Rebound sex, the right way

Sex after a breakup tends to go one of two ways: hot ego boost or naked nightmare. Here’s how to make sure things happen on your terms.

For many women, rebound sex can be as stressful as your first time. The pressure’s on, emotions are raw, and the sex can be a drunken mess with some guy who couldn’t find your clitoris.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. “This shouldn’t be about getting it over with so you can move on – ideally, it should be a pleasurable experience that leaves you optimistic about the future of your love-life,” says sex educator Pamela Madsen, author of Shameless:How I Ditched the Diet, got Naked, Found True Pleasure… and Somehow Got Home in Time to Cook Dinner.

Happily, achieving this goal does not require a dozen sessions spent with Madsen. Just follow three guidelines to bouncing back so that you come out on top (literally and figuratively).

Rebound Rule 1: Know your goal

Unfortunately, there’s no green light that goes on when you’re emotionally recovered enough to sleep with another person. You might never know when you are ready, and if the breakup was brutal enough you may not feel entirely emotionally recovered for years.

Just make sure you have realistic expectations. “You need to be clear and honest with yourself about what you’re looking to get out of this,” says sex therapist Megan Fleming. If you’re trying to use rebound sex as a solution – to get back at an ex-boyfriend, to rebuild your confidence, or to counteract the loss you can feel after a breakup – then you’ll end up disappointed.

“Sex won’t fill a void,” says Fleming. “And you also cannot know how it will affect someone else.”

The one and only goal you should have in mind is to have a good time that will leave you with zero regrets. If you’re on board with that, then you’re ready to proceed to rule number two.

Rebound rule 2: Pick a generous, sexy partner

No doubt you’ll consider rebounding with a guy friend or former ex because there’s a built-in intimacy there, but be warned: unless you have a special kind of relationship, it may not be able to weather the awkwardness.

You’ll need someone who you’ve done the whole friends-with-benefits thing with before, or who you’ve always been open with and can see yourselves laughing about it the next morning. If the history is more complicated, take a pass. Otherwise, you’ll likely wake up wishing you had.

Here’s a better game plan: pump your social circle for introductions to Chris Evans look-alikes, reactivate your online dating profile, ask that sexy commitment-phobe you dissed on a second date, or email a coworker from two jobs ago you had a crush on and invite him for a drink. Then see if he meets a few key criteria.

“You’re looking for a guy who has great sexual energy,” says Madsen. “Does he come across as comfortable and confident in his skin? As you flirt, is he making subtle physical contact – like putting his hand gently on your arm for a second? Does he shift his position when you shift yours?”

Of course, there are heaps of players who fit the bill. So screen for someone who’s also sensitive to your needs. Little gestures, such as offering you his seat at the bar, asking if you feel warm enough, or picking up your jacket when it falls off your chair, let you know that he’ll be just as eager to please (read: not only find your clitoris, but spend 20 minutes learning how to work it just right) later on.

Rebound rule 3: Make you pleasure the priority

On this night, don’t worry about his needs. Focus on making sure you have fun, and let him come along for the ride. Do your best to forget about all the baggage you used to bring into the bedroom with your now ex-boyfriend.

“When you’re in a relationship, it can be harder to push through all the emotions and other non-sexy elements and tap into your sexual self,” says Fleming. “But with rebound sex, you’re finally liberated from the tension that builds up in a rocky relationship, and you can give yourself permission to explore and try on new sexual personas.”

Maybe you think it would be hot to boss a guy around in bed dominatrix-style, or to have frantic sex on the kitchen floor, like Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway in Love & Other Drugs. Whatever your sexual wish, don’t be shy. Out of the confines of a relationship, you can be vocal about what you want without worrying about bruising his ego.

After hardcore flirting but while your clothes are still on, let him know what you hope will unfold later in the night. If he agrees to play your way, invite him to your place – you’ll feel more empowered if you’re on your own turf, says Madsen – and get ready. It’s go time.

Words by Casey Gueren