A couple days ago I spotted a link on my Twitter feed to an article about whether or not a woman should expect a casual sex relationship to evolve into a long-term relationship. I knew reading the piece woulds set me off, but I couldn’t help myself.
I clicked on the link. All the standard slut-shaming pearls of wisdom were laid out on the comment thread, but the one that really got me steaming was from a woman, along the lines of: “we women can’t do casual sex because we always get emotionally involved.”
Where to begin deconstructing this statement, that sounds like it should have “Thou Shalt Not” in front of it?
I am wary of absolutes, especially when it comes to sex. Who is this woman to speak for all women? What is her interpretation of casual sex, exactly? And what constitutes “emotionally involved”?
Is her version of healthy attachment truly healthy or is it a desperate need for validation? Or a biological clock ticking so loudly that it propels a woman into a lackluster long-term relationship in order to acquire a ring, a house, a baby, and a cultural stamp of approval?
Would More Women Like Casual Sex If The Culture Told Them They Could?
If women were granted the same sexual rights as men, and weren’t worried they would be labeled “too easy,” or not “girlfriend material” if they enjoyed sex for the sake of sex, men and women would have less reason to manipulate each other.
Women wouldn’t be playing hard to get in order to get a man who might not be worthy of her, and men would be less likely to do a smoke-and-mirrors routine to convince a woman he was serious about her when he was only serious about getting in her pants.
Without the gamesmanship on both sides, men and women would actually like each other better. They’d trust each other. And if they liked each other more, and trusted each other more, they’d be more likely to become emotionally involved and have a long-term relationship worth having. Or else they’d both feel free to enjoy a sexual relationship without the work that emotional involvement brings.
Why I Like Casual Sex
When I separated from my ex-husband a year-and-a-half ago, I dated a man who immediately wanted to see me a few times a week. Because we were sleeping together, I told myself I should want to spend all my weekends with him instead of hanging out with my girlfriends or just doing the crossword puzzle.
I felt pressure from him to increase the pace of our relationship. I felt strangely obligated to get more involved than I wanted to. I didn’t know how to tell him I needed to slow things down — he was a nice guy, after all, and we were sleeping together, so shouldn’t I want to get serious? — but my lack of interest became increasingly obvious. Finally, he called and told me he didn’t want to continue because seeing me every couple of weeks wasn’t a real relationship.
When I hung up the phone I felt a gush of relief, and the revelation that my needs had changed. At 50, after a long marriage, I had no desire to walk down the aisle again, and I certainly had no desire for more babies. With my kids older and more independent, I felt more psychological space to explore my own interests.
Which, I realized, didn’t include a committed partnership any time soon.
What I’ve Learned From Having Casual Sex
Once I gave myself permission not to want, or need, a long-term relationship, I then gave myself permission to explore my sexuality with different partners, men I never would have dated when I was younger because they weren’t “relationship material.” The more I stepped away from the typical relationship model, the more I began to embrace the fierce sexuality that had so often caused me shame.
I started looking at porn — feminist porn — and realized I loved it. Not just for the sexual arousal, but for the aesthetics (really). I stopped freaking out because I like being spanked and bossed around in bed. I could tell men I was submissive without fearing that I was betraying Gloria Steinem and the rest of womankind. I started dating men that for me were outside the box: younger, never-married, no kids, atypical Angelenos. I didn’t always spend the night with a sex partner, and — shocking! — was perfectly happy to sleep alone in my own bed.
Casual Sex Doesn’t Have To Be Meaningless Sex
I think casual sex gets a bad rap because people assume it’s meaningless. And while that can be the case, it doesn’t have to be. I have no desire, in fact, to sleep with someone I don’t respect or care about. My criteria for a “serious relationship” man is the same for a “casual relationship man:” he has to be smart, funny, progressive, and driven. I have to be genuinely fond of him. If I have to struggle not to fall face first into my salad with a dinner date, we won’t be going home together.
I want sex to be relational. When I choose to spend time with a man, and bare my most private, primitive nature, that experience has meaning. And if a man doesn’t hold me in high regard, and want some kind of connection beyond purely sexual, I’m not interested. That’s not sex worth having.
So, in response to the commenter’s statement that women can’t have casual sex because they get emotionally involved, I would say this:
I’m a woman. I like casual sex. And I like it because I get emotionally involved.