A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that men who had extramarital sex were less happy — they were rated as having lower self-esteem and more regret and anger, more relationship problems, more depression, and less positive feelings in general.
Studies also link casual sex to feelings of guilt, shame, and “neither-love-nor-hate” or ambivalence. It’s bad for your sex life if you constantly feel the weight of casual sex on your shoulders. And there’s also the issue of the aforementioned fear of disease, the CDC says. There’s also the potentially harmful psychological impact of getting some of that from it on the record (ahem, hooking up).
How do you end casual sex?
The range of possible futures for people after they’ve had casual sex varies. For some, it becomes a part of their history, part of who they are. For others, it’s an end in itself — their only sex life. It’s difficult to imagine anyone reaching this kind of endpoint.
But a recent study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, found that close to a quarter of the men in that study had sex with sex workers before the age of 21. Others I spoke to, however, told me that it was very much “rare and unusual.” They weren’t surprised to hear that, given that casual sex is generally stigmatized.
It’s also generally taboo, though many people argue that the “hookup culture” of recent years has changed that. “Hookup culture” is a term often used by someone who is not necessarily in the sexual hookup lifestyle, but also happens to be an in-debate person. The implication that many casual sex attitudes and behaviors follow is that “hookup culture” is just a term to describe all casual sex in the modern United States.
I would like to call a spade a spade, though. Casual sex was just the way of life for countless youth of the 1960s through the 1970s, or so I’ve heard from my peers. And it also makes for great partying — they went from “college sex,” where they didn’t have to change to a whole new set of expectations and pressures, to now “real” life.
I want to make one thing clear: I am not saying that we are not entitled to have casual sex. I am not saying that hookups are bad, because they don’t have to be. It was not, after all,
Aside from the romance of the situation, casual sex may be bad for you. Experts say that when it comes to having casual sex, condoms should be used at all times to protect against STDs (including HIV/AIDS), which can occur through penetration.
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Although scientific studies aren’t unanimous, a different question is whether casual sex is a good idea or a bad idea. It all depends on your situation and needs. At the very least, it should be negotiated — and readying yourself for what you’re getting into may help (research shows that people often don’t). While you’re pondering what ‘risk’ is worth, you should know, though, that casual sex isn’t appropriate for everyone.
Take the pressure off yourself.
Most people don’t want to be married, but they’re still unclear about what they want, says Sarah Hershcovis, a clinical assistant professor of psychology at New York University who studies interpersonal relationships. Because of this, “being in a situation where you want sex but you don’t want to commit or are in an emotionally committed but not physically committed relationship or are just having sex for sex sake might be quite stressful,” she says.
And it might not be enjoyable. Consider this: A 2010 study in the Archives of Sexual Behavior found that hooking up tends to be less satisfying than committed relationships.
Find the going tense.
And you shouldn’t use casual sex as a means to find yourself an open relationship. “Once you’re in a committed relationship, things are different, and that’s a situation where you’re looking at a relationship with the intent to be in that relationship and not just for casual sex,” Hershcovis says.
Know who you’re sleeping with.
If you’re hooking up with someone casually, make sure you’re both on the same page about things like condoms and STDs. “People are really clear about what they want from casual sex,” says Sarah Echols, the president and founder of the sex coaching and research company Oh Joy Sex Toy. “[But] people have no clue about whether or not they’re going to be in a long term relationship or a long term relationship.”
If you start getting anxious about your safety, you’ll be less likely to get in the sack with casual sex partners, Ech