Photo credit:  Pedrosimoes7, via Creative Commons.


An article on Google this weekend from raises the question,  "Do women like casual sex?" 

Hookup sex has definitely been in the news lately -- especially after some recent studies suggested that women are less likely to have orgasms in casual sex than in sex with a regular partner.  

But I'm skeptical when anyone equates "liking sex" with "having orgasms."  According to many women in my practice, not having an orgasm with a partner on a given night doesn't necessarily rule it out as great sex.  As a sex therapist I'm biased. One of my favorite definitions of a sex therapist is someone who spents much of his professional life urging couples not to make too big a fuss about orgasms. 

The title of the article though lingers in my mind:  "Do women like casual sex?" 

The question reminds me of one that my friends and I would often discuss when we were fifteen: Do women like sex at all? As my friends and I had already noticed at fifteen, women don’t generally pursue sex in the same direct way that a man might.

Today’s sexual scientists still struggle with the riddle of female sexual desire.  According to distinguished sex researcher Dr Marta Meana, behavioral scientists still have no good way of defining women’s desire.  Dr Meana notes in a recent review article that for many women feeling sexy is not necessarily associated with a desire to have sex at all.   

When does feeling sexy lead to a desire to have sex? Of course, that depends. But as my friends and I discovered at fifteen, it seems to depend on a lot more things for women than for men.   

Many researchers believe that womens' sexual minds have evolved a certain tendency to keep sexual desire from consciousness. In order to make desire conscious, a host of factors must be met simultaneously. In men, by contrast, one factor alone (say the sight of a woman’s body) is often sufficient to prompt desire.

This makes a certain intuitive sense.  And it helps explain the riddle that my friends and I couldn’t figure out at fifteen – “Do women really like sex?”  The answer – “Sure, but it takes the simultaneous presence of many more factors to make them want it.”

The same goes, I'm sure, for casual sex.  Do women like it?  I'm sure many do, or would.  But do they want it?  That surely depends on many things.  As I argued in Mass Erotic Choice, it's to some extent influenced by what their friends are doing.  In many circles it's now more accepted – even encouraged – for young women to hook up.

Is the current "hookup culture" good for women?  Is it good for sex?  I doubt it. The best sex, like the most orgasmic sex, usually happens with a partner whom one knows well. 

Is a hookup ordinarily the best way for a young person to spend a Saturday night? Again, I doubt it. But I guess it might depend on what the alternatives are.  

Copyright © Stephen Snyder, MD

2013 New York City

See related articles:

Lessons From the World's Largest Sex Experiment

Mass Erotic Choice as a Social Organizer -- From Beatlemania to Fifty Shades of Grey

What's for Dessert?


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