Give Casual Sex a Chance

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It seems we are now at an amazing, yet totally expected, place when it comes to sex. Some people seem to think that long-term monogamy has become counter-cultural among young people.

In “Give Monogamy a Chance,” a recent review of a new book called The End of Sex, reviewer Emily Smith writes that “the casual-sex culture reign[s] among America’s young adults.” If casual sex reigns, long-term monogamy must necessarily then be an aberration.

This is amazing considering that until very recently, women who were seen or even rumored to be having sex outside a long-term, monogamous relationship were publicly shamed, excluded, and sometimes even punished. In fact, some people still advocate for that! But the fact that monogamy is now seen as “transgressive” is also not all that surprising. Current scientific consensus indicates that long-term monogamous relationships are standard practice in less than 20% of sampled societies.

The book appears to be a litany of potential negative consequences of sex done “wrong,” which is to say, any variation of not within a long-term, monogamous relationship.

Smith writes:

For decades now, young women have been taught by popular culture that casual sex is supposed to be liberating.

But… Donna Freitas’s illuminating new book, “The End of Sex,” suggest[s] that for many young women it proves instead to be dehumanizing.

Well, yes. For many women, and men, casual sex is not going to be a pleasant experience. And of course if we tell young people that they should be enjoying something that they’re clearly not, that will have negative consequences. It’s obviously not an ideal situation when people are not enjoying casual sex but continue to have it because someone has told them they “should.”

But isn’t the same thing true of decrying “hookup culture?” It is just as damaging to tell someone that they shouldn’t be enjoying the casual sex they do derive pleasure from. How many people are not enjoying their committed, monogamous sex but continuing to have it because someone has told them they “should?”

Ironically, what sucked about the puritanical shaming of the past is the same thing that sucks about a tyrannical “hookup culture.” Monogamy and casual sex are both fine for certain people at certain times. What is damaging is the idea that there’s only one “right” way to have sex.