Washington DC: Turns out, casual sex and hookups are not just about meaningless physical activity, but a source of intimacy. As part of the study, researchers sent a voluntary online questionnaire to several hundred college students and asked about their affectionate and intimate activities during sexual encounters in the contexts of both romantic relationships and casual sex.
The study found that partners were more likely to engage in affectionate and intimate activities in relationship sex than in casual sex– but the rate of these acts in casual sex was much higher than hypothesised. The results of the research were published in the Journal of Relationships Research.
Ann Merriwether, a developmental psychologist, said casual sex is largely misinterpreted in today’s society. “We have a stereotype that casual sex (hookups) are just about meaningless sex, but this research shows this is not necessarily true. It shows intimacy is important and desired by many people, especially those who prefer hookups to more traditional relationships,” he said.
The students answered questions about whether or not they engage in affectionate and intimate acts during sex, including cuddling, spending the night, eye gazing, and engaging in foreplay. They also indicated which of these acts they preferred during casual sex or sex in the context of a romantic relationship.
The researchers hypothesised that women would report being more likely to engage in intimate acts in all scenarios. The information they found supported this hypothesis, but the data also showed many men were likely to engage in intimate acts as well, with no gender difference found in relation to engaging in foreplay or eye gazing.
The participants specified which type of sexual context they preferred: sex in a long-term relationship or in casual hookups. Study’s co-author Sean Massey said, “Young adults who indicated they prefer casual sexual encounters over relationship sex were more likely to want affection and intimacy from them. This suggests they seek to meet their need for intimacy through those casual encounters.”