Casual dating

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Casual dating or a casual relationship is a physical and emotional relationship between two people who may have casual sex or a near-sexual relationship without necessarily demanding or expecting the extra commitments of a more formal romantic relationship. Motives for casual relationships vary.[1] There are significant gender and cultural differences in acceptance of and breadth of casual relationships,[2][3][4][5] as well as in regrets about action/inaction in those relationships.[6]

Casual dating may be part-time, or for a limited time. It may or may not entail partner-exclusivity. In each case, the relationship's dominance in the lives of those involved is being voluntarily limited, and there is usually a sense that the relationship is intended to endure only so long as both parties wish it to. Casual relationships sometimes include mutual support, affection and enjoyment, which underpin other forms of loving relationship.[7]

A casual relationship is sometimes referred to as a "no strings attached" relationship.

College students[edit]

A "no strings attached" relationship is most commonly found in young adults such as college students.[citation needed] The shift from childhood to adulthood brings on much exploration in different fields. One of these fields include relationships and sex.[8] This is the time in life where mastery of future life skills is attempted.[8] Grello's[who?] study suggests that, in most cases, the same students who lost their virginity in high school did so in a romantic relationship.[8] After experiencing sexual intercourse, many college students go on to have casual sex with either friends or peers they have been recently or newly acquainted with.[8]

A casual relationship, unlike a romantic relationship, is very undefined and it is difficult to ascribe norms, scripts, and expectations to it.[9] Rebecca Plante, an associate professor at Ithaca College, has specialized in research on casual relationships, and says that this type of relationship can be beneficial. Casual relationships can establish a "healthy outlet for sexual needs and desires."[9]

Types of college-aged lovers[edit]

J.A. Lee, author of Love Styles in the R.J Sternberg & M.L. Barnes: The psychology of love journal, has come up with two main types of lovers for college aged young adults. They are "Eros" lovers who are passionate lovers and "Ludas" or "Ludic" lovers, which are game-playing lovers.[10] "Eros" lovers are lovers that are often struck by "Cupid's Arrow". They often fall head over heels at the first sight of a potential relationship. "Eros" fall in love with the physical attributes of another before any other characteristic. This type of lover is also known to commit to other casual sex relationships.[10] Because physical attributes are the main reason for attraction, it is very hard to further a real romantic relationship.[8] "Ludic" lovers are out for the game. They are looking for the feeling of conquest and typically enter a relationship or hook-up with very little or no intentions of establishing any kind of commitment. They, in most cases, will have more than one sexually active partner at a given time. They also find it very hard to picture a relationship getting serious.[10] With both of these types of lovers being open to having more than one sexual partner, it helps explain why many college students participate in casual relationships.[8]

Negotiation between participants[edit]

Many casual relationships establish guidelines or a set of rules. The two participants in the relationship will reach an agreement about what each expects from the relationship. Another major concern is that one of the partners will develop romantic feelings for the other.[11] Communication between the two partners is essential to making this type of relationship work and because the partners in the casual relationship are often friends beforehand, talking to one another is a much simpler task.[11]

Relationship maintenance and student concerns[edit]

Casual relationships, being a mix between a friendship and a non-romantic sexual relationship, result in the partners facing many challenges in maintaining a working relationship. Based on the exchange theory, Hughes witnessed an individual dependency on either partner as the exchange of resources, knowledge, rewards, and costs of items, becomes more and more prominent.[12] The partners may become dependent on advice the other partner gives, or the company they receive when being around one another. This may be a one-way street and one partner may not feel this way.[12] Any partner that is not fully dependent upon the other typically controls the casual relationship. The dependent partner is more submissive to their dominant partner as they do not want the relationship to end.[12] This allows the less dependent partner to be able to fix and maintain the relationship the way he/she wants it to be. They normally control when they meet up, when they have sex, and when they do things together.[12]

Disclosure of casual relationship to peers[edit]

Hughes's study also revealed the four main categories of why partners participating in a casual relationship did not feel the need to tell their same sex friends about the relationship. The first category was that the partners did not feel that their same sex friends needed to know this information.[12] The second category consisted of people wanting to keep the casual relationship a secret and didn't want their same sex friends to know.[12] The feeling of embarrassment was the third category. Many students said that they would feel ashamed or didn't want to be judged by their same sex friends.[12] The final category is students who didn't want to tell their same sex friends because they would show disapproval of the relationship.[12]


Hughes's study suggests that there were five main motivations to why college students wanted to be in a casual relationship.[12] The five main motivators are:

  • Relationship avoidance: Students that liked multiple partners at once and wanted to avoid being tied down to one person.[12]
  • Sex: Students find each other attractive and want to hook-up.[12]
  • Relationship simplicity: Students get the benefits of a relationship without all the drama.[12]
  • Emotional connection: Students miss the intimacy they used to have with ex relationships and want to experience it again with no strings attached.[12]
  • Always wanted a casual relationship: Two students that are single and want to take advantage of it together.[12]

Gender participation[edit]

A traditional stereotype of heterosexual casual relationships in college is that the men initiate the sexual activity.[13] Another stereotype is that men are more sexually active and women link sex with romance. This is not true all the time, especially in college students.[13] A study conducted by Paul and her team suggests that when it comes to gender participation, there are just as many women initiating these relationships.[13] Pressure from friends and other social means may persuade college students to participate in a casual relationship or "hook-up" regardless of their gender.[13]

Many casual dating sites have an unbalanced gender ratio[14], as they have much more men than women. Some of these sites are animating their male users to keep them interested or to lure them into paid subscriptions. Usually, these animated casual dating sites are stating this directly in their Terms of Service (as they could be sued otherwise for fraud). As most users do not read Terms of Service[15] when they register on a new website, the animation stays hidden for most users.

Environmental factors[edit]

College and university campuses are often characterised by the amount of drinking or partying that goes on there.[13] However, campuses can also be characterized by how sexually permissive the students are and also the types of sexual activity prevalent (intercourse, oral, anal) with one or multiple partners.[13] Being placed in an environment of already sexually active students can put pressure on other students to be sexually active as well.[13]

The environment that students are placed in often plays a role in whether or not they feel pressured into finding a casual relationship. The colleges and universities known for a larger alcohol consumption by their students seem to also have a larger number of students participating in casual relationships.[13] Researchers have struggled with the idea that the "perceived disinhibitory function" leads to the reason for increased sexual activity.[13]

Casual sex[edit]

Casual sex are certain types of sexual activity outside the context of a romantic relationship. Although individuals in a casual relationship may engage in casual sex, the former encompasses a range of activities not confined to the context of the latter.[16][17]

While providing a sexual outlet, the practice of casual sex often carries negative connotations. In some sexual relationships among teenagers in the U.S., the predominant activity is not penetrative sex, but rather oral sex and mutual masturbation, as this reduces the risks associated with sexual promiscuity, such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. Some medical authorities – such as Bonnie Halpern-Felsher, a professor of pediatrics – suggest that teenagers do not view oral sex as "real sex" and use it to remain in a state of "technical" virginity.[18]

A common factor found in many studies on casual sex is that sexual intercourse occurs within a relationship between two partners that have no commitment towards one another. Casual sex presents itself as less risky than random sexual intercourse because of your prior knowledge of the partner you are having sexual intercourse with.[13] When participating in casual sex, you are more likely to know your partner (on a more personal level) than a partner you just have a "one night stand" with.[13]

Alcohol consumption[edit]

According to clinical psychologist Catherine Grello, "alcohol consumption appears to have a direct link with casual sex."[8] The more alcohol that is involved the higher the possibility of a casual relationship forming. Both male and female college students are more likely to engage in sexual activity while intoxicated.[8] Consumption of alcohol increases the perceptions of attraction between partners which leads to sexual activity at a much higher rate. Also, with intoxication, low self-esteem and symptoms of depression may be adding factors to increase the chances to engage in this type of relationship or sexual activity.[8]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Belle, Heather; Michelle Fiordaliso (2009). Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Ex*. Sourcebooks Casablanca. ISBN 978-1-4022-2923-7.
  2. ^ Chara PJ, Kuennen LM (February 1994). "Diverging gender attitudes regarding casual sex: a cross-sectional study". Psychol Rep. 74 (1): 57–8. doi:10.2466/pr0.1994.74.1.57. PMID 8153236. Abstract: Students at five educational levels ranging from seventh graders to college seniors were surveyed regarding their attitudes about the acceptability of casual sex. A striking developmental contrast was found: males became increasingly accepting of casual sex; females were consistently opposed to casual sex at all educational levels.
  3. ^ Cubbins LA, Tanfer K (June 2000). "The influence of gender on sex: a study of men's and women's self-reported high-risk sex behavior". Arch Sex Behav. 29 (3): 229–57. doi:10.1023/A:1001963413640. PMID 10992980.
  4. ^ Welsh DP, Grello CM, Harper MS (August 2006). "No strings attached: the nature of casual sex in college students" (PDF). J Sex Res. 43 (3): 255–67. doi:10.1080/00224490609552324. PMID 17599248. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-02-24.
  5. ^ Gwen J. Broude, 'Male-Female Relationships in Cross-Cultural Perspective: A Study of Sex and Intimacy' Cross-Cultural Research, Vol. 18, No. 2, 154–181 (1983) Abstract: Societies are neither entirely consistent nor entirely arbitrary in their patterning of heterosexual relationships. This research suggests that sexual relationships, and male sexual orientation are not highly related to each other.
  6. ^ Roese NJ, Pennington GL, Coleman J, Janicki M, Li NP, Kenrick DT (June 2006). "Sex differences in regret: all for love or some for lust?". Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 32 (6): 770–80. doi:10.1177/0146167206286709. PMC 2293329. PMID 16648202. Abstract: within romantic relationships, men emphasize regrets of inaction over action, whereas women report regrets of inaction and action with equivalent frequency. Sex differences were not evident in other interpersonal regrets (friendship, parental, sibling interactions) and were not moderated by relationship status
  7. ^ Corbett, Sherry; Sherwin, Robert (1985). "Campus sexual norms and dating relationships: A trend analysis". The Journal of Sex Research. 21 (3): 258–274. doi:10.1080/00224498509551266.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i Grello, Catherine M.; Welsh, Deborah P.; Harper, Melinda S. (11 Jan 2010). "No strings attached; The nature of casual sex in college students". Journal of Sex Research. 43 (3): 255–267. doi:10.1080/00224490609552324. PMID 17599248.
  9. ^ a b Maley, David. "'Friends With Benefits' Lets Couples Get Close But Not Too Close, Says Ithaca College Expert". Retrieved 24 April 2012.
  10. ^ a b c Lee, J.A. (1988). "Love Styles". R.J Sternberg & M.L. Barnes: The Psychology of Love: 38–67. ASIN 0300045891.
  11. ^ a b Bisson, Melissa A.; Levine, Timothy R. (13 September 2007). "Negotiating a Friends with Benefits Relationship". Archives of Sexual Behavior. 38 (1): 66–73. doi:10.1007/s10508-007-9211-2. PMID 17851750.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Hughes, Mikayla; Morrison, Kelly; Asada, Kelli Jean K. (2005). "What's love got to do with it? Exploring the impact of maintenance rules, love attitudes, and network support on friends with benefits relationships". Western Journal of Communication. 69 (1): 49–66. doi:10.1080/10570310500034154.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Paul, Elizabeth L.; McManus, Brian; Hayes, Allison (Feb 2000). ""Hookups": Characteristics and Correlates of College Students' Spontaneous and Anonymous Sexual Experiences". The Journal of Sex Research. 37 (1): 76–88. doi:10.1080/00224490009552023.
  14. ^ "U.S. online dating website and app usage reasons by gender2019 l Statistic". Statista. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  15. ^ Cakebread, Caroline. "You're not alone, no one reads terms of service agreements". Business Insider. Retrieved 2019-05-22.
  16. ^ "Definition of CASUAL".
  17. ^ "the definition of casual sex".
  18. ^ Halpern-Fisher B University of California at San Francisco [1]

External links[edit]