Casual sex and no-strings attached hook ups. Are they for you?

Sexual hookups often leave more strings attached than many participants recognise at the beginning.

Photo credit: Sexual hookups often leave more strings attached than many participants recognise at the beginning

What you need to know:

  • One of the most quoted reasons for engaging in casual sex is the search for sexual fulfillment without the hustles associated with an emotionally committed romantic relationship.
  • A woman will easily move on where she feels that an attractive guy whom she doesn't really like is into her.
  • Many hook-ups are also unintentional, through drinking or drugs, and coercion or sexual violence

The evolution of sexuality has opened doors to sexual liaisons that do not offer partners the promise of a future together or require them to make emotional commitments. These sexual engagements operate on a no-strings-attached basis. Dr. Paul Joannides, a psychoanalyst and the author of Guide To getting It On, casual sex is not limited to the popular one-night-stand. “Other types include No Strings Attached (NSA), Friends with Benefits (FWB), and Sex with an Ex casual sexual relationships. The last kind of sex is bound to happen when partners are still sexually hanging on to their exes, and may either end up psychologically aggravating a breakup or reviving a past relationship,” he says.

The drive

While some people go in because they believe their emotions should not stand on their way of finding sexual intimacy, others engage in casual hook-ups with emotional anticipation. They hope that the casual escapades can germinate into a more wholesome relationship. “With casual sex, each partner knows that they are not the priority to the other. The only benefits each partner will take away will be non-exclusive recurring sexual or near-sexual engagements,” says Aaron Ben-Zeev, the author of In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideologies and Its Victims. This is echoed by Patrick Musau, a psychologist based in Nairobi. He points out that in a casual sexual liaison, you will hardly open up about your expectations or feelings to each other. “Yours will instead be deemed as sexual liaisons that can be terminated at either partner’s discretion without the heartaches associated with normal breakups,” he says.

Marital infidelity

This habit can encourage serial cheating, which can spill over into long-term relationships including marriage. This will be aggravated if casual sex is occurring alongside a relationship. “The hook-up culture encourages serial cheaters to set cheating patterns that often spill over into marriage. The more people cheat presently, the more likely they are to cheat in the future,” says Musau.

Regret vs confidence

Robert Biswas, the author of The Upside of Your Dark Side says that casual sex will either cause regret or boost your confidence. For example, you will be more likely to regret a casual sexual encounter if you went through with it under the influence of alcohol. “Your confidence, though, will be boosted if your one-night stand beams with the possibility of a future relationship,” says Biswas. “You will experience less regret whether this relationship is eventually realised or not.”

The imbalance

A woman will easily move on when she feels that an attractive guy whom she doesn't really like is into her. "Such a woman will be in control of her sexuality because she will express her sexual needs without getting carried away or feeling bad about it," says Christine Hassler, the author of Expectation Hangover. Also, the majority of casual sex arrangements end up with one partner tilting over emotionally. It could be jealousy or inadvertently steering your regular casual sex meet-ups into the borders of a romantic relationship. “One partner ends up caring more, getting possessive, passionate and lacking both hindsight and foresight on how the casual sex started, how it works and its purpose,” says Seth Meyers, a psychologist and the author of Love Prescription.

Women and no strings attached relationships

According to Dr. Hart, it is possible for women to handle hook-ups just as easily as men do. “Women pick out a man and make a decision about whether to go to bed with him or not in much the same way as a men do,” he says. Women who get stuck on their sexual partners emotionally may be driven by a subconscious need to have their emotional intimacy needs fulfilled. Nonetheless, staying in a casual hook-up for any length of time is a challenge many women will struggle with. According to Dr. Hart, when casual sex hook-ups occur, it is the man who will more likely get more out of the hook-up than the woman. “However, both will end up feeling regretful, guilty, disappointed, or embarrassed,” he says. “Many hook-ups are also unintentional, through drinking or drugs, and coercion or sexual violence.”

When no strings create more strings

According to the study Sexual Hook-up Culture published in the American Psychological Association journal, sexual hookups often leave more strings attached than many participants recognise at first. According to Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, both men and women will release oxytocin, the hormone that calms, soothes, and mellows sexual partners out, during orgasm. “This hormone is the key biological factor that bonds people to each other and is associated with maintaining healthy relationships,” she says, adding that this is what partly makes the woman see her casual no strings attached hook-up as having a form of potential to turn into something bigger.

When casual sex works out

Although many women may find it difficult to have casual hookups without getting their emotions involved or having any follow-up expectations, there are two conditions in which hooking up can be possible without creating a lingering hangover. “The first is when the woman is 100 percent comfortable and empowered in her own sexuality, totally asks for what she wants and honors her boundaries, has zero expectations, and is not looking for a relationship of any kind,” says Christine Hassler, a certified life coach and the author of Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love and Life. “The second is when the guy is way more into her than she is into him. If a woman feels smothered by a guy she doesn’t really like much, she is more likely to chalk it up and move on.” Where you find yourself reeling from the disappointment of a no-strings-attached union, Ms. Hassler advises that your first step should be to take back the reigns of your sexuality. “Take back your sexuality and control it according to your character and the kind of intimacy you want to share with another person,” she says. “Explore ways to experience sensuality and express your sexuality in ways that don’t make you feel bad about yourself.”