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Casual Sex Rules

As a society, we’re beginning to explore our definition of relationships beyond the traditional be-all-and-end-all of marriage and monogamy and opening the doors for new kinds of coupling.

The following article first appeared on

It’s 3 a.m. and the phone rings. 

Actually it’s probably a little earlier - and the phone doesn’t ring, it buzzes, because does anyone make phone calls for these purposes anymore? 

If it’s around 11 p.m., the text might read: 

"Hey. What are you up to tonight?" 

If it’s a little bit later … say, 1 or 2 a.m. it might say,

"Wanna come over?" 

Or, if you’re really going to get lucky:

"I’m in your neighborhood. Do you want a visitor?" 

Oh, the modern day booty call. It is not just sloppy dorm room hook ups on the lawless terrain of college campuses anymore; it’s equally prevalent among recent grads dabbling in casual sex while figuring out their lives, young professionals looking for a little spark to change up an otherwise hectic work schedule, divorcées realizing the world outside of marriage, senior citizens enjoying the unapologetic benefits of old age, not to mention anyone carrying on an extra-marital affair. As a society, we’re beginning to explore our definition of relationships beyond the traditional be-all-and-end-all of marriage and monogamy and opening the doors for new kinds of coupling. 

For many, casual sex and "booty calls" have become a preferred option for semi-consistent sex - without the commitment or expectations of a more traditional relationship. 

But is a casual sex relationship ever really completely casual? 

The Delicate Balance of "No Strings Attached"

Even in a "no strings attached" relationship, the inevitable rules of engagement still exist, along with gendered double standards and unexpected deal breakers that can make negotiating and engaging in a "casual" relationship just as complicated as dating and traditional courtship. Do you need to establish boundaries? What is your relationship like outside of sex? How do you make sure that sex doesn’t change the other qualities that made you attracted to each other in the first place? Is it really inevitable that someone will get attached - or hurt? 

In other words, how do you preserve the casual, low-maintenance nature of the booty call while making sure that it is still respectful, consensual and fun for both parties? Whew. Now there's a tough question. So let's examine a few angles, shall we?

The Hook-Up Myth: Don’t Have Casual Sex. You Will Get Attached … and Die

If you keep having sex, and you don’t fall in love and start a relationship, isn’t someone eventually going to become more attached and get hurt?

There appears to be a bit of a war on casual sex, and it's adding fuel to the gendered idea that women are inherently fragile and men are sexually voracious animals. According to this scenario, women are supposed to protect their fragility by abstaining from casual sex. (Not to mention the "fact" that the only way to keep a man around is by dangling ultimately unattainable sex in front of him as he is trained to be a boyfriend, and eventually, a husband.) 

According to this philosophy, homosexuals - or anyone who doesn’t conform to gender norms and heterosexual relationships for that matter - are inhuman, abnormal, salacious sexual deviants. 

Unfortunately these frustratingly outdated philosophies are shamelessly on display in popular culture produced long after the 1950s. Laura Sessions Stepp, author of " Unhooked: How Young Women Pursue Sex, Delay Love and Lose at Both" claims that a bad one-night stand can leave a woman in "turmoil." Renowned anti-hook-up author Wendy Shalit’s latest book, " The Good Girl Revolution: Young Rebels with Self-Esteem and High Standards" crisply draws the line between the good girls who abstain and bad girls who partake, all while policing sexuality with what are, frankly, puritanical definitions of morality. Both Stepp and Shalit’s writings revolve around a gendered and outdated idea that men are universally sex-driven animals while the women who succumb to them - by engaging in casual sex - have been tragically morally derailed. 

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