“I Don’t Do Casual.”

CASUAL+SEX.+D_24c0cb_3144151In my experience, most young women want a boyfriend. And most feel sort of embarrassed about that, which leads to their going after what they want either indirectly, doing things they don’t feel good about, or just hoping for the best. All in the name of saving face. If things don’t work out, they take comfort from the possibility that the guy never really knew how hopeful they’d been.

This is a poor strategy for getting into a relationship:

1. It’s extremely inefficient, and wastes a lot of your time.

2. The possibilities for misunderstanding and miscommunication are endless.

3. By not taking active control of your own life, you cede the power to others, who naturally put their own interests ahead of yours.

[Read more...]


Casual Sex Bums Out Both Genders, New Research Shows

We’ve known for some time that casual sex is correlated to an elevated risk for negative psychological outcomes in women. Buss and Schmitt have theorized that this is gender specific, with men more frequently pursuing short-term mating strategies than women:

“Evolutionary theory defines hookups, casual sex, and friends-with-benefits as short-term mating strategies, and suggests that attitudes and behaviors, particularly those that are sexual in nature, have an adaptive function. Because men and women encounter different reproductive constraints (e.g., paternity confidence, identifying men that will provide resources), one would expect gender differences in the psychological mechanisms and behaviors around short-term and long-term mating strategies (Buss & Schmidt, 1993; Trivers, 1972).”

This past July I wrote about a recent study at 30 colleges that shed new light on gender differences.  Specifically, the study defined casual sex as comprising intercourse with a relative stranger. Previous studies had focused more on general sexual behavior, including making out and touching.

“We examined whether the prevalence of casual sex behavior, having intercourse with someone known for less than a week, differs significantly by gender, and whether casual sex was associated with psychological distress and wellbeing.”

Once students were asked about intercourse, gender differences disappeared.

[Read more...]


Orgasm Inequality Cannot Be Solved by Feminism

An article in yesterday’s New York Times – In Hookups, Inequality Still Reigns – tells us something we already know. (H/T: Stuart Schneiderman) Most women don’t get off during casual sex. What’s interesting about the article is that it casts the dilemma as one of equal rights – a feminist’s conundrum. With significant evidence that women vastly prefer sex in committed relationships, feminists find themselves forced to confront the thorny issue of biological sex differences. 

But first, let’s look at the research to see what happens with female desire when women have casual sex. Natasha Gadinsky, 23, recalls a hookup she had at Brown University:

He “didn’t even care,” said Ms. Gadinsky, a health care case manager in New York City, “I don’t think he tried at all.” He fell asleep immediately, leaving her staring at the ceiling. “I was really frustrated,” she said.

…Like generations before them, many young women like Ms. Gadinsky are finding that casual sex does not bring the physical pleasure that men more often experience. New research suggests why: Women are less likely to have orgasms during uncommitted sexual encounters than in serious relationships.

Specifically, they are half as likely: 

Research involving 600 college students led by Justin R. Garcia, an evolutionary biologist at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University and researchers at Binghamton University found that women were twice as likely to reach orgasm from intercourse or oral sex in serious relationships as in hookups.

A study by Paula England found the same thing. Women had orgasms during hookups 40% of the time, compared with 75% in a committed relationship.

Keep in mind that a hookup doesn’t mean the two people are strangers – just that they’re not boyfriend/girlfriend. So this research includes all the “unofficial” couples, the FWBs, sex with exes, crushes getting busy, etc.

I find this really interesting – even when women get oral in casual hookups – the method that offers the best odds of female orgasm, they still only come half as often as when they’re with a boyfriend.

“We attribute that to practice with a partner, which yields better success at orgasm, and we also think the guys care more in a relationship,” Dr. England said.

There’s also a woeful lack of understanding of female physiology, especially among young men.

What women need to achieve orgasm can be very different from what they find in casual sex. Roughly one-quarter of women reliably experience orgasm through intercourse alone, according to a review of 32 studies conducted by Elisabeth Lloyd, a professor of the history and philosophy of science at Indiana University, in her 2005 book “The Case of the Female Orgasm: Bias in the Science of Evolution.” Another third of women rarely or never have orgasms from intercourse.

Vanessa Martini, 23, says:

“I haven’t hooked up with anybody who was so cavalier as to just, like, not even care. But I think most of them were somewhat baffled that it would require more than just them thrusting.”


There are two main reasons women don’t have orgasms during casual sex:

1. The guy has no incentive to unravel the mystery of the woman’s arousal triggers. He gets his, then he snores.

2. Women aren’t generally wired to reach climax without emotional intimacy.

The general lesson here seems pretty clear, right? If it doesn’t feel good, why do it?

Not so fast! The feminists have a different take on it:

Some women, confronted with these roadblocks, are redefining casual sex and the physical pleasure that they expect from it. Sex without strings has carnal and emotional benefits that don’t depend on reaching orgasm, they say.

“Something we don’t talk about is why having an orgasm is the main goal or the only goal” of sex, Dr. Herbenick said. “Who are we to say women should be having orgasms?”

Huh? If casual sex is not about sexual pleasure, which is obviously what an orgasm signals, then what is it for? 

Casey Romaine, a 22-year-old Bard College graduate living in Nashville, Tenn., said that more than sex, hookups are often much more about two people giving each other the sense of intimacy, however brief, they need to get through the week.

But the key feature of the hookup is that emotional intimacy is avoided, so that neither party develops expectations of further contact. Whatever intimacy may be glimpsed is fleeting indeed, killed off before any life can be breathed into it. Kim Huynh, a 29 year old filmmaker said that she happily traded orgasms for freedom during a five year period:

“As far as my ability to climax consistently, that’s something I was able to have in my monogamous relationships that I never had” in less committed circumstances, she said.

Yet mediocre sex was a small price to pay “for the freedom to be able to enjoy it all.” The physical aspect of a tryst with a relative stranger was gratifying, she said, even if her chances of reaching orgasm were limited. When her partner’s performance was lackluster, she still took pride in her own sexual prowess.

“To sort of know yourself to be sort of skilled in a way or to be able to see someone else’s pleasure that was your own doing, I think there’s definitely something very empowering about that,” she said.

There you have it:

  1. Sexual freedom
  2. Sexual prowess, as perceived by the male
  3. Sexual empowerment

Sex-positive feminism has been reduced to women objectifying themselves without pleasure for the purpose of being validated by men. 

Why does a feminist have sex like a man? Because she can. But she can’t enjoy it like he does. That’s the conundrum that cannot be solved.


Susan Walsh on HuffPost Live Discussing One-Night Stands

I just finished recording a segment about one-night stands on HuffPost Live, and I’m really delighted with it. There’s some great commentary from the panel here. One of these panelists is not like the others, can you tell which one? :)

For those who want the Cliff notes, or just to see me in my lair, here’s when I’m on:

  1. Start – 5:30
  2. 11:30 – 13:25
  3. 18:30 – 19:05

But it’s worth watching from start to finish. 


The Surprising News about College Sluts

HUS: Busting the myths about casual sex one study at a time.

depression-manyYet another study has found that casual sex is linked to anxiety and depression. For both sexes.

A new study, Risky Business: Is There an Association between Casual Sex and Mental Health among Emerging Adults?asked 3,900 college students from 30 colleges across the U.S. whether they’d had sex during the last month with someone they’d known less than a week. 18.6% of males and 7.4% of females reported having done so.

The researchers also investigated the role of gender in determining mental distress linked to casual sex. Prior studies have found that women respond more negatively to casual sex than men, possibly because of double standards that allow men to have more sexual encounters with a greater number of partners than women. In this study, however, gender did not have an effect on outcomes.

It should be noted that while a small percentage of students hook up regularly, about 30% have had casual sexual intercourse in college and 48% have had a sexually intimate encounter with a stranger or brief acquaintance. Past work in this area has found that men and women experience casual sex differently, but that may be changing. [Read more...]