Casual Sex – What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Tina Turner sang about it. And it’s a catchy tune. “It’s physical. Only logical. You must try to ignore that it means more than that. What’s love got to do, got to do with it? What’s love but a second-hand emotion?”
Casual sex – it’s pretty common on TV and in the movies. And in real life, some people who want sex but who aren’t ready for a relationship think it’s the solution to their problems – no big deal. And with hookup or dating apps so popular and ready at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever to have casual sex, no-strings-attached.
But is it no big deal? Is casual sex good for you? Is casual sex even possible?
First, sex – by its very definition – is anything but casual. Being naked and vulnerable is one of the most intimate things two people can do. There’s nothing casual about that kind of intimacy. So maybe casual sex isn’t the best name for it.
No-strings-attached sex isn’t as simple as we may think. From the moment we become sexually aroused – when we first begin to feel sexually excited – our bodies experience biological changes. And the biological changes in men and women are different. For women, one of the first biological responses is that the emotional center of the brain is activated. So even though we want to have sex with no emotional ties, our brains don’t cooperate with that.
When we’re having sex, both men’s and women’s bodies release dopamine. What’s dopamine? Well, that could be a long, complicated answer, but to put it in the most simple way – dopamine is like pleasure or a “high” flooding your brain. Adrenalin is also released during sex. Our immune systems get a boost during sex, too. So a lot of feel-good things happen to our bodies when we’re having sex.
During orgasm, our bodies release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel peaceful, happy, and hopeful. We also experience a flood of oxytocin. Oxytocin is sometimes called the love hormone. This hormone is linked to empathy, trust, relationship-building, and connection. Trust. Relationship building. Connection. Exactly the things we’re trying to avoid if we are looking for casual, no-strings-attached sex.
Our bodies are wired in a way that automatically triggers certain emotional responses when we have sex. The way our bodies are wired – the hormones, the chemicals – makes casual sex very unlikely, if not impossible.
So what are the risks of casual sex?
Obviously, the physical risk is becoming infected with a sexually transmitted disease (STD) or getting pregnant. The only way to 100% prevent pregnancy is to not have sex. And the only 100% way to prevent an STD is to only have any kind of sexual activity – oral sex, vaginal sex, anal sex, or even skin-to-skin contact in the genital area – in a mutually monogamous relationship with someone who doesn’t have an STD. That means you both are absolutely sure you don’t have STDs and you only ever have sex with each other.
The other risks of casual sex are the emotional risks. If your body is designed to release chemicals and hormones that make you feel connected to the person you’re having sex with, but you’ve decided you don’t want to be in a relationship with each other, then you’re going to have some conflict. Your mind has decided one thing, but your emotions are triggered by chemicals to want or to feel something else.
So back to Tina Turner’s song – she sang, “You must understand, though the touch of your hand makes my pulse react, that it’s only the thrill of boy meeting girl . . . I’ve been taking on a new direction, but I have to say I’ve been thinking about my own protection. It scares me to feel this way. What’s love got to do, got to do with it? What’s love got to do, got to do with it?” Even Tina Turner seemed to understand that, though we try to protect our hearts, sex evokes emotions and connection. No matter how much we try not to feel, how much we try to ignore that sex means something more, emotions go hand-in-hand with sex. It’s the way our bodies are made.
If you have other questions or if you want to talk through your feelings or thoughts with someone, call us. Someone on our staff would love to support you as you figure out how you can be physically and emotionally healthy in your relationships or sexual activity.