Can Sex Ever Be Casual?
January 26, 2012 10:43 AM   Subscribe

An earlier groundbreaking study on the same topic was seemingly ignored by the editors of Psychology Today.
posted by Ian A.T. at 10:53 AM on January 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

What article did you intend to link to? There are several. The stock photos they chose for each article seem to indicate that the editors of Psychology Today have a very low opinion of hooking up.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:07 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

There were several dudish articles amongst those but the Stanley Siegel is worth reading. I'd recommend that article linked by Ian A.T. for a counter point.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:13 AM on January 26, 2012

What about casual marriage?
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:30 AM on January 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

Startling to find that in twelve years-plus of MeFi, this is only the second use of the 'vaginal' tag.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 11:34 AM on January 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

After 10+ years of marriage, I find the entire concept of hooking up kind of... weird (although I can see - and remember - the benefits of the practice). Without actually knowing your partner all that well, how enjoyable could sex be (unless you acted in porn or something)? Seems like a bit of a crap shoot.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:39 AM on January 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I like to keep my sex casual. You know, jeans allowed.
posted by lumpenprole at 11:41 AM on January 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

I meant to link to the series of articles as a whole.
posted by reenum at 11:42 AM on January 26, 2012

I've tried formal sex but was always disappointed.
It messed up my cummerbund.
posted by Floydd at 11:45 AM on January 26, 2012 [16 favorites]

No article by Christopher Ryan or Cacilda Jethá?
posted by eustacescrubb at 11:46 AM on January 26, 2012

Lots of 'casual sex is doomed because women are too emotional'. Only one that deals with homosexuality is Male on Male Rape (an issue that does deserve more attention, but in a medley of rape-free, hetero-normative articles on casual sex it does seem . . . out of place).
posted by Garm at 11:47 AM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I found the Susan Heitler, Ph.D piece worthwhile where she discusses the sex lives of gerbils. Yes. gerbils. Seems they go through a pattern of sexual excitement and lessening of that excitement over a period of time that resembles that of humans, therefore further indicating the evolutionary nature of those things that we believe make us so special.
posted by Postroad at 11:50 AM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

casual sex Friday tomorrow everyone!
posted by nathancaswell at 11:57 AM on January 26, 2012 [11 favorites]

Observations from my computer desk in a house of five 20-somethings leads me to think that there's a stress/fun vs time curve resembling a Jablonski plot.

There's originally a ton of fun involved, no real attachment, and the happy un-couple have a great time. After about a month of this, one or the other invariably gets attached leading to a sharp decrease of fun outside the bedroom (and even in it). If both parties keep their shit together, the fun gradually recovers from this well of stress to a sub-basal level of fun which is still quite enthusing for both parties for years and years and years...
posted by Slackermagee at 12:11 PM on January 26, 2012

This article reminds of everything that is wrong with Psych majors (but is exciting because it makes me think of having sex with Psych majors).
posted by KokuRyu at 12:17 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

What's wrong with sex being causal? It causes lots of things, from emotional responses to biological processes, and in some cases more human beings (though in some cases, fewer). Indeed, the causality of sex can be plotted by looking at the relationship between...

Oh. casual sex.

posted by Jon_Evil at 12:31 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like to keep my sex semi-formal. You know, no genes allowed.
posted by fings at 1:11 PM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Can conversation ever be casual?

I hate this kind of crap. Sex is broad category of related activities. Sex is better or worse, more or less appropriate, more or less psychologically healthy, more or less physically healthy, depending upon individual taste, circumstance, and intentions. Just like conversation or any other usual form of interpersonal interaction.

But I think that comparing it to conversation is most illustrative.

We intuitively understand that we have conversations for greatly varying purposes. We have preferences in conversation style and partners. We have different kinds of conversations in different social contexts. We often individually have strong idiosyncratic preferences about topics and even styles of conversation. We have favored and disfavored conversational partners. We have committed long-term conversational partners, relationships, conversations in the context and representative of a more broad relationship, and we have brief and pleasurable conversations with someone we never speak to again. We have pleasant but entirely functional conversations as part of formalized social interactions, such as in commerce or ritual. Our conversational preferences are shaped by our biology and our formative experiences and by our self-willed notions of identity. Many people have strong emotional investments in who with and how they converse, such as advocates for extroversion or introversion. Others don't. We often find that conversations are mysteriously easy and satisfying with certain people and impossible and unsatisfying with others, apparently independent of structure.

Conversations are necessary for some very important aspects of being a person. Almost everyone needs to converse with others at some time, to some degree.

Personally, I really don't like small-talk. I really enjoy deep and intense conversations with individual people, especially individuals I know well and like and respect. I recognize, but don't share in, the enjoyment that many others get in continually varied conversations with relatively large numbers of other people. It seems obvious to me that that is a valid and productive form of human interaction that I'm willing to sacrifice for gains in other things (such as more time and energy for more intense and deep conversations with select individuals) and that while this is "right" for me, it's obviously not "right" for everyone.

And to really drive that analogy home, as much as I enjoy my long-term, committed,, exclusive, and deeply mutually familiar conversations, the idea of ethically normalizing that preference to the extent of promoting the universal disfavor of all other kinds of conversation is self-evidently insane.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2012 [12 favorites]

Without actually knowing your partner all that well, how enjoyable could sex be

without actually knowing your partner all that well, how enjoyable could checkers be? or tennis?
posted by cupcake1337 at 2:02 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was all ready to be annoyed at these articles, especially when the default seems to be to look at casual sex as a Bad Thing, but then I read some of Stanley Siegel's stuff, for instance, from a column, In Defense of Casual Sex that preceded this issue:
"There are times when casual sex actually deepens one's self-knowledge. With intelligence and clarity of purpose, casual sex is more than instant gratification. By openly exploring our fantasies and true desires with different partners in a way that may not possible in a committed relationship, we can transcend our inhibitions. With each new encounter we can discover buried parts of ourselves and in time experience the totality of who we are. We can even experience profound, revelatory moments that unravel our past and show us things we never knew about ourselves. We can satisfy unmet needs by embracing those aspects of our sexuality that are deeply meaningful and we can choose to let go of those that no longer have importance."
and also this bit from Why I Advocate For Casual sex:
"It's my basic assumption that sexual desire and the themes we eroticize as adults--romantic sex, bondage, domination, role playing--originate in unresolved childhood conflicts and unmet needs. Our minds take these painful feelings and convert them into something pleasurable in an attempt to master them. Sex acts serve as a transformer. Rather than becoming defeated by feelings of isolation, helplessness, loneliness or rejection, we become aroused by them."
Thanks for posting this, reenum.
posted by brina at 2:13 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Startling to find that in twelve years-plus of MeFi, this is only the second use of the 'vaginal' tag.

And yet no 'penile' tag. Where's the equity here?
posted by Danf at 2:49 PM on January 26, 2012

I want to page Scody to this thread after reading Is Everyone Really Just Doing It All the Time?. These laborious sentences need some serious editing:
So what predicts a "hookup"? The jury is still out. Theories range from the individual to sociocultural influences. Social cognitive theories suggest the important role of shaping that takes place on multiple simultaneous levels; for many, a salient intimate relationship is modeled by parents' relationships, whereas a college setting may provide an immediate social context, and messages from the mass media many encompass a larger socially dominant sphere that provide norms on sexual behavior.
I think when casual sex goes bad, it's mostly because the sexsters aren't clear on what their expectations are going in. Seems like no one can really agree just what constitutes a hookup--some researchers in these studies counted everything from kissing (!) on up to intercourse as hookups. So it girls get together and kiss each other on the cheek, watch out, it's a mad lesbian orgy now!

It's no wonder people get emotional. I don't think it's always the woman by a long shot, either. I never really bought that whole Seinfeld situation where they spell out the ground rules and then Elaine gets upset anyway. Ground rules are great. I just think it would be so much simpler if we all knew what we were getting into, without jeopardizing the fun stuff. Psychic powers for the win! Or maybe we should have shirts made with, "I like to sleep in my own room," ""I'm a cuddler," or "I'm just looking for a little strange on the side."

We'd all need several different shirts, though, because sometimes you feel like a nut...sometimes you don't.

I do think the article made a good point that factoring in alcohol ups the odds for hurt feelings and drama. Add just a little too much alcohol or drugs into the mix and people change. Boundaries get crossed, sometimes too fast and too far. I knew a guy (an asshat coworker, actually), who was cheating on his long-distance girlfriend all over the place) who said if he knew he wasn't really feeling that chemistry with a new girl, he would not only try for sex really early in, he'd push for the most extreme stuff he could think of, kinks his girlfriend would never go for. His reasoning was that he wouldn't be crushed if the anonymous girl turned him down anyway, and if she agreed, it was a win/win for him.

Anyway, there's a high potential someone will end up clingy and sad after a hookup, or callous and cold, or not there at all by the time morning rolls around. Or maybe that was what you hoped would happen, and now that hookup's getting a little too comfortable just hanging out. Or it's just plain awkward once you both sober up and realize you're not nearly as sexy and clever as either of you thought.
posted by misha at 3:27 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Startling to find that in twelve years-plus of MeFi, this is only the second use of the 'vaginal' tag.

We are an anal kind of place.
posted by Forktine at 4:59 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Can Sex Ever Be Casual?

I don't know; let me check with the 10 million species who just shut up and fuck already without some pathological need to make every commonplace biological activity mean something.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:44 PM on January 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Psychology Today is to psychology what the Daily Mirror is to news.

Thanks you guys who read it and commented, so that I don't have to.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 8:05 PM on January 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Sex means whatever meaning we bring to it, consciously and unconsciously.

(This makes it like every other activity we do.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 9:51 PM on January 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

It seems sex is already casual. I only had 2 partners and I seem like a virgin compared to everyone, lol.
posted by Asian_Hunnie at 10:42 PM on January 26, 2012

Psychology Today is for people who buy Cosmo for the articles.
posted by srboisvert at 3:14 AM on January 27, 2012

After 10+ years of marriage, I find the entire concept of hooking up kind of... weird....Seems like a bit of a crap shoot.

At no time in my experience has casual sex involved shooting crap. But maybe I'm just old-fashioned.
posted by orange swan at 6:31 AM on January 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

without actually knowing your partner all that well, how enjoyable could checkers be? or tennis?

I agree sincerely with the comment you made sarcastically.
posted by DU at 10:35 AM on January 27, 2012

Sex... it's just like a game of chess.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:20 AM on January 27, 2012

Sex... it's just like a game of chess.

While it's true that you can reach the endgame by just picking any opening and flailing around blindly with your bishop mating becomes sublime once you really learn how to pin and skewer your opponent?
posted by nathancaswell at 11:35 AM on January 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

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