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Casual sex: An unconditionally bad idea or a valid choice?

Discussion in 'General Support and Advice' started by Lyman, Jun 5, 2021.

  1. Lyman

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    This is a spin-off from the shitty therapist thread. I know many of his statements aren't true and that they were grossly inappropriate for a therapist to say, as they came in the shape of commands regarding what I have to do. But there's this one thing I wasn't super sure about, and now hearing a psychologist's radical opinion on it makes me more hesitant.

    According to him, casual sex is emotionally harmful, always and unconditionally and that's a fact, not an opinion. He told me that any person that has ever had casual sex has done it for the wrong reasons and that everyone feels dirty and used immediately afterwards or sometimes in the mid to long run. Plus, apparently (again, his words, not mine) it's usual to become distraught because you want more from that guy and yet you're never seeing him again. And if you have anonymous sex, then somehow future sex in a relationship will not be as great as it could be because you've already shared it with many strangers (which reminds me of Catholic bs).

    That came after he was persuading me that what I have to do now is to find a guy, go for the “friends first” strategy and keep going from there. However, recently I’ve been gravitating more towards not doing any active efforts of meeting guys in a while (I'm burnt out after the online dating charade, and not at great place mentally), and when I do, going for “sex only” (not even “sex first”).

    So my dilemma is:
    • Every gay man I know started having lots of anonymous sex after coming out and keeps doing it... And they seem to be okay. Plus, I'm having huge urges of doing that and I've come to the conclusion that I was just using excuses (STI risk, preferring "friends first," and the like) to avoid confronting that reality. It's certainly not happening while I'm in the current surge of uncontrolled anxiety, but maybe relatively soon.
    • On the other hand, I've heard people say that anon sex is "meaningless" and that it's not a healthy way of dealing with one's problems. And the fellows that argue that monogamy is a "societal construct" and part of the same evil forces that push us inside closets, tend to have other radical opinions I disagree with. Not to mention that deriving one's sense of self-worth from a body count doesn't sound very healthy.
    So let's say that at a certain point I decide to use an infamous app, I only chat about availability and preferences, meet up, perform the physical action (with a condom for intercourse, of course), and say bye forever. What could possibly go wrong?

    Is it likely that I ever get emotionally attached to a stranger without getting to know him? Maybe a FWB scenario might be risky in that respect, but this...

    If I don't feel dirty when masturbating (not hating yourself is great!), why would that happen if I have company?

    Is it healthy to separate sex from feelings? Or is it impossible?

    Do all mentally healthy people find casual sex meaningless and undesirable? Or is it as valid as looking for something more “meaningful” if you know what you want?

    I honestly think that refraining from hoeing around at this stage of my life is the kind of thing I would regret within some years... And that I'm once more using my prejudices and insecurities for self-sabotaging. So it'd be nice to hear from folks that have been where I am. :slight_smile:
     
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  2. old tacoma

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    @Lyman — Thanks for posting this thread. I asked the same question of myself long ago in my 20s, and I still ask it now that I am in my 60s. I will be interested to read the responses that are posted.
     
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  3. Mihael

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    Well, I would say... generally speaking, having sex with a partner is better, simply because you can work on making the sex better, and if you don't know the person well and you're not sure they are going to be okay to you, you run a risk of potatial trauma(?), because sex is a lot of intimacy, but I think this therapist is too uptight about it.

    Anonymous sex... doesn't sound too safe to me, generally speaking. I know that this is what "the guys" do and I know these guys, but... I still don't feel like participating. Even though FWB is fine with me, for example. To be blunt, I would rather turn on some porn and have a safe evening with my hand than bring a stranger. If libido is the issue, obviously.

    I know these guys. I'm actually polyamorous and I think they're irresponsible. These guys don't really think consent matters. They go around hurting other people, thinking this is their right to not discuss openly with their partners what they want and what the guys in question have to offer and whether both or all parties agree. Consent is very important in polyamory. As long as everyone involved knows and accepts what is happening - it's fine.
     
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  4. QuietPeace

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    First, I disagree with the therapist in that I do not believe that it is an established fact that casual sex is bad for everyone.

    For me though I do in fact regret that I allowed people to pressure me into casual sex when I was younger. Casual sex is meaningless and empty for me and I wish that I had never participated in it. What you decide is right for you though is entirely up to you.

    I agree with Mihael. It is not just a binary 1 ) sex only with one permanent partner and 2 ) anonymous sex with random strangers. (I am also poly but do not have anyone currently other than my husband)

    The ones that you know may be ok but I know people who have died of AIDS and I even know one particular person who had casual sex in the teens (2011-2012 period) and is now HIV positive. For me knowing a partner and making sure that we are both "clean" simply makes sense.
     
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  5. Mihael

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    Yeah. But... I would say, I know this from experience xD You should see for yourself too. I didn't sleep with anyone, I managed to get the effect at the stage of foreplay, so to say. Sometimes you just have to see for yourself to believe. But I would also discourage you from having sex during the first couple of meetings. Usually, the shit hits the fan in this time if it's supposed to.

    I think the therapist dramatises. It also sounds like Catholic BS to me.

    Sounds like old man BS. Sorry, but it's easy to spread BS like that if you're after andropause/menopause. Or were asexual to begin with. It's also easy for straight people to say that, they have plenty of fish in the sea.

    For most people it's impossible to completely separate the two. But as I said, I would recommend checking for yourself what feels fine for you and what doesn't.
     
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  6. PatrickUK

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    I wouldn't say the therapist is entirely wrong, but he made a sweeping generalisation that came across as sanctimonious and judgemental and that is pretty shitty. Whilst it is true that some people might be harmed by casual sex, it's not the case for everyone. There are some people who are just not ready for serious dating (for all sorts of reasons) but still wish to have a sex life and it's not the place of anyone to cast judgement about that, providing it's a conscious decision they have made of their own free will and they are being safe. There may come a point where they decide that a more committed relationship is a realistic possibility for them and move away from hooking up and that's good too.

    The important thing is to be totally honest with yourself. If you really desire a committed relationship that will offer love and long term stability, you shouldn't go out seeking hook ups (in my view). In these cases there may be some truth to what your therapist said about being hurt and feeling used and dissatisfied. When we are not honest with ourselves and just have sex to plug a relationship hole there is every chance of coming away from it with a bitter taste, but if we make an honest assessment of our priorities at this time and don't wish to get emotionally involved in a relationship, casual encounters can offer us a bit of sexual fun and stimulation - providing we are clear about what we are getting into.

    It is true that some gay men seem incapable of moving beyond hook ups, but there is a certain amount of complexity to all of that. We can't easily explain why some gay men are seemingly addicted to hook ups in this thread.

    Personal view: the best sex I have had has always been within a relationship with someone I have learned to love, trust and be honest with. When you have the emotional connection and physical connection and get to know each other more intimately it does make for better sex, but you have to be available for all of that to happen.

    :point_up:I say this is crap.

    If you are going to hook up with other guys just be very clear about the boundaries of hook ups. They are not dates, they are not even friendships. They are one-off's to get off. It won't be the best sex you'll ever have (in my opinion), but it doesn't have to be harmful either as long as you don't become addicted to apps and keep everything safe - which means personal safety as well as safe sex.
     
  7. OnTheHighway

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    From my experience, there is the type of casual sex being performed as a form of either a) self validation, b) temporary emotional fulfillment or c) a temporary injection of confidence and self esteem. Then there is also casual sex performed to d) satisfy our human sexual instincts without regard to fulfill an underlying emotional need.

    Having engaged in casual sex for all the reasons above, A,B,C were never going to be healthy encounters whereas D feels totally natural and satisfying.

    A,B and C were part of my life when I was working through low self esteem and self worth issues after I embraced my sexuality, whereas D only came later for me once my confidence and self respect strengthened.
     
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  8. OnTheHighway

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    Giving more thought, I am going to add an E for experimentation. I think having casual sex as part of an experimentation process to help us better understand what we sexually enjoy and relate to can also be a form of healthy casual sex.
     
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  9. Chip

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    Um, I see why you said he was shitty. :slight_smile:

    Unless this guy is advertising himself as a Christian therapist (who get an exemption under "religious freedom" to say all sorts of ridiculous shit and not get hauled up by their licensing boards) this sort of shit is dangerous, goes against the basic ethics of the mental health profession, and is absolutely reportable. If you are so inclined, I'd be happy to help you figure out how to file a formal complaint. This dude is harming people.

    To answer the questions you asked, here's my perspective:

    For the most part, I agree with what @OnTheHighway said. Many people, early in their coming out process, have a "second adolescence" where, in effect, they are acting out the way most teens acted out, but they never got to. This isn't inherently harmful or detrimental. We are hardwired to have sex, to enjoy orgasm. Nothing wrong with that.

    And there are many people who are very comfortable with themselves sexually, and who are emotionally healthy and simply enjoy casual sexual encounters. Nothing wrong with this either (outside of the various mostly manageable risks that come with hookups.)

    However, there are caveats:

    -- For someone who has issues with worthiness, it can be easy to become enamored with hook-up sex. For a few minutes, they feel wanted and worthy, and thus, sex can become a way of getting a feeling of connection and worthiness. That (or, for that matter, any other form of externalizing one's worthiness) isn't good, because it's hustling for your worthiness (to use a Brené Brown term) which ultimately increases shame and does the opposite of building worthiness and self-esteem. I see this as different than emotional attachment to the person, because the attachment is to feeling wanted. In extreme cases, this can lead to compulsive sexual behavior (constant hookups), which is not uncommon in the gay scene, especially on the hookup apps, and is basically a result of people's unaddress wounds.

    -- If you have a regular "friends with benefits" arrangement, that can be great, but what often happens is that one or the other party starts to develop real feelings. If both do, that's great, it can become a relationship. But usually, that isn't what happens, and somebody often ends up hurt, or doing something they really didn't want to do.

    -- You can sometimes feel dirty after a hookup, especially if it is literally one where the dude shows up (or you show up at his place), you have sex, and there's little conversation. Many people feel dirty and used after this. But it's also not the end of the world to try it a time or two, because some folks are genuinely fine with it... just be cautious about the first point.

    -- In my opinion, one can separate sex from feelings, absolutely. And some disagree with me on this, but I believe pretty firmly that the sexual experiences you have with someone who is a genuine intimate partner -- someone you know, love, have spent time with, and understand -- has the potential to reach a level of depth and emotional intimacy that simply isn't possible with even the hottest hookup. Sadly, many people never experience this, because they are unable to allow themselves to reach the emotional vulnerability necessary to make this happen. Everyone can get there, but one has to do one's self-work to do so.

    So the takeaway I'd offer is, consider trying it out and seeing how it works for you, and at the same time, be thoughtful and self-aware.
     
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  10. Destin

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    I actually think it's a valuable experience to have lots of casual sex, as a teen/young adult at least. It was one of the main focuses of my life for 5+ years, and yeah it had a lot of downsides too but honestly I learned a ton about myself and interacting with other people from it. I don't really know how to describe it, but once you've slept with enough people you kinda start to view people differently, and you can see through a lot of their fakeness and connect with them on a much more personal level even if its only for a few hours. They talk about stuff like their goals, past, insecurities etc. once they feel that more personal connection and it sort of elevates random bang sessions into a very short but somehow meaningful companionship. With the added benefit of having an endless buffet of options to sample and see what you like as far as body types, physical feelings, uncommon kinks with no repercussions etc. before choosing something long-term.
     
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  11. Tightrope

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    If we were to follow that logic, then most people who have had casual sex, and that's the majority today, would be traumatized and feel all sorts of shame. But they don't. Maybe it's possible to look at the parallel situation in the hetero community. Some of them sow wild oats when in school and when they join the work force, they don't have a big issue about it, and most of them eventually get into relationships. That could be the societal construct you refer to and why people cut them slack. It's different for sexual minorities. It depends on the study but it says G/B men often have more sexual partners. Another study I read is that male and female sexuality are different and men are more interested in sex at considerably more times than women are.

    The shame that people seem to put on that, and that you don't have to buy into, is that it's sex they can't relate to and that this "phase" goes on for longer periods than for hetero folks. Coupling is less common among G/B men. I don't have an answer for that. I don't think it's shame. I think it's that all the options make it harder. Still, it's your business. Not theirs and not that of society that passes judgment on anything they can't relate to. I think a psychologist who makes an angry dogmatic radical statement like that probably has strong political and religious beliefs that really play into it. Some sexual experimentation helps people figure out what they like and don't like. That's for sure. There are some people who are not meant to be each others' sexual partners. I'm sure more than a few married people figured that out much later.

    I can't forget to stress to be safe. Whatever you do.
     
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  12. SteveBi45

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    I would seriously consider reporting this therapist. Such actions can be damaging for patients.

    I think the decision on having casual sex is really up to each individual and it can have different affects on each of us. Personally, I had a lot of casual sex in my 20's before I met my wife at 29. For me it was part of exploring and learning. Then when I met the right partner I was ready to settle.

    My kids are still young, but I would also encourage them to do the same if they want to. And also that they explore their sexuality and try different things to decide what they want. As long as they do it safely of course! We have very open and honest conversations with them about sex, and have always encouraged them from an early age to talk to us and ask questions.
     
  13. Chip

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    For the record, it's not necessary to have sex with someone to cultivate that level of emotional intimacy. But for folks who have a challenge with vulnerability and emotional intimacy, I could see that sex might be a doorway into that space.
     
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  14. Bastion

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    So a friend of mine once gave me a list of lgbtq books that are worth checking out and reading. One of them was by written by a guy called Larry Kramer. I think he is a well known playwright author and activist in the community. I think it was his reflections and observations on the gay scene in the seventies in New York.

    The main idea he was trying to get across as I understood it, was that he was a believer in relationships. And that gay guys shouldn’t just have sex for fun, for sex’s sake. That they should look for or aim for something more meaningful and substantial as well.

    That being said, I think it’s all about choices. Some people can have more casual sex and be more promiscuous than others and it doesn’t effect them that much. For others who might be more emotionally vulnerable. It might not make them happy and they might end up not feeling good about it, they may feel more lonely or put themselves at risk if they are not careful. The important thing to keep in mind is not to be reckless and be safe.

    So I guess it depends on the person, their personality, their needs and wants. What stage or situation in life they are at.

    Also am not an expert on therapists by any means but I don’t think the role of a therapist is to judge and to come to such dead end conclusions. He should offer guidance and support and try to uncover by analytical means the obstacles that a person is facing and leave it to them to arrive at their own conclusions by themselves at their own pace.
     
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