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I am a 22-year-old currently in college. What I see about sex and how it is viewed by my peers is much different than what I had expected. I always knew that people were having casual sex, but I had no idea how often it occurred. Even though casual sex can be common for people all ages, it is especially practiced by college-aged adults. Needless to say I have been disappointed more than once when I met a guy and realized that all he wanted was casual sex.
What is casual sex anyway? For the discussion here, let's define it as when two consenting people choose to have sex either based on a mutual attraction or just for the sake of having sex. Eighteen to twenty-five year olds don't call this behavior casual sex. We call it "friends with benefits." To me this doesn't seem like much of a friendship, but it's so common among young people.
In checking in with my male friends, they all agreed that casual sex is common and they participate in it often. They admitted to having sex with 3-4 girls throughout the week and then "dumping" them when they get tired of them, or when the girl becomes too attached. I'm not saying that girls don't do this too, but I think with men this behavior is more common. They often feel no regret or sense of guilt for admitting that they use girls for sex. This is scary and disturbing for me, as a young woman navigating the dating world. Don't they eventually get tired of this game?
With certain influences from the media I feel like we are being trained to think and act this way. Certain movies actually advocate and glorify casual sex. Movies like “Friends With Benefits”, and “No Strings Attached” star good-looking young people that make this kind of behavior look enjoyable. Everywhere you look young people are targeted for marketing sex. Reality shows, magazines, songs on the radio, and especially the Internet markets sex to young people. The media never tries to market intimacy or romance, because frankly that doesn’t sell. We are so influenced by what is on television, or what we hear on the radio, yet we don’t even realize it.
Still, the capacity to connect sexually without intimacy quite frankly is baffling to me. The thing is, many people who have casual sex often wouldn't even hang out with the person that they are having sex with. I feel that everyone has the need to be loved, and sex can mistakenly be confused for other intimate feelings especially among young women. It's no secret that nearly everyone enjoys receiving sexual attention, we're only human after all. But getting sexual attention by having sex without intimacy can become a vicious cycle. For example, if a young girl has casual sex with a peer because she enjoys the attention, she can start to subconsciously believe that she is only worthy of attention through sex.
Most people understand that there are risks to having casual sex, (i.e., unplanned pregnancy, STDs, sexual addiction) but I think the risks to one's self-esteem are even greater. This kind of sexual behavior can wreak havoc on self-esteem later on. If someone is engaging in this sort of activity, I think that person may want to check and see why he or she engaging in sexual activity. Is it just to feel some sort of attention from the opposite sex? Or might it be a compulsive urge to avoid dealing with some issue that needs to be faced?
If you choose to engage in casual sex, I think it's important to remember that this is just a physical act, not an intimate one, and one cannot fill any emotional voids by just having sex. Casual sex is supposed to be a mutual agreement. All too often this agreement never gets set up and someone ends up getting hurt.
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