Survival guide: keeping safe when casual dating

There are plenty of fish in the sea, but the water can be murky and dangerous. Charley Barnard suggests ways to keep yourself safe

Charley Barnard

Take what you will from the significance of a cactus.Charley Barnard

If there’s anything Cambridge students don’t have, it’s time. I am quickly finding that, among the demands of never winning a badminton match, my friendship group, and my degree, I have very little time left over for sex. And I’m a humanities student; goodness knows what the engineers are doing. I used to fit it in on a Sunday evening, but I found that it was making me miss the Blue Planet screening at Catz, so something had to give. (Priorities, right?) If you, like me, are finding yourself short on time but high on sexual frustration, you could try your hand at the casual dating scene.

Of course, there is an abundance of options. You could try Tinder, or Grindr. Or, if you prefer to communicate through the medium of dance, you could take someone home after your weekly Cindies trip. Then, there’s my personal favourite: the friends with benefits situation, if you can make it work and not catch feelings. (Historically, I can’t, but I live in hope.) Although students stereotypically are hook-up experts, I think it would be naïve of me to assume everyone knows what they’re doing (I certainly feel like I’ve only got to grips with it in the last year or so,) or even that everyone is experienced in this field.

“If you think it might be awkward to ask your partner to use a condom, try these handy lines I’ve come up with: “Let’s get sexy with safety!” “Can we use a condom?” “Let’s not risk it, wrap the biscuit.”

So here is my advice; take as much or as little of it as you like. As fun and exciting as casual sex can be, I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping yourself safe.

Tell someone where you’re going

Tell someone where you’re going, including an address, who you’ll be with – a full name and pictures if you can, and when you’ll be back. Make sure the person you’re telling will be sober enough to keep track, and care enough to check. I personally always tell at least one friend on my hall. In relation to this, you should always have a plan for getting home again, either after the magic moment, or as an exit route if things start going belly up. In the past, I’ve said to friends “call me a few times at 3, and if I don’t pick up, or text back within 15 minutes, call my mum, and/or the police.” Your safety always comes first, even if it feels silly or over-cautious. And if your partner feels offended and doesn’t understand the importance of your safety in these situations, that’s a red flag.

Be sober (as far as possible)

Both you and your partner should be lucid. Nobody can consent if they’re too drunk, and it’s important not to let yourself get in a position where you could be taken advantage of. One drink to break the ice might work for you, but ensure it’s not so many drinks that you’re breaking the law. Know your limits, and if in doubt, don’t sleep with anyone who’s been drinking.

Be aware

By this, I mean (again) don’t get too drunk, don’t do drugs (it’s kind of a given, but make sure to especially steer clear when putting yourself in a vulnerable position, such as a date) and make sure you know exactly what is going in any drinks you are being bought or made. If you’re going back with someone to their place, stick to a well-lit route, that ideally you know already – this is where the exploration we all did on freshers’ week comes in handy! Most of all, never take risks with your safety.

Use protection

I would get this tattooed on my face if I could. (The picture for this article FINALLY makes sense!) The WHO estimates that more than a million STIs are acquired every day. No excuse is good enough to take the risk of not using a condom, especially when most Cambridge colleges provide free contraception such as condoms and dental dams either at their porters’ lodges, through the college nurse, or through the JCR welfare officer. For condoms, make sure they’re in date and are CE stamped, meaning they pass European standards. Brands such as Durex, Pasante, Skyn, EXS and Magnum carry this mark. Don’t use oil based products such as body butters or oil based lubricants with latex condoms, as they can cause them to be more likely to break. Also, be wary about keeping condoms in your purse or wallet, because the friction can cause them to be more likely to break! If you think it might be awkward to ask your partner to use a condom, try these handy lines I’ve come up with: “Let’s get sexy with safety!” “Can we use a condom?” “Let’s not risk it, wrap the biscuit.”


Mountain View

Toploader to headline Christ's May Ball

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. What kind of sex columnist am I? And if your partner is refusing to use a condom, they’re not worth the effort. Get back on Tinder; there are plenty more cards in the stack