Depending on the context, casual sex can be vilified, or glorified. Modern society and media for years have been perpetuating the narrative that sexual liberation equals enjoying casual sex and regular one-night stands. Casual sex put simply is the physical intimacy and fun of sex without the romantic or emotional components of a committed relationship. While this can be great, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. Sex is something that can bring up a lot of emotions for different people. Some people might be happy with having sex once a year; others every day; and others not at all. The media constantly bombards us with images of people who are strong and independent, with a large part of this image being their ability to enjoy no strings attached sex on a regular basis. The idea is that not letting sex have an emotional hold over a person makes that person strong, independent, and modern. But what does this say about the rest of society, who feel that sex must be a committed and emotionally vulnerable thing to be enjoyable?
Sex positivity can be a lot of things. Above all, sex positivity is about having the confidence and knowledge to express your sexuality in the way you want to. Hook-up culture often seen online renders this mindset more difficult. The rhetoric constantly seen in society and media is that the only relations they should be having with their preferred gender is purely sexual. This is a damaging message for people of any age, but impressionable young people growing up around this sort of narrative are more likely to develop unhealthy relationships with their peers and with their own sexuality. The development of apps like Tinder and Grindr have blown up the casual sex scene in recent years. Now more than ever, people can find a sex partner in just a few simple steps. Setting aside the obvious dangers apps like these can pose, the emphasis within dating on these apps now lays solely on sexual attraction, leaving a poor foundation to form an actual relationship on. The experience on these apps varies between genders, and for women, the consensus is that these apps are terrible for doing as advertised. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that, in this context, casual sex and hook-ups are experiences that are entirely different for women. Sociologists argue that the different views on casual sex across the gender spectrum can be attributed to gender roles and cultural conditioning, as casual sex can carry major stigma with it. While this may be an aspect of it, many believe that the science behind hormones during sex is more to blame. Let’s be clear, during sex, chemical global warming is happening in our bodies. Oxytocin- the attachment hormone, floods the brain during sexual intercourse, but strangely, this chemical activity occurs more in women than it does in men. This may explain why women are more likely to catch feelings after sex- and why men are more likely to catch a taxi home.
So that’s the science behind it, but as mentioned above, there are more human reasons why people may not enjoy casual sex. The stigma attached to people, especially women, who enjoy casual sex is off-putting at best. As far as sex positivity has come in recent years, maybe our collective psychology hasn’t moved on from feeling as if we’ll become social pariahs from having a one-night stand?
Whatever your take on casual sex is, love it or hate it, people will continue to have non-committal sex long after it becomes a social norm. Ultimately, while there is science to explain away why some people enjoy these things where others don’t, people’s sexual preferences and desires shouldn’t define who they are, or their sexuality. As long as all parties involved are having a good time, it shouldn’t and doesn’t matter.