The Thing About Casual Sex
It’s not about the act itself but why people do it
The subject of casual sex has long been taboo in our culture. Yes, despite the popularity of TV shows then and now that show hookups as a normal part of life (see: Sex and The City, Sex Education). I also bet, and I say this without judgment, that at least one friend or acquaintance in your circle is on Grindr or Tinder, looking to have a good time. But they, whoever they are in your life or institution, just can’t seem to talk about sex and sex education. Oddly, they shake their heads in confusion and dismay upon hearing news of teens getting pregnant. But that’s for another topic. Today, let’s talk about casual sex—because everyone’s doing it anyway—and get educated through real people’s experiences and science.
Is casual sex bad?
Marj is a gay woman who, when single, has sex with both men and women. I asked her why and she says, “Wala, I’m horny.” Danny, a single guy in his early 30s, has casual sex because “it’s fun.” I continued to ask if it was fun for the person he was doing it with, if there were any expectations, and if they were safe. He continues to explain that his hookups are always with the consent of the girl and that he makes sure to always use protection. On the expectations part though, he’s not too sure. “But it’s casual, so there shouldn’t be any expectation, diba?”
Studies show that casual sex may or may not affect your mental health. But it’s not the act itself that is wrong. According to Zhana Vrangalova Ph.D. of Psychology Today, “It is likely that not all hookups have the same potential to harm or benefit well-being and not all people engaging in them are equally susceptible to that harmful or beneficial potential. Instead, there are individual, interpersonal and social factors that this relationship depends on.”
Hookups affect an individual depending on the motivation behind the hookup. Marj was concupiscent and so was Danny. But what about Danny’s one-time partners? Did they like him beyond his profile pic? Were they also just really horny or were they lonely? Did they know the deed was no more than a hookup?
Vrangalova explains, “When we do things for the “right” reasons, our well-being flourishes. When we do those exact same things for the ‘wrong’ reasons, our well-being suffers.” But what is right and what is wrong anyway?
- Right or autonomous reasons — self-directed, reflective of our values; i.e., it’s fun, you enjoy sex, you want to explore your sexuality, etc.
- Wrong or nonautonomous reasons — seeking rewards, avoiding punishment, complete lack of motivation; i.e., you want to please someone, you’re doing it for favors, material rewards or revenge, you hope it turns into a long-term relationship, you were tricked or coerced into it, or were too intoxicated to make a responsible decision
It isn’t black and white
You and I will never know the answers to my burning questions about Danny’s partners. He honestly doesn’t remember them beyond their names and that they were DTF. So I asked Ramil, a gay man in his late 20s, who’s pretty active on Grindr. “I want a smart dick,” he says. Though he imagines he’ll meet his future boyfriend, preferably an artist or a creative, at a really nice co-working space or coffee shop, he says “Who knows, I could have sex and find love at the same time.” And some people have.
I can’t say the motives of the people I talked to were glaringly right or wrong. But the important thing is if you were to fuck around, think about why you’re doing it. If it feels wrong, stop. If it feels “right,” whatever that might mean to you, be responsible. Communicate with your partner, talk about your desires, your limits, safety, hygiene and protection before you take off all your clothes. As uncomfortable as it sounds, it’s important to be honest with your own motivations and to get to know the person you’re jumping in bed with a little, even if it is for one night only.
Art Alexandra Lara