For some people, the one-night stand -- the "it just happened" moment -- is the most enviable of sexual romps.

But it's also one of the most mine-ridden of carnal pursuits. Whether hot and exciting or empty and meaningless, casual sex isn't for everyone.

So approach with caution. Before you play this game, it’s wise to read up on the rules of engagement.

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With no maintenance, no commitment, little time investment, and the potential to gratify sexual urges, casual sex appeals to a number of adults who are too busy, too burned out, or too bummed about love to pursue more traditional relationships.

Sexual desire, sexual experimentation, physical pleasure and alcohol use are also among the reasons many men and women cite for engaging in casual sex.

Yet, there are gender differences associated with such sex play. Casual sex makes many men feel attractive and wanted, but women often say it makes them feel less attractive.

Research confirms that men have more permissive attitudes toward casual sex than women. Furthermore, men tend to have casual sex for social-environmental reasons, like status enhancement or peer pressure.

Women, on the other hand, are more likely to have casual sex for interpersonal reasons; they may hope that the sex partner will commit for the long term, or they may have the need to feel empowered. Still, women rank sexual pleasure as the most appealing aspect of casual sex.

Overall, casual sexers consider this form of intimacy a great way to test out different partners with varying techniques. They love the spontaneity and unpredictability of the situation. Most say they would not engage in casual sex again with the same person.

Yet at the end of the day, a steady love relationship is seen as more emotionally satisfying than intense, passionate nights of the casual sort type.

Can You Handle Casual Sex?

As those who have “been there, done that” will tell you, casual sex is not every lover’s cup of tea. People can have different expectations, emotions can come into play, and any sign of disrespect can turn into trouble. Your ability to handle a casual liaison depends upon your comfort with nonchalant sex, whom you’re with and why you’re attracted to it at a given moment in your life.

That’s why it’s so important to consider the following checklist. The more checks you have, the better you can come away from casual sex unscathed:

— Are you looking for sex that involves less emotional responsibility and intimacy?

— Are you willing to have sex that may not be as emotionally and/or physically satisfying as sex with a committed partner?

— Are you a fairly emotionally detached individual, not touched by others?

— Can you come away from a casual sexual escapade feeling fulfilled, content and glowing?

— Can you guarantee yourself (and your partner) that you’re not going to want more from this encounter?

— Can you guarantee yourself that you’re not going to fall emotionally for a casual sex partner just because you’ve been intimate?

— Do you have no qualms about having sex with somebody you’ve just met?

— Are you comfortable with the health risks that are involved in a non-monogamous relationship?

— Can you handle the stigma society puts on people who engage in casual sex?

Some of these may seem harsh, but it’s important to be honest about the situation.

People often underestimate their emotional needs and the emotions that can arise from casual relations. You need to know where you’re at, what you’re in for, and whether your greater needs can be met from these erotic engagements.

Casual Sex Etiquette

Feeling like a pretty good candidate for casual sex? Think you’ve found somebody who is game?

In pursuing such a rendezvous, be sure to consider all of the following pointers on etiquette. It will only save you lots of grief and trouble, and make your sexual adventures all the better and easier to navigate. After all, you are dealing with another human being, and emotions always somehow come into play ...

-- Approach the situation with caution, taking care to respect the other person.

-- Consider the expectations you have about casual sex. You cannot see yourself as having a future with this individual, and vice-versa. If you want a future with this person, then don’t start out so casually.

-- Communicate. State your expectations.

-- Don’t feel used, as you are also using. Own the situation and milk it for what it’s worth. Casual sex is not for the fragile.

-- Watch your alcohol intake, since drinking too much can increase your chances of engaging in behaviors you’re not ready for. Plus, alcohol can muddle your feelings about the situation, opening an emotional floodgate.

-- Always practice safe sex. Use condoms or dental dams, which are small, thin, square pieces of latex that can be used for oral sex. “Souvenirs” in the form of STDs are not necessary.

-- Plan for a graceful and easy exit when you’re tired of playing. You never know when you might want to come back to this lover for more …

In the Know Sex News:

—- Ecuador considers enshrining a woman's right to sexual happiness. Maria Soledad Vela, of Ecuador's governing party, has proposed that her country's law protect a woman's right to enjoy sex. Women, who have traditionally been regarded in Ecuador as no more than sex objects or child bearers, should have the right to make informed, responsible decisions about their sex lives.

Canada raises age of sexual consent by two years. Like Britain, Australia and most American states, Canada's legal age for the onset of intercourse has been changed from 14- to 16-years-old. Not meant to criminalize teen sex, the change in legislation was explained as an effort to combat older internet predators who hit on young people.

Gay dating services flourishing. Research from the LOGO Channel shows that 48 percent of gay men are looking for "love" online. With looks and hooking up often of more concern than compatibility, Web sites for gay men are helping like-minded males attain what has been regarded as "the easy out" in sexual pursuits.

Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hand Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."

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