Queer Talk

12 tips for safer online hook-ups

Cruising and hooking up online, especially with someone you’ve never met before, could place you in a very vulnerable space. This is a time to be alert and vigilant; taking care of a few basics before you agree to meet a potential partner will ensure a more relaxed and pleasurable session, and help to reduce chances of rejection, embarrassment or even physical harm later.

  1. Trust your gut instincts. Be suspicious of new profiles that pop up; if the profile seems too good to be true, it probably is. Always be polite and sincere without disclosing too much personal information until you feel comfortable to do so.
  2. Don’t rush into a meeting; take your time to chat online. If he’s unwilling to chat and engage with you, move on. While chatting ascertain what he’s into, including his attitude towards recreational substances. Ask to see pics, including a face pic, and make sure all photos appear consistent and are of the same person. Ask how long ago the pics were taken. Be alert to any suggestion that he’s into sado-masochism or pain, bondage or other power dynamics. Ask about anyone else joining you during sex.
  3. Importantly you need to chat about his preferred sexual role, top versus bottom. If he says he’s versatile, what is his preference? Ensure that you’re sexually compatible.
  4. Determine whether he’s a rent boy; is he likely to demand money from you? If he’s using public transport to meet you, agree upfront on any payment you may have to make.
  5. Having an online chat about sexual health before hooking up could be easier than talking about these issues in person. Does he know his HIV status? If he says he’s negative, how can he be sure? When last has he tested? You could be safer playing with someone who discloses that he’s HIV positive and on treatment, than someone who doesn’t know that he’s positive and hence isn’t on treatment. What is his attitude towards barebacking versus using condoms?
  6. If you’re comfortable with the interaction thus far, consider asking for his cell number so that you can call him. Exchanging cell numbers adds a level of verification, and you can often tell a lot about someone based on his voice.
  7. Always plan to meet a stranger in a public space, preferably where others are likely to see you together. Meet in a bar, shebeen or a coffee shop where there is adequate lighting to clearly see his face; meeting in a dark park or a secluded spot is not ideal.
  8. If possible, send a text message to a trusted friend informing him of your plan to meet someone; ideally, specify the profile name. Before heading out ensure that your cell phone is charged.
  9. If you agree to meet at his home, take condoms and lubricant with you in case he doesn’t have any. Be aware that you may need to leave if you become uncomfortable. You have the right to back out of the play at any time so make sure that you have an exit strategy. This includes having your own transport, or a friend being willing to collect you.
  10. Be wary of him taking compromising photos or video of you with his cell phone or laptop that could set you up for being blackmailed.
  11. Be wary of accepting drinks or food that may have been spiked. If you’re thirsty, ask for a glass and fill it directly from the tap, and don’t drink from a glass that you have left unattended. If you’re into chems remain conscious of the dosage or quantity of any substances you consume. This is especially true of GHB, which is easy to overdose on; if necessary keep a written record to remind you of your limits. Be wary of combining alcohol with other substances. Never use poppers with any substances that enhance your hard-on, such as Viagra.
  12. If you plan on inviting him to your home be aware that any valuables might be stolen. Don’t leave items such as your wallet, phone or laptop lying around. If he arrives (and leaves) carrying a bag, you have the right to ask him what’s inside. Ensure that you have sufficient condoms and lubricant close at hand.