The Debrief: Five Questions to Consider Before Sleeping with a Friend

You’re hot. Your friend is hot. Maybe it’s the way your bodies move together on the dance floor. Maybe it’s the way your friend is laughing tonight. Maybe it’s something you’ve been thinking about for a while now, or maybe you have a surprising sense that your friend is about to make a move and you’re not sure how to respond. As you consider your options, here are some questions you might ask yourself before you go home with a friend… in case it’s not that great.

1. What if one of us wants to stop?

Chemistry on the dance floor doesn’t always translate into chemistry in bed. You know this already, but knowing that you have such great chemistry as friends makes you really optimistic. But sex is awkward. Sex is not always, well, all that sexy. Even if you’re comfortable giving and getting consent with this person enough to start a sexual encounter, even if you’re confident that you’ll have ways to ask for what you really want, are you willing to say “stop” if that stops working out for you? And if your friend says no, or if your friend asks to stop, what are you going to do then? If you want to give sex a try, you’ll also need a back-up plan for saving face (and taking care of yourselves and each other) if it doesn’t happen the way you want it to.

2. Can we give and receive constructive criticism with each other?

Maybe you don’t really want to stop, you just want to do something a little differently. You like to be touched softer, or harder, or in a different place. You want to try moving into a different position. Even if you’ve talked to your friend about sex before, you probably don’t know all of each other’s likes and dislikes. You’re learning a lot of new things about each other really quickly. And it’s going to be a lot easier if you’re open to learning with each other, collaboratively. Is one of you trying to claim sex expertise? Are you going to be embarrassed if you don’t know how to do that thing your friend is asking you to do, or are you going to be excited to ask questions and figure it out?

3. Do we have enough of a vibe with each other to process what we need to process, depending on what comes up?

Ah, feelings. All the feelings. Some of the feelings you might do a wonderful job of handling on your own and getting support from other friends. But in any sexual interaction, and in any friendship, there are going to be some (or many) feelings that come up for one or both of you that you need to talk to each other about. It may be a short conversation clarifying something the other person said or did. Or it may be a longer conversation in which you really try to understand where you’re each coming from and what meaning and implications your experiences are having. Do you have the building blocks for these conversations within your friendship already, or is honest (and vulnerable) communication going to be part of your learning curve?

4. Could we still share our other sex and dating exploits with each other, later on?

You are friends, right? How might this night together affect your friendship later on? Friendships are often changing anyway, so change is not necessarily even possible to avoid. Will you still want to go to this person for solace, for advice, for laughs? How will you feel if this person comes to you to talk about sexual experiences with other people? How will you feel if this person stops coming to you to talk about sex? If you find yourself at a lot of the same parties or gatherings as this friend, consider how you might navigate those shared spaces. If you or your friend start dating someone else, what would it be like for that person to come around and get introduced? These situations also might implicate some feelings and boundaries, which you might need to chat about together, so think about how you can respond to each other’s feelings with care and compassion.

5. Do I care if “everyone” finds out?

OK, so obviously not everyone will find out. Not everyone knows who you are. Not everyone who knows you cares who your sexual partners are. But you know what I mean. “Everyone.” Everyone who cares. I’m not saying that everyone necessarily will find out. You and your friend can certainly check in about using certain measures of discretion, if that’s something you want and are both comfortable with. I’m also not saying it’s necessarily a bad thing if everyone does find out. It could be great. You and your friend have a good time together and everyone’s happy and it’ll make for an awesome story someday soon. Or it could be not great. Will you feel weird if people know, if people ask you about it? And if you do feel weird, are you up for that? Remember, though, if people are rude and judgmental, that’s not your fault and not something you should have to deal with. The decision is up to you and your friend.

What else would you want to ask yourself? Add your advice in the comments, and send me your stories and reflections!

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