In a previous post, I wrote about Ashley Madison, a website and app designed to help married people engage in sexual infidelity.I got the same basic response that I get whenever I speak or write about that site, or about sexual infidelity in general: Many are appalled that infidelity is so prevalent and that it has been so thoroughly monetized, while others simply shrug their shoulders and say, “People have been cheating since the beginning of time. ” When I speak and write about casual sex among single people, I get a similar reaction.A true understanding of what casual sex does and does not do to a person’s psychological wellbeing is a long way off.Nevertheless, people do have opinions on the topic, and here is mine (based on existing research along with more than two decades working as a psychotherapist with a specialization in sex and intimacy issues): If casual sexual activity doesn’t violate your moral code, your sense of integrity, or the commitments you have made to yourself and/or others, then it’s probably not going to be a problem for you in terms of your psychological wellbeing.
They seem to feel that sexual activity without emotional connection and long-term commitment (such as marriage) is an E-Ticket to eternal damnation, depression, or low self-esteem.Except for one thing: More males than females reported that they’d recently engaged in casual sex (double the number in the first study, and more than double in the second).One rather simple explanation, other than that some of the test subjects might be fibbing, is that women define “casual sex” differently than men—primarily because they are more likely to seek and feel an emotional connection in addition to the physical experience. Research on the psychological effects of casual sexual encounters is in its infancy, and scientists are just beginning to scratch the surface.One’s social situation is likely to play into the desire for and the psychological effects of casual sexual activity.In young adulthood, for instance, casual sex tends to be more common and more easily accepted than later in life, especially if one gets married and starts a family. At the end of the day, there is no undisputed right or wrong answer when it comes to casual sex and its effects on psychological wellbeing.