Is Casual Sex Psychologically Healthy?

Sex is often a term that is not usually discussed. It is the primitive drive that influences the behavior of human beings. It has the capacity to multiply the species. Not only sex helps in propagate species but provides excitement or feeling of being alive. It is an intimate form of bonding that is achieved by individuals. Sex helps in alleviating the feeling of loneliness mostly experienced in people. Couples often ignore the sexual problem because of fear of being embarrassed but it is something that might impact their relationship. It has been observed that men and women view sex differently. Men often see sex as something they need and can in some cases lead to sex compulsion or sexual entertainment dependence whereas women view sex as a way to strengthen their relationship with their partner. But it is not always true. 

It is still something that is in the shadows but recently with the change in the lifestyle. People have become more open in discussing it.  Individuals pursue relationships where they can have casual sex which is often called friends with benefits, hookups, fling, or whatever you call it. These are the few terms that are commonly used by people when talking about casual sex.  People engaging in casual sex are very common across the nation. Sex in a relationship important for   cardiovascular disease, decreases the feeling of hopelessness and worthlessness and boost immunity , however, researchers have suggested that casual sex often leads to  sensations of regret, low confidence and shame, and embarrassment, particularly among women.  

Psychologist Rose  Wesche and her colleagues go through 70 research articles to determine whether casual sex is psychologically healthy? With help of a study, it was found that people reported more benefits than disadvantages. Although, there were individuals who recounted negative experiences as well. Hence, it was concluded that a single encounter cannot produce positive feelings. Another research was conducted that studied young adults who frequently engaged in sex. It was revealed that there was no significant difference between people who engaged in casual sex than those who engaged in sex with a serious partner. Also, no psychologically risky outcome was involved in tongue adults who engage in casual sex. 

Unlike the previous two that pointed out positive aspects of casual sex, a study carried out in 2014 which was published in the Journal of sex research revealed that casual sex is positively correlated with psychological distress than with psychological well-being.  Hence, for individuals around the age of 18-25 casual sex is related to psychological distress. Another study of 2014 explores multiple factors that influence casual sex.  The focus of the study was the individuals who were eager to have casual sex which was termed “sociosexuality unrestricted students”. It was revealed that these students reported enhanced psychological well-being like increased self-esteem or self-worth, satisfaction low anxiety i.e constant worry. Since the focus of the study were students who were interested in casual sex, nothing can be said about the psychological well-being of students who were not interested in casual sex. 

The study comprising female participants majorly suggested men regret sex for physical reasons that are unattractiveness. On the other hand, females felt embarrassed, humiliated, fear in casual sex settings.  Another study was carried out in which of 832 college undergraduates, just 26 percent of women in comparison with half of the men felt good after casual sex. Almost 50% of women and 26 percent of men regretted the experience. But an article published in the New York Times has said that there is a completely new generation of women who have a different view on relationships and casual sex. A study was conducted that included 1023 participants who have friends with benefits or engage in casual sex that revealed positive emotional reaction was prevalent in women than men.

With help of the above findings, it can be concluded that casual sex benefits or regrets depend upon gender. Men enjoyed casual sex and reported enhanced mental well-being in comparison with women. Hence, there might be a gender difference in how casual sex is viewed by men and women. It also depends on individual differences and age factors. A study conducted in 2015 that was published in archives of sexual behavior has explored two types of behavior: autonomous and non-autonomous behavior. Autonomous behavior means attracted to someone and wants to engage in sex whereas non-autonomous behavior means being drunk and engaging in casual sex. Those individuals who engage in casual sex due to non-autonomous behavior have reported a decrease in psychological well-being.

 It has been observed that a person who has initiated casual sex regardless of gender will have fewer negative feelings such as shame and guilt. According to the study, conducted by the University of Science and Technology, Norwegian and the University of Texas revealed that viewing your partner as sexually attractive or starting sexual contact contribute to less regret caused by casual sex. Further, it has added that when one initiates the contact, they are certain about their choice but it may not be the case in every situation. Suppose, doing initiation in a drunken state. 
In context with the above findings, it can be said that there is an ambiguous result of how casual sex is viewed by people. Studies conducted have presented findings. Age is the factor that influences outcome in the perspective of psychological well-being. For college students, engaging in casual sex can be emotionally draining. People who have a positive attitude towards casual sex are likely to experience enhanced psychological well-being than those who have a negative attitude towards sex.  In addition to this. Those who know their casual sex partner are more likely to experience positive emotional reactions. Engaging in casual sex with a stranger, a first-time partner,  will have a negative reaction. Hence, studies have produced mixed results on whether casual sex is psychologically healthy or not. Many underlying factors influence it that are discussed above.

Written by Kajal Gupta 

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