#Sexuality

Is Casual Sex Wrong Or Are We Doing It Wrong?

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Is casual sex wrong? Unlike what many people assume when they learn about my career choice, I am personally not a huge fan of casual sexual encounters. I have engaged in casual sex a few times in my life because back then I believed that was what sexual liberation was all about, but I found myself not enjoying it. I liked having an emotional connection with the person I was getting intimate with. I felt respected and adored when I was with my partner to whom I had made some semblance of commitment – something that I did not feel when I was having casual sex. After some time, I realised that casual sex wasn’t meant for me.

But this is my unique experience and I have met women who share the same experience as me or a different experience than me around hookups. So, what makes the same kind of encounter likeable for some and miserable for others? It depends on our motivation, why we do it, our reasons for doing it.

Peer pressure

Many women engage in the hookup culture just because everybody else was doing it. As a single mother, I often get propositioned by many married men to be their casual sex partner, who are living sexless lives with their wives. Entering into such an encounter where you always remain in the shadow of that “other woman” feels unfulfilling and demeaning to me. Why would I minimize myself to just another number of a married man’s hookup list?

Bodily needs

Yes, love and sex are two distinct entities and for many people are inseparable. That is, many people cannot disconnect emotionally with someone we have sex with or we need commitment, and love from that person. But some people can keep it to a biological need, which sex is indeed. Harpreet, says, “I’m not that casual but I think sometimes being casual is good. After divorce I don’t want a man in my life but I need sex.”

Poorvaja Sivaraman says, “Sex is a biological need and it looks you missed the whole point of casual sex. Maybe this analogy will help. It’s like eating instant noodles. There are times when you’re hungry but you don’t have the energy and resources to make a gourmet or a three course meal. Instant noodles taste amazing, gets the job done with very little fuss. Do you reminisce about every meal you’ve ever had or you eat, shit and move on with life?

Attachment is here to stay

Despite a wide uptake of hookup culture, love is still in vogue. As anthropologist Helen Fisher says, our brains are wired for love, we crave love and attachment as much as we want sex. It is seen that people who regularly engage in hookups are more likely to feel distressed and lonely. On the other hand, a stable relationship with a committed partner is connected to better mental health, lower levels of stress, and less depression. Can it be said that hookup is a phase but not a lifelong solution, and as human beings we need much more than a body-to-body connection with a person on psychological, emotional, and social level?

Social judgment on hookup targeted to women

Women have been told all their lives that they must keep their bodies pure. We have been told that if we give away the milk for free, he is not going to buy the cow. This perspective has been hammered into our minds so much that we cannot help but internalize it. Even if a casual relationship is fulfilling for a woman, she cannot help but feel guilty because of the rigid norms. A battle between what they feel like and what they should feel like breaks out in their mind.

Discreet hope of forming a long term relationship

It is also true that many people go into a casual relationship in the hopes of it becoming something more. This contributes a lot to the guilt and lack of self-esteem later. When women engage in casual sex with a discreet hope of getting the man committed to them in the long run (happened with me), it does not end well for them. But this experience is not identical to all the women out there. Many women are completely happy with their casual sexual encounters. They do not want a commitment, and hookups make them happy and sexually satisfied. These women are the ones who are going into the casual hookups with their eyes wide open, knowing exactly what they want. What they expect and what they desire is what they get from an arrangement such as this.

My friend, indie filmmaker Meera Chowdhary said in a Facebook comment “People should disclose to each other that they are only meeting for casual sex…. problem is they give different impression from day one…they try to impress each other; show they are falling for each other, but they don’t disclose that it’s only for casual sex. Even casual sex is not bad if both the people are in agreement with it. Problem is not in casual sex; problem is in behaviour of people. Problem is also when a person remembers you only for sex and entertain you only for sex…In that case go to market where one can buy sex.”

Hookups are not for everybody. But we should also remember that people are built differently. What is degrading to me might be liberating for somebody else. Even if you are in a casual relationship, communication, setting boundaries, and respect are immensely important things. Even if you are only in it for sex, you should avoid objectifying someone or yourself. Much of the negative feelings that women feel after a hookup comes from the thought that they have been treated without respect. It does not matter if you are only seeing your partner for a single time. You need to talk to them. You need to have a conversation that lets your partner know that you are an entire person and not just a walking genital.

We need to see each other as human beings who enjoyed a short but wonderful time together instead of faceless sex toys. By doing so, we are taking equal control over the encounter, keeping a steady handle on our self respect, and extending the same to our partner.

Pallavi Barnwal is a certified sexuality coach and founder of a sex-positive platform Get Intimacy. She has been featured as a sexpert in publications such as Huffington Post, India Today, Vogue, The Hindu, Dainik Bhaskar, Indian Express, Times Of India, BBC, Deccan Chronicle, Femina and more. She specialises in helping people gain courage to talk openly about sex and relationships and equipping them with actionable tips and skills so they can start having more pleasure both inside and outside their bedroom. The views expressed are the author’s own.


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