How to stay safe when using online dating
Nothing ventured, nothing gained is how the old saying goes. Everything we do involves some level of risk, and we’re generally all prepared to put some skin in the game to get what we want.
But there’s no need to be reckless, and it’s important to be aware of some of the red flags that indicate you may be making unwise choices.
Here’s some simple steps you can take to help minimise the risks associated with online dating.
Keep it public
This may come as a surprise but not everyone is totally honest or authentic when exchanging information on hook-up apps. If the guy that turns up is a different proposition to what you’re expecting, then it’s great to have an easy out.
Try to arrange your first meeting in a cafe or a bar, or somewhere that there’s other people nearby.
If you need to say – thanks, but no thanks – it’s much easier to do that before you’re alone together somewhere.
A good option might be a bathhouse or a gay sauna. That way, you can get down to business pretty quickly but if there’s any issues then you’ve got the venue’s staff on hand.
Tell a friend
While we might often want to keep our sexual escapades on the down-low, if you’re heading out for some fun or arranging a hook-up, it’s important that you let someone know where you are.
You don’t need to give them all the details, but just a quick text to say that you’re meeting a guy in whatever neighbourhood will give you confidence that if there’s any drama then the cavalry won’t be too far away.
Be clear about your expectations
A lot of the drama on hook-up apps seems to happen when people aren’t clear about what they’re looking for. If you just want a no-strings-attached anonymous hook-up, then being up-front about that helps to keep everyone on the same page.
If you would like some repeat business but the other guy isn’t interested, you need to avoid being annoying or harassing them. Take the hint, move on, focus your attention elsewhere.
If you’re meeting up with a guy, and you think that it’s pretty likely that you’re going to get naked together, you want to be sure that you’re both on the same page.
You have the right to say no. The guy that you’re hooking up with has the right to say no.
Even if things are going well, it seems like you’re both on the page, things are heading towards getting naked, but something changes and it no longer feels right for either of you, no one is obligated to do anything that they don’t want to do.
Communication is really important, especially if it’s someone you haven’t had sex with before. As you’re getting naked, as you’re moving into foreplay, let the guy know what feels good and what doesn’t feel good. Tell him what you want more of, and if anything is off limits then it’s important to let him know.
If you want him to fuck you, let him know. If you want to fuck him, let him know. If you want to get off but not fuck, let him know. It’s okay to have sex that doesn’t involve someone getting fucked — there’s lots of other things that you can do together. Communication is key.
Consent becomes a bit trickier where there’s drugs and alcohol involved. If you or your guy are intoxicated, then the signals might not be as clear as to what’s okay and what’s not okay. Get to know your limits. Get your friends to look out for you. The last thing you want is to be waking up and to be unsure whether or not you consented to whatever happened the night before.
Dating apps are a high priority target for scams – particularly relating to identity fraud and financial fraud.
We’re at our most vulnerable when we’re lonely, looking for intimacy, or basing our decisions on sexual desire.
When you’re chatting with someone online, you need to ensure that you’re talking to a real person.
Be cautious when giving out any personal information.
If someone on an online dating app asks you to send them money – no matter how plausible the request – don’t do it. They are scamming you.
Avoid STIs and other viruses
Here’s some hints and tips on how to have some fun while also being mindful about trying to minimise the health risks.
Know where you’re at
Make sure that you’re getting tested regularly so that you can detect and treat any health-related issues.
Also, before heading into a hook-up, reflect on how you’re feeling. Are you experiencing any symptoms that might raise a red flag?
Make sure your vaccination schedule is up to date – the more you can protect your body, the better.
PrEP or TasP
You need to be up to date with the latest information about HIV, and know whether PrEP or TasP is the right path for you.
Keep it clean
However you’re hooking up, hygiene is important. Wash your hands. Have some hand-sanitiser with you. Have a shower when you get home.