No Strings Attached: The Nature of Casual Sex in College Students

By Grello, Catherine M.; Welsh, Deborah P. et al. | The Journal of Sex Research, August 2006 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

No Strings Attached: The Nature of Casual Sex in College Students


Grello, Catherine M., Welsh, Deborah P., Harper, Melinda S., The Journal of Sex Research


The transition to adulthood is a time of exploration and experimentation, as young people hone the life skills, relationship styles, and behavior patterns that will impact their emotional functioning and health as adults (di Mauro, 1995). The journey to adulthood often includes experimentation with sexual behaviors: the majority of adolescents first engage in intercourse before they graduate high school (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2003). Using a nationally representative sample of adolescent females, Manning, Longmore, and Giordano (2000) found that first intercourse experiences occurred in the context of a romance for the majority of young people. However, large numbers transitioned to sex with a partner who was "a friend" or with someone they "had just met." In general, engaging in casual sexual intercourse appears to be a function of the amount of time an adolescent is sexually active (Traeen & Lewin, 1992). In other words, those who begin having intercourse at younger ages are more likely to engage in sexual intercourse with casual partners. It is a relatively common occurrence rather then a subgroup trend. Nationally representative studies reveal that 70-85% of sexually experienced adolescents age 12-21 reported engaging in intercourse with a casual sex partner during the previous year (Grello, Welsh, Harper, & Dickson, 2003). Similarly, college student samples suggest that 70% of college students report having engaged in intercourse with partners they did not consider romantic (Feldman, Turner, & Araujo, 1999).

Casual sexual relationships or encounters are referred to by a variety of lexis in research literature and in popular discourse. For example, in research these relations have been referred to as "chance encounters" (Fisher & Byrne, 1978), "one-night stands" (Cubbins & Tanfer, 2000; Simpson & Gangestad, 1991), "hookups" (Paul, McManus, & Hayes, 2000), "sociosexuality" (Simpson & Gangestad, 1991), "anonymous sex" (McGuire, Shega, Nicholls, & Deese, 1992), and "casual sex" (Regan & Dreyer, 1999). In the popular press, it has been referred to as "meaningless sex" (Solomon & Taylor, 2000), "friends with benefits," and "booty call" (Marklein, 2002). Casual sexual relationships can be sexual interludes with strangers (Manning et al., 2000) or they can be sex with a friend (Shaffer, 2000). They can be brief or long in duration (Shaffer; Simpson & Gangestad, 1991). Regardless of terminology, all are describing sexual relationships in which the partners do not define the relationship as romantic or their partner as a boyfriend or girlfriend. These meetings are often superficial, based on sexual desire or physical attraction, spontaneous, and often impulsive (Regan & Dreyer; Simpson & Gangestad, 1992), and they frequently involve drugs or alcohol (Desiderato & Crawford, 1995).

The majority of research on sexuality has focused exclusively on sexual intercourse, although adolescent and young adult sexuality is not limited to intercourse alone and includes a variety of activities, from non-coital behaviors such as kissing and mutual masturbation to genital sexual behaviors including oral sex, intercourse, and anal sex (Paul et al., 2000). Broadening research to examine the context and full spectrum of sex behaviors of adolescents is theoretically important to the development of effective education programs and clinical interventions (Whitaker, Miller, & Clark, 2000), as some adolescents may use oral sex as a substitution for intercourse by defining oral sex as "not having sex" (Sanders & Reinisch, 1999).

Awareness of the prevalence of casual sexual relationships is just beginning to emerge in empirical literature, as well as in popular discourse. Parents, policymakers, and researchers have begun to ask about the nature of these relationships. This article investigates sexual behaviors in context to identify the nature of college students' casual sexual relationships and their link with well-being and interpersonal behaviors.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

No Strings Attached: The Nature of Casual Sex in College Students
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?