Friends With Benefits : The Lowdown on Keeping it on the Down Low (Part 2)

This is part two of a series adapted from our Horny Asians & Other Tales panel discussion held on June 26th, 2021. Hosted by Malaysian Sex Positive Advocate Jasmine King, Jangan Malu June was a series of virtual talks and workshops celebrating self and sexual empowerment.

So if you’ve read part one to our Friends With Benefits guide, you’ve hopefully mastered the art of Self Awareness. That means you’re in tune with the reasons why you want an FWB, can recognize the signs when you’re catching feelings, and able to take it as much as you can dish it. Amazing! But hold up… there’s still have a couple more factors to consider before exploring casual sex.

It may be called a No-Strings Attached (NSA) affair but ultimately they all come with loose threads that may end up in a messy entanglement if you’re not careful. So let’s dive into one of the most important factors in casual sex: Risk Awareness.

Let’s face it, not everyone will have the aptitude for casual sex because it is a high risk activity. Whether you’re eyeing that cutie at the bar or swiping right on Tinder, the truth is that one does require a high tolerance for risk and uncertainty to engage intimately with essentially a stranger. Even if it’s someone you already know within your social circle, there isn’t a safety net of commitment and shared history that’s comparatively present in a romantic relationship. While shows like Sex/Life and the OG Sex and The City may present the young, carefree and uninhibited single female living it up, they often don’t show the real risks of STIs and unplanned pregnancies. Let alone the actual physical danger when seeking for and engaging in casual sex. To paraphrase Margaret Atwood’s famous quote and use it in the context of hookups:

“Men worry about getting catfished, women worry about getting murdered”

But obviously if you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you’re up to the thrill and sexual exploration so these are the three considerations before and during a hook-up session.

1. Physical Safety

2. Sexual Health

3. Security & Ease of Mind

1.Risk Awareness: Physical Safety

“What if he’s a serial killer?” is usually the first question I get from girlfriends who are curious about hook-ups. Unfortunately statistically this is a half-truth. While it’s rare to bump into an actual serial killer, 50% of all female homicide victims are killed by intimate partners according to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in USA. Note that intimate partners in this study also include husbands and boyfriends. No matter your gender, it is an actual risk that you may just end up meeting a dangerous person who can physically harm you.

The last thing we want to do is to raise alarm and turn you off from seeking your personal pleasure. The reality is you don’t hear the stories of successful horny hook-ups in the news (and obviously there’s a lot of them…) so here are some of our recommendations to keep you safe:

1. Meet with your “clothes on”:

So you guys have been texting and even sexting the past few weeks and you’re ready to get it on. Instead of heading straight to their place or yours, have your first meet at a public and neutral place. Pick a popular cafe or bar in a location that’s not too close to home or work – just in case you’re not feeling it to avoid a stalker situation. If it works out, then go on to the next tip!

2. Share your location with a trusted ally:

We don’t mean you have to share your actual coordinates via your phone with your bestie (though that’s not a bad idea!). At the very minimum, do tell someone whom you trust that you’re planning to go on a date and that you’ll be at X location at Y time. Figure out a plan of action with them if they don’t hear from you by a specific time. And obviously if all goes well and you’re changing plans to spend the night, do check in and update your buddy so they don’t end up calling the cops or breaking down the door!

3. Avoid being under the influence of alcohol/drugs:

Yes, while we suggested that you’ll meet at a popular bar and have a drink to calm the nerves, don’t go to the other extreme and end up being too impaired! Apart from the obvious reason of giving sober and active consent during sex, you’ll also want to be fully aware of your surroundings especially if you’re going to their home in an unfamiliar neighborhood. For men, you may not need to be as concerned about physical safety while you’re drunk or high but you’ll probably want to avoid the case of ‘whiskey dick’!

4. Trust Your Gut:

It may sound like advice from the hippie realm but at the end of the day, if you’re not feeling the vibes and instead have a knot in your stomach – we say run.

“From a physiological perspective, neuroscientist and author of The Source Tara Swart, M.D., Ph.D., says, “Your gut feelings are a combination of your gut bacteria communicating directly to your brain via chemical messengers in the blood (cytokine transmission) and the gut neurons connection to the limbic (emotional and intuitive) part of the brain.”
– via

Our bodies are wired through evolution to constantly pick up extrasensory cues in the background and warn us of ‘danger’. Not sure how you’re really feeling in the moment? Ask your body. Notice if you’re breathing harder or shallower, feeling light-headed, warm flushes, butterflies in the gut, clenching your fists, etc. These are some of the signs that you’re not comfortable in the situation or the person. Only you would recognize and be aware of your own gut signals and in this case, use the gift of fear to protect yourself.

2.Risk Awareness: Sexual Health

Don’t worry, we’re not going to preach about STI and always wear a condom. (Editor’s Note: That’s coming up in another series!) We get it… sometimes in the heat of the moment or if you’ve been regular FWBs and trust each other, it’s tempting to go bare-backed and leave the condoms unopened.

You don’t have to beat yourself up about your choices but instead, we’re just here to remind you of the basic sexual health needed if you’re planning to engage in casual sex as a lifestyle choice.

1.Use STI protection like condoms and dental dams:

Ladies, it’s 2021. Bring your own box of condoms to your casual encounters to ensure he doesn’t have “I forgot” as an excuse on his end. Always check the expiry dates on the condoms, be careful when tearing open the foil of the package and pinch the tip of the condom as it’s rolled down the shaft so there’s enough space for the semen to accumulate. Otherwise if it might just leak down the shaft or break which defeats the purpose!

Also be aware of ‘stealthing’ . Stealthing is the act of removing the condom midway during sex without consent from the other party and considered as sexual assault. It is an actual crime in Singapore under the Penal Code 376H Procurement of sexual activity by deception or false representation.

2.Being Premptive with PrEP :

You might have heard about PrEP, the daily pill that protects you from HIV. PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis which means that it’s taken prior to exposure of a disease to prevent contracting it. While PrEP was initially recommended for those who live with HIV partners and the gay community, it’s now part of the World Health Organisation guidelines as a recommendation for all genders, whether engaging in vaginal or anal sex, to protect yourself from HIV. While the brand name Truvada is a hefty investment (at US$400+/month), generic drug versions are now available under the names tenofovir and emtricitabine (TDF and FTC). Please consult a doctor to get more information and a prescription if you feel it’s right for you.

3. Birth Control and Emergency Contraception:

While condoms may protect you from STIs, we also recommend going on birth control if you’ll prefer more assurance that you won’t end up with unplanned pregnancies from casual affairs. You also have the option of taking emergency contraceptives (EC) like Plan B or the “morning-after” pill within the first 72 hours of unprotected sex. However emergency contraceptive is not a substitute for regular birth control!

If one of the concerns that’s making you hesitant about birth control (BC) is the actual trip to a clinic and potentially facing stigma and/or intrusive questions, we totally sympathize. With telemedicine services like DearDoc and Siena Health, you don’t have to worry about going to a doctor in person but instead get a virtual private consultation with doctors who specialize in women’s health. The prescription lasts for a year and then you’re able to order directly online and have it delivered discreetly to your doorstep. The other valuable aspect these companies bring to the table is that theirrates are more affordable compared to a regular clinic – which is helpful for the younger BC user. I personally use telemedicine for my BC and it’s never been this easy so no more excuses to forget the upcoming month’s supply!

4. Getting Regularly Tested for STIs:

Similar to the BC/EC telemedicine providers, you can now also get tested for STIs at home through test kits that you can order online. Ferne Health and Ease Healthcare are just two of the services in Singapore that offer test kits for various STIs like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, HIV, Syphilis, Herpes II, and Hepatitis B. Testing starts from $46 and can go all the way to $300+ for a full test kit to detect all the main STIs. Ferne even provides the service where you can ask them to anonymously message your sexual partners in the past few months to notify them that they may have been exposed to an STI if you’ve tested positive.

There are also initiatives like Action for Aids’s The Love And Sexual Health (LASH) programme which works together with the Anonymous Testing Service (ATS), to help women with active sexual lifestyles be informed and take charge of their sexual health issues. If you’re in Singapore, they hold Ladies Night every Wednesday whereby you can go for a free HIV test with female counselors and get your sexual health questions answered.

However if you decide to take your chances and not get tested because you’re too scared, then that’s where we’re going to put our foot down and yank your head out of the sand. Not only are you self-sabotaging your health, you’re being irresponsible and endangering the partner/s that you’ll sleep with.

So let’s say you’ve tested positive for an STI that’s not treatable? Do the right thing, be upfront and disclose it to past and potential partners. In some cases, it’s actually a crime not to disclose your infected status to your partner.

Like we’ve mentioned in part one to our casual sex guide, if you’re prepared to give it, you should be prepared to deal with it. Wanna have sexy times with your flings? Get regularly tested and protected.

3. Risk Awareness: Security & Ease of Mind

Another frequently asked question I get is “Don’t you worry if he secretly records you?” Unfortunately, this is a legitimate concern. AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Centre saw 191 cases of technology-facilitated sexual violence (TFSV) in 2020 which is a 36% increase over 2019. So how do you mitigate the risk and have feel safe during casual sex?

Here are some options:

• Establish a “no-phones, cameras down” rule when you have a session

• Book hotel rooms instead of going to each other’s houses to have a neutral setting

• If you really want to play it safe, invest in a secret cameras detector (but you’ll have to find a way to discreetly scan the room!)

As you can tell, they’re quite limited and not 100% fool-proof as part of the nature of casual sex is the thrill from letting your inhibitions go. When the blood rushes down to that other little head of yours, you might not notice that your partner’s phone is now propped up next to a book with a recording light on.

Story time: There was an occasion when I found out that I’ve been recorded by a partner in the heat of the moment without asking for explicit consent. “Oh I thought you’ll be cool with it… I won’t show anyone, it’s just for my own collection. It was so hot and I want to keep the memory.”

What did I do? At that point of time, nothing. Thankfully it was such an old phone and it was too dark that you could barely make out the figures in the blurry video. I made an awkward joke at the moment and said “Next time, ask me so I’ll give you a better angle.” In an alternative timeline, I would have stood up, walked away and reported it to the police.

Moral of the story? I did what I thought was right for me in that situation to be safe, and I do not begrudge myself for that. Likewise, I totally understand if caught in a similar situation, one’s immediate reaction would be to freeze or placate the partner (known as the 4th response mode in Fight, Flight, Freeze or Fawn).

“The fawn response involves immediately moving to try to please a person to avoid any conflict. “
Psychology Today

Be compassionate to yourself if you find yourself in a situation like that. You may feel helpless and regretful in the moment but knowledge is power. Be aware of the legalities of non-consensual recording, distribution and revenge porn. Only if you feel safe, speak to your partner (whether FWB or long-term) that it’s a boundary they’ve crossed and a sexual violation.

Otherwise consult a sexual assault counsellor like AWARE’s Sexual Assault Care Center to prepare yourself before making a police report. At this time of writing, AWARE has just launched their latest initiative Solid Ground which is an independent, volunteer-run project developed with support from the National Youth Council’s Young Changemakers Grant. The resource provides step-by-step guides for those facing online harassment or abuse in Singapore, including what to do when someone has taken intimate pictures of you without consent.

If you’ve come this far, you might be going:

“Urgh Rin, you did it again… you made sex so unsexy with all this talk about STIs, murders and illegal recordings!”

To that, dear reader, I’ll argue that I’m only helping to make sex better for you. Sex is an intimate sensory experience where you’re engaged in discovering and exploring each other’s pleasures. And what’s the biggest sexual organ one owns? The brain 😉

If you can’t switch it off because you’re worried about all the things that can go wrong (regardless of gender), that’s less headspace to focus on all the things that are going right.

In the next part of Friends With Benefits : The Lowdown on Keeping it on the Down Low, we’ll discuss Communication & Transparency and finally tell you how to find that FWB.

P.S. Good news! Based on popular demand, we’re bringing back our talk A Guide to Friends With Benefits with Jasmine King. Whether you’re curious about casual sex or already engaged in no strings attached affairs, we’ll go through what you’ll need to know about Friends With Benefits to keep yourself safe, sexy and (ultimately) sane!

Date: Sunday, 25th July 2021

Time: 2-4pm

Location: Zoom

Tickets: RM30

Purchase your tickets here.