There is one thing that always always happens after a break up.
No matter the nature of the breakup – whether it’s tissue inducing or I’m-now-actually-Beyonce-and-f**k-you-and-the-entire-male-species-for-the-rest-of-eternity attitude inducing – one thing is always the same…
“Ohhh now you can go out and let loose! You’re not tied to anyone. You can have sex with whomever you please. Go out and go crazy, girl. Make the most of it. This is what you’ve been waiting for.”
Have I? Have I… really?
(More often than not it’s people who are in committed, long-term relationships that are spouting this advice. Funny that.)
The pressure is real. It comes from friends to anyone who is newly-single. They want you to forget the heartbreak and worry and division of possessions in a storm of passions and crazy, you-only-live-once anecdotes.
It also comes from rom coms and pop culture. The single girl is always the ‘rebel’ who is dancing and laughing and independent and having amazing sex with strangers without a name. That’s just what single girls do.
I put pressure on myself to be having it when I was younger (because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be doing) and I didn’t like it that much. But I really liked being able to leave / ask them to leave if I felt like it. Sometimes you just don’t want to spoon. – Mary, 27.
I’ve been single for six years now and my romantic life is nothing like Sex and the City – Amy, 24.
My self-imposed pressure came from a place of “I’m supposed to have so many funny stories and wild sexual adventures!” But actually I’m just a really awkward person that would rather watch a teen series in bed than have below-average sex with a stranger. And that’s cool too. – Kate, 29.
At first, you’re likely all for it. Hell, yes I can do whatever I like with whomever I like. Nothing’s going to stop me.
But how long before the novelty wears off? Does it ever?
How much do we actually enjoy casual sex?
Research shows us (somewhat predictably) that men enjoy casual sex more than women when it comes to the act itself. That 80 per cent of undergraduate university students partake in casual sex. But, where men are left with feelings of satisfaction, women are often left with feelings of sexual regret and low self-esteem.
Sure, both men and women can leave casual sex feeling depressed or used, as The Guardian reported. In a study of 832 university students, 26 per cent of women and 50 per cent of men felt positive after having casual sex. While nearly half of women, and a quarter of men, felt negatively about the experience.
But research out of Canada showed that when men do have regrets around a casual hookup, it’s often about the opportunities they’ve missed, or based on the performance of their partner. Women’s regrets are more personal. Tied in with their self-worth and feelings of shame.
So is casual sex truly the empowering “I’m-a-woman-and-I-will-sleep-with-whomever-I-please” catch-cry of the modern-day feminist? The saving grace for single ladies? The envious carefree character of every chick-flick?
Or is it more like a train of too many tequilas, a pair of eyes that really seemed cute at the time, forgotten socks and strange bruises?
I was completely devastated after splitting up with my long term boyfriend last year and I’ve only just remembered how easy and fun casual sex is. The last person I slept with was a really normie boy I met in Sydney last weekend, it was terrible. But also, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – Sarah, 27.
I enjoyed the ‘freedom’ at first but the novelty quickly wore off, mainly because the person doesn’t know you or what you like. It was weird though coming from sex in a relationship to being like “ok, we’re done now, see ya”. – Annie, 32.
Casual sex is kind of like a lucky dip. Sometimes you get a really great experience, other times it’s really bad, but mostly you just get average sex. – Jamie, 23.
My last experience of it (quite recent) was really positive, because it had been a long time between drinks so to speak and was just the ideal situation: I met a guy in a hotel bar, I didn’t have to see him again because he was going home to the States. So there was no potential for hurt feelings. And he was a really decent guy so it all worked out. – Luci, 26.
There’re also the ‘implications’ to consider. What happens when casual sex leads to a relationship? Does this one night set the tone for the entire relationship? Or could it be the beginning of something more… substantial?
I think the problem with casual sex is that if you find a good person where the sex is great, it’s hard to make that transition from casual to not-so-casual, let alone into a committed relationship. It feels like having casual sex early pigeonholes the relationship, which I’ve been frustrated with. It’s almost like there’s pressure for you to ONLY expect casual sex and nothing more if that’s how it all started. – Camila, 32.
There’s also the logistics for the night itself. There’s a lot to think about if you’re looking for casual sex. First of all, are my legs shaved? Second of all, how to stay safe? Third of all, I’m really bad at small talk.
You have to assess if you’re both on the same page, drop enough breadcrumbs to let them know you’d like to go home together, slip away if you’re with people, then there’s all the small talk on the way to whoever’s house, then the actual sex, and then afterwards and assessing if they’re going to expect you to stay the night. It’s too much. I cannot handle that many unknown things in one evening. (I’m clearly an overthinker). – Sam, 26.
It’s certainly a lot of work… Whether it’s worth it or not? Well, it depends on the cuteness of the eyes. (And likely the quality of the tequila.)