Abby OReilly // 21 July 2008
Casual sex, as I understand it, is the act of indulging in coitus with someone you have no intention of having an exclusive, committed relationship with. It is a term used to define the mutual use of one person by another to achieve sexual gratification, without the pressures that often come with fostering an emotional attachment. You can be selfish. You can demand what you want. You can ask someone to put his or her pinkie in your anus. You can enact your deepest darkest most depraved sexual fantasies without blushing over your Sunday lunch sat opposite your partner’s mother while reminiscing about cock-rings, fisting and black rubber etc so what’s the problem? Presumably, if you are male or female and don’t want to develop the kind of connection that’ll lead you straight to the his ‘n’ hers bathrobes while at the same time still craving a traditional hearty shag (as opposed to lonely evenings getting yourself off), then this must be an attractive alternative? Providing that both parties are understanding of the arrangement, is there anything wrong with having a “fuck-buddy,” someone you meet frequently with the sole intention of having wild unbridled acrobatic sex, without the obligation of calling the next day?
Whether you have casual sex or not, I am going to assume that it’s unlikely (unless you are devoutly religious) that you would disapprove of consenting adults safely playing with each others genitals. However, according to this article, if you are female and want to behave this way, you are disingenuous simply because science claims that “evolution has not adapted women to having casual sex.” So, there you go then. Consider yourselves told. You thought you were enjoying all that no-strings bumping uglies, but you were mistaken. You thought you were liberated and satisfied, when in actual fact what you really felt was “used” and “regretful.” Surprised, huh? Or rather frustrated that science has supposedly found a way to confirm one of the biggest taboos of the modern woman’s life – that of so-called “promiscuity?” Promiscuity is largely a derogatory term, and the preferred nomenclature for those who want to use a more refined word to criticise a woman for her “whoring” – that is for committing the crime of having more than one sexual partner and speaking openly about her intimate experiences. It is not synonymous with casual sex. It’s outdated and it’s unfair, but unfortunately those of us who choose to act this way are still berated for our behaviour and considered morally corrupt for doing nothing more than recognising our personal desires and endeavouring to avidly sate them.
So, who says otherwise? Professor Anne Campbell of Durham University, who collated the information for her study (which has been published in the journal of Human Nature), through online investigations:
An internet survey of 1,743 men and women who have had one-night stands found that 80 per cent of the men had positive feelings about it, feeling greater sexual satisfaction and contentment, plus a greater sense of well-being. Only 54 per cent of women felt the same way.
Firstly, we are not told the ratio of men to women who were questioned, and secondly this is too small a sample of the population to accurately confirm the sweeping statement that “men like casual sex more than women.” Also, the reliability of these results is severely hampered by virtue of the fact they were reaped online; was there any way of determining whether the questions were answered by men or women, or was it assumed that each person who participated was rightly declaring their gender? Since such inconsistencies could seriously disrupt the balance of results. Also, to what extent did the research consider prevailing sexual attitudes? As women we are told that traditionally we are not supposed to have a number of sexual partners, and that to do so is “shameful.” Therefore, is it not possible that when faced with a number of penetrative questions asking us to declare our feelings about something that we are told we are not supposed to do that we are naturally going to feign upset, in order to seemingly repent our perceived transgressive behaviour? Is this not an example of self-preservation – saying we are guilty in the hope that this will reduce the severity of judgement levied against us? So what if that was the best shag I ever had and it made me feel fantastic, I’ll claim to feel like absolute shit so that they’ll all think I’m really a ‘good girl’ underneath my fishnets, and that’ll be the end of that.
Men are not expected to adhere to a rigid criterion of sexual etiquette in the same way, and therefore can be honest about their experiences because they are less likely to be lambasted for saying they like a quick emotionless lay. However, with this there is also a certain amount of pressure. Traditionally the male of the species is supposedly predisposed to enjoying a good fuck without the “burden” of a relationship, and it is anticipated that they should actively be pursuing a number of women for the sole purposes of sex in order to be deemed a healthy red-blooded male. Therefore, is it not also possible that those men who felt “used” and “regretful” after their one-night stands to similarly take recourse to self-preservation and claim that they enjoyed every second of meaningless sex just because they think that’s what they are supposed to feel like? Whereas a woman is considered less “ladylike,” “proper” and “feminine” for having sex outside of relationships and enjoying everything that comes with “emotional disconnectedness,” men are ridiculed for wanting to have sex for love and emasculated by their admittance of feeling “empty” and “dead” after a random fuck. What studies like this do is disempower women to make their own lifestyle choices and decisions free of judgement, at the same time as confirming unrealistic gender stereotypes.
Professor Campbell offers justification for why she tells us (women) that we (women) don’t like casual sex:
In evolutionary terms women bear the brunt of parental care and it has been thought that it was to their advantage to choose their mate carefully and remain faithful to ensure their mate had no reason to believe he was raising another man’s child.
Maybe when we were all running around wearing loin clothes and tearing chunks of flesh from the sides of cows with our bare teeth this was the case, but presumably in the western world where contraception and sex education is readily accessible we are no longer slaves to our reproductive systems. While procreation can be the result of sex if precautionary measures are not taken, a large percentage of people enjoy rolling around naked with a partner in order to orgasm, not to make plans to get a people carrier for weekends away in Legoland. The introduction of condoms and the contraceptive pill means that we now have greater control over our bodies and can thoroughly enjoy sex for sex’s sake rather than for the sole purpose of squeezing out babies (if we don’t want to). It’s unfair that our sexual desires are always assessed against a man’s behaviour, and what this study has allegedly confirmed is that we don’t enjoy casual sex because, in a nut shell, we don’t think men would approve. And we don’t think men would want to be the fathers of our babies if we enjoyed said casual sex. Sounds pretty ludicrous, doesn’t it?
I understand that casual sex is not for everyone, but men and women can become equally disillusioned with it. The subtext to all conversations I have had about this is the belief that women’s emotions are so entwined with their sexual experiences that we are not able to mentally cope with being “used” in this way, although the assumption that women are always positioned in a submissive, victim role in such scenarios undermines our abilities to judge our own limitations as well as our determination to achieve our own sexual fantasies. Why is it that the woman is always described as being “used” when she could equally be the “user?” Or rather maybe the people actually involved are mature enough to not see this as a power struggle but as something that find mutually gratifying?
I don’t have casual sex, but I would not rule it out as an option in the future should I feel the need, and should I feel that personally it was the right thing for me to do. Owing to my own personal belief systems about sex I’m not entirely sure that it would be the rbest thing for me at the moment, but I do greatly admire the women who have the confidence to take what they want sexually, because why shouldn’t they? I have friends who thoroughly enjoy the freedom the comes with getting what you want without a partner, and surely this is exactly what feminism is all about? To each their own and, after all, you get the physical part of a relationship without the mind games, jealousy and paranoia that often comes with long-term commitment, and so it should be enjoyed while it lasts. It would be nice to reach a stage, however, where we are free to make our decisions without judgement and without society presupposing how we feel about it. It’s just a shame that society still sees fit to judge women for not emulating the behavior of men (because why is it that social acceptance of male sexual freedoms should then make it, by default, something rightly reserved for their sex only), but rather for doing what gives them pleasure, but hopefully as more and more women speak candidly about their one-night stands and shag partners, then this redundant attitude will begin to change. Whose taboo is it anyway? Certainly not that of the vast majority of women I know.