16 Aug THE REAL SECRET TO WHEN WOMEN WILL AGREE TO CASUAL SEX
Each week of the winter semester, I teach a room packed with hundreds of undergraduate students about relationships. Often times there are more laptop covers aimed at me than eyes, as is the common plight of a professor these days. There is one class, however, when I know I’ll have the complete and dedicated attention of every single student in that room. And that’s during the lecture about casual sex among young adults: who does it, when, how often and why. I have your attention now too, don’t I?
There are many theories about “sexually permissive” individuals (that’s fancy phrasing for people willing or preferring to have sex without a commitment and maybe also without love), and science is most curious about women in this category. This is a funny thing for science to be interested in, considering that for much of global human history it was women who were considered to be the most lusty and uninhibited about their sexual urges. Even now I see many, many couples in which the woman wishes she could have more sex, engage in an open relationship, or try having sex with many partners (sometimes at once).
Recently, there’s been an interesting shift in the thinking of some sex researchers and theorists. Instead of thinking that sex is mostly motivated by the urge for reproduction – with pleasure as icing on the cake – some have begun to wonder if humans are most motivated by pleasure (and perhaps intimacy) with continuation of the species as a side effect. It’s a subtle but important shift in thinking that’s lead to some intriguing recent research.
These newer studies suggest that women are quite likely to agree to casual sex, but only if two conditions are met: safety and pleasure. We are conditioned to protect our safety vigilantly, and to expect that casual sex will be considerably more satisfying and pleasurable for male partners than for us. Both of those are well-founded concerns; indeed, research shows that men are much less interested in the pleasure of casual female partners than those to whom they are committed. And for these reasons, women may be more likely to have casual sex with other women than with men. But what if she’s confident that she will be safe and have a great time? Then she is much more likely to be “sexually permissive.”