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3 Kinds of Casual Sex—Explained

No strings attached, friends with benefits, and sex with an ex.

There are three very different kinds of casual sex. One is sex with no strings attached, another is friends with benefits, and the third is sex with an ex.

Sex with no strings attached is as casual as casual sex gets. It often involves sex with a total stranger whom you might have only met in the last hour. Or you may have been on each other’s radar for weeks or months before opportunity knocked. It might be a one-night stand, or it may have its own jagged lifeline. The triggers can be many, but alcohol is often involved.

As for friends with benefits, there’s a reason why it starts with the word “friends.” It’s usually with someone you know, and it often happens more than once. There’s plenty of wiggle room when it comes to defining friends with benefits (aka “booty call” or “f*ck buddy”).

Friends with benefits can just be for sex, or it can include hanging out. It can be with an acquaintance who is maybe a Facebook friend, but not someone you’d call when you need a real friend. It can also be with a good friend, which doesn’t always end up as bad as you might think. There are situations where friends have sex and then stay friends after they stop having sex. There’s no way to know how it’s going to turn out ahead of time.

“When I was involved in my hook-up relationship, I would never call him up for a sober booty call. It was always when I was drunk and wanted sex. That is also how I knew there was no emotional attachment because I wasn’t even interested in hanging out with the guy unless I had been drinking. He wasn’t really my type. We didn’t have much in common other than the sex.” —Female, age 23

"I had a friends-with-benefits relationship when I was in high school with a good friend. We never really had “those” kind of feelings, but the sex was just great. I still consider it some of the best I’ve ever had. Guess you might say it’s still going on—sometimes when I am home visiting my folks we just get together for the sex.” —Female, age 24

“He was a football player and wasn’t someone I wanted to be in a relationship with. We didn’t have a lot in common besides the sex. Most people didn’t even know we were hooking up.” —Female, age 22

One problem with friends with benefits is that people who are in them seldom talk about their expectations or feelings. They don’t talk with each other about their relationship, which is still a relationship of sorts, even if it’s not filled with “I love you’s.” This kind of relationship more or less happens without much discussion.

Another form of casual sex is sex with an ex. If you are super horny or drowning in loneliness, you might call an ex for sex. Or maybe you’re both at a place where you realize the best thing about your relationship was the sex, so why not go for it. This might work. At the same time, the potential pitfalls in having sex with an ex are endless.

Are there other kinds of casual sex? Of course. Casual sex can take on as many different forms as there are people who want to have it.

More from Paul Joannides Psy.D.
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