I just joined an eating club, and I’m already excited about all the new friends I’m making! I’ve also started hooking up with someone I recently met in the club. Our relationship is pretty casual, and for the most part, physical. In fact, when we’re eating dinner in a group or hanging around the club during the day, I feel like I’m barely acknowledged. We are both enjoying the physical side of our relationship, but I also feel confused about having casual sex. What should I do?
–Confused Club Member
Dear Confused Club Member,
It’s great that you’ve taken initiative in trying to understand your feelings about your relationship. College relationships can sometimes be hard to navigate, especially when they take place in a relatively new and unfamiliar environment. Relationships come in all forms and levels of commitment, and there is nothing wrong with having a casual relationship if it is something you and your partner desire (and, of course, if you are having safer sex, but more on that later). Only you can decide if a purely physical relationship is something that you want for yourself.
That said, as with any type of relationship, you want to make sure that you respect yourself and your partner, even if the relationship is solely sexual. Does your partner make you feel comfortable and respect your boundaries when you engage in sexual activity? Do they treat you with respect outside of the physical relationship, even if you aren’t necessarily friends or emotionally involved? You want to be sure that you and your partner are maintaining a good level of communication about your expectations for the relationship. If one partner is viewing the relationship differently than the other, it might lead to even more confusion or hurt feelings, so it’s important that you and your partner are on the same page regarding the type of relationship that you are each interested in.
It’s also important that you respect and communicate with your partner about physical concerns. As with any sexual relationship, you should communicate openly about using condoms, dental dams, or other forms of barrier protection, as well as about getting tested for STIs. You can get condoms free of charge from your RCA, the LGBT Center, a Peer Health Adviser (PHA) or at the front desk at McCosh. There is also STI testing at the University Health Services’ Sexual Health and Wellness clinic; HIV testing is free and gonorrhea and chlamydia testing is $9.50.
If you still feel as though you might be confused about engaging in casual relationships, or if you just want to speak with someone about your concerns, you can speak with a health provider at the Counseling and Psychological Services (CPS) provided by University Health Services at McCosh. While the decision to have casual sex is ultimately yours to make, it’s not one you have to make alone.
Information regarding casual relationships retrieved from Columbia University’s Go Ask Alice