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.