It doesn't matter how you live your sex and dating life. Slutty or conservative, monogamous or nonmonogamous, traditional or modern, we are all familiar with that space between "casual" and "romance." It's terrifying.
He's been staying at your house every night this week. He calls himself a hookup -- but he's not.
I recently got chewed out at a bathhouse by a group of six guys for being a slut. "We've never had sex here," one of them said. "We come here to relax." I stood there in a jockstrap with a half-full bottle of lube tucked in the crotch.
I am a slut, and I view all my experiences with men, from innocuous gang bangs in the back of a club to my ex-boyfriend, as equal components of one massive, fluid, lifelong experience in which men drift in and out of anonymity. If you play the field long enough, you learn how men move in stages with you, from hookup to lover to boyfriend to ex. The anonymous fucks are no less valuable or authentic than the loves.
If you can hook up, you can fall in love. If you have fallen in love, you may still crave a fuck-and-go. Don't close yourself off to either experience, and remember that your buddy can always become something more.
Browse these 20 signs that maybe -- just maybe -- he has.
A Word of Warning From Writer Alexander Cheves
My name is Alexander Cheves, and I am known by friends in the kink and leather community as Beastly. I am a sex-positive writer and blogger. The views in this slideshow do not reflect those of The Advocate and are based solely off of my own experiences. Like everything I write, the intent of this piece is to break down the stigmas surrounding the sex lives of gay men.
Those who are sensitive to frank discussions about sex are invited to click elsewhere, but consider this: If you are outraged by content that address sex openly and honestly, I invite you to examine this outrage and ask yourself whether it should instead be directed at those who oppress us by policing our sexuality.
For all others, enjoy the slideshow. And feel free to leave your own suggestions of sex and dating topics in the comments.
Hungry for more? Follow me on Twitter @BadAlexCheves and visit my blog, The Beastly Ex-Boyfriend.
1. When you save his number in your phone -- with his actual name.
Last week I was trying to figure out who "Daddy FF LA" was. I gave up. It was useless. He was lost to me and I wasn't about to text the number.
There is no way of knowing if I even had sex with "Daddy FF LA." He might have been one of countless men across Los Angeles with whom messages were exchanged and pics were sent but a meeting never happened.
The names I save come from hookups that are different from the rest. Saving someone's name is a big deal in an age when we gay men are so frequently reduced to our impersonal characteristics: cock size, profile picture, headline. As Frankenstein's nameless monster and the book of Genesis illustrate, to name someone is to give them the merit of personhood -- to appreciate them and value them.
If he gave you a good time and sparked something special, save his name. Ask for the proper spelling. Ask for his last name. And text him again.
2. When you're thinking about him at work.
Daydreaming is the universal sign that you might have a crush.
3. When you don't want to leave.
My favorite part about hooking up is knowing I can dip out whenever I want. If you want to give a reason, make up some bullshit excuse ("My boyfriend is freaking out, I don't think he's OK with this" is my favorite).
Some hookups feel very intimate. You might spoon him after and tell him personal things about your life and let him tell you personal things about his. Moments like these are lovely, but the fact remains that as soon as you walk out the hotel room door, exit the lobby, and step into the street, you will probably never see him again. Most of the time, this is OK. It's even part of the charm.
But when that post-sex convo drags on, or turns into a nap, or a dinner, or a sleepover, you're in a new zone. You know it when you're there.
Some of my best friendships happened from casual hookups. I knew when we were still talking hours after the sex that they were more than just hookups.
4. When you start tidying up your place for him.
A friend is coming to visit me for a weekend next month. We've been talking about it as a weekend of casual sex, no strings, nothing more. But a couple weeks ago, I went to IKEA. I bought new accent lamps and extra bath towels. This means this meetup is something more.
5. When the hookup happens again -- and again and again.
Forget the term "hookup." For gay men, "hookup" carries with it a certain ritual, one that typically starts on Grindr or Scruff or BBRT or some other digital cruising zone, progresses into a parsed-down exchange of terms with meanings -- "Looking?," "Into?," "Party?" -- and ends in some kind of meeting. Gay culture tends to frame "hookups" as one-night stands or dates, with little wiggle room between the two.
Take out "hookup" and the whole thing just becomes "casual sex," which can truthfully be between friends who've known each other for years or two strangers on the subway. There is a vast, fluid area between friend and anonymous fuck, boyfriend and lover, partner and stranger.
When you're having sex with someone repeatedly, it is an automatic breeding ground for feelings to develop -- even if you are avoiding them at all costs. If the hookup is happening over and over, ask yourself if you really are hooking up -- or if you've found someone you click with.
6. When the sex is really, really good.
It is OK to date someone because the sex is amazing.
You can't see someone's personality from across the room. Most relationships start from superficial places. Even if you "talk" a few weeks prior to trying on a label, you cannot know someone well in that time. I've always thought that people reveal themselves slowly -- so if you want to start with sex and see how it goes, do it.
7. When you have a toothbrush at his place.
You've seen this in rom-coms, but it's true. When you have a toothbrush at his place, it means you're not having casual sex anymore.
8. When you start watching TV shows he likes.
You've started watching his show on Netflix. You may not be toying with the idea of "boyfriend" yet, but you are fostering "common ground" -- giving yourself something to connect with him over.
9. When you start sleeping over just to sleep over.
Hookups are easy. Sleepovers are treacherous. When I stay at someone's house just to cuddle, it means I'm a bit smitten.
10. When you start analyzing your texts, wondering if you're texting him too much -- or not enough -- and waiting for him to reply.
Should you send that good-night text? Should you wait a little longer before replying so as not to appear like you're clutching your phone, checking it every minute (even though you are)? How aloof should your texts read? Emoji or no emoji?
11. "Let me know you made it home safe."
Some people say this because they're nice, not because they are romantically interested, which confuses me. This line is one of those acts of love that might get overlooked in a relationship, like "put on your seat belt" or "I'll take out the trash," that add up. It's a small and practical way of saying "I care about you."
12. Small gifts.
When you spend 10 minutes trying to figure out which pair of socks he'd like, you're in deep.
13. When the two of you decide on what kind of lube to get.
Asking him what kind of lube he wants you to get (or him asking you this question) is considerate and thoughtful and shows one of you is planning on having loads of more sex with the other.
Good lube is expensive, and everyone has their preference, so if he's gentlemanly enough to consider what you like and put some money into it, he's planning on some degree of future involvement.
(Always keep a bottle of premium, condensed silicone lube nearby, regardless. And don't miss my list of 30 liquid assets every gay man should try.)
14. When he keeps your go-to drink at his place -- or you keep his at yours.
He's a Sprite drinker, and you find yourself stocking Sprite.
15. The first time someone says, "I'm sorry."
The first time I say something out of line and have to apologize, I get stupidly romantic. Saying sorry, even for something small, shows you/he is invested enough to work through a spat and put this tense moment behind you.
16. When he likes all your Facebook posts.
Not to sound like a millennial, but I put work into my Facebook posts. They are the fastest and easiest way to get messages to friends, fans, readers, and the mass of people in my life -- although my Twitter is catching up (follow me at @BadAlexCheves).
Funny or political, mawkish or titillating, my Facebook gems are part of me, and I never know how to respond when someone I care for doesn't have Facebook and doesn't see my posts. My weekends are mapped out on Facebook -- how can someone know where I'm going to be?
Guys, get Facebook.
17. "How is your day going?"
When you like him, you envision his day-to-day hustle -- the meat of life that everyone experiences but few enjoy: getting to and from work on time, answering emails, dealing with people, picking up lunch. "How is your day going?" is a reminder that you're still in his world, grinding along in tandem.
18. When you've met his friends.
You're hanging with his buds. This means you are at least a hangout buddy, which is sometimes the best thing to be with someone. Be friends with his friends. Sometimes the best parts of your relationships are the friends you meet through them.
19. When parents know about you.
There's a big difference between seeing a guy and telling your mother, "I'm seeing a guy."
20. When he cooks for you.
In the South, people cook you food. You offer someone food the minute they walk in the door. That's not the case with urban homos in San Francisco or Los Angeles. Even in Atlanta, which its burgeoning West Coast influx, hookups rarely offer me food.
When a guy cooks for me or invites me to dinner, it's the make-or-break moment. If I'm not interested, I'll give a trademark excuse -- "I have a deadline," "I have a client who wants to tie me up," "My boyfriend needs me at home" -- and leave. If I eat with you, I like you.
Remember that fluidity between hookup, friend, lover, and partner? That means that sometimes hookups stay hookups, sometimes they morph into friendships, sometimes friendships become boyfriends, and sometimes boyfriends, over time, become playmates again. Such is our world.
I tend to sleep with my friends, and some of my closest people started as one-night stands. But if you have a toothbrush at his apartment and are buying him socks, he means more to you. Say something. More than rejections and failures, we regret the loves we never tried to start.