Repairing Relationships

Building intimacy and joy into your relationships

Is Casual Sex Depressing?

Were we sold a bill of goods during the Sexual Revolution?

A new study from The Ohio State University in the Journal of Sex Research suggests that casual teenage sex has a reciprocal relationship with poor mental health—and that they contribute to one another over time. Claire Hannum, describing the longitudinal study, writes that "the researchers found that participants who had thoughts of suicide were much more likely to have had casual sex as young adults. They also found that casual sex was linked to mental health dwindling even further. Apparently, each additional casual sexual relationship increased the odds of suicidal thoughts by 18%—well, that’s specific. While thoughts of suicide increased with casual sex, depressive symptoms did not increase."

Author Dannah Gresh observes that we are denying human biology by engaging in casual sex: "What happens if you get caught up in the friends-with-benefits game and have multiple partners? What happens when the partners you've become addicted and bonded to are gone? You experience withdrawl symptoms in the emotional center of the brain."

It turns out that in the deep limbic system of the brain  the detailed romantic artifacts of odor, music, symbols and memory are stored. Gresh says that although many practitioners of the hook up culture claim they can have the mythological no-strings-attached relationship without consequences celebrated in the long-running sitcom Seinfeld, it isn't possible. Physiology won't let us.

America has spent the last sixty years fighting psycho-biology. Feminists allied with pornographers like Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt and Bob Guccione to promote promiscuity to destroy women's "dog-like devotion to man." That devotion was not some antiquainted belief system from the pioneer days...it was  the limbic system. Yet feminists like Erica Jong demonized that natural desire for pairing off into matrimony as "The Slavery of Home." Today the granddaughters of the Jong School of Thought  like "Party Girl" Anna David proudly celebrate acting like a promiscuous man. But there is a neurological cost to such "freedom."

Thus it is no surprise that research is now turning up evidence that the  youngest practitioners of the Sexual Revolution are harmed the most. It took decades for researchers to find tangible evidence of the persuasive effects of television, and those effects were found in our children, not jaded adults. Likewise the effects of going against our natural tendency to bond will show up in the teens and young adults. There's no such thing as a free roll in the hay.

J.R. Bruns, M.D., is co-author of The Tiger Woods Syndrome, a book about repairing relationships.

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