends. And if you hook up with all your friends, who will listen to you talk about your hookups?
Never hook up with more than two friends from the same social circle. Doing otherwise is a fast way to ensure that you're known as "that guy." Hopping from one friend's bed to the next is no accomplishment; you're just being passed around. Not cool.
Never hook up with the neighborhood gossip queen or people who are active in the social scene. Your sex life should stay private, and it's never a good look when all of Boystown knows whom you did, how you did him and where you did it. If you hook up with the town's gossip queen, people will know your penis size, your secret fetish, whether or not your middle toe is bigger than your big one, and how you like your coffee in the morning. Gossip is truly the lowest form of discourse, so don't be fodder for it. People who go out a lot will spill your business over a drunken conversation. Save yourself from all the secret pointing and whispering when you walk into the club and opt for a different evening suitor.
If neither of you can host, only hook up in five-star hotels. Gay bathhouses are just trashy, and you might run into a gossip queen or a popular scenester if you go, which would be breaking two hookup rules. Holiday Inn Express and Days Inn are to economy hotels what Zara is to H&M: a step up, but still not OK. There's something European and slightly mysteriously sophisticated about checking into an upscale hotel and doing the deed there. And you can order room service in the morning -- on him, of course.
If you can see him being your boyfriend, only hook up with him after you're in the relationship. Momma was so right when she said that if you give the milk away for free, no one will buy the cow. I don't care if you're a bottom, a top or versatile; we're all guys. Guys like what they can't have and are natural hunters. Make him work for it. If you truly like him, then wait until you're in a committed relationship, and the sex will be that much more special.
Never hook up with guys with race-related hangups. This rule is for all my fellow black gay men and other gay men of color. I'm sure you have heard it before: "I usually don't hook up with black [or Latino, Asian, etc.] guys, but you're an exception," or, "You're pretty hot for a black [or Latino, Asian, etc.] guy. " What the hell is that supposed to mean? Does anyone really think that's a compliment? Am I supposed to jump for joy and get down and do a guy just because his backwoods prejudices say it's all right this time? I don't think so. That said, don't cause a scene, and don't try to preach to him about racial sensitivity; you wouldn't try to explain yourself to a cockroach, would you? Merely take your drink, bid him "good evening" or "good day," and hook up with someone wouldn't utter such nonsense or refer to you as "exotic" (ugh!).
Don't hook up with stupid people. There's something really hot and engaging about an intellectual guy who can hold a conversation beyond discussing the latest Britney Spears album or Lady Gaga's newest outfit (not that I don't love those topics). He doesn't have to have a Ph.D. in molecular biology (which is hot, by the way), but he has to at least be able to discuss current affairs and a few news and political topics. If he can't hold such a conversation with you, it's more than likely that he won't be able to hold it down in the bedroom. Save your brain cells and the yarns and move on to the next suitor.
If he seems weird or creepy, assume that he's an axe murderer. Listen to your inner SVU detective. If a guy just seems off, don't go home with him. It may not be that he's trying to be mysterious, or a hipster, or different; he may be trying to lure you -- and not in the sexy/fun way.
If you don't want to hook up with a guy and/or are just not attracted to him, don't be a dick about it. Be nice to everyone, even if they don't deserve it. There's no reason to be mean, poke fun or have a laugh at another guy's expense just because he wants you and you don't want him back. That is just so high school and in poor taste, and it's a good way to make enemies. Moreover, if you're mean to him, he might go around town telling everyone that he had sex with you and that you were bad in bed. You can avoid this situation by smiling, kindly thanking him for his compliment/attention, and then excusing yourself to continue drinking with your friends.
Have fun, be yourself, and be safe! This may seem like three rules in one, but it's really not. If you're being yourself, then you're having fun, and if you're having fun, then you're being yourself, hopefully. As crazy as it sounds, hooking up is a good way to explore your sexuality and find out what you like and don't like -- with a rubber on, of course. Don't take the whole scene of hooking up too seriously, because others certainly aren't. Have a laugh, have a shot, and have a happy, safe hookup!
A version of this blog post originally appeared on ChicagoPride.com.