How safe is it to meet people online for hookups?

(Chuck Berman / Chicago Tribune )
January 07, 2014|Anna Pulley, @annapulley | RedEye's sex columnist

Dear Anna,


I am a 45-year-old woman. I have come to a place in my life where I am perpetually single. While I continue to try to meet “someone.” I am starting to think in a pragmatic way. I have physical needs. I have had one “buddy with benefits,” but I found I got too attached and became needy. At this point I am looking for a way to get my physical needs met in a safe way (literally and emotionally). What is your advice? An escort service? Casual encounters? How do I do this and be safe? I think it’d be nice to have a more “professional” solution without getting attached or having too many expectations.

Dear reader,

"I'd advise against going on a casual encounters date," writer, podcast host, and former escort Eric Barry said. "If you were looking for a random sexual encounter, it's possible this could meet your needs, but it sounds like you have more specific physical and emotional concerns you're hoping to confront."

As with every sexual encounter, nothing is 100 percent safe in terms of STI transmission, pregnancy or odds that the guy will want to show you his wicked skateboard sticker collection. Sex workers probably are safer than an anonymous Craigslist hookup since they tend to be far more vigilant about condoms and other barriers than your average dude. In general, it's far more dangerous to be a sex worker than to enlist the services of one.

But there isn't much research that focuses on straight male escorts, since there are so few. A few online resources exist, such as, if you can get past the terrible name, cowboys4angels.com. From what I can tell, they only features about 50 men nationally, so if you don't live in a major city, your saddle might be left to shine itself.

"Because prostitution and sex work are illegal in most areas, there is little regulation to ensure the safety of the client and sex worker alike," Barry said. "Be sure to always use condoms, and if at any point you're not comfortable moving forward with the session, politely pay them for their time and tell them you're unable to continue."

You might also consider a sex surrogate or browse the back-page ads found in most alt-weeklies. If you want more of a new-agey vibe, there's SacredEros.com, a "directory of tantra, sensual massage, sexual healing and coaching professionals."

Barry notes that it's important to able to "articulate what it is you're looking for and what your long-term goals are. Do you want to [bleep] on the first meeting? Would you prefer to just meet for coffee first? How comfortable are you with kissing and snuggling, etc."

Should you choose the more economical route, there are dozens of hookup sites and apps vying for attention. Craigslist is an option since it's fast, free and anonymous. If you do want to go the Casual Encounters route, use common sense -- talk about STI history/the last time you both were tested, meet in a public place, have a "safe call" friend you can check in with and who knows where you are, etc.

Meeting a stranger online is just as risky as meeting a stranger offline. Take precautions when you can, trust your gut and have fun. You deserve it.

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