Our society has been collectively wringing its hands over casual sex for generations. As hookup culture replaces dating and courtship becomes obsolete, people from all walks of life and political ideologies have expressed concern about the casual way many people view sexuality. According to a new study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, though, all of this panic about casual sex is misplaced.
The study examined the sex lives of 371 undergraduate students by asking them to keep diaries cataloging their sexual exploits and their feelings about their sex lives. Students were followed for 12 weeks. Prior to beginning the study, researchers also asked students to complete a sociosexual orientation survey designed to elicit the students’ feelings about sex, love, and relationships. They found that students who endorsed casual sex were more likely to be extroverted and manipulative, and that men who endorsed casual sex were more likely to express sexist views.
Unsurprisingly, students who viewed casual sex as permissible were more likely to have casual sex during the study. Students who engaged in casual sex reported higher self-esteem and better well-being, as well as lower rates of depression and anxiety, than students who did not have casual sex. Contrary to popular wisdom about differences between male and female sexuality, researchers found that both men and women who endorsed casual sex could benefit from it.
Should We All Have Casual Sex?
Like many psychological studies, this research examined college students, who are not necessarily representative of the general population. It could be that college life makes casual sex beneficial, but that people outside of college don’t benefit from the practice. The study relied on self reports, which aren’t always reliable. It could be that some students lied about their feelings.
For now, though, the study does undermine the proposition that casual sex is always bad or that it is the product of low self-esteem. The researchers who conducted the study noted that people who approved of casual sex were more likely to see benefits from casual sex. Thus, the study may simply be showing that people who conform to their own values are happier.
- Grossman, S. (2014, June 24). Casual sex is good for you according to your new favorite study. Retrieved from http://time.com/2917281/casual-sex-is-good-for-you-study/
- Hess, A. (2014, June 24). New study finds that casual sex is good for you (if you are a jerk and male). Retrieved from http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/06/24/casual_sex_study_new_research_shows_that_hookups_lead_to_self_esteem_for.html
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