Assoc. Arts & Culture Editor
Whether it’s called “hooking up,” “one night stands” or being “friends with benefits,” casual sex, which is usually defined as any sexual experience where there are no plans of a long term or committed relationship between the people involved, is not an unusual occurrence on most college campuses. In fact, a study presented at the American Sociological Association late last year found that about 31.6% of college students who were surveyed from 2002-2010 had more than one partner in the past year. However, despite popular belief, the current generation of college students is not having any more sex or sexual partners than past generations. The study also showed that 31.9% of students who were surveyed from 1988-1996 claimed they had more than one sexual partner in a year, only slightly higher than the current generation. In addition, the study also showed that 65.2% of the “Generation X” college students surveyed were more likely to have sex more than once a week, compared to 59.3% of the surveyed “millennial” college students.
However, these statistics don’t take away from the risks that come with hooking up. Since hook ups are usually spontaneous and unplanned, it’s unlikely that a couple hooking up will use any form of protection such as condoms or birth control. This can lead to STDs, STIs, and unplanned pregnancies. The fact still stands that abstinence is the only way to avoid contracting an STD or becoming pregnant.
So, why do college students find gratification in casual sex? Researchers from California State University – Sacramento conducted a survey on 4,000 college students from 30 different colleges regarding sex and their mental health. They found that students, both male and female, who had casual sex were more likely to report lower self-esteem, happiness, and life satisfaction than students who had not recently had casual sex. By hooking up, they experience a boost in ego of sorts. Furthermore, since many spontaneous sexual encounters in college happen as a result of partying and drinking, the students who hook up are already experiencing the depressant effects associated with alcohol.
Contrary to the term “casual sex,” sex is still a serious topic, and whether it’s a casual encounter or done with a committed couple involved, there will always be health risks associated with it. Along with the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, infections, and pregnancies, casual sex has also been shown to have emotional consequences as well. According to Laura Berman, Ph.D., of everydayhealth.com, “If you are already in a vulnerable mental state, casual sex can worsen your self-esteem, especially if you end up having feelings for someone who is not interested in you.”
People’s choice in sex is also personal, so while casual sex is not for everyone, people still find it beneficial. Hooking up or having casual sex can leave a person feeling empty or wanting more of an emotional connection, while others enjoy the thrill of sex with no strings attached. Berman also adds, “It is possible to enjoy sexual activity and explore your sexuality, but just be sure you are making choices that are best for you and your physical and mental well-being.”
If you ever do decide to engage in casual sex or hooking up, here’s some things to keep in mind:
1) Be aware of the medical risks of sex. This is common sense for both casual and committed experiences. Make smart choices and to ensure the safest sex, use protection.
2) For ladies: if he didn’t use protection, use the morning after pill. It’s not foolproof, but it will reduce your chances of an unplanned pregnancy.
3) Be prepared for any sort of backlash if people find out. There are stigmas attached to both men and women who have hooked up at parties or engage in casual sex.
4) If it was strictly a casual experience or hook up, don’t lead the other person on or make them believe that you want a serious relationship with them. It will save them for getting their heart broken. According to blogger Galia Brener, “It has been observed that women are more likely to want more from a man after a night spent together, whereas for some men, it is simply casual sex. This is not to say that the roles cannot be reversed. But usually, women connect on an emotional level, whereas men tend to connect on a physical level.”
For more information or advice on sexual health, sites such as www. everydayhealth.com, www.goaskalice.columbia.edu, and www.sexualityandu.ca offer sex advice and articles for both men and women.