Less research has been conducted on casual sexual behavior beyond the adolescent or young adult periods or how young adult casual sexual relationships have influenced sexual activity and union formation later in the life course.
We expect that prior romantic and sexual experiences will underlie motivations for young adult casual sex. As young adults anticipate transitioning into roles related to adulthood, such as those associated with marriage, they may be less likely to participate in casual sex.
Further, Arnett notes that when young adults were finically independent from their parents they were more likely to feel like an adult. We expect that if young adults feel too young to be tied down, a measure of subjective identity, they will be more likely to engage in casual sex behavior. Thus, the life course perspective informs our view that young adulthood is a unique life stage with associated roles and behaviors that will influence the motivations for casual sex behavior. Prior research has focused on general motives for participating in casual sex.
First, consistent with a risk behavior approach, some studies have emphasized the role of substance use e. Moreover, this was particularly the case for men in their sample. Conversely, the students in the Garcia and Reiber study reported that peer pressure was not a strong predictor for hooking up, but men were slightly more likely to claim that peer pressure was a motivation for hooking up compared to women.
Summarizing, conventional motivations for casual sexual activity included substance use, sexual satisfaction, and perhaps peer influence. As such, we expect our sample respondents to endorse these motivations for casual sex as well. Some motives for casual sex are more reflective of the young adult stage in the life course. Demographic research has emphasized that young adulthood is characterized by geographic mobility, enrollment in higher education, and employment changes Mouw ; Osgood et al.
Thus, our investigation of motivations for casual sex considers these demographic and social psychological life course specific considerations. We examine how characteristics of young adulthood, such as geographic movement and not feeling like an adult, might influence engaging in casual sex activity. While young adulthood is a life stage in which casual sex is common, it is also a stage in which committed relationships of longer duration become more salient to individuals Giordano et al.
These patterns, we argue, are not necessarily contradictory. In a recent longitudinal analysis of the TARS data examining the casual sex trajectories of adolescents as they aged into early young adulthood, the number of romantic partners was correlated significantly with the number of casual sex partners over time Lyons et al. Nevertheless, researchers who study casual sexual activity have not examined fully whether involvement in more serious romantic relationships and casual sex are related for an exception see Hamilton and Armstrong The current study moves beyond previous research by examining how prior romantic relationships can act as a motivator for casual sex as opposed to just an alternative to committed relationships.
Prior investigations of the implications of casual sex typically have focused on the negative consequences of casual sex, such as feelings of regret, poorer relationship quality, depressive symptoms, reputational concerns, and lower educational attainment e.
In a study of female college students, those who engaged in casual sex, compared with those who did not, were more likely to report feelings of regret Eshbaugh and Gute Consistent with these findings, Grello et al.
In contrast, Eisenberg et al. One exception was that male respondents who were in a committed relationship reported slightly more depressive symptoms compared to male respondents whose last sexual experience was with a casual partner.
Although much of the literature on the implications of casual sex has focused on negative consequences, the high levels of casual sexual activity and more liberal sex attitudes of young adults Lefkowitz suggests that all experiences may not be associated with negative outcomes. Based on prior research Lyons et al. Examining adolescents, prior research based on the TARS has documented that a substantial minority felt closer with partners after having casual sex, and casual sex was sometimes the beginning of a relationship of longer duration Manning et al.
While building on prior work, which has focused on negative implications of casual sex, we examine how young adults, themselves, describe the consequences of casual sex, recognizing that these experiences may be viewed as having negative and positive consequences.
For analysis purposes, although we conceptualize motives and implications of casual sexual activity as distinct, we acknowledge that in many instances these overlap.
For example, to the degree that individuals believe that friends approve of such liaisons, they may be more likely to engage in casual sex, and may be more likely to perceive that they gained peer approval. Similarly, individuals may be motivated by desires to avoid being hurt - and subsequently enjoy sexual relationships that do not require commitment. However, it is possible that the consequences that unfold are not as expected as in the case of individuals who develop unanticipated stronger feelings for the partner, even though they expected the relationship to be casual.
Thus, it is important to study both motivations for and implications of casual sex behavior because motivations can influence implications. If the implications of past casual sex experiences are either positive or negative, they can alter future motivations for casual sexual behavior.
Researchers have reported that gender is critical in investigating the motivations for and implications of casual sex e.
Men have tended to report more frequent casual sex experiences Lyons et al. Further, there are potential gender differences in the motivation for participating in casual sex. Regan and Dreyer reported in a study of college students that men were more likely to claim status among friends as a reason for participating in casual sex, and women were more likely to participate in casual sex because of mutual feelings of attraction and friendship.
Using an online survey of undergraduate students, England et al. Owen and Fincham reported that women were more likely to claim negative emotional reactions to hooking up, but both men and women claimed the hook up experience to be mostly positive. Yet, women, more so than men, may be judged harshly by peers if they have many sex partners Kreager and Staff In this study, we draw on structured surveys and in-depth qualitative interviews with a large, heterogeneous sample of young adults and examine the motivations for and implications of casual sex during this phase of the life course.
In the results section, we provide a descriptive portrait of casual sex attitudes and behaviors of all young adults in our sample. Next, we outline conventional motivations for casual sex among a subsample who had a recent casual sex experience. We conceptualize these motivations as conventional because they were reported as important in prior research.
Subsequently, we highlight motivations for casual sex that are associated with the characteristics of early young adulthood. We rely on prior research, which studies the characteristics of early young adulthood, and examine how these qualities influence casual sexual behavior during this stage in the life course. Finally, we investigate both negative and positive implications of casual sex behavior.
The first interview was collected in , based on a random sample of youths in the 7 th , 9 th , and 11 th grades in Lucas County, Ohio. The second interview was collected in and the third interview in The geographic area of Lucas County was similar to estimates of race and ethnicity, family income, and education to the national population; however, national estimates could not be determined with the TARS dataset.
The first interview included a sample of 1, youths as well as a parent or guardian interviewed separately. School records were used for the sampling frame, but school attendance was not required for inclusion in the sample. This strategy ensured that questions that may be more sensitive, such as casual sexual behavior, cannot be overheard by other members of the household. There was an oversampling of racial minority youth. All young adults were asked questions about casual sex attitudes and behaviors.
Respondents without a recent casual sexual experience were not asked motivation questions. Thus, our analytic sample for the quantitative analyses is limited to the respondents who had a recent casual sex experience. A comparison group included respondents who scored average on the mentioned risk factors. These interviews generally occurred at different times than the survey interviews, and were completed from August to August The goal of these interviews, in comparison to the survey data, was to create relationship narratives where respondents would self-describe their romantic and sexual history and their views of the meaning of these relationships.
In all instances, precautions were taken to ensure confidentiality and the ability of the respondent to speak candidly about their relationships and experiences. The interviewer had over 20 years of experience in conducting interviews of this type, and sought out quiet areas within the home, including the front porch or back yard, as well as her car, in instances in which there was the possibility that another family member or partner might listen to the interview.
Some of the qualitative interviews took place in public places family restaurant, library when it was apparent that no private places were available within the home. The interviewer also was adept at stopping the interview or speaking in a coded manner, if another family member unexpectedly entered the area where the interview took place.
The interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim for analysis. While all of the interviews were useful, because of their salience to the overall research questions, we focused particular attention on the subsample of 44 respondents who discussed casual sexual relationships.
These in-depth interviews were not meant to generalize to the population, but allowed us to highlight the perceived motivations for and implications of casual sex for a sample of young adults who had engaged in these casual sexual relationships.
The qualitative sample was similar to the quantitative samples on key demographic characteristics See Appendix Table. All of our respondents fit our profile of high risk because they reported casual sexual activity at the time of interview. Thus, the qualitative responses are not representative of young adults in Lucas County, but provide in-depth and rare insight into young adult motivations for casual sex.
The TARS data were appropriate for the research questions for several reasons. First, the data provided detailed measurement of the motivations for casual sexual behavior, which were not available in larger national datasets. Second, in-depth qualitative interviews permitted individuals to describe in their own words what they saw as motives for and implications of their casual sexual experiences.
Finally, much prior research on casual sex is based on college samples. In contrast, TARS respondents did not have to attend high school classes to be included in the survey. Individuals who were not attending high school during the time of the first interview may have had different educational and casual sex trajectories at later interviews. The analysis of the quantitative data relied on t-tests to determine gender differences and similarities in the motivations for and implication of casual sex.
The first step of the analysis of the qualitative data was based on a careful reading of the interviews followed by open-coding with special attention to motivations for and implications of casual sexual experiences. After the initial reading of the interviews and with the research questions in mind, the researchers constructed a preliminary code list.
Next, the transcribed texts and code list were downloaded into the qualitative database Atlas ti. The researchers then coded the data based on the code list. All the researchers coded the same interview and compared codes to establish inter-coder reliability, and discussed any coding discrepancies. The codes for motivations and implications were organized and classified so that broader themes emerged and were assessed. The qualitative instrument included questions about sexual relationships outside of dating relationships.
If the respondent indicated that they had casual sex, they were asked to elaborate on such relationships. The TARS included several survey items on casual sex, which allowed for systematic comparisons by gender.
To measure an overall attitude about casual sex we used responses to the statement: The young adults in the sample were asked two specific questions about their most recent casual sex partner. Measures assessed the following five types of conventional motives: There is one life course specific motivation in the quantitative analysis: The following two statements assessed sexual motivations: Measures assessed the following perceived implications of casual sexual activity: Two questions measured peer acceptance of the relationship.
Race and ethnicity was measured by how the respondents self-identified. Age was a continuous measure. Education status was measured with the question: The relationship context of casual sex varied considerably.
In Table 2 , the mean of 4. Men and women were equally likely to report having sex with an ex results not shown. Outlined below are two sets of motivations for casual sex behavior. We note that these motivations are not mutually exclusive. First, we describe conventional motivations that have been reported in prior research, such as the following: The second set of casual sex motivations are life course specific.
These motivations were associated with the characteristics of the young adult stage and included 1 transitional relationships, 2 too busy for commitment, 3 geographic mobility, and 4 being too young to be tied down. Although there are many expressed concerns about casual sex, our findings reveal that the two motivations for casual sex with the highest agreement scores are those focused on sexual satisfaction and having fun. Thus, theoretical treatments that concentrate on the problematic nature of casual sex do not adequately reflect that sex is often a pleasurable activity.
However, men were significantly more likely to agree with this statement. To illustrate, Melvin, age 20, who participated in the qualitative interview, reported 12 casual sex partners, and indicated that for him, casual sex was all about sexual satisfaction and gratification: For Melvin, casual sex was physically enjoyable without emotional commitment.
Overall, we found most respondents who had casual sex viewed the experience as fun and an opportunity to explore sexual desire. This is a potentially important finding, because it contrasts with the problematic stance emphasized in the research literature and within the context of many prevention efforts.
Substance use is one of the most heavily investigated motivations for participating in casual sex Grello et al ; Paul ; White et al. We found that substance use was an important motivator in our sample as well. Respondents stated that substance use was often involved when a casual sexual experience occurred. Further, male and female respondents did not differ significantly in their level of endorsement of this factor.
The qualitative data are consistent with this pattern of quantitative results. For example, Sara, a year-old mother, had two casual partners, and linked at least one of these experiences to the effects of alcohol: Certainly, not every casual sex experience was related to substance use, but for some, it was an integral part of their narrative accounts and understandings about how these events unfolded.
Randy, a year-old male with six casual sex partners, a high school degree, and who works as a roofer, explains that the party scene can have an influential role in casual sex opportunities:.
It was more or less, drunken friend with benefits. We went out for like a week, and only knew each other for like a month. Got a hotel together with a couple of friends, had sex that night, and about a week later, had sex again and then about two days later, never talked to her again.
Of course, it is not possible to disentangle completely motivational factors and after-the-fact rationalizations, as Paul and other researchers have previously suggested. As expected, a motivation for casual sex relationships was avoiding emotional entanglements. A number of respondents who participated in the qualitative interviews emphasized that casual sex partners were almost by definition not meant to involve the development of strong emotional feelings, which, for some, was an attractive feature of this type of relationship.
For example, Phil, an year-old high school senior who reported four casual sex partners during the past two years focused on the issue of lack of commitment. When asked if he wanted to become closer to his casual sex partner he said:. And there is like no weirdness between us. Like we could have sex one night and she would come over the next day and we would just kick it. Phil also stated that he did not think less of his casual sex partner because she was involved with him in this more casual way.
It is relatively rare to report that casual sex occurred in hopes of developing a future committed relationship. In line with these results, respondents noted that another appealing characteristic of casual sexual relationships was that there were fewer problems compared to committed romantic relationships.
For example, James, an year-old high school dropout, reported five recent casual sexual partners. In connection with his longer qualitative interview, James suggested that in some respects he preferred these casual liaisons, as they involved fewer worries and demands compared with more serious relationships:.
Like we can have sex or whatever and then you know afterwards just go hang out or go, I can leave or she can leave, you know. Relying on a sample of university women, Hamilton and Armstrong reported a similar motivation. Yet, the current study focused on a more diverse sample of young adults, highlighting that this motivation is not limited to those pursuing higher education. The qualitative data in particular provide a more nuanced appreciation of the timing and sequencing of involvement in casual sex and more serious relationships.
Reflecting their accumulation of experiences over time, some respondents indicated that they preferred casual sexual relationships over committed relationships because past boyfriends or girlfriends hurt them. Adam, a year-old who worked in an auto body shop, started having casual sex after he broke up with the only girl with whom he had been intimate. He reported a total of 26 casual partners said: Yeah, well she was the first girl I was ever with.
And for a long time she was the only girl I was ever with. Later on in the interview, Adam explained that his ex-girlfriend had an abortion, and he was very upset that he did not have a say in the outcome of the pregnancy. This influenced his perspective on relationships, and his current desire to avoid a serious level of commitment.
Thus, the emotional pain from prior relationships influenced decisions about involvement in casual sex partnerships. Certainly, this motivation is not unique to the young adult period, but it may be a more frequent pattern during this time simply because young adults as contrasted with early adolescents had often forged longer and more intimate relationships.
Accordingly, the process of breaking up and forming another strong attachment may be viewed as a more difficult endeavor. Casual sexual relationships were considered transitional in that respondents sometimes got involved when they were between two committed relationships.
She was less invested in these relationships and noncommittal about them. When I dated those transitional guys I was still excited about talking to Justin. I mean we were emailing each other back and forth so.
I guess I never really got him out of my mind and these guys were just like oh well. For Tori, casual sex was a way to fill a potential intimacy gap between two committed relationships, but she nevertheless described them as much less meaningful relative to her longer-term relationship with Justin.
Similarly, Tim, a year-old with four recent casual sex partners, explained that he used casual sex relationships as a way to get over a break up with a girlfriend:. Talk to people, get to know people before you jump into anything.
Casual sexual relationships can fill the void during these transition periods. Some respondents indicated that they were too busy to forge a committed relationship, noting that at this point in their lives they were heavily focused on other life course events and circumstances.
However, this did not preclude involvement in more casual sexual encounters. Hamilton and Armstrong reported similar themes using a sample of female college students, but our results suggest that this rationale is also frequently invoked within this more diverse sample of young adults.
Jason, a junior enrolled in an online high school, reported two lifetime casual sex partners. When asked what he was looking for in a relationship currently he said: As of right now, a fling flang.
At the time of interview, Jason indicated that he was busy with his online courses, and focusing on getting into a postsecondary technical training program.
Lindsay, a year-old university sophomore who reported two casual sex partners, explained that timing was the main difference between casual sexual relationships and committed relationships:. Like when I dated Paul- right before I dated Terrell- I had just moved like- I had just - because I lived in the dorms my second year, not my first year of college.
So I was doing everything like a year-like behind almost. So, I was just moving away from home for the first time. I was on my own. I was not ready for a serious relationship at that time. At the same time, they were not willing to forgo all sexual relationships and experiences, and thus they chose to engage in casual sex. The young adult life stage is characterized by geographic mobility due to enrollment in school and moves for jobs and careers.
This mobility also appears to have implications for the character of romantic and sexual relationships. Kaleb, a year-old man working on small jobs, reported two casual sex partners, and explained that his sexual relationship remained casual because he knew that his partner was moving away to college.
When asked if she expected to have a committed relationship with her partner after having sex she said: And the long-distance thing would have never worked. The geographic distance makes Sara aware that her casual sex partner was unlikely to evolve into a serious romantic one, but she was nevertheless willing to follow through on feelings of attraction when they were together in the same location.
In other instances, individuals who participated in the in-depth interview indicated that they did not want to start romantic relationships in anticipation of moving in the near future.
Even a temporary move prevented people from forming a committed relationship. Violet, a year-old college student with six casual sex partners, explained why she did not want to have a romantic relationship: Violet felt that having a committed relationship would hold her back from fully experiencing the time she had carved out to study abroad.
Table 2 suggests that this motivation is endorsed fairly frequently among those who report casual sex experience, and male and female respondents in this subgroup do not differ in their levels of agreement with this motivation for their involvement. These findings paralleled the responses from the qualitative interviews. You know, too many things to do. These narratives revealed that many respondents accepted the general notion that there was an appropriate age when they should stop having casual sex, but they indicated that they simply had not reached it yet.
Quinton, an year-old with four recent casual sex partners who just graduated high school explained how he was in the process of changing, but stopped short of a complete endorsement of involvement in a more settled relationship: The narratives revealed considerable diversity in these calculations, however, as some individuals within the sample believed that they had indeed reached an age when they were too old to have casual sex.
For example, Melvin who was mentioned earlier, explained why he no longer wanted to engage in casual sexual encounters:. I wanted to be serious with a female… Because I feel for one, just try. I mean I was what-twenty! I was getting older. However, many of the comments did reflect that this was a developmental phase and indicated that later on they may want to stop having casual sex and start to look for more serious relationships.
Such discussions about the place of casual sex similarly revealed that most individuals accepted the idea of eventually settling down, but varied significantly in the timetable they found desirable for this to occur. Even though casual sex most often was associated with low attachment, and was viewed as involving lower emotional risk compared to committed relationships, respondents recognized various consequences of their casual sexual behavior, and included references to both positive and negative consequences in their narrative accounts.
One of the most commonly reported negative consequences of casual sex was that someone was hurt emotionally. Another negative consequence was that casual sex can sometimes lead to confrontation if the sex partner was in a committed relationship with someone else. The positive consequences included eventually moving into a committed relationship or friendship, enjoying casual sex and wanting to continue the behavior, and getting approval from peers.
It is interesting and potentially important to note that these themes stress social rewards and costs, rather than detriments to health, as is often emphasized in prevention messages.
Even though casual sexual relationships were often forged with the idea of avoiding emotional entanglements, a number of male and female respondents reported getting emotionally hurt. I received about a half-dozen responses each day. Most were scams, some were men, some were prostitutes, and just one was legit. All the responses I got from real people on my first day weren't from women — they were from men.
I made it very clear in my post that I was only interested in women, but a large number of men chose to ignore that. They all offered oral sex. I responded to them politely, saying, "Just interested in women, but thanks for the offer! Have a good one. I began to suspect that no women actually used the site. The stereotype is that women are interested in relationships, and that only men would be interested in totally casual sex, right?
We know that's not true, though. In fact, I was inspired to write this article when a friend told me many of her female friends had owned up to using it. Over the next couple of days, I actually received a lot of posts from women. Or at least, they said they were women. To be honest, I doubted the veracity of the claims. It didn't take long to realize that almost all the replies I received were scams.
The situation is so severe on Craigslist Casual Encounters that posts by real women who are actually seeking hook-ups are often flagged for removal at the slightest cause for suspicion. The most common scams are "safe dating" websites. An alleged woman will write a man saying she's interested, but that because of the Craigslist-based serial killers and rapists in the news, she needs some extra assurance that it's safe.
If you follow the link she provides, the website asks you for your credit card number — y'know, so it can do a background check to make sure you're not a criminal. One individual tried to get me to buy him or her virtual currency in online games like MapleStory before agreeing to hand over contact information. Yeah, right — moving on! What little luck I'd had so far. The week was half over and I hadn't had a single bite. I decided I would have to take the initiative, so in addition to posting my own ads, I started responding to every ad from any woman who seemed at all interesting.
I cast a wide net in my searches, looking up posts by straight or bisexual women between the ages of 18 and 35 who lived anywhere in Chicagoland — a large metropolitan area that's home to close to five million females. Most of the women wanted something very specific they couldn't find in their normal lives: Someone to help play out a particular fantasy, someone vastly older than them or someone of another race.
Very few of the women who were advertising seemed to be looking for anything I would consider a "normal encounter. I typically wrote two or three paragraph replies and matched the tone of their own messages, then attached a couple of tasteful photos of myself.
I didn't get a single reply from an actual prospect this way. It turned out that most of the ads were fakes from scammers, and quite a few fell into another category all together. Prostitution is what made Craigslist controversial. There's technically another section for that — "Adult Services," formerly "Erotic Services" — but that's not the only place you'll find practitioners of the world's oldest profession. The prostitutes of Craigslist speak in code, but it's not a difficult one to learn.
They advertise "French lessons" — an odd thing to advertise under "Casual Encounters," don't you think? Well, it's obviously a euphemism for something else. Many of the ads that weren't from scammers were from prostitutes.
The ads are so obvious that it's surprising the euphemisms are effective in fending off law enforcement. Then again, maybe they are law enforcement. Amidst all those failures, I had one near-success. A woman wrote in response to my sweet "cuddling first" ad saying she was in town for only a couple of months, and that she was frustrated she couldn't find a relationship.
When she sent her pictures, she looked plain but attractive. We exchanged a couple of e-mails over the course of two hours, tossing back and forth lists of interests and the like. She made it clear that she wanted to meet up, and while she talked about starting slow, it was clear that it would indeed be a casual encounter.
But when I suggested a time to meet — the last message from me before I would reveal myself and back out — there was no reply. At least, not yet. The next day, she e-mailed me saying she was deeply apologetic and that she'd fallen asleep. She said she'd like to meet up sometime. So yes, there are women on Craigslist. Well, at least one! You've probably guessed by now that the experiences for heterosexual men and women on Craigslist's casual encounters are quite different.
I observed that for every ad a woman posts, there are at least 20 from men. If nothing else, that imbalance ought to alter the experience. To get the female perspective, I did two things: I posted a fake ad as a woman to see what kinds of responses I would get, and I interviewed two women who have had success hooking up on casual encounters in the past.
As for potential suitors, I asked only that they supply a photo and "be attractive and not creepy. There was a five minute delay before my ad appeared, then I started receiving about one response per minute.24 Mar How To Navigate The Secret World Of Casual Encounters team thoroughly researches & reviews the best gear, services and staples for life. in a few personal attributes about yourself to avoid coming off as a sex-fiend. Some motives for casual sex are more reflective of the young adult stage in the life . The number of lifetime casual sex partners was substantially higher for the the Department of Health and Human Services (5APRPA) and by the . 3 Aug I decided to dive into Craigslist's "Casual Encounters" — a section made for . There's technically another section for that — "Adult Services,".
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