Social psychologist Justin Lehmiller, a faculty affiliate of The Kinsey Institute, has built a career researching casual sex, sexual fantasy, and sexual health all of which he tackles on his blog, Sex and Psychology. Here, he explores the research surrounding casual sex—its emotional stakes, the orgasm gapand the viability of friends with benefits. Compared to past generations, young adults today definitely have more casual sex.
This study focuses on the narratives of four young Swedish women who were interviewed about their experiences of heterosexual casual sex. Although Reay bemoans the lack of a historical perspective on the phenomenon of casual sex, and reminds us that the practice of uncommitted sex is not an invention of modernity, theoretical Bauman ; Giddens ; Sigusch as well as empirical Kalish and Kimmel ; Paul and Hayes ; Timmerman and Courtois scholars tend to describe it as a fairly new and growing practice.
The plethora of empirical studies in this area over the last decade also suggests that an increasing of researchers find casual sex to be an important topic of investigation cf. Boislard et al. In this study, we want to contribute to the field by analyzing the narratives of four young Swedish women who were interviewed on the basis of their experiences of heterosexual casual sex. As pointed out by Farvid and Braunp. It is associated with unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, mental problems, and other difficulties, and young females are identified as a particularly vulnerable group in numerous studies e.
Although we do not deny the reality of theseto which there are certainly exceptions e.
In analyzing the narratives, we use a phenomenological approach Smith et al. Yet, we also want to demonstrate how the participants claim to have dealt with these problematic issues. In this way, we hope to shed light on the socializing and empowering role that early sexual experiences have for young women. Thus, sex education, problematized by many scholars for being highly aligned with risk-oriented research cf. Fine ; Kiely ; Lambmight not always be the most important source of influence on female sexual development. Sweden has had a reputation of being a sinful nation long before the casual sex of today.
For instance, Brown repudiates Elise Ottesen—Jensen, the founder of the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education, for openly recommending teenagers to have sex insofar as they are truly in love with each other. Yet, various parties have tried to offer an alternative picture of the Swedish sexual policy during the years and decades that followed e. It is thus associated with modernism, responsibility, and enlightenment rather than with the sort of primitivism, frivolity, and unbridled lust that Brown feared. The basic idea is that men and women should have the same rights and obligations when it comes to sexuality as in other areas of social life.
This type of trickle-down logic is also advanced by Giddens in his work on the transformation of intimacy in modern society. Public Health Agency of Sweden But does this definition pertain to casual-sex relationships, the topic of our study? Following Giddens, we argue that it does.
A pure relationship does not imply that the relationship must be long-lasting or emotionally intimate, as long as the parties agree on this.
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The main issue is not the length or the depth of the relationship, but that those involved stand behind a consensual agreement. In practice, though, and as we will show below, a pure relationship might be very challenging to establish in real-life casual sexual relationships. These aspects of a pure relationship translated to our study as the following research questions during the analysis: How do the interviewed women 1 describe the communication with their casual sex partners, 2 portray power issues in relation to their casual sex partners, and 3 assess the sexual activities they had with their casual sex partners?
Note that the participants were not asked these questions explicitly, but spontaneously oriented towards them during the interviews. It should Lady want casual sex Energy emphasized that in performing the analysis, we have tried to abstain from automatically constructing casual sex as a risky practice.
As an overwhelming of studies have already shown that women fare less well than men in this particular practice see abovea reasonable presumption of this study would be that sexual democracy, as somewhat naively envisioned by Giddenshas already been proven elusive.
Our analyses not only show that women express dissatisfaction with their experiences, but also that those experiences have transformed them into who they are now. This socializing aspect of casual sex, imagined or real, has rarely been highlighted in research but see Bryant and Schofield ; Morgan and Zurbriggen ; Peterson All four participants were recruited through an information sheet on a social media platform, and none of them were compensated for participating in the study. Their pseudonyms and ages are as follows: Anna Lady want casual sex EnergyBella 25Clara 22and Disa All participants identified as cisgender, white, middle-class, and city dweller.
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Anna, Clara, and Disa identified as heterosexual, and Bella as bisexual. Anna, Bella, and Clara were living together with a partner, and Disa was single. Anna, Bella, and Disa were all studying at university, and Clara worked as a nurse. Smith et al.
The sample represents population perspectives rather than population averages. All interviews were performed by the second author and lasted between 45 and 75 min.
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During interviews the participants were asked to elaborate freely on their experiences and thoughts, but were also asked questions such as: Why did you engage in casual sex? What are your experiences of casual sex? How did you feel in the moment?
How did you feel afterwards? Did you experience any differences between different occasions of casual sex?
The study was conducted in concordance with ethical research principles in Sweden, including informed consent, confidentiality, and usage rules Swedish Research Council Despite focusing Lady want casual sex Energy a potentially sensitive topic, none of the participants expressed discomfort when asked about this in a direct question after the interviews were concluded.
Interpretative phenomenological analysis IPA is an approach that examines how individuals interpret and ascribe meaning to their lived experiences Smith et al. As pointed out above, IPA is thoroughly ideographic, focusing on the particular rather than the universal. In line with this, it has not been our ambition to produce that can be generalized to large of people, but rather to understand casual sex from the perspectives of those involved in the study.
However, interpretations based on a detailed examination of a small of narratives might still lead to theoretical insights that transcend the studied material.
After transcribing all of the interviews, we followed the analytical steps presented by Smith et al. A brief description of this process includes close reading of the transcripts, open coding, identification of possible themes, comparisons between different interviews, and selecting illustrating quotations. In reality, the process is very complex and involves a series of restarts, alterations, and reorganizations. This concept fitted some of our themes and it made us approach our data in a more targeted way than otherwise had been the case.
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With this concept in mind, all themes in the data did not stand out as equally relevant anymore. Moreover, the concept helped us to choose exemplifying quotations and organize the presentation of the.
After singling out quotations that could illustrate our themes, we proceeded with a deeper examination and engaged in expanding rather than condensing the analysis. To create this added value, we went beyond mere description of individual quotations to ask questions such as: What is being said between the lines? What is the underlying message? What hidden assumptions, ideals, and normativities can be spotted? Moreover, added value was also created by connecting findings in an individual quotation to the larger data set as well as to relevant research and theory.
In this result section, we present some of what they articulated under three analytical headings: lessons in sexual communication, lessons in power dynamics, and lessons in ars erotica.
research indicates that those who engage in casual sex rarely communicate the exact status of their relationship Fahs and Munger ; Moran and Lee ; Weaver et al. Is casual sex the beginning of a serious relationship or the proof that no such relationship will ever develop? Peplau, Rubin, and Hill argue that there are two opposing answers to this question. One view insists that sex is an effective means of building emotional intimacy, whereas the opposing position claims that sex may short-circuit intimacy and prevent the development of closeness and commitment.
As Giddens points out, the latter view has dominated. In this section, we analyze how the participants reason about sexual communication in relation to their experiences of casual sex. In particular two of the participants portray themselves as having gradually become better at interpreting the nature of sexual encounters. In our first example, Anna describes her naivety of youth:.
I try to remember my sixteen-year-old self and how I felt [after having had sex]. I mean, I had thought that it would mean something. You know, we did talk for quite a while too. Yeah, I guess I was disappointed. Bella describes an even more confusing event. She has had a secret crush on a young man when she suddenly bumps into him at a camping ground and have sex late at night.
Immediately afterwards, she is very concerned:.
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Um, but there was just a short, short moment between us getting dressed again until he mentioned that he was about to start dating someone. That certainly got me thinking. In their study of online advice on casual sex etiquette, Farvid and Braun argue that clear communication is key in any casual sex encounter. Here, Bella reports the confusion it causes when her partner is completely honest, but only after the sexual act.
Barely has she started wondering where the relationship might be heading, before he reveals his dating plans. Only then Bella realizes that she has experienced her first one-night stand, although she, as the very end of the quote shows, still retained some hope even after this bitter realization.