Is Casual Sex Actually Bad for You?

February 29th 2016

Casual sex has been said to cause negative psychological effects, and society has attached a negative stigma to the practice. But is casual sex actually a detriment to your general well-being?

A video by New York Magazine explains that having no-strings-attached sex can actually "improve quality of life, making people feel better and less stressed."

Moreover, the video pointed to a study that found that casual sex doesn't inherently affect anyone in a good or bad way. Instead, what really determines if you feel emptiness, condemnation or other negative emotions after casual sex depends on a person's "sociosexual orientation" — which is the way a person feels about having sex outside of a relationship.

For example, in a study published in Social Psychological & Personality Science, researchers surveyed college students to see if casual sex would affect their overall well-being. They found that the college students who were naturally more interested and eager to have casual sex reported improvements in psychological well-being, versus those who feel more conservative about casual sex.

The truth is societal expectations and personal values can play a huge role in whether or not you enjoy casual sex. As Psychology Today's Robert Weiss pointed out, casual sex can be a positive experience, just as long as it essentially doesn't go against your conscience.

"If casual sexual activity doesn’t violate your moral code, your sense of integrity, or the commitments you have made to yourself and/or others, then it’s probably not going to be a problem for you in terms of your psychological well-being."

In analyzing a series of studies on sexual behavior, Psychology Today found that there were no differences between males and females when it came to how casual sex affected psychological well-being. However, males do engage in more casual sex.

But even if you enjoy having casual sex, it doesn't mean that casual sex won't leave you wholly unscathed. There are other issues to contend with, according to Psychology Today:

"That said, you may face related issues like STDs, unwanted pregnancy, partners who see your relationship as more than just casual, etc. And you should understand that these related factors could adversely affect your psychological well-being even if the sex itself does not."

But do people want to have casual sex?

The short answer is not necessarily. Despite the number of Tinder-like dating websites that reinforce "hook-up culture," research shows that both men and women generally desire something more than just a good romp in the sheets.

In a 2008 study a group of researchers asked 507 college students what motivated them to have casual sex. While 89 percent of men and women said physical attraction was a huge part of it, a majority of students also said sex served an emotional purpose and as a stepping stone for a romantic relationship.

“The normalization of casual sex among young adults is one of the most notorious recent changes in sexual behavior in western society,” the study's author told Business Insider. “But in reality, during those sporadic encounters something more than simply sex is desired.”

So even if the action of casual sex as is not a violation of your conscience, you can still end up in emotional territory.

In a study reported by the American Psychological Foundation, "78 percent of women and 72 percent of men who had uncommitted sex reported a history of experiencing regret following such an encounter." For men, they feel regret because they feel sorry "they used another person." But women tend to feel regret following casual sex because "they feel used."

So should you have casual sex?

This may sound obvious, but the answer to that question really depends on who you are and what you're comfortable with. However, one thing is for sure, it is high time to get rid of the taboo surrounding it.

New York Magazine's video on casual sex ends by saying that there is no undisputed evidence to show that casual sex is inherently good or bad. Rather, it comes down to person's background, state of mind, and personal preferences.

"The take-away here is that it doesn't make sense to treat casual sex as something that is either good or bad for everyone," the video explains. "As with anything else, it depends a lot of people's personal preferences, how they contextualize the experience and what they take away from it."

You can watch the full video here:

[h/t NYMAG]

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