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Nicole K. McNichols does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment. Recently, I administered an online poll asking my students what they predicted fall quarter would be like when everyone returns to campus.
A lot of people, it seems, are ready to party. Are we about to enter a Roaring ? Comparing this period to the Roaring 20s misses the fact that the era of flapper dresses and speakeasies began with not only the end of the deadly influenza virus pandemic ofbut also the end of a world war. So despite the trauma of the past year, the current mood may not be quite as over-the-top euphoric as to invite comparable celebration. Research into past human catastrophes and natural disasters, such as earthquakeshurricanes and the Sept. But these studies apply to specific catastrophes and narrow demographics, which makes it difficult to generalize their findings.
Consider condomless sex. If anything, the pandemic seems to have made people more careful when it comes to protecting themselves from infection and disease. In my view, the notion that sexual risk-taking will increase is somewhat hard to imagine.
In other words, by being reminded of the fragility of human life, humans respond by doing something, anything, to establish that our lives matter — that our impact as beings will continue even after we die. Indeed, research has found that men, especially, respond to mortality salience by engaging in more condomless sex. Returning to regular life will certainly mitigate the loneliness resulting from a year of quarantine and isolation. But what will really happen when the sexual floodgates reopen? What types of emotional and physical repercussions might young people have to navigate?
First, some happy news. Should a sexual revolution hit college campuses in the fall, there is robust research to suggest that this could produce both physical and emotional benefits. Large-scale longitudinal studies demonstrate that people who participate in regular sexual activity enjoy improved emotional well-being, improved cardiovascular health and lower morbidity.
Regular sexual activity has also been found to reduce cognitive decline in older age. Obviously public policy should encourage safe-sex practices and comprehensive sex education. What about the emotional repercussions of a casual sex free-for-all? To begin, and despite what the media suggest, the prevalence of casual sex hookups, where sexual activity occurs between two consenting people with no plans for entering into a committed romantic relationship, is on the decline.
Although researchers do not entirely understand the reasons for this drop, early research findings point to decreased alcohol consumption among young people. This last point is perhaps not surprising. So should the end of the pandemic reverse this decline, as many believe it will, what will be the emotional fallout? Public discourse as well as speculation among the media suggests that sexual encounters outside the context of committed relationships can be emotionally damaging. The evidence here truly is mixed, however.
Some studies show zero association between psychological well-being and casual sex. However, others suggest that casual sex is negatively correlated with psychological well-being and positively associated with psychological distress. Studies also suggest that for women in particular casual sex can be emotionally risky and is correlated with increased alcohol and drug abuse.
The asymmetry of this last point is likely due to gender norms, since women are often shamed for engaging in casual sex whereas men are typically encouraged. The mixed from these studies suggest that there must be some differentiating factor that makes some hookups lead to happiness and others to despair. The question, of course, is just what this variable might be. Recently, researchers have suggested that it may come down to a question of motivation. The idea draws on something called self-determination theorywhich suggests that people are happiest with their choices when they feel that they made them freely and autonomously.
In the context of casual sex, an autonomous hookup is one motivated by a desire to have fun, or for sexual adventure and satisfaction. Conversely, casual sex initiated out of a desire to persuade the other partner to enter into a committed relationship, or to get back at an ex, is not autonomous because it stems from an ulterior motive.
Indeed, research shows that autonomous casual sex le to positive feelings and even improved academic success. Nonautonomous hookups, on the other hand, can lead to distress or misery. So where does this leave young adults eager to hook up? How best to leverage these research findings to advise my students?
My message will be clear. If your goal is sexual adventure and satisfaction, then enjoy all the casual sex you desire provided you use a condom. If you prefer to abstain or enjoy sex only in the context of a relationship, those are great options too. Have fun, but be safe.
Want more? Plymouth Contemporary — Plymouth, Devon. Edition: Available editions United Kingdom. McNicholsUniversity of Washington. Author Nicole K. College students Sex and health.Hot woman want sex Washington
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