Whose taboo?

// 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 It’s outdated and it’s unfair, but unfortunately those of us who choose to act this way are still berated for our behaviour and considered morally corrupt for doing nothing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.

Comments From You

Jennifer-Ruth // Posted 21 July 2008 at 9:00 am

God, what an idiotic article. And bad science. An internet survey does not make a scientific study…

Also, did this survey take into account that the social expectations and standards placed on women are very different than that on men? Let’s take it for granted that women do feel “used” after casual sex and don’t enjoy it as much as men. Maaaaybe this could be because women are constantly walking the madonna/whore line? Because women are treated like they don’t have a sex drive? Because of slut shaming? Oh no, of course not…it’s our biological wimmens minds! Silly me…how obvious.

Great article Abby.

Emme // Posted 21 July 2008 at 9:10 am

I’ve been having casual sex for years, I don’t have a problem with it – but other people always do! I once wrote down the 20 most common reasons that people would say was the reason I was doing it – it was everything from me being a WOC (it’s in my blood, you see), young (a woman in her twenties must be confused by society)adopted (abandonment issues), trying to complete with men (and win what exactly?) or the usual old “low self-esteem”. And those who said all this, weren’t trying to hurt me, they thought that they were actually helping me , and they didn’t mind being racist, ageist, or just plain stupid to do so. It seems very few people can actually beleive I am happy living the way I am – that it all has to be part of some self-destruction plan I have. In turn, that made me doubt myself and for a whilte there I started feeling shame after sex with someone I wasn’t in a relationship with – not because I felt used by him, but I was scared that I’d once again let myself down and there must be something wrong with me for enjoying that sex so very much etc.

But, after some time I realised that I had nothing to feel bad about, the only two things that need to be between me and the man I fuck is lust and respect.

Lauren O // Posted 21 July 2008 at 9:27 am

Oh give me a break, Professor Anne Campbell of Durham University. If women really do enjoy casual sex less, what makes her think it is an evolutionary drive? Could it be that men are less motivated to sexually satisfy women during a one-night stand, when they know reciprocity won’t come into play in the future? Could it be that social admonishment makes women feel worse, and that if we lived in a society without sexism, men and women would enjoy casual sex equally? Apparently not. It’s all the primal baby-makin’ urge.

The only casual encounters that I regret are ones with a guy who ended up being a total jerk AND lousy at sex. Casual sex with guys who are either nice or good in bed (I don’t even require both!) has never been a point of remorse for me. My sister does (semi-jokingly) endlessly call me a slut and whore, though, so I can see why some women would be shamed into regretting one-night stands, or at least feeling they should say they regret it when filling out an online survey.

Sarah // Posted 21 July 2008 at 9:31 am

“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.”

I think this is nonsense in many ways – firstly if you look at primate behaviour it’s very common for the female to be ‘promiscuous’, there are evolutionary advantages to this. Secondly the whole thing about a man ‘raising another man’s child’ implies that historically men had a significant role in childraising, which is not at all clear, there’s a plausible argument that children would have been raised by groups of women (mothers, grandmothers, sisters etc), and the modern nuclear family construction is a relatively recent invention.

Finally, it’s possible to get too carried away with the evolutionary justifications. Sex is a pleasurable, enjoyable thing for women too (or it should be!) regardless of how we evolved, so if women are reporting that they enjoy it less, then something is wrong with the way we’re doing it!

Victoria // Posted 21 July 2008 at 10:15 am

Yeah, ridiculous article. I agree with all the above comments. I am always astounded by men who berate women for having one-night stands because if no women had one-night stands then a lot of men would NEVER get laid. Also, it saddens me when a woman (such as Professor Anne Campbell) strives to perpetuate this prejudice and keep women “in their place”. I see no problem with casual sex if both parties are 16+, single, and have consented to everything that takes place during the act. Sex in general really shouldn’t be such a taboo.

Victoria // Posted 21 July 2008 at 10:16 am

Whoops, sorry I didn’t mean ridiculous article I meant ridiculous survey! Great article.

Rachael // Posted 21 July 2008 at 10:23 am

The most idiotic thing about this article

is that there is no facility on the page to comment on what an idiotic article it is!! Clearly the author does not like to be contradicted!

A friend of mine is also a scientist and he thinks this is rubbish! He told me (but I think I kind of knew this already due to my own sexual explorations): that the reason women’s bodies are made to be multi-orgasmic during sex is so that the cervix has the most chances to “catch” the sperm and therefore, to procreate.

So of course – most men will orgasm once during sex but women’s mutli-orgasm status is there to encourage her to have sex with many more men to A) increase chances of pregnancy and B) to catch the most genetically healthy sperm possible.

So it’s actually women, biologically speaking that should have more sex!!

And from my personal perspective – I will not have anyone telling me how many – or how little partners I choose to have. I have had casual flings and relationships and I have enjoyed both emmensely.

Like other comments here – I would suggest that many of the women in this “study” (no-one asked me!!) may be just scared of being honest because of sexism – and with a clearly sexist article like that, who can blame them??

Real shame they didn’t question me because I would have set them straight on a few things!

Rachael // Posted 21 July 2008 at 10:28 am

PS: just read Emme’s somment – and thanks for putting the double-standard so clearly!

I have had all of the responses she describes when I have been honest about my sex life to people – and her comments prove why many of the women in this study perhaps felt ashamed. There is just a disgusting amount of sexism heaped on women who like casual sex but that’s not gonna stop me enjoying it if I wish.

Mobot // Posted 21 July 2008 at 11:46 am

Great article – it’s infuriating to see that these double standards are still alive and kicking!

But I feel I need to point out a couple of things that took me by surprise. First –

“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”

I see what you’re saying but this sounds pretty racist to be honest – think about what you’re implying! All non western women are running around biting chunks out of cows and popping out sprogs at an alarming rate because they’re so primitive? Call it post colonial guilt or something but that makes me squirm – first wave feminism had its roots in some seriously classist, racist values that we surely don’t want to reflect. Anyway, sorry to derail. The other thing I noticed was that I didn’t see the point in mentioning that you don’t have casual sex. It’s great that you’re defending it, but shows the climate we live in regarding this topic when the author of an article like this feels she has to add the disclaimer ‘but I don’t do it myself…’. It’s a bit like when people say ‘oh I’d never have an abortion but I’m pro-choice’. If you feel the need to distance yourself from something to the point where you tell everyone you don’t or wouldn’t do it, does that mean you’ve internalised some of the negative stereotypes surrounding it? I guess it shows us how far society still has to go. Thanks for a thought provoking article!

Kate // Posted 21 July 2008 at 12:21 pm

And, still, despite all the misogynist shit heaped on those who do, the majority of women who had casual sex enjoyed it and felt better for it. 54%: a majority.

So why isn’t the story “Casual sex is good for you!”?

sianmarie // Posted 21 July 2008 at 12:21 pm

it’s all been said but couldn;t resist offering my tuppence worth! the thing that stung most about the survey is the statement that less women said they enjoyed casual sex than men, without taking into account the social pressures that may cause a woman to say that – i.e. women have historically been barred from admitting enjoyment of sex full stop let alone casual sex! it’s the endless stud slut argument – a guy will boast proudly of his one night stand whilst a woman is expected to feel shame or be subject to being called rude names. also there is a difference in the sexual boast culture – i don’t go trumpeting around the number of one night stands i’ve had – some of which admittedly left me feelign used and some of which were excellent! whereas i believe for men this is a more acceptable boast. also agree with victoria’s point – how do these guys expect to ever have a one night stand if they don’t think girls should be having them! the hypocrisy is disgusting and disturbing, quite honestly. how this scientist could come out with statisitcs that so clearly hide the social factors behind it is beyond me. shouldn’t academic money be spent on more accurate and meaningful research i wonder?

Anna // Posted 21 July 2008 at 1:09 pm

I used to have casual sex – I’ve had perhaps ten male sexual partners [and the same number again female] and only three of those were in the context of a relationship. Naturally, I don’t engage in such behaviour when I am in a relationship – but too late, the damage is done, I am now branded a slut, a whore, and easy, even by the vast number of people I’ve not slept with – and therefore I am considered fair game for any and all come-ons/harassment/phone calls at 1am from some bloke I don’t really even know asking me if I’m about and would like to fuck, because, you know, he’s horny and heard I’m easy.

So I guess I do regret having fun.. because it has caused me far more hassle than it ever should have done.

Cara // Posted 21 July 2008 at 1:24 pm

Great article.

Agree with other comments.

Mobot – yes, we had the “I wouldn’t have an abortion but I’d support the right to choose” thing. I still don’t see what’s wrong with that position. Equally, people have a right to choose not to have casual sex – not necessarily due to internalised double standards, but for other reasons?

It is right for some people and not for others.

Surely the point of being a liberal is not to judge others for their choices, even if they are ones you would never make yourself?

As with abortion though, it is very difficult to say that “I would not do this BUT I believe others should be free to and not be judged” – the point being, as I said above, just that it is a matter of individual choice – without being heard to buy into the rubbish that is heaped around that, e.g., women who have casual sex must lack self-esteem or that women who have abortions all regret it and feel horribly guilty.

Of course – some people do have casual sex for bad reasons. I think more of these are men than women – men face pressure to get “notches on the bedpost” to be a Real Man, and are not allowed to feel anything other than pride in their conquest. Even if they actually like the woman and feel used if she doesn’t call, even if they lack self-esteem, etc.

ConservaTorygirl // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:02 pm

There was an item about this on The Lipster when the Daily Mail printed it… On the same day as it had the headline “WOMEN TO BECOME MORE EQUAL THAN MEN”.

Cockney Hitcher // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:07 pm

Mobot isn’t saying that there’s something wrong with refraining from casual sex, but that it’s not necessary for a female writer – particularly in an article criticising the double standards regarding casual sex – to emphasise that she doesn’t have casual sex. If that makes sense.

Likewise, it’s unnecessary for a pro-choicer to emphasise how she would never ever have an abortion herself (even if it’s true). Pro-choice doesn’t mean ‘I would have an abortion’, so it’s not necessary to add the caveat ‘I wouldn’t have one’ when talking about being pro-choice.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:13 pm

i dont think the “i wouldnt but you can” stand is that bad. i understand that youre distancing yourself from the cause like shamefully, but i think the point is to say that she isnt just saying this so she can go and screw people casually, for her selfish purposes, but because it is right. it makes you feel you are making your point from a non-biased stand i suppose. not that it really needed to be proved here, but as we arent going to be met with a barrage of “if its so good why dont you do it?” crap here she doesnt have to be a martyr. its about letting people make decisions you dont agree with sometimes, and certainly ones you do agree with but just wouldnt choose for yourself.

Abby O'Reilly // Posted 21 July 2008 at 2:34 pm


The reason I made reference to my own sex life in this piece was because I personally felt it would be insincere to write something of this nature without doing so. I did not say definitively that I would not have casual sex, just that I have not as yet and don’t know if it would be right for me. It’s something I’ll have to think about. And that’s not because there is anything wrong with it, just becuase it’s a personal choice – and I don’t think that a woman should be criticised either way. If a woman hasn’t had an abortion does that make her any less pro-choice than anyone else? I don’t think it does. The point I was trying to reiterate was that while I am not actively having casual sex at the moment, I feel no compulsion to judge or cast aspersions on those who do, so why should anyone else? I can also understand why it is an attractive lifestyle choice, and I really did not thinnk that making those points would undermine the premise of the piece.

Abby x

Renee // Posted 21 July 2008 at 4:52 pm

Talk about agenda confirming research. These things are never free of gender values that are hegemonic in society. Is it any wonder that women are socially disciplined for having sex that they conduct a survey and it is found that women regret casual sex. Yeah, yeah we’re all guilty sluts and whores tell me something I don’t know. The whole thing is just so blatantly biased that I would not debase actual research by calling this research.

Cara // Posted 21 July 2008 at 5:19 pm

Cockney Hitcher – yes, I get what Mobot meant. Yet I think it was necessary to say whether or not she had casual sex, and Abby clearly felt it was – as she said, the tone of the article would sound too detached, insincere, etc. if the author didn’t mention their personal choice.

“Pro-choice doesn’t mean “I would have an abortion””, no it doesn’t, but many people think it does. (And equally, *not* having had an abortion doesn’t mean one is anti-choice). So the point needs to be made. As Laurel points out, it shows that she is not just saying this so she can sleep around, and similarly, pro-choice women do not just want to use abortion as contraception (not that women do this, but it is a popular fiction that they do).

It is saying: *I* might not feel this is right for me, but others should be free to do it.

So no, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the “I wouldn’t do it, but you should be free to” stance.

This stance can certainly come from internalised shame and acceptance of guilt, but it doesn’t always. Abby just feels it isn’t right for her. I don’t think that choice *always* comes from subconscious internalised sexist values along the “nice girls don’t” lines, nor does choosing to keep an unplanned pregnancy mean a woman has unconsciously absorbed anti-choice rhetoric. We can’t assume what is going on in someone else’s head.

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 21 July 2008 at 7:55 pm

Evolutionary theories are just that theories because we do not have any concrete evidence of precisely how prehistoric women and men behaved. Instead we constantly have male-defined beliefs concerning female sexuality. Since when is sexual activity defined solely as penetration? Yet another heterosexist and male-defined construction of human sexualities.

If we believe that ‘casual sex’ is enacting whorish behaviour then men who are ‘promiscuous’ are also whores.

Or, to put more succinctly male sexual double standards again. Since when are men supposedly programmed to be sexually promiscuous – men are not identical but theories such as this one claim they are. If women are labelled ‘sluts’ because they refuse to just have one or two sexual partners, then men who enact similar behaviour must be labelled ‘sluts and slags’ too.

George // Posted 21 July 2008 at 10:08 pm

Good old sociobiology… or evolutionary psychology… or whatever name you want to call the use of just-so stories to back up social theories that you have already decided must be true.

I don’t exactly understand why scientists think these sort of explanations even make sense, let alone have any empirical credence! These sort of explanations have been questioned by scientists as well as feminist philosophers of science since the seventies, so why are they still being dragged out???

I think I might start collecting them together.

Laura // Posted 21 July 2008 at 11:18 pm

I have to say, I don’t know anyone my age who gives a crap whether women sleep around or not. I think there’s generally an understanding that sex is a fun thing to do, and as long as both parties are clearly just up for a good time and nothing more, no one’s doing anything wrong or shameful.

Maybe the double standard’s on its way out….? I hope so!

Cara // Posted 22 July 2008 at 12:39 pm

Agree with all those rubbishing evo psych. George – exactly. It isn’t science…by definition, it’s just speculation, because you can’t form testable hypotheses and use evidence for/ against them.

Laura – I hope so too. I don’t know anyone my age who would judge women for sleeping around, either.

Another example of the “I wouldn’t but you can” argument occurred to me. I don’t use cannabis – I tried it a couple of times in student days and it either did nothing or made me throw up violently. Nice. However, I think it should be legal because many people use it and it does them no harm. Some people even find it helps with medical conditions. I don’t feel the need to say that I don’t use it because I wish to dissociate myself with stoner hippies :-) but in discussions of the subject, people’s personal experiences with cannabis often comes up. “I don’t like it” would be a crap argument for cannabis to remain illegal, and “I enjoy it” equally crap for legalising. It isn’t about people’s personal choices, but about generalities. That doesn’t mean personal experiences are irrelevant, just that the specific and the general shouldn’t be confused.

Amy // Posted 22 July 2008 at 2:07 pm

Agree with the debunking of the double standard and also agree with sociobiology being generally quite unhepful and speculative… however writing this: “the mind games, jealousy and paranoia that often comes with long-term commitment” is clearly just as unhelpful. Long-term commitment doesn’t have to include any of those negative aspects and it’s unrealistic to suggest that it does. It would have been better to have more of a balanced view of relationships in this article, I think.

I have had casual sex but most of the time it was because I wanted to be in a relationship with the person, and that relationship didn’t materialise. It was very stupid and left me feeling terrible, but I think that a lot of people (men and women) have this experience and so any encouragement to go out and have no-strings sex must come with a caveat of ‘do it for the right reasons’. And like it or not, some people do have casual sex because of low self esteem.

I find sex is much better and pleasurable now that I’m in a loving relationship. I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that way either.

Rachael // Posted 22 July 2008 at 8:37 pm

I realize that not many people will read this now – it being an old blog entry but I cannot get what Amy put about “like it or not, some people do have casual sex out of low-self esteem” out of my head.

Erm…some people stay in bad relationships out of low self esteem!! I cannot stand this cloaked judgement – which is really just the same tired old sexism directed at women!!

Women enjoy sex too – and why on earth should I be in an unhappy relationship just to somehow validate my need for sex?!

I have biological urges for sex – the same as men. I love myself very much – and I love casual sex sometimes very much. Until women learn to stand alone, we will never be equal.

Sabre // Posted 23 July 2008 at 3:20 pm

Regarding Amy’s comment ‘like it or not, some people do have casual sex because of low self esteem’ – I agree! I also totally agree with Rachael’s response ‘some people stay in bad relationships out of low self esteem’, (and I don’t think that Amy was insinuating otherwise). Low self esteem can manifest itself in so many ways when it comes to relationships and sex, so blanket statements and assumptions have no place.

Rachael // Posted 23 July 2008 at 10:42 pm

While I agree with most of what Sabre has said, I cannot agree with her assertion about Amy’s comment. When someone says “Like it or not….” that in itself is a way to prove one’s point rather than to voice an opinion so that is what I was reacting to.

I also did not generalize – I said that some people (not all) stay in bad relationships out of low self esteem.

Sarah // Posted 24 July 2008 at 10:06 am

I would guess that a lot of men have casual sex out of low self-esteem as well. Probably more so than women, as it’s something men experience some peer pressure to do, and being sexually active is often linked to a man’s feeling of self-worth and status, i.e. not ‘getting enough’ means there’s something wrong with you, or you’re a failure in some way.

I’m sure this ridiculous double-standard is harmful for men as well, not all of whom want to behave in this way. Much better if we could just accept people as individuals, some who like casual sex, some who don’t, regardless of gender. And that it’s perfectly fine for people to have whatever sexual interactions they like, as long as everything is safe and consensual etc.

figleaf // Posted 24 July 2008 at 7:40 pm

Hi Abby,

In case you felt I thumped you a bit in your old-pregnant-people post I’d like to say how much I appreciated this post.

If I may tie the two together, my women’s-studies/sex-education professor last winter pointed out to us that the biggest problem with, especially academic surveys is that they tend to be highly biased towards young people. (I’m not sure it was the case in this survey but for non-surprising reasons college-age people tend to show up in professor- and grad-student-generated surveys because they’re a bit of a captive audience.)

At any rate, I got a bit more radicalized about gendered constructions of sex maybe fifteen years ago when a researcher consciously sought out men and women in a wide range of ages and asked them questions about both intimacy and casual sex.

The interesting thing was that as people approached their mid-40s attitudes converged pretty strongly, with men’s expressed desire for intimacy approaching women’s, and women’s expressed desire for casual sex approaching men’s. That’s not to say they crossed, just that the respective curves grew very close together.

And the problem with that, of course, is that it throws all manner of gendered “determinism,” biological, genetic, hormonal, etc. into question.

Cool post!


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