Saturday, June 26, 2010

Casual Sex - Empowering or Depressing?

Today I did a little catch up on relationship blogs and noticed two recent posts about casual sex. The first one was Dating After Divorce from David Wygant's blog, The Naked Truth Behind Dating Sex and Relationship. The second post was titled, The Gender Price Gap in Casual Sex from Susan Walsh's blog, Hooking up Smart.

David Wygant's blog post was a videocast discussion between himself and a woman named Kim, so I can't say it's completely the "male point of view." The video is meant to be dating advice for divorced people and starts by warning not to date! Sex is OK... even encouraged by both David and Kim as long as it's "just sex" or a "booty call." Don't get involved, they warn. Kim talks about women going after younger men to feel good about themselves. "To get that attention again, to feel attractive, to feel youthful.. it's so important," says Kim. "And then to not have any relationship with that person. It's so freeing! It's huge!" they both agree.

Susan Walsh's blog is much more academic with research and stats. Her blog has a huge following. This post, for example, has 263 comments. In this particular post she quotes from various studies on the differences between men and women and their feelings about casual sex. For the most part, the studies seem to validate the standard generalizations: women prefer to have an emotional connection and are not nearly as OK with casual sex as men are. Susan says of findings from a 2005 study of college students done by Catherine Grello:

The really interesting thing about Grello’s research though, is the correlation she found between depression and casual sex in women. She found that women having the most casual sex report the most symptoms of depression, and that those women have more partners and more regrets than other women. For men, the opposite is true – the men having the most casual sex were the least depressed. The research did not prove a causal relationship, but posed questions for further study.

Are women having casual sex is search of external validation?

Yes -- that's a point that both posts seem to agree on. Women are having casual sex for "external validation." They want to feel desirable. They want to know that they're still attractive.

My guess is that the depression sets in when they realize this stranger they just had sex with doesn't care about them!

Kim's advice in the video to go seek out younger men for sex may work for some women... I'm sure there are some women out there that feel sexy when they find a younger hunky guy who wants to sleep with them. And maybe many of them walk away feeling good about the encounter. I would venture to guess there are a fair percentage that walk away feeling pretty crummy about the whole thing, because most of us want more than "just sex." (Note: Readers say my own attempt at cougar behavior is one of the best stories in The Laptop Dancer Diaries. This is undoubtedly because it is a very embarrassing story...let's just say, some of us are not meant to be cougars...)

In Susan Walsh's blog one commenter goes as far as describing men who treat women as a stranger after having sex with them as "pathological" and "sociopathic." If women are treating men this way, they may be just as bad (except, as the study suggests, most men aren't nearly as bothered by casual sex as women are.)

I think it would be interesting if this type of study about casual sex were done for the newly divorced. I've heard advice exactly the opposite from that of David and Kim. Dating is fine, but stay away from sex. Of course, easier said than done, because, dag-gummit, we want to feel sexy. (No matter what, I would advise anyone that wants to feel sexy to refrain from saying "dag-gummit.")

What do you think? Is casual sex depressing or empowering?


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