Intimacy plays a larger role in casual sex among college students than previously thought, a new U.S. study reports.
Researchers analyzed the results of an online survey that asked several hundred students at a university in the Northeast about their romantic relationships and casual sex.
As expected, affectionate and intimate activities — such as cuddling, spending the night, eye gazing and foreplay — were more common in relationship sex than in casual sex, but the rate of these acts in casual sex was much higher than anticipated.
While women were more likely to engage in intimate acts, there were no gender differences in terms of eye gazing and foreplay.
“We have a stereotype that casual sex [hookups] are just about meaningless sex, but this research shows this is not necessarily true,” said study author Ann Merriwether, a developmental psychologist and lecturer at Binghamton University in New York.
The study “shows intimacy is important and desired by many people, especially those who prefer hookups to more traditional relationships,” she added in a university news release.
A survey question that asked students if they prefer casual sex or sex in a long-term relationship led to a surprising finding.
“Young adults who indicated they prefer casual sexual encounters over relationship sex were more likely to want affection and intimacy from them. This suggests they seek to meet their need for intimacy through those casual encounters,” said study co-author Sean Massey, a social psychologist and associate professor of women, gender, and sexuality studies at Binghamton.
The study was a collaboration involving researchers at Binghamton and Indiana University’s Kinsey Institute. It was published recently in the Journal of Relationships Research.
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