Okay, so you’ve been seeing someone for a long time–like a LONG time, and they’re your everything. For years you relied on each other for emotional support, comedic relief, and yes, especially sex. But then one thing led to another and you went your separate ways.

Newly single and unacclimated with the current dating scene, putting yourself out there can seem more intimidating than ever! And while first dates and falling in love is all fine and dandy, there are those of us that just want to find an attractive person, have great, respectful and consensual sex, and then part ways, never to be seen again. No matter what your preference of sexual exploration, this is a beginner’s guide to casual sex.

Casual sex. What does it even mean? Is it a friends-with-benefits relationship or is more of a hit-it-and-quit-it scenario? Any number of interpretations can be taken from the term ‘casual’, so it’s important to figure out what you want out of it. Knowing our own comfort levels, limitations, and intentions is the first step toward having a mature sexual relationship.

So, you’ve figured out what you like–now you just need to be confident enough to voice it! Being intimate with people you don’t know so well can be daunting (though it can be just as intimidating with someone you do know), but it’s important to remember that communication is key. I used to be so shy speaking up in the bedroom, but as I’ve gotten more confident and comfortable with myself (and by talking to partners), I’ve found that being vocal about what you want makes for a way better experience. At the end of the day, you should feel validated and heard, never be afraid to tell someone what they’re doing totally sucks! (Although you should definitely use some nicer words).

A mature sexual relationship between two adults is a beautiful thing when it works right, but it’s important to remember things don’t always come so easily (no pun intended). There are going to be awkward moments, graceless slip ups, and hey, let’s face it– sometimes two bodies just don’t fit together that well. It’s important to remember we are all human and, especially when two people have no idea what the other likes, a sex learning curve is expected.

Now, all those details aside, of course you should always be thinking about protection! Here, you definitely have to be selfish — whatever happens always make sure to put yourself first. Keep in mind that condoms don’t protect against everything, and neither do all forms of birth control. You should feel comfortable asking your partner questions like “When was the last time you got tested?” or “Do you always use protection?”

It’s nice to think that everyone is honest about such significant information (although I’m not out here shaming people with STIs), but it’s naive to think that people don’t lie. And hey, shit happens and sometimes in the moment bad decisions are made. The best situation is to ask beforehand to avoid awkwardness, likewise you don’t want to make someone you’re literally about to sleep with feel like a potential contaminant!

No matter what goes down, make sure everything is totally consensual, and try not to put so much pressure on yourself and your partner! Relax and have fun –you never know what you’ll learn about yourself from just letting loose and trying something you’ve never done before with someone you’ll never see again.