Society has defined monogamous sexual relationships between two individuals as an appropriate and healthy dynamic. However, those who choose to engage in casual sex are often considered unhealthy and risky individuals. In watching and listening to Terri Conley’s Ted Talk “We need to rethink causal sex”, she encourages us to reexamine our understanding of casual sex based on her research. Conley explored three common myths about casual sex.
Myth 1: “Women naturally dislike casual sex”. Conley’s research suggested that both women and men are open to engaging into casual sex based on whether the person (proposer) would be a good lover. She explained that “Women want good lovers but don’t think the sex would be good”. In addition, women become concerned about the stigmatism of being called “sluts”. Therefore, women are open to having casual sex but are reluctant based on how they will be viewed afterwards.
Myth 2: “Monogamy is the best relationship style for everyone”. Conley discovered people would ascribe positive language in referencing monogamy vs those who were not. She compared monogamy to consensual non-monogamous relationships (swingers, polyamorous, open relationships). In her study, people believed that monogamous people had better romantic relationships and had less sexually transmitted infections. However, her research yielded that some of the people who claimed to be monogamous had indeed engaged in a sexual relationship with another person. Individuals in monogamous relationships were less likely to talk about sexually transmitted infections (STI) with their non-primary partner vs people who were in open consensual non-monogamous relationship (CNM). Also, monogamous people were less likely to use a condom in a cheating incident vs CNM people. She concluded that CNM people were having better safer sex than monogamous people.
Conley researched whether monogamous people were having a better romantic relationship than CNM. The data did not reveal any significant difference. Therefore, being in either a monogamous vs consensual non-monogamous did not yield a difference in happiness within the overall relationship.
Myth 3: “Sex is immoral and really, really dangerous”. In Conley’s research, she compared both driving to Detroit from Chicago as well as contracting HIV or H1N1 in a sexual act. She discovered more people were likely to believe driving to Detroit from Chicago was safer than contracting HIV from one act of unprotected sex despite alarming statistics about car accidents. In another study, she found people considered someone giving another person an STI, “Risky, Selfish and Dumb” vs. someone transmitting H1N1 virus to another person during sex. Conley’s research data reveals that people have irrational beliefs and views about casual sex.
These myths indicate even though casual sex is prominent, people continue to have strong skewed and irrational views towards it. Through Conley’s research, she is encouraging us to examine our beliefs and values and develop a newer understanding of casual sex.
Naomi Effort MA, LCPC