Could casual sex make us happier?

A new report by US psychologists suggests that one-night stands can boost life satisfaction and self-esteem. So why are we so coy when it comes to talking about them?

Ok, I admit it. I’ve had casual sex. Once in New York with a man I knew I’d never see again and a couple of times with a friend who should have known better.

The experiences differed greatly. Meaningless sex with my friend should have been light-hearted, imaginative, and fun. In reality, our short lived tryst culminated in me sobbing and sprinting to the nearest train station in a cold December fog after he took a phone call from his ex-girlfriend post-coitus. By comparison, sex with my New Yorker was spontaneous, anonymous, and totally devoid of feeling. After a night between the sheets (no spooning) I kicked him out of my bed in the early hours and continued my holiday with a spring in my step. 

Imagine my curiosity then, when I discovered a recent study, conducted by sex researcher Dr Zhana Vrangalova, had concluded that no-strings-attached sex can actually be beneficial. For some of us, getting down and dirty with a stranger boosts life satisfaction and self-esteem, and can even lessen anxiety.

Whether a one night stand will leave you skipping or sobbing all the way to the train station depends on your “sociosexuality”, according to Dr Vrangalova. Sociosexual orientation is determined by your motivation for, attitudes toward, and past experience with casual sex. Those with a less restricted sociosexuality are more comfortable engaging in sex without love, commitment or closeness.

As part of Dr Vrangalova’s study, 370 students were surveyed for nine months about their sexual feelings, behaviour and overall wellbeing. They were questioned about their views on casual sex, how many people they had engaged in casual sex with, and their level of sexual desire.

The 42 per cent who had indulged in, and enjoyed, casual sex were defined as being sociosexual and reported higher self-esteem and lower rates of depression than people who hadn’t got amorous with an unfamiliar.

Unfortunately, the idea of casual sex still leaves a bitter taste in the mouths of prudes. A Facebook post asking my friends to reveal their most candid sexual exploits yielded no results and trust me, my pals are no saints. Why are we so coy when it comes to admitting to one night stands?

In an attempt to bring no-strings shagging to the masses, Dr Vrangalova has set up the Casual Sex Project, which is billed as a collaborative effort to share true stories of casual sex experiences of all kinds: the good, the bad, and the downright ugly. In reality, it’s a website to which horny Henrys can submit their own stories of sexual debauchery in as much detail as they dare. The only prerequisite? It must involve sex (however you define sex) with someone you are not in a serious romantic relationship with.

“We live in a very sex negative culture and what is acceptable is very limited to sex within a long term romantic relationship,” Dr Vrangalova tells me. “That’s not unchangeable though. The prevailing norm 30 years ago was that the only accepted venue for sexual expression was marriage.”

Dr Vrangalova, who has not submitted her own story to the site (“I’m the administrator, it wouldn’t be right”) hopes the Casual Sex Project will not only encourage sexually expressive people to reveal their deepest, most erotic secrets, but will also provide individuals who choose not to partake in casual sex with an insight into a more sexually fluid world.

“Sex outside a relationship, if it is done often, attracts a certain amount of stigma. We don’t know a lot about it and we come with the preconceived notion that there is something wrong with it,” she says.

“But we’re definitely seeing a greater movement of people exploring alternatives to monogamy. It doesn’t have to be a full blown orgy, although people are doing that. Swingers clubs have been springing up all over the world.”

Killing Kittens founder Emma Sayle 36-year-old Emma Sayle founded sex party company Killing Kittens nine years ago. KK parties are an opportunity for glamorous hedonists to explore their sexuality within the confines of a safe, controlled environment. Although the events are open to both men and women (single women and couples), the chicks call the shots. Some turn up to watch, while others arrive fully intent on getting stuck in, so to speak.

“They’re not after falling in love, it’s very much just about the sex,” says Sayle. “I think there’s an element of complete freedom. It’s your decision; you’re choosing to do it. It’s quite empowering.”

Sex with no strings can be empowering, but it can also send people, frequently women, spiralling into a pit of guilt so deep it takes a Domino’s, a bottle of wine and a Sex and the City marathon to drag them out. A study from Ohio State University last year showed that casual sex can cause depression and can even lead to suicidal thoughts.

“Women are made to feel guilty because society says you’re a slut if you’re a girl who has one night stands,” says Sayle. “If you took away that stigma, I wonder how many more girls would have guilt-free casual sex.”

We’re constantly told having sex releases endorphins, reduces stress, and is even good for our blood pressure. So why limit it to committed relationships? Maybe casual sex could become the equivalent to Pilates or a Saturday morning gym session. Forget spinning, get your fuck-buddy on speed-dial. It would certainly be a more enjoyable way of getting your heart rate up.

In reality though, no-strings sex is rarely knot-free. The alluring mystery of a Killing Kittens party or a nameless New York stranger is one thing, but casual sex with an ex or a close friend is quite another. What might be a stress-busting work-out for one person could be perceived as the start of a blossoming romance for another. It takes two to tango and therein lies the problem.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

    £50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

    Java Developer - 1 year contract

    £350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

    Junior Analyst - Graduate - 6 Month fixed term contract

    £17000 - £20000 Per Annum Bonus, Life Insurance + Other Benefits: Clearwater P...

    SAS Business Analyst - Credit Risk - Retail Banking

    £450 - £500 per day: Orgtel: SAS Business Analyst, London, Banking, Credit Ris...

    Day In a Page

    Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

    The phoney war is over

    Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

    The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

    Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
    From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

    After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

    Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

    Salomé: A head for seduction

    Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
    From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

    British Library celebrates all things Gothic

    Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
    The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

    Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

    The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

    In search of Caribbean soul food

    Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
    11 best face powders

    11 best face powders

    Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
    England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

    Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
    Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

    They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
    Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

    Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

    Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
    Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

    Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

    The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
    America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

    America’s new apartheid

    Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone