Sunday, July 17, 2011

Is casual sex normal?

Andrew D Atkin:

It bores me looking at articles such as this, talking about promiscuity. They never get to what's behind the issue. The issue becomes trivialised into some kind of moralistic or feminist thing, which with better understanding we can see that it's not.

My outlook:

Yes, casual sex is normal. No it's not "supposed to be" normal. Yes, people should screw around if they want to. No you shouldn't celebrate that they do. Yes, casual sex is not unhealthy in itself. No it's not an expression of health.

Human sexuality:

The human animal more than any other is dependant on a stable family to grow up in (properly), and that requires well-attached parents. Human sexuality is an intense part of that attachment.

-We all know this, though politicised scientists might always "prove" something else.

If casual sex is so natural, why then are people so universally devastated when their partners cheat on them? Why have we been biologically programmed with this response? And if a stable family is not what a child needs after all, then why are kids traumatised by a broken home? And if we are not supposed to attach in sex, then why does the attachment process (in normal conditions) occur, as well described by people such as Desmond Morris? And most significantly, as a species we never evolved with contraception. So it would seem strange that sex should be casual by nature when the consequences of the act (children) have, historically, always demanded attachment.

Nope. Casual, promiscuous sex is not normal normal. It's now common and culturally normalised, but not normal in the human meaning of the word.

So where does casual sex come from?

It comes mainly from the effect of deprivation. A child that does not attach to its parents will not attach to anyone as an adult (in a real way), because the function of attachment has been locked out of consciousness (repressed). People like this can easily engage in casual sex because, basically, they hardly have sex at all. As a subjective process they literally can't have 'normal' sex.

Another possibility is peer pressure. This is ugly and no-one should tolerate it. Having a mass of neurotic children who can and do screw whoever/whenever is one thing, forcing other young people to be pressured by them is another.

And another possibility still is with schools providing bizarre forms of sex education that serve to "normalise the abnormal", and at an age when children can't know any better.

-How about some real sex education? Why not teach the impact of child abuse and infantile damage on human sexuality, and also the pervasiveness of that damage? And throw in a special module on incest too, as it represents the most extreme way to destroy someones sexuality.


Let people do whatever they want with their bodies - just so long as it's sincerely mutual, they don't get pregnant in a messed-up state, nor spread too many diseases. If people are promiscuous then the damage has already been done, so there's no point in crying over spilt milk.

But don't celebrate promiscuity. See it for what it is. It is still an expression of a more serious problem relating to deep damage within early childhood. And the latter is what our society needs to be talking about - not this moralistic trivia.


  1. I have a somewhat more "modern approach" question. I understand that the biological defense for the "pleasure" aspect of sex, would be that there had to be an incentive/motive for wanting to have sex so that we could procreate our species in our more primitive times.

    Now, our species has evolved to the point where we CAN engage in sex for pleasure, with or without commitments. In addition, our species has evolved to the point that we are not merely animals with no consciousness. I am of the belief system that sex is important, even in a civil union or marriage -as this evolved species, how do you know when the sex is good unless you have tried it before.

    As someone with only two sexual partners, one in a relationship, and the other casually... I know now, that the second (casual) partner put into perspective everything that i had not experienced in the first (serious) partner. In my case, I experienced a sensuality more closely to that ideally pictured between a loving couple in my casual encounter.

    I haven't yet decided whether a certain degree of "casual sex" is normal to serve the purpose of providing perspective before settling in healthy mental, emotional, and sexual relationship with someone for the long run. I am curious as to what your perspective is on this, feel free to respond appropriately.

  2. Anonymous:

    My original argument was based on logic from an evolutionary perspective.

    Quote: "Now, our species has evolved to the point where we CAN engage in sex for pleasure, with or without commitments."

    Much of that is neurotic effect. All of us have a sexuality that is depersonalised and distorted to a degree via repression, so none of us can know what sex is like in a non-neurotic state. Arthur Janov has made some interesting comments relating to his patients in his Primal Therapy (de-repression therapy) which you could look at (in his books).

    What we do know is that promiscuity (and significant perversion) is more common among those who are more damaged.

    Remember also we evolved in a tribal context.
    Our potential mates would have been vastly narrower back in time, and we would probably have had much more time for comprehensive social intercourse with people in this context, rather than the more ritualised and brief social intercourse of our institutional mass-society today. So, I would imagine you would find your "target" and progress rapidly back in time - less need to "play the field" so to speak. But of course that's just my speculation.

  3. That we feel hurt when someone cheats on us isn't a biological imperative. Otherwise there wouldn't be an ethnic group in China where traditionally the women raise the kids with their extended family, and the women have their kids by just having sex with men in the tribe they are friends with who don't assume any "father" role or responsibility from this.

    This is sociological. We are taught about "relationships" and more specifically "dating", "marriage", and the rules for it including that you shouldn't sleep around with other people while dating or married. So this becomes part of the assumed contract when you are dating or married unless you decide to work out other rules with your partner. So it hurts because it's a violation of trust.

    That sometimes a person will use "sex" or any other form of "pleasure" as a way of repressing trauma is likely. But to assume every incidence of casual sex reflects this is an absurd example of overuniversalizing. In some cases people just have casual sex because 1. They know it will be pleasureable. and 2. They don't have other things to do that would be more pleasureable. and 3. No prior commitments such as a boyfriend/girlfriend or spouse that would make them want to reconsider.

    And in some cases there may be a human connection, though they prefer to just be friends who happen to have sex with each other than enter into a relationship whose social expectations includes excluding themselves off from such intimate relationships to other human beings and spending a huge amount of time together.

  4. Anonymous,

    Quote: "That we feel hurt when someone cheats on us isn't a biological imperative".

    It might be. It's ultimately hard to say. Neurosis is so deep in so many societies (including our own) that we have to be careful how we define normal - and where we go to find "normal" via observation.

    Of course people have casual sex for just pleasure. But if they were not deeply repressed (with a shattered pair-bonding function, maybe) would they be comfortable with that? And take a look at the focus of my arguments. From an evolutionary perspective does it make sense to have casual sex, considering it has always led to pregnancy, and the human animal needs well-attached parents in a (for a) family unit.

  5. Interesting perspectives Andrew. I took the time to read the Herald articles quoting pro-sexual freedom academics... and it makes me feel sad really. Yes loads of liberating fun to be had but I think these trends essentially amount to cultural suicide. There are now multiple drivers inducing lower birth rate, and particularly lower nuclear family context. The latest Stats NZ fertility rate is depressing. This phd researcher (bit of a nutter in some respects) "Colttaine" provides a reductionist argument linking events and stats from advent of the Pill onward...