home
RSS
Is casual sex worth it?
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?

Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter


soundoff (1,573 Responses)
  1. RV Inspection Riverside

    I have to thank you for the efforts you've put in penning this site. I really hope to check out the same high-grade content from you later on as well. In fact, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my own, personal website now 😉

    http://www.ecards.co.uk/account/logout?redirect=http://www.ocrvcenter.org

    April 23, 2021 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. LhdvZisse

    generic cialis tadalafil 20mg http://asciled.com/ canadian meds cialis

    April 23, 2021 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. semi truck shops near me

    Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Many thanks, However I am going through issues with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I am unable to join it. Is there anyone else getting similar RSS issues? Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

    https://cztt.ru/redir.php?url=https://ocrvcenter.com/western-star-collision-repair-shop-near-me/

    April 24, 2021 at 16:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Body Shop Orange County

    https://portal.estrechy.cz/redir.php?url=axss.it/130928_221323/

    April 24, 2021 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. AbdgEncox

    Gyne-Lotrimin https://canadianeve21.com/ – Bupron SR pharmacy prices

    April 24, 2021 at 21:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. LrbsEncox

    levitra 10 mg precio https://uslevitraanna.com/ levitra 20 milligram

    April 24, 2021 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. BbdfMile

    can you take viagra with high blood pressure http://gensitecil.com/ buy viagra connect

    April 24, 2021 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RfvbZisse

    generic cialis by mastercard http://cileve.com/ – order generic cialis online 20 mg 20 pills selling cialis in us

    April 25, 2021 at 01:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. JbsdEncox

    mail order pharmacy pharmeasy Hydrea

    April 25, 2021 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. JbsdEncox

    online pharmacies uk http://onlinecanda21.com/ Cardura

    April 26, 2021 at 00:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. LrbsEncox

    cost comparison viagra cialis levitra https://uslevitraanna.com/ viagra cialis levitra canada

    April 26, 2021 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. LhdvZisse

    cialis soft tabs 20mg https://asciled.com/ – low dose cialis generic medications cialis

    April 26, 2021 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. sildenafil generic cost

    100mg sildenafil price https://eunicesildenafilcitrate.com/ cheap sildenafil canada

    April 26, 2021 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. dapoxetine

    buy avanafil usa dapoxetine brand name

    April 27, 2021 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. counterfeit canadian drugs cialis

    canadian generic cialis safe https://canadacialisstore.com/ canadian pharmacy no perscription generic cialis

    April 27, 2021 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. RWdjoCQmIQ

    facts about brazil homework help help writing an essay introduction quality customer service research papers king county library system live homework help

    April 27, 2021 at 14:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. houses for sale kellogg idaho

    http://www.hoteli-sochi.ru/away.php?to=meganleary.com

    April 27, 2021 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. GvdbCrulk

    aurochem tadalafil http://boxtadafil.com/ tadalafil 60 mg

    April 28, 2021 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. qErdpbqZio

    do my math homework for me and show work social service essay writing french homework help ks2 how business plan help

    April 28, 2021 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. oWfGJViROf

    thesis sentence help essay writing services australia college research paper writing service reviews a level sociology essay help

    April 30, 2021 at 01:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. chloroquine coronavirus

    is chloroquine available over the counter https://chloroquineorigin.com/ chloroquinne

    April 30, 2021 at 07:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. RfvbZisse

    cialis with diapoxetine https://cileve.com/ canadian pharmacy cialis brand

    April 30, 2021 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. LhdvZisse

    super cialis professional https://asciled.com/ cialis blac

    April 30, 2021 at 14:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. AbdgEncox

    canadian pharmacy king https://canadianeve21.com/ buying drugs canada

    April 30, 2021 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. avana

    avana 200 mg avanafil stendra

    May 1, 2021 at 02:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. FbsfEncox

    list of legitimate canadian pharmacies http://uspharmus.com/ pharmacies in canada

    May 1, 2021 at 17:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. FbsfEncox

    national pharmacies http://uspharmus.com/ best canadian online pharmacy

    May 1, 2021 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. cialis canadian pharmacy

    do you need prescription for canadian prescription of cialis in usa https://canadacialisstore.com/ is it safe to order cialis from canadian pharmacy

    May 1, 2021 at 22:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. RfvbZisse

    generic cialis? https://cileve.com/ cialis with dapoxetine online

    May 1, 2021 at 22:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. GvdbCrulk

    difference between tadalafil and cialis https://boxtadafil.com/ tadalafil 5 mg

    May 1, 2021 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. buy viagra from canada?

    viagra sale canada https://canadaviagrastore.com/ new viagra in canada

    May 2, 2021 at 04:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. LrbsEncox

    levitra 10mg oder 20mg http://uslevitraanna.com/ what to expect from levitra

    May 2, 2021 at 10:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. viagra sin receta en farmacias de canada

    best canada viagra pills online https://canadaviagrastore.com/ viagra in canada

    May 2, 2021 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. kknvCerRVb

    medieval castles homework help buy university essays little boy calls 911 for help with math homework roman baths homework help

    May 2, 2021 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. AbdgEncox

    antibiotics http://canadianeve21.com/ – canadian pharmacy online Zoloft

    May 3, 2021 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. JbsdEncox

    Keflex https://onlinecanda21.com/ online drugstore pharmacy

    May 3, 2021 at 03:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. AnooEncox

    viagra faa https://llviagra.com/ – 50 mg viagra cheap does viagra affect libido

    May 3, 2021 at 17:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. KGOTJTkaPF

    literature review dth service my essay service review write essays online critical thinking paper example

    May 3, 2021 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. BbshMile

    how to use viagra http://loxviagra.com/ reddit viagra

    May 4, 2021 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. peterbilt 337

    Very good information. Lucky me I discovered your site by chance (stumbleupon). I have book marked it for later!

    https://map.google.tt/url?rct=t&sa=t&url=https://commercialrepairshop.com

    May 4, 2021 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RebfZisse

    free viagra and cialis samples https://rcialisgl.com/ п»їcialis

    May 4, 2021 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. FmrfEncox

    cialis 20 mg canada http://cialisee.com/ cialis

    May 4, 2021 at 16:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. commercial truck collision repair

    I wanted to thank you for this fantastic read!! I certainly loved every little bit of it. I've got you saved as a favorite to look at new things you post…

    https://images.google.co.ck/url?sa=i&rct=j&url=https://fleetservicesorangecounty.com

    May 4, 2021 at 17:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. FmrfEncox

    buy low dose cialis online http://cialisee.com/ buy brand cialis 20 mg

    May 4, 2021 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. ram utility truck

    https://maps.google.com.py/url?q=j&sa=t&url=https://fleetrepairshops.com

    May 4, 2021 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. aika private server english

    This is a topic that is near to my heart... Best wishes! Exactly where are your contact details though?

    https://maps.google.la/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=https://aikareborn.com

    May 4, 2021 at 19:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. LbsoZisse

    cialis black http://ucialisdas.com/ – buy cialis cheap no prescription generic cialis

    May 4, 2021 at 21:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. PsbeOtuoUH

    college personal essay help essay buy thesis statement writing service fifa corruption essay

    May 5, 2021 at 00:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. aika private server

    https://image.google.co.uz/url?sa=t&rct=j&url=https://aikareborn.com

    May 5, 2021 at 02:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. food truck maintenance near me

    https://clients1.google.com.pr/url?sa=j&rct=j&url=https://ocrvfleetservices.com

    May 5, 2021 at 02:57 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Leave a Reply to Golden God.


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.