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Featured News A hookup may not make you feel better

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Wed, 2 Mar 2022

A hookup may not make you feel better

Image: Everton Vila

A new study by James Cook University researchers has found satisfaction with casual sex depends on the motivation behind it.

Psychologists Dr Ryan Anderson and Billie McKeen said research supports the idea that women generally experience worse psychological outcomes following casual sex than men.

“But some research has found no significant gender differences in emotional outcomes following casual sex. This prompted us to investigate what motivates people to have casual sex, what emotional outcomes follow casual sex, and whether there are gender differences among these variables,” said Dr Anderson.

Just over 700 people completed a 44-item online survey during the study.

Dr Anderson said they did not find a motivation that predicted positive emotional outcomes from casual sex.

“However, the motivation to achieve positive emotions was found to predict neutral emotional outcomes. This may suggest that having sex for personal gratification, enjoyment, or fun can lead to an unchanged mood and feelings remaining the same.

“The flip side is that people who engage in sex to reduce negative emotions are likely to experience negative emotional outcomes,” said Dr Anderson.

He said it’s unclear whether this is because casual sex enhances pre-existing negative emotions or is just not an effective method for managing such emotions.

Dr Anderson said women reported significantly more negative emotional outcomes than men, including loneliness, unhappiness, rejection, regret, general negative feelings, and a perception of negative judgement from others.

Conversely, men reported greater sexual satisfaction, happiness, self-confidence, contentment, and mood improvement.

“For women, what stood out was concern about being negatively judged by others, which supports there being a sexual double standard from a social psychological perspective,” said Dr Anderson.

He said the research had produced one clear practical message.

“When engaging in anything from a kiss to coital intercourse outside of a committed relationship, ensure your underlying motivation is not to regulate negative emotions – for most people, and especially women, a random hookup is not going to stop you feeling sad and may make you feel worse,” said Dr Anderson.


Dr Ryan Anderson