The Surprising Benefit to Casual Sex

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We Americans are strange creatures. Even as numerous studies show that more of us than ever are having casual sex, it's still a difficult subject to discuss openly without at least a hint of judgement—particularly when we're talking about women. This is often due to the assumption that hooking up is pursued at the expense of committed relationships. After all, long-term monogamy must surely be a more noble goal than bringing home that guy you met before last call on Thursday night...right? And, of course, there's that whole "eroding the morals of American civilization" thing to worry about, as well.

But, if hookup culture is really so destructive to our society, why do we keep doing it? A new study conducted by NYU researchers paints a (positive) new picture of one-night stands and the strapping lads and lasses who have them: For those who have liberal views on sex, casual encounters have a positive effect on psychological well-being.

The research, published this month in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, involved 371 undergrads who were surveyed periodically over nine months on both their sex lives (frequency of sex, number of partners, and level of enjoyment and agency felt during the act) and their emotional health. In addition, at the beginning of the study, the students were asked to report their "sociosexual orientation," a measure of "propensity toward casual sex" based on responses to questions about behavior, attitudes, and desire. 

In a twist that would surprise maybe three people in the universe, results showed that subjects who were sociosexually unrestricted reported lower stress and greater overall emotional health after having casual sex. As the study authors put it, "The effects of casual sex depend on the extent to which this behavior is congruent with one’s general personality tendencies." In other words, engaging in casual sex can be an empowering experience for those who embrace it. [Click here to read the full story at Refinery29!]

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