Hookup culture is in full swing, and that's not a bad thing. But, hooking up with a potential S.O. long before you ever start a relationship comes with a set of confusing moments. Take "the bag" for example. When you're having casual sex, chances are good that you'll be spending a few nights in an unfamiliar place. And you'll have to make a choice about how the next morning goes: You can show up to work in the same clothes as yesterday, you can rush to the nearest department store to buy an emergency sweater, or you can pack a bag full of everything you need to look fresh.
The bag sounds like the best case scenario, right? But what if you're going on a first date, or your hookup buddy asked you out to dinner and didn't say anything about sleeping over? When that's the situation, it might feel too presumptuous or cocky to pack a just-in-case bag.
Well, it's time to bulldoze right over those feelings, because they're coming from a place that shames people (but especially women) for taking charge of their sex lives, says psychotherapist and dating coach Kate Stewart. It's not cocky to pack a bag, it's good planning. And, it's possible that your sex buddy will be flattered and excited that you're prepared for a sleepover. So Stewart suggests not only packing a change of clothes, but also bringing along your favorite brand of condoms and lube (and sex toys, if you're comfortable lugging those around). It's smart to make sure you have everything you need to have hot, comfortable, and satisfying sex. And the same goes if you're the one hosting. "I always tell my dating coaching clients who are looking to have casual sex that they need to keep a bunch of extra toothbrushes, toothpaste, contact solution, and extra pajamas, so that any guest would feel comfortable staying over," Stewart says. So why shouldn't you be prepared if there's even the slightest chance that you could be sleeping at someone else's house? There's no shame in taking care of yourself. Actually, it's empowering to take charge of your desires.
But, it might be that take-charge feeling that makes some of us wary about bringing a bag to dinner. The shame and stigma you can feel about carrying around what's essentially a sex bag likely stems from societal messaging that tells us we have to be "good girls," says Megan Fleming, PhD, a sex and relationship therapist in New York City. So take a pause and really think about why you're feeling weird about "the bag." Maybe your mom always told you it's not polite to invite yourself over to someone's house, and packing a bag pre-invite feels too imposing. Or maybe you're worried that your sex buddy will think you're too pushy for throwing a little makeup, some extra undies, and cleansing wipes in your purse.
Those worries come from a culture that polices women's sexuality. It might take some time to let go of them, but it's worth the effort to work through your feelings of shame. "Think about what the culture was like when your mother was growing up and the messages that she got," Dr. Fleming says. "Because the reality is, we're often not so conscious and we tend to hand down what we were taught." Those same messages from 20 or 30 years ago don't serve you and your desires now (and they likely didn't serve your mom well, either), so it's time to break the cycle.
If you're struggling to let go of the shame, start slow. There's no reason your sex buddy has to know that you packed a just-in-case bag until you pull out a fresh pair of underwear in the morning. If you have a car, stash the bag in your trunk. And if you don't, then bring your things along in a gym bag. If you're too embarrassed to tell your date that you're just being prepared in case things get sexy, then you can always say that you had to go to the gym. Eventually, though, Stewart hopes all women will get to the place where they're not embarrassed to take control over their sex lives.