Sex Ed

“Casual Sex” Isn’t All That Casual

October 29, 2018 by Justin Lehmiller

We tend to think of casual sex as, well, a pretty casual affair, meaning it’s just about the sex and nothing else. This view of casual sex is pervasive, even among those who study sex for a living. However, it turns out that casual sex is often about more than just a physical act of sexual gratification. For many people, there’s an important emotional component to it as well, according to a new study published in the Journal of Relationships Research.

This study is the subject of a recent column I wrote over at VICE and it focuses on how young adults feel about casual encounters. Researchers surveyed more than 600 college students about their willingness to engage in several different acts of intimacy and affection with a casual partner and found that most participants seemed open to the idea of combining intimacy with casual sex.

For instance, more than half of participants wanted to cuddle with a casual partner, and more than a quarter wanted to gaze into one another’s eyes. On average, women were more likely to want intimacy during casual sex than men; however, most men wanted intimacy, too.

This research has a number of important implications. For one thing, it challenges us to think differently about what “casual sex” really means—it’s not necessarily an emotionless affair. Sex researchers therefore need to take this into account when studying casual sex by expanding the scope of behaviors they inquire about. This research also adds to a growing body of literature finding that sex and emotion are more intertwined for men than gender stereotypes suggest.

To learn more about this research, check out the full article over at VICE.

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Reference: Garcia, J. R., Gesselman, A. N., Massey, S. G., Seibold-Simpson, S. M., & Merriwether, A. M. (2018). Intimacy Through Casual Sex: Relational Context of Sexual Activity and Affectionate Behaviours. Journal of Relationships Research.

Image Source: 123RF/Olga Ternavskaia

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Written by
Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Founder & Owner of Sex and Psychology

Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He runs the Sex and Psychology blog and podcast and is author of the popular book Tell Me What You Want. Dr. Lehmiller is an award-winning educator, and a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works.

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