No matter how progressive we get, there seem to be certain stereotypes about the sexes that endure:
The Proof Is In: Women Like Casual Sex Just as Much as Men
- Men want excitement. Women want security.
- Men want freedom. Women want commitment.
- Men want tons of sex. Women want white a picket fence and babies.
No matter how many women we know who indulge in flings, no matter how many independent sexual women we see in the media, and basically no matter what we’re told to the contrary, it seems there’s always some dude standing by waiting to nudge his buddy and snicker, “Women, always tryin’ to tie you down, amirite?”
Recent Studies on Casual Sex and Women
For the last couple of years, there has been a great deal of hand-wringing over so-called “hook-up culture.” Several studies have shown that not only do women not like to keep things casual, they don’t enjoy the sex they have in flings, and it’s actually detrimental to their well being! People seemed really determined to drive home this whole “casual sex and women don’t mix” point.
However, more recent studies challenged these notions. Information has come to light indicating that perhaps women aren't somehow "programmed" to husband hunt. Further, not only is casual sex not, by its nature, harmful to the mental health of women. Also, THEY LIKE IT!
A 2014 study published in Sociological Perspectives showed "because I was horny" and "I thought it would be fun" as the top reasons chosen for engaging in casual sex regardless of the gender of the participant. In 2013, the New York Times followed University of Pennsylvania students and observed that while some young women favored traditional dating relationships, others actively engaged in the school's hook up scene and enjoyed themselves doing it. Finally,a recent University of Ottawa study designed to examine the physical and emotional motivations for casual sex found that women reported a partner's appearance as a key factor in deciding to engage in casual sex along with other reasons such as "It feels good" and "I'm horny."
What we're seeing here is best summed up by a quote from Dr. Heather Armstrong, one of the researchers behind the University of Ottawa study: "There are still underlying assumptions that women only want sex for emotional reasons or that they’re having casual sex because they want a long-term mate, these results suggest an alternative explanation."
Why Don't People Believe That Women Enjoy Casual Sex?
Why is it so hard for people to believe that women enjoy casual sex? Why do we cling so tightly to the notion that women, and only women, hate casual sex and, indeed, are damaged by it?
Did you know that the abstinence-only education curriculum, while stressing abstinence for all, puts a particular emphasis on the purity of women? Additionally, the idea that women don't really like sex is emphasized. While abstinence-only education is on the extreme end of the spectrum, it is part of this same conversation.
When the "women hate casual sex" idea is emphasized, women then feel like they shouldn't enjoy casual sex and so they don't engage in it (in theory) or feel bad if they do. Now, the women feel bad (because they've been told they should feel bad) and the very people who told them that they should feel bad get to point to that and say, "See, casual sex makes you feel bad - it's bad for women!"
It's a plot. A ploy. A trap. The whole thing is yet another elaborate ruse cooked up to make women feel bad for being sexual in the hope that they will feel bad enough to not to have sex. What we have here is nothing more than a good old-fashioned attempt to control women's sexuality through fear and shame. Luckily, research tells us it's not working.
I'll leave you with this last piece of research-based support for ladies getting their swerve on. In 2010, Jocelyn Wentland conducted an online survey of 1,500 women that ended up debunking not only the myth that women don't enjoy casual sex. According to her survey, they enjoy a variety of it. Also, it addressed the misbelief that women who engage in such behavior have low self-esteem and other emotional issues. Accord to Wentland “It’s often the women who are very confident, sure of themselves, and have high social skills, who are capable of engaging in sexual activity outside of a relationship and be perfectly OK with this because they are able to separate the sex from the emotions.”
So, forget what you've heard! Women are out there getting theirs and feeling great about it...and we've got the science to back that up! (Get some tips on how to keep things casual in Hook Ups Without Hang Ups: How to Keep Casual Sex Ethical, Drama-Free and Fun.)
JoEllen is a writer, speaker, researcher and mental health advocate whose work explores the impact of depression on sex and relationships. Since 2012 she has written about sex, mental health, and how none of us are broken on her award-winning site The Redhead Bedhead.
JoEllen's book The Monster Under the Bed: Sex, Depression & The Conversation We Aren’t Having is now available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.