This originally appeared on VICE CA.
It is a misconception that casual sex is something that started happening in America in the 1960s with the advent of birth control or the Free Love Movement and then spread around the world. Casual sex is as old as humans. In ancient times, the strong alpha men had sex with numerous women. They would leave them with offsprings to nourish and raise because they were convinced that's what women are good for. However, the less charming men didn't have that luxury to be selfish scumbags, so they provided women with food and shelter in return for sexual favours. They would give each other their loyalty, and raise kids together. Evidently, most men and women preferred the latter and so started the beautiful concept of family.
All this is to say there are plenty of reasons many women prefer sex in a committed relationship, not all having to do with procreation. Some of us have a complicated view of one night stands, for others, it's stress-free and fun. To understand these views and how they're changing, I asked women around Canada how they feel about casual sex. Here's what they said.
Sarah, account manager, 23
When I was younger, I attended Jewish camp where everyone was hooking up all the time. So, casual sex isn't anything exotic for me. I had a pretty bad experience in a long-term relationship, and I don't want to go back for something like that. But, I have sexual needs, and I want someone to fulfill them, without demanding for all the exhaustive emotional labour.
When I look back in my relationship, I do think sex is better when you have feelings for someone. I won't lie though—orgasms are pretty exciting. The first time I had casual sex with someone I felt weirdly powerful that OK I fucked some guy. I don't even know his last name.
I sometimes feel like casual sex is like a transaction if we don't cuddle or do stuff afterwards. It's a shitty feeling if he's texting other girls. I do remain nervous and careful about STDs. I'm happier when I have a real connection with someone, but it's OK to satisfy your needs because now you can with birth control and normalization of casual sex.
The best casual sex experience I had was when this guy was really caring, asked me what I wanted, that was the best. I'd rather emotions be present even if it's casual.
I didn't plan to have sex randomly. We were both tipsy, so it kind of just happened. I never expected it to go anywhere further or turning into anything "special." I would prefer sex in a committed relationship any day over casual sex. I would feel comfortable with the one I have a connection with and also will be sure about him not being a serial killer. If I do think casual sex could make me happy—I'd say for a few minutes when I orgasm—which isn't guaranteed by the way. I wouldn't call it happiness—maybe a transaction.
Raylene, real estate agent, 21
I'm too young for a serious relationship but I come across guys who are really good looking, and there's a vibe between us. I do it for fun. It is fun. I never expect anything special out of it. I've never caught feelings for anyone during a hookup, and I know for a fact that I will not find a guy I want to settle down with through this route. Guys who want to have sex right after they meet you aren't usually the guys that want anything serious. Casual sex makes me happy if I'm sober. It's basically sex in general and also the fact I chose to do it, and nobody forced me. I would only hook-up with older and low-key guys because they wouldn't shit talk to the whole city. I also pray that they don't.
Since I've met too many emotionally unavailable men in my life, I prefer casual sex over an emotionally draining relationship. I am a very sexual person, and I believe my needs should be met. Maybe I am so emotionally detached because of my bad experiences, but I am not putting up with the misogyny BS anymore!
Prab, student, 19
Meaningless sex; the concept of no-strings-attached isn't as uncomplicated as the term itself sounds. I'd prefer sex in a committed relationship. It's beautiful—there's a point you'd feel your souls connecting. You have faith in the person; you feel safe; you can be yourself. The only reason I still like the idea of casual sex it because I sometimes feel love is impossible to find. So, I would incline towards casual sex to satisfy my sexual needs.
Men say we're all for women, but then the first thing they'd notice about a woman is her body. They are fascinated by big boobs and butts. If I can't have that it's really hard to find someone who'd like me—but I don't care. I like myself and still want to be in control to fulfill my desires. In casual sex, I feel I have the power to call the shots and ask for what I want directly. It gives me a kind of confidence and strength that "Yeah! I'm the alpha."
Orgasms make you happy—it's a simple natural process. I'm in my zone, and I'm satisfied. "Happy" is a strong word for it. I go for casual sex just to satisfy my needs until I find someone I connect with.
Aisha, student, 19
I don't feel comfortable having sex with strangers. I do need to have an emotional connection. Casual sex makes me feel weak and shitty. I think sex is something you should share with someone you care about and I would feel disgusting and dirty if I hooked up with someone I didn't have feelings for. I think about if I want to have sex with a person before and do it. Sex does make me happy, but I don't like the idea of casual sex. I think the wait to find "the one" is worth it. The reason I say it is because I feel even if the sex isn't great sometimes, you can both feel sad together. Haha.
Lina, communications coordinator, 25
It's addictive. Having sex with multiple men feels empowering for a while when you think everything is under your control. But then you ask yourself, OK what next? You become numb after a while, and you want just to settle. It's one of the worst kind of depressions where you feel lonely especially if you're insecure and emotional like me. There's a huge tendency that you'd end up settling for whatever you can get, and most of the times it is way less than you deserve. It just damages you.
I had a crush on this one guy when I was 18 and one day we just hung out, and that lead to us making out and then having sex. I felt kinda happy. This was my first hooking up and sleeping with someone. Back then I thought if we hooked up, it would lead us to a relationship, but it didn't. We just became friends with benefits. Casual sex does not empower me; It makes me feel really bad at times, because I'm a type of person that overthinks on basically everything, so if I've had casual sex, I would be upset all day and just ask myself stupid questions like "why did I do it?" "what if it was shitty?" Maybe if I were still 18 I would say it's great, but now that I'm 22, I'm not much into it. It's just a few minutes of pleasure.
I've had some awful experiences, too. For example, when I was 19, I was at a bar and I had a few drinks in me and was feeling lonely since I got out of a long relationship. I saw this guy and I walked up to him and we started talking and one thing lead to another and we ended up hooking up. While everything is happening, he spit on my toe and started licking it, and he had an orgasm from that. Casual sex can be really gross at times.
Pree, student, 25
I did it once, and it made me feel like shit. I used to like this guy, even though I'd date other men he would be in the back of my mind and I'd compare everyone with him. Obviously, I was very open to having sex with him and hoping it would turn into something more. It didn't. He just wanted to orgasm and didn't give a flying fuck about my pleasure. I still remember walking out of his apartment with tears in my eyes thinking—WTF am I doing? Am I a mistress? It was the worst feeling ever and I would never do it again.
Aastha, architect, 23
I have never had casual sex. Never even thought of it. Being raised in a society where having sex or even dating before marriage is frowned upon—to figure out your own thoughts becomes a challenge. You just get used to living according to societal standards. Being everything a lady needs to be in today's world, I don't consider 'sex' as a measure to define modernity/empowerment/independence at all.
Nikki, account manager, 27
I don't feel anything after casual sex. It is just during it that is something. I live in the moment. I don't get carried away by emotions. I don't do it under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and never feel guilty. If I want to, I'll do it. It starts with casual talks in the bar about not so casual topics.
Meaningful conversations are a turn-on and when I feel connected with that person, I'm open to spending the night with them. I wouldn't mind if it turns into something special but I'm not looking for it actively. I'm never thinking about relationships when I'm hooking up because I know the other person has come with a mentality that this is a "one-time thing." I did catch feelings for someone once, and so I told him and he didn't want anything more so I never saw him again because obviously, I didn't want to give myself unnecessary pain. I'm very sorted and emotionally stable, but I'm not numb. So for me, most of the times casual sex is very passionate. The feeling that—this is it, it's not going to happen again, is exhilarating.
There are stigmas around having casual sex. It is seen as a bad part of society. But I feel like people living their lives according to social norms are caged animals and I'm a wild animal. I want life to be dynamic, not stagnant. I may or may not get married but I don't see marriage as a goal. Most of the people marry for security and stability. It's not supposed to be a goal for two people who actually love each other.
Melissa, PR consultant, 38
I'm a serial monogamist. When I was 28, I wanted to try and have fun. He wasn't the one to settle but he was so gorgeous. It was three amazing nights. Sex was art. But being the person I am I started wanting more and was disappointed in the end. He liked me but wasn't interested in something long term. Even though I knew going in, that's what it would be but it was hurtful in the end. I felt rejected afterward. I wanted to try something new that I'm not normally, because being who I was, I wasn't getting anywhere regarding marriage so I thought I'm never going to get married and have kids so let me just have fun like a liberated woman. I ended up feeling shitty though.
I feel sex is better in relationships, but I admire girls who can do that and are not hung up on one man or cry over them. I believe sex is sacred. But I know society has certain double standards for men and women. Men can do whatever, sleep with whoever, you're a player, you're a dude! But if it's a woman, then she's a hoe, she's a bitch.
Casual sex in no way can be empowering for women because it's about morality, not gender. In fact, I think that to a degree something really disempowering could happen if you're too free because at the end of the day, it still comes to be all about the man in the sense that men are delighted just to use your body and walk away and move on to next one. Whereas, being more circumspect and selective empowers you because that makes you more desirable. You're seen as exclusive and to me that resonates more—denying the man access to you is more empowering than to be easily available. Women who have casual sex should have serious conversation with themselves. If you want to do it, do it for the right reasons.
Filsan, student, 21
I hooked up with someone and it was uncomfortable. I did it because of peer pressure—I thought I had to experience it. Plus growing up in a family when you're told not to touch a guy and stay away from guys—it was an experience to see how it feels like, trial and error. He wasn't someone I see myself with but it was more like a business experience—thank you and see you never. Religiously, and personally I want my virginity to be for my husband because I believe sex is sacred.
I don't think women should be involved in casual sex just because men do it. Sex is something more on a personal and individual level because there are plenty men who would have sex only in committed relationships. So, I really don't believe casual sex makes you stronger or weaker—if you're a strong person—you'll remain strong. If it does make you feel stronger or weaker, you have emotional issues and need to figure what you like and don't like. You need to care of your body and be happy by yourself. That's when you're ready to share your life with someone or even engage in casual sex. Do it truly to satisfy your sexual desires—do it just for that.
Nancy, event planner, 24
The first time I hooked up with someone was the only time I hooked up. It was exciting and I can never forget it because it turned out the way I wanted in the first place. We've been together for two years now. Sexual freedom is a hidden fantasy but it is the sex with the same person you love and want to have sex with, makes you happy. I believe in having a nice and loving family. I'd give up anything for that.
Jumoke, business analyst, 28
I felt guilty after I hooked up with a guy in an after grad party. I am a person who waited until marriage for sex although I was in a relationship for five years with the man I got married to. I don't think sex is the most important part in a relationship—it's communication. Sex is major and nothing casual. There are too many negative things that come as a result of a few minutes of pleasure such as risk of pregnancy and diseases. It's unfathomable that it could be worth it.
I grew up being very aware of my responsibilities towards myself and that never made me so selfish just to have sex with random guys. I was conscious about the future I wanted and the kind of man I wanted to marry, and I didn't want to ruin it "casually." I don't regret not having casual sex. I believe in having a family. Also, it's a small world—things catch up. A person you hook-up with could be a person could be your husband's friend. Some people get away with it. But if no one else finds out, you do and you go back and start comparing be tempted to experience more. That's not happiness.
Liz, graduate student, 23
I've hooked-up with a person once, but it didn't lead to sex. I'm paranoid about STIs and sexual diseases and if I can't trust someone or ask them about when they had their last STI screen—I wouldn't risk it. Even if I am able to ask them, I need to have faith they'll give me an honest answer—faith is a big thing—doesn't happen casually because if you're asking someone who intends to get you in bed, they would say whatever you want to hear. These days people think sex is the most important part of a relationship. If you're not having sex within one month of dating, they think it's not even worth your time. Sex is not the most important part in a relationship. When the intention is to live with that person forever, sex becomes the least important. But people think that if you're not having sex like a maniac, it isn't working and is an unhealthy relationship. We see so many failing marriages when people think if they are not having sex the relationship is dead since they see a sign of marriage flittering if people stop having sex.
I'm not religious but I was raised Catholic so it's easy for me to internalize that if I engage in casual sex, I'm a slut mentality. In the schools, we were told that if you are "loose" you'll end up as a chewed gum and no one will want you. We're told that our consent is the ultimate prize- if we engage in casual sex, we've given up our highest value upfront which is messed up because since when our only highest valuable thing is our sexual attention? But it is omnipresent. Girls may engage in casual sex all they want, but when they like a guy their friends would tell them, "If you want it to go somewhere- don't have sex on the first date."
Anna, office administrator, 24
I peaked late and hook-up sites/apps were available and I sure wasn't looking for kisses. The sex definitely made me happy. It wasn't particularly all THAT enjoyable but it was the chase. I juggled so many guys at once, that if one said no to me, I'd have others on standby. Casual sex could be empowering for women, it was for me. For some reason, it feels like you finally hold the key. In the past and maybe to a lesser more microaggressive extent, I feel like women were shamed when they were promiscuous. Not giving a fuck and owning your body anyways—that's powerful.
I always like to think I felt stronger [engaging in casual sex] but I had my moments when I actually liked the guy and it felt like they were treating me like garbage. You only really feel weak when emotions play into it, right? But essentially, I felt like I am woman, I want sex so I'm getting it and I'm not waiting around for you.
I had good and bad experiences. Some I can recall fondly but some when I look back at it, make me shudder. Too many people try to put it into your butt by "accident"—I actually like anal sex but dude ASK. One guy took off a condom mid-sex. Too many guys try to imitate porn which is like obviously catered to men, and one tried to titty fuck me and I have no tits to speak of so he just rubbed his dick on my chest. One guy also kept getting phone calls during sex and he kept ignoring it until he had enough and answered it. He hung up and continued having sex with me and honestly one of the best sex I've had and after he told me about the call and it was his dad telling him his grandmother's dead. What a memorable Valentine's.