What Women Really Think About Casual Sex

photographed by Ashley Armitage
Sexual regret is common in the age of online dating and casual hookups. Sadly, as the Aziz Ansari furore laid bare, it's easy to find yourself in a "grey area" that not everyone feels comfortable about.
We already know women are more likely to find themselves in these circumstances than men, and a new study suggests this could be contributing to how much we regret one-night stands.
Writing in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, researchers have concluded that straight women are less likely to regret sex if they initiated the encounter and if the "partner was skilled and they felt sexually satisfied".
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By contrast, they're more likely to regret a sexual encounter if they experienced negative emotions, such as worry, felt disgusted by their sexual partner, felt pressured to have sex or experienced low sexual gratification.
Previous research has shown that compared to women, straight men are far less likely to regret casual sex and the new research backs this up. It also doesn't make a difference to men whether they initiate the encounter.
For the study, academics at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) and the University of Texas interviewed 547 Norwegian and 216 American straight university students under the age of 30 about their experiences of one-night stands.
"The factor that clearly distinguishes women from men is the extent to which they themselves take the initiative," Mons Bendixen, an associate professor at NTNU, told Medical Xpress.
The team concluded that straight women who initiate casual sex consider the man "an attractive sexual partner" and that such women are likely to possess "at least two distinguishing qualities," said Professor David Buss from the University of Texas.
"First, they are likely to have a healthy sexual psychology, being maximally comfortable with their own sexuality. Second, women who initiate have maximum choice of precisely who they want to have sex with. Consequently, they have less reason to feel regret, since they've made their own choice."
Because "regret is a highly unpleasant emotion" the researchers said, having control over whether or not to have sex "buffered women from experiencing regret." Joy P. Wyckoff, from the University of Texas, said the findings were "another reminder of the importance of women's ability to make autonomous decisions regarding their sexual behaviours."
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Following #MeToo, Cat Person and the discussion around "grey area" sex that's been happening in recent months, it's heartening that the academic community is throwing its weight into the thorny issue of female sexual agency.
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