“Let’s just go with the wind.”
This was the response I recently received regarding my request for exclusivity with a girl I had been on a number of dates with. To say that I found her response unexpected (and not just due to the meteorological reference), would be accurate.
The weeks leading up to that particular conversation had consisted of daily Facebook messages in which we had expressed a mutual liking for one another, coupled (oh the irony of that word) with hours spent hanging out. So what had gone wrong?
Initially, I viewed her response as a massive red flag. After all, I quite liked this girl and wasn’t too keen on the idea of some airy fairy ‘relationship lite’ scenario that could leave me open to getting hurt. However, before I made any decision on the matter, a friend’s advice stopped me in my tracks. “Maybe I’m just a cynic” He began, “but that seems like more than what most are offering.”
At first, I dismissed his claim that her suggestion was ‘more than what most’ were bringing to the table. Surely an offer of exclusivity was not that rare of an occurrence as to warrant such a vague and casual offer so appealing? With this, I decided to turn to other friends for their opinions on the matter.
“I’m in my mid 20’s, in a new city – I love dating a couple of people.” 25 year old Actuarial student Claire Mullan states. “I’m happy to be seeing someone who is also seeing others – less chance of drama.” while 19 year old Multimedia student *Jane says “I like to keep things casual. You don’t have the stress of worrying about how the other person is feeling all the time.”
According to About.com Dating, what my friends (and the girl) were referring to is ‘Casual Dating.’ This can be defined as “an interaction between two people who are looking to get to know one another better, without commitments or promises.” It should be noted that casual dating can and often does include sex.
Taking it one step further, across the water, UK entrepreneur Thomas Thurlow has tapped into the youth of today’s preference for all things ‘casual’ with the release of ShagUni.com. Set up in 2012 and boasting 2,000 new student subscriptions each day, the site advertises itself as “a space for students to get laid on any night of the week” without “any of the strings attached with dating.”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not a prude. But is keeping it casual really the healthiest option?
Despite the assertion made by Engineering student *Sam that a casual ‘dalliance’ can in fact be a “confidence booster”, a new study claims that college students who have such casual ‘relationships’ report higher levels of anxiety and depression. The study itself, contained in The Journal of Sex Research, surveyed 3,400 heterosexuals, revealing that 11% had engaged in casual sex in the last month.
In her new book, The End of Sex: How Hookup Culture is Leaving a Generation Unhappy, Sexually Unfulfilled, and Confused About Intimacy, author Donna Freitas writes ‘Hookup culture teaches young people that to become sexually intimate means to become emotionally empty.’ In a survey she conducted whilst researching her book, out of the students who reported hooking up, 41 percent used words such as “regretful,” “empty,” “miserable,” “disgusted,” “ashamed,” “duped” and even “abused” to describe their experience.
In regard to the risks of STD’s being transmitted, a survey conducted by the University of College Cork found that more than half of students do not use contraception for every sexual encounter, while two thirds have never been tested for a sexually transmitted disease. The survey also found that only 10% of students had not had sex within the past year.
However when it comes to getting naked, this is where Claire draws the line. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m no bed hopper. Kisses are one thing but…call me old fashioned, I only like to sleep with someone that I’m genuinely interested in.”
So, what are the rules when it comes to all things casual? Does either party have the right to know what the other is up to? Is jealousy a deal breaker? And most importantly, can casual dating ever turn into something more substantial?”
“Two things are very important,” points out 23 year old Sexuality student Milena. “One, that you respect each other and two, that both people want the same thing. It’s no good if someone is compromising for casual if they want committed or vice versa.”
While setting boundaries and communication are important aspects when involved in any form of a relationship, I cant help but view one parties request to ‘Keep things casual’ as inherently selfish. I also find it hard to believe that two people can be intimate and/or spend time together without becoming attached. And if they can, is that really something to celebrate?
In my opinion, ‘Keeping it Casual’ is a recipe for disaster. So, unless the girl referred to at the start of this article is interested in offering something more tangible, or at the very least clarifies what she means by ‘go with the wind’, the only arrangement I will be agreeing to will be friends – minus the benefits.