Casual Sex: Can You Handle It?
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It may sound more fun than it is
I think everyone would agree that sex feels great. It is something our bodies crave, like food or water. It relaxes us, and makes us feel alive and more connected with our partner.
But what happens if you don’t have a partner and you still want to have sex? If you are taking a break from dating and not looking for a relationship, but you still desire the pleasure of physical intimacy?
“Honestly, I just want to have sex once in a while. How do I just do that?” wrote a Solo Mom to ESME, inspiring this article.
Casual sex is complicated. Knowing there are no strings attached can be hot and sexy and heart-stopping in bed, yet for some, the emptiness attached to sex without love can leave a woman sad, lonely, and feeling regretful. Those feelings aren’t apparent during the physical act; rather, they surface the next day, when the reality sets in that you got extremely intimate with someone who wanted only your body and not all of you.
I can’t speak for men, but I think most of them have an easier time with a “friends with benefits”–type situation or even with a one-night stand.
As for women, I find there are three attitudes when it comes to casual sex:
- The woman who is genuinely OK having sex without love. The HBO series Girls consists of four female characters who fit into this category, and, of course, we all remember Samantha from Sex and the City. She had no problem with strictly sexual relationships. But the reality is, I don’t think there are many women who are built for relationships that are purely based on sex. In my opinion, most women are not able to have sex with a man, walk away fulfilled, and not want the relationship to go beyond that.
- The woman who thinks and says she’s OK with casual sex, but deep down she isn’t. Television and movies tend to romanticize how wonderful it is to sleep with whomever you’d like, and that ultimately one of the encounters will turn into love. I’ve just described every story line in Grey’s Anatomy (and I’ve been watching the show for 12 years). Also, movies such as No Strings Attached and Friends With Benefits—which basically have the same plot: casual sex leads a couple to falling in love—send the message that if you have casual sex with someone, it almost always turns into true love. The sad reality is, it doesn’t, which leaves hopeful women disenchanted, disappointed, and regretful when their own relationships don’t turn out the same way. When it comes to work and careers, women can be amazingly strong and successful. So, in romantic relationships, women often try to convince themselves and others that they are OK with casual sex, that sleeping with someone just for fun works for them, and that they are in control of their emotions. However, a seemingly strong, independent woman’s heart might be breaking on the inside because although she won’t admit it (even to herself), she wants to be emotionally treasured by the man who is taking off her clothes.
- The woman who won’t jump into bed unless she sees the potential for love. Two women I know fall into this category: Charlotte from Sex and the City and me. I just know myself, and I cannot handle the thought of the man I’m sleeping with dating or sleeping with other women. For me, there is no better feeling than making love with a man who you feel in your heart loves all of you from head to toe, which includes your mind, sense of humor, faults, moods, and, of course, your children. Love just makes the sex better.
The bottom line is, no one should judge a woman who just wants (or thinks she just wants) casual sex. She isn’t doing anything wrong, provided no one is cheating and she is having protected sex.
Please . . . I cannot stress the importance of condoms enough, especially in casual sex. Sexually transmitted diseases are very much an issue, even in the older, adult population. Additionally, my gynecologist told me that the biggest demographic of unwanted pregnancies is women over 40.
All that said, I believe casual sex, while possibly working in the short term, causes low self-esteem in women and leads to unhappiness. It just does. Call me old-fashioned, but I think a woman needs that emotional connection to fulfill her needs in a romantic relationship. I’ll even go so far as to say I know a lot of men who need it, too.
One last thing. There is a time and place for casual sex. Situations in which casual sex occurs might include the end of a long-term relationship, right after a divorce or separation, during a dating dry spell, or an opportunity that presents itself (i.e., you meet someone, and it just feels right). There are no rules, only those we set for ourselves. But the biggest rule should be this: if it isn’t making you happy, you shouldn’t be doing it. That goes for casual sex—and everything else in life, too.
Jackie Pilossoph, ESME’s Divorce Resource Guide, is the creator of Divorced Girl Smiling, a website that helps men and women facing divorce. She is also a weekly Huffington Post divorce blogger; the writer of a weekly column, “Love Essentially,” for the Chicago Tribune’s Pioneer Press; and a freelance corporate and business content writer. Pilossoph holds a master’s degree in journalism. She lives in Chicago with her two children. Oh, and she’s divorced.