Lately I've been watching a newly single friend navigate the range of sexual options available to her as a good-looking queer femme woman. And it's made me think about the difference between "no-strings fucking" and "a romance." Because those are two very different things, and yet I often see people confusing them.

Whichever one you're on the prowl for, you want to make sure all your contenders are on the same page as you; that's often tricky, because people don't always tell the truth when their hearts or their hormones are involved. In the heat of a moment, you might not even care. But then again, you might—or you might consider the matter as you do the Walk of Shame the next morning. So here's my guide to "Was That Just Sex, or Is This True Romance?"

How Did It Start? Casual sex is usually spontaneous, even if it's with someone you already know. You're at a bar or a party, you encounter someone, sparks fly, and presto, you're hitting it. A romance begins with time spent together with your clothes on. And by "time," I don't mean an hour or two dry-humping on the dance floor.

Magic Words? If, before any fucking happens, either of the two parties says, "I just want some no-strings sex," that's like a criminal suspect invoking his Miranda rights. No matter how sweetly someone then makes love to you, that's the deal. Don't get pissy if you don't receive a dozen roses the next day.

However, it is extremely gauche for either of you to proceed with the sex, but continue harping on and on, "Now, this doesn't mean I'm, like, in love with you or anything." Remarks like that don't make someone think you're being honest and responsible about your unearthly powers of seduction. It just makes someone think, "Oh, don't worry, honey, you're not that attractive." Which doesn't exactly engender a mood.

Too Fast, Too Furious? This one trips people up a lot. "I fucked someone last night, and he/she just texted and wants to come fuck me again tonight, so it must be love, right?" I doubt it. It's probably more the free refills mentality: If it's available, people want seconds—even if it's not their favorite dish. If you want to serve it up for him/her, great, but don't assume he/she will want to eat you every night.

In the Bubble or Well-Integrated? If someone wants to introduce you to his/her friends, that's a sign that you're on the romance track. If you unexpectedly encounter your whoopee partner when he's with a pal, and you hear him whisper, "This is that guy I call the sex ferret," you're a casual fuck.

Now don't take anything I said the wrong way—I think no-strings sex can be great. And, hey, I really had a lot of fun writing this column for you today. But wow, look at the time! It's getting late, and I have a meeting in the morning. So take care of yourself, baby, and I'll call you, okay? Bye! recommended