July 28th, 2011
07:09 AM ET
Is casual sex worth it?
Ian Kerner, a sexuality counselor and New York Times best-selling author, blogs about sex on Thursdays on The Chart. Read more from him at his website, GoodInBed.
To do it, or not to do it: That is the question of casual sex - at least as depicted on film.
In both "Friends With Benefits" (currently playing) and the previously released "No Strings Attached," casual sex is anything but casual. It’s carefully weighed, hotly debated, methodically scrutinized and, of course, comically miscalculated. As in most romantic comedies, the casual sex turns out to be quite committed and just a part of falling in love and living happily ever after.
In the movies, blind lust and romantic love often intersect seamlessly, but in reality, casual sex is often an emotional dead-end rather than an on-ramp to relationship bliss.
Anthropologist Helen Fisher describes love as a three-phase system:
1) Lust, in which we can attach to anyone.
2) Attraction, in which lust finds its focus and blossoms into romantic love.
3) Attachment, in which romantic love matures into a long-term relationship.
Casual sex is often an expression of Phase 1 (lust at its most unfocused), but, unfortunately, many people go into it with the false hope that it will lead to romantic love. And that’s where life does not imitate the movies.
That’s not to say that casual sex is a bad thing. It can be loads of fun, as well as a way of trying out new things and practicing your sex skills for that future special person. But casual sex isn’t always so simple.
As my colleague Emily Nagoski, author of the Good in Bed Guide to Female Orgasms, writes, “Especially when it comes to having sex with someone for the first time, the question of what it is you actually want when you want sex is very complicated indeed. Because what do you want, when you want sex? Do you want to get laid? Do you want a relationship? Do you want love? Do you want revenge? Do you want to rebel? Do you want to get pregnant? ... Then there’s the question of whether or not (and what kind of) sex will get you what you want. Sex will get you laid. Whether or not it gets you a relationship or love or revenge or rebellion or a baby is less certain, and so the decision becomes complicated.”
Casual sex has its risks and rewards, although the movies tend to focus more on the risk of falling in love than, say, the very real consequence of contracting a sexually transmitted infection.
As the authors of "Sex in America" write of their interviews with more than 3,000 people, “Although we find that large numbers of Americans have had a sexually transmitted disease at least once in their lives, there is nothing random about where the diseases strike … the people who are most likely to be infected share one key characteristic: They have many sex partners.”
As it turns out, if a man has two to four sexual partners in his lifetime, his chances of ever having contracted a sexually transmitted infection are about 3%.
As the number of partners increases, so does the risk. With more than 20 partners, his risk is about 28%, almost a 1,000% increase. The same rough pattern is true of women, with the spectrum of percentages increasing from 5% to 35%.
It should therefore come as no surprise that the more partners a person has had, the more likely it is that he or she has engaged with those partners outside of a monogamous relationship, and that his or her partner falls into a similar pattern of casual sex, thereby greatly increasing the risk of having come into contact with a sexually transmitted infection.
Casual sex could trigger a domino effect of risky behaviors.
“The more partners an individual has,” according to "Sex in America," “the more likely he or she is to have sex with people who themselves have many partners, the more likely he or she is to have sex with virtual strangers, the more likely she or he is to have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol during some sexual encounters, and while it is more likely that a condom was used, the rate of increased use of a condom does not seem great enough to offset the higher risks of infection.”
I’m not trying to scare anyone out of casual sex. As Dr. Alex Comfort had to say in his book "The Joy of Sex," “There is no occasion for panic, or for losing out on the joy of sex - simply informed caution.”
So is casual sex worth it? You tell me. Like the recent spate of movies, does it ever have a happy ending?
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I agree...all the fun with none of the baggage! Can't beat it!
Undoubtedly and unequivocally YES
Some of my greatest memories.
risks of herpes?
*questin froma v!rgin*
Yes, especially during wedding season. 3 weddings the next four weekends...use protection, don't be a dummy
I stand firm, yes.
@Vick – Uh-huh, no baggage until she calls you one day and says she's pregnant. There comes the biggest baggage of all! LOSER!
Keeping it simple huh Dan? Heh, heh, heh.
Absolutely. Well, for us guys at least. ha ha.
It can be worth it for some women, granted not many, but for some....
i had a rule i had to express prior. one night stand, or friends. of course they chose one night. then stalked me for a relationship. every. single. one of them. so no, i dont buy that you guys are all that different, but you like to pretend for sake of societal conditioning of what a man is.
So, Spikette, what you're saying is you attract (and apparently are attracted to) clingy, desperate men? Your sample size is not representative of the greater population. Thanks for playing. Bye bye now.
no, itsatrap. it is a silly game men play. reality. look at all the men hurting because they are not connected to a woman, or a woman has left them. look at all the men huntin for "the one". all of reality, history, life, experiences says you guys are full of it. but you pretend. always pretend. cause that is how you are taught a man is. step from that role you have been assigned, and you no longer see yourself as a true man. so it behooves you males to continue to pretend connection is forced on you. a silly game.
@Vick Some women, not many? Then who are all the men sleeping with?
Wait, total duh. Coffee hasn't kicked in yet.
No, it's not. The proof is is the numbers. You increase your risk of STDs when you screw casually...and quite a few STDs cannot be cleared up with a shot of antibiotics.
Note to Chris.. use protecting fool.
Casual and stupid are not the same thing.
Obviously the brainwashing in high school health class worked on you.....
My wife and I screw casually (well, each other) on a regular basis. Formal screwing is too tedious, what with the fuxedo and all.
Dude, gonna dunk around, double wrap that thing. It's not that complicated.
Just in case anyone is actually as stupid as Wzrd, DON'T double wrap it. The friction between two condoms will cause them both to break.
I say definitely not. Sure its nice in theory, but I've had too many partners and never found a real kind of love....not even with my now ex-husband. For some of us its really a cluster f#$k on the emotions.
Condoms are so 2000s. I like to think of myself as post-protection
How many people use a condom for oral s*x? You can still get std's that way you know. Good luck.
well if she was hot... it was WORTH IT 😉
Yes true, but the ugly ones work harder in bed, plus there won't be any chance of falling for an ugly girl.
@Bates, Arnold played it like that and ...OH GOD NO!
judge urself before u judge others – sure u not GQ material urself buddy !
Get your dog crappy shoes off my bed sheets !
Those shoes have never seen the ground...the sole is still shiny.
@Chris actually, if you use a condom EVERY TIME, your risk of STI infection is pretty low. If you don't, well, yeah, you're screwed.
What a concept!
Not True...you get herpes from contact with an open sore in the genitals area.
Did you know you can get herpes and HPV even if you use a condom every time? They are transmitted skin-to-skin and not through semen, so be careful out there!
Actually Esteban, You can contract Herpes from someone who does not have a sore. The odds are lower but there is always a chance.
But then, everything has risks and in this case, as long as you're smart and use protection, the result is well worth the risk.
Beats the heck out of dying trying to catch a baseball.
Yeah, cause I know lots of women who love the taste of latex. Oh, and make sure you cover your tongue too, if you go down there!
Is it worth it? Ask your mama!
In the words of 2Pac "Mom taught me never stop until you bust a nut"
no. it diminishes the sacred meaning between man and wife, if u constantly fornicate your moral standards are degraded so you dont have that understanding. I have no sympathy for women who project themself as worthless cheap piece of wh0re meat.
I don't keep my moral standards in my crotch so fornication doesn't wear them away.
You have some serious issues, you should seek help.
But it's okay for men? Am I reading that correctly?
Yea… dang worthless cheap piece of wh0re meats!
/shakes fist in anger
I mean really.. what are they doing out of the kitchen anyway..
does your parole office know you are making such incriminating statements?
Seriously? And if we are not marriage material, what then become a Nun? I don't think so!
Love it... espouse a moral posture and then call women "wh0re meat." You are a a blissful mix of contradictions I'm sure.
Whoa. A little tense are we there, Brako? Sounds like you haven't been laid in a while. Man. The guy in the article gave both sides of the issue very well, I think. You, on the other hand, seem to have some SERIOUS problems...
Brako is just mad because he used to be a "friendly" priest. Sorry Brako, just because you're preferred fornication (seriously, is it 1856 again?) partners are below the legal age of consent doesn't mean you have to rain on everyone else's parade.
Poor Brako, all angry because all that "wh0re meat" always blows him off and goes for his better looking wingman.
Ever notice that the people who claim to be celibate for religious or values reasons are always ugly?
I'm not really into one-nighters. I require a bit more depth than that. But this is not a question of "moral values". That's just some religious nutbag preaching at us. I wonder how he feels about same-s3x casual s3x??? lol
@Jen, mmmmmm nuns. I like watching the Catholic channel when they say the rosery :))
dontbeadork - i believe you're reading that correctly.
purdy strong gender-biased traditional statement. woo. to each their own but not my kind of man. i ain't cookin' for you (and you don't want to eat my cookin' anyway) and ironin' yer plain, starch-stiff shirts, sir.
Dude, you sound like a serial killer. Or a priest.
Wow.. So sorry for having fun.. I didn't realize that s*x was only for married people.. My bad..
Casual s*x leaves many feeling empty and unfulfilled. S*x with someone you love is much, much better. That's the difference between having s*x and making love.
What about having s*x with some one you like that likes having s*x with you? There's no such thing as bad s*x!
Good point, Larry. There's good s*x, and great s*x...
How do you know it leaves many feeling empty and unfulfilled? Sounds more like a personal problem.
is it michael? reallllly? Guess what.... you have missed out on some fun.
Wrong, Michael. It leaves YOU empty and unfilled, not me! I LOVE IT! NSA!!!
Sometimes a squirrel just needs a nut... Nothing more, nothing less..
Yes and yes. Every encounter I have had was definitely worth it.
Yes. But you need to use protection and remember it is a team sport so both should enjoy it.
well said about the team sport - seems to be forgotten far too often...or over way too quickly.
Yeah, I'm not going to even try to pull the punches. Ladies, it's a dealbreaker and it ought to be for the men you date. I couldn't trust a girl who just had casual flings, it means she has no restrictions to her behavior. Simple as that.
“it means she has no restrictions to her behavior. Simple as that.”
So your saying if a woman has casual s*x, then she is likely to be a mass murderer, thief or eco terr’st?
You have serious issue my friend.
Yeah, hello, what Sean said.
The good news here is that Fichts will probably never reproduce, thus less repressed idiots in the future!
the two on the bottom took it way out of content...I agree with you...i know girls like that too
I agree with you too some extent bro. Girls who fk around too much are not marryin' material. No man wants to wonder how many guys in the restaurant have boned his wife. Sorry ladies, the only guys that agree with y'all slu tt ier types are only wanting to keep gettin' in your pants easily. Y'all aren't marrying material at all, just for hittin'.
Men are keys, women are locks, a key that opens more than one lock is a master key, a lock that is opened by multiple keys is a broken lock. Do you keep a broken lock or replace it with one that works only with your key? That is a no brainer for a man who wants a serious relationship with a respectable woman worthy of his love and paycheck. That being said, I have little to no respect for all wh or es, men included.
Any man or woman who is worried about how many partners their ~partner has had is working with a damaged ego - get help.. That is like saying you had too many friends for me to be friends with you - you dirty friend wh*re.... sheesh
You sound like a control freak with serious self esteem problems. If you cannot handle the idea that a woman has had a life before you, you need help. Grow up.
Why are you all attacking the guy because he doesn't want to date wh0res who screwed half the town?? Good for you Fichts!
Duckworth...that right there is funny-
The chick in the photo has GORGEOUS legs.
There's a chickin in the photo?? 😉
she sure does, and the dood has nice feet 😮 !!!
Can I have s*x with her feet in those heels?
aren't you supposed to be preparing for training camp, Rex Ryan?
Occasional casual s3x when you are young and single is healthy, however people who engage in it too much have diseases. I knew a group of female and male friends who dated each other and over the years switched partners, they had crab and chlamydia outbreaks. The ones who had the most partners have warts and the herp.
Was this in the 90's and did they hang out at a coffee shop in NY called the Central Perk?
Hmmm must have missed those episodes, but no, a small town
Then your friends were idiots for not using protection. Casual s*x didn’t give them the herps any more than love will stop you from getting them.
A loving monogamous relationship = no herp. And before you say "all men cheat" nuttiness, not true. They do not. BTW I'm not against casual s3x, but many times it happens when people are drunk, that's why they end up getting a disease.
One word, YES
Ever since the first I had, the worst I had was good.
If you are careful and single what's the big deal. If it feels good and it's not hurting anyone then there is no reason to not do it. I never had a FWB but would have loved to have experienced that! "Hey, wanna come over and fk, then see who else is around and go hang out?"
I find an exchange of $ helps keep it casual. A fist full of $20's tends to crush emotions!
Cracked me up
LOL! I will have to keep that in mind
Casual nookie is only good on Wednesdays but there is a plus or minus of three days to fit it into a busy work schedule. Some people need that plus or minus of three days. Twice on Sundays is good too. Now would be a good time.
Yes, as long as I can get her to leave.
That guy has hot feet!
HELL YEAH IT IS GOOD...HEHEHHE
I have a s e x buddy and it is great. Makes being with the wife a little easier too.
Another great comment. Hilarious
hahaha...this is funny, your wife told me the same thing while we're having s e x
Haha, nice one.
my work only allows for casual s*x on Friday's. rest of the week is suit and tie s*x (2 and/or 3 button jackets optional).
Not worth it. Casual s e x has destroyed the morality of our society. It has made our innocent children into s e x u a l i z e d little grown-ups...those that aren't a b o r t e d, that is.
What morality would that be, 4mercy? The one that says blacks have to go to different schools and ride on the back of the bus, where women can't vote or inherit property or get paid as much as a man for doing the same job? What you see as an erosion of morality, the rest of us sane people see as progress.
Idiots like you existed during the Renaissance whining about the loss of the Medieval system of values. How ironic...
ItsATrap, so we can advance in other areas, but when it comes to s*x, you insist we continue to act like primates. Nice selectivity on your "advancing" of human society.
Well said, ItsATrap
Alright.. I’ll bite. How does one advance when it comes to s*x then? By the by primates give handys to reaffirm social relationships… last I checked you haven’t given me my handy yet.
oh yeah the best part is that all that practice will make you ready for that special someone
so they can picture you sleeping with everyone else
and it can be fun like throwing a hotdog down a hallway
You can have casual s3x and not be promiscuous. Some people who are just tired of the emotional wear of failed relationships just want something that means nothing. Just fun with someone they feel comfortable with or just someone thats wants to have fun aswell. Is that really so bad?
In my experience, one party always wants more than the other, even if its never said aloud, and it just as true for men as it is women.
In my experience, the opposite is true. Anecdote canceled out!
Unless paid for (and men all pay for it in one way or another) it beats self abuse
S*x: To be used only as prescribed by the "Creator".
Serious side effects include STD, feeling of worthlessness, depression, anxiety, frequent trip to docs, loneliness and abandonment. If effects continue, discontinue the use and consult your maker although u must realize that side effects are irreversible at times.
Someones off their meds!
Which creator? Jehovah, Vishnu, Zeus, Ra, Adibuddha or the flying spaghetti monster?
If you feel worthlessness, depression, anxiety, loneliness and abandonment after s*x you are doing it wrong.
After my divorce, I focused on my career. I moved up the ladder fast. I didnt have time for a relationship, or a healthy one anyway. But, I still had needs. I had a few casual s e x relationships in a 3 years period. They were fun. Dinner, drink or two, hit the bedroom, sometimes spend the night, see you in a few weeks. The key part is you have to be honest and up front with the person. You have to be on the same page. One woman started getting attached and emotional. I had to stop with her. It was like a break up.
Casual s ex is fun but empty. It can provide some great memories and then again some woeful tales (STD's are just one factor). S ex is far better with the one you love and if it gets mundane, there are plenty of things two can do to liven it back up.
have u heard of condoms !
You people keep mentioning condoms as some sort of total safety net for casual s e x. BS.
I personally like real s e x which includes copious amounts of oral (on her not me). A condom will not protect a man's mouth from some sl ut ty chicks diseased nether regions.
For me, there is not point in even having s e x if I can't go down on her multiple times during our two or so hours of fun. I need a clean respectable woman for that, not some 'share me sally' who has had more sausage in her in the past year than a german beer festival sees in one week. ICK!
And don't even bring up dental dams, that is ridiculous, lickin' some chick off with a face full of seranwrap, plus how do you get a finger or two in there to his that most specialist of spots.
Now ladies, if you are into the lazy man who just wants to nut in you and go to sleep then by all means keep getting the meat market to deliver your daily sausage.
Re last question of the article...Depends on what you mean by a Happy Ending. doh!!
Ah, the joy of having been a flower child (i.e., 60s and early 70s)!! All the joy and none of the diseases. Free love was great and plentiful ! Even better when there repeats with no strings so we could get to know our partners better - true friends with benefits
On a side note: Thanks for helping ruin the country you FKN baby boomin' hippie.
@ David in Corpus
I thought it was the g*ys, bIacks, mexys and democrats that ruined the county. It can be difficult to keep up with all the bigotry.
"S e x without love is an empty experience"
"Yes, but as empty experiences go, it's one of the best!"
Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in Love and Death
Please give some examples.........
No. The Koran says no. The Talmud says no. 'Nuff said.
Not really interested in what either of those books says. However, I suspect you were just trolling anyhow.
Dr. Seuss says yes!
Then please explain all the naughty bits about "holy", "wise" and "just" men fooling around with "handmaids" and "concubines"....
I post a great add on to this story, and it doesnt show up! whattt!
What a simplistic article. Duh STD. Duh – emotional complications. Can't you bring anything new to this conversation.
"God has commanded that the sacred powers of procreation are to be employed only between man and woman, lawfully wedded as husband and wife." -Proclamation to the World: The Family.
Of course not all believe in God or morality, or even if they do we all still have agency to choose for ourselves, but I've found that those who are casual with their bodies over time find less and less satisfaction in their behavior.
Ben: Seriously? Tell me where that tripe is even found in your bible. I won't bother with the whole ripping religion apart for being based on man-made stories of fear and guilt to control sheep. But seriosuly, "Proclamation of the World"??? These are the ones who eventuallu end up charged with doing things to little boys.
Matthew 5:28 : But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
I know I'm in the minority here, but I'm really not into one-nighters. I need more depth and a better connection than that. Otherwise it's just s3x. I can honestly do a better job myself and not worry about catching anything. And yes, you can catch plenty of things even with condoms – especially if you love oral like I do. Think HepC, HIV, HPV, etc. If you want to be my FWB, at the very least, let's go get tested for STDs together, and NOT be sleeping with anyone else at the same time.
You confuse the two, as many people do, I think. One-night stands and FWB relationships are two very different things. I've had two really good FWB situations and both lasted in excess of six months – one was monogamous and the other was monogamish, but as long as everyone is open and honest, both scenarios can work and be beneficial and fun for all involved.
Sorry for the confusion, V. There should have been a paragraph break for the FWB part. I have had some decent FWB situations, but it's a precarious balance to continue without the balance being ruined when one person wants more than that. But I agree with you.
I so agree with you. Why fumble around with some stranger who may or may not know how the equipment works. I'd rather be with someone I care about or I can take care of myself. I have never woken up next to me and been shocked at who was laying in the bed w/me!
"Is casual s*x worth it?"
Is this even a question???
YES! A resounding, absolutely, unqualified, unquestioning YES. I've had a couple of FANTASTIC NSA relationships that would have been ruined completely if either one of us had tried to make it more. There's those people who are perfect friend material, those who are perfect mate material, and those who are perfect s*x material! Sometimes they're all the same person and sometimes they aren't – either way is good for different reasons. Maybe it helps that I'm monogamish, though...
Huh, I wonder if your partner is? Well, that shouldn't matter.
Partner is? Monogamous? It depended. In one case we were monogamous and in the other, we were not. I feel like both work – as long as everyone is open and honest. Ironically, I tend to find that people in FWB relationships are at least as honest – if not more so – than people in "traditional" committed relationships. Perhaps they feel more able to be honest because their is less to lose?
Well said V.
Remember remember the 5th of November.