Advice Column

Dear Sara,

I can’t stop thinking about anonymous hookups, and I really want to try one! Where should I get started? What’s the etiquette on things like this? What are the risks, and how can I best avoid them?
—Horny at Harvard

I see you’ve been reading, Horny, and I can hardly say I blame you. After a somewhat lackluster debut, the confessional blog is proving quite entertaining, if rather harsh toward a certain advice columnist.

Quality casual encounters, especially in public locations, are a bit difficult to engineer, but remember, if you wanted any old hookup, you could just get drunk and go to a sweaty room party and grind with someone you’ll probably see in Science A the next morning. Not all that appealing, eh?

The etiquette of initiating sex with perfect strangers varies, so practice common sense. Sure, it’s hot to make eye contact with someone, and then do the nasty without saying a word, but frankly, it also makes you much more susceptible to prosecution. The golden rule of casual hookups is to make sure both parties are on board—don’t assume consent.

For this reason, your best bet for finding someone equally frisky (and down with a no-strings-attached fling), is definitely the Internet. Finding a website for this isn’t difficult—for the inelegant approach, you can Google what you’re after; sites like often have propositions already up and ready for you (ahem) so you can chose someone you’re comfortable with. Again, be up front about what you want; it’ll help you stay safe and avoid disappointment.

Once you’ve made contact with someone and made a date, as it were, the hardest part is over. Just go with the flow, respect your partner’s wishes, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you have second thoughts. If you get nervous about the fact that you’re an awkward Harvard student, remember, the thrill here is more in the situation than in anyone’s skill. And don’t forget, casual sex is casual sex, so don’t expect more than you sign up for once you’ve done the deed.

One last thing to remember: as exciting and exotic as casual sex may seem, you definitely don’t want a souvenir to show your physician at UHS. You’ve heard it before, but seriously now, use protection of the appropriate sort. Safety doesn’t kill the fun; syphilis does. Also, a final word on legality of public and semi-public sex: anyone surprising you in the middle of it is probably not going to pat you on the back and offer congratulations. Be aware of your surroundings and the consequences of your hookup. It’s not a perfect world, but there are still good times to be had…especially if you’re on the good side of the Lamont guard.

Have fun,


Dear Sara,

My house faculty dinner is next week, and I really don’t know what to talk about with the professor I invited. I’m really impressed by his lectures in class, but I haven’t really talked to him outside of class that much. I really want him to like me, or at least, not think I’m an idiot, so…what should I do?
—Awkward in Adams

Well, Awkward, I can tell you that this is a problem for us all, and unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut solution. Unless you want to end up talking about the supply-demand curve or duck gang bangs (true story, no joke), I’d advise you to be prepared with some conversational starters of your own. Faculty will talk at length, if you let them, but it doesn’t always go in a direction you’ll predict or endorse. If a repeat of this week’s lecture on aestheticism in Lolita isn’t what you had in mind, read on for some inspiration.

Your mother was right when she said to avoid talking about sex, religion, and politics; it may be tempting to bring up those hilarious Healey ad attack campaigns or to mutter prayers under your breath for the entire meal, but remember, not everyone will think these practices as charmingly quirky as you do. And, short of angling to uncover your prof’s predilection from office hours hanky-panky in your quest for a recommendation, there’s really no excuse to be bringing up your sex life with this intimidating adult you hardly know. Avoid the wine, and stick to the more conversationally mundane.

A good place to start is obvious: course material. There’s a lot there, so you should make it through the hors d’oeuvres with no problems. Don’t forget to draw on your blockmates and friends here—introductions take up time, and sitting with acquaintances will help you out if you get into trouble later on.

Once you’re seated and the entrée is coming, you’re hitting the hardest part of the meal: no food to distract you, and you’re probably out of pleasantries and basic getting-to-know-you chit chat. Now’s the time to stoke your prof’s ego and score major brownie points, so keep the questions coming on your end. Everyone loves to talk about themselves, and professors are no exception. Good places to start are with basic, less personal areas, like their field of study and education—maybe you’ll hear some great stories about their days of keggers and co-eds. If that goes well, you’re golden, and can probably feel free to delve into more personal areas. If they mention kids, latch on to that and run with it; no parent on earth can resist bragging about his or her progeny.

If things start going south, try bringing up something amusing but neutral, ideally a subject that’s already been broached. Recent movies or books are a safe bet, especially if you’ve got an inkling of your prof’s taste in such things. If silence is threatening and you’re ruing the day you ever thought to ask this lump to have dinner with you, you can always just start having fun with it. Throwing propriety to the wind will be entertaining for you, at least, and perhaps your professor will see the sense of humor in the ill-advised hookup last weekend as well.

Bon appétit,


—“Dear Sara” runs on Mondays this semester. Send letters to Letters will be published anonymously.