Skip to comments.The Emotional Corrosion of Casual Sex
Posted on 12/20/2010 6:48:08 PM PST by Maelstorm
Recently I had the opportunity to work with a group of people from starkly different backgrounds. Most of our conversations were simply small talk. Yet one woman was surprisingly open about her life. Without prodding, she often articulately explained her philosophy on sex and relationships. Having been married and divorced multiple times, she now welcomed no strings attached sexual encounters. She thrilled at the hunt and the conquest.
However, studying her over a period of time I noticed that she was often depressed. One day she came to me and asked, Why does casual sex hurt people?
This painfully honest question deserves a truthful answer.
Casual sex is sex for physical pleasure only, without emotional connection, no strings attached. Often its a one-time occurrence. It includes any kind of sex act with anyone, heterosexual or homosexual. In its rawest form it involves total strangersno names, no history, no tomorrow. It coldly seeks to suppress the development of any type of relationship.
Casual sex has been glamorized in movies and on television. Casual sex membership websites, often accompanied with pornographic material, make it easy for partners to hook up. Many authors praise its advantages. They assure us of the thrilling excitement of the casual sex lifestyle. Its joys are made to appear unquestionable.
The philosophy underlying all this hype is that marriage is out; casual sex is harmless fun; everyone is doing it; you are missing outjust do it!
This is a seriously flawed philosophy. Risks are minimized. The threat of possible lifelong damage is ignored.
Lets face the problem squarely. The misuse of sex brings incredible personal sorrow. Monogamous, marital sex is the only source of true fun.
Casual sex is extremely risky and harmful to all involved. Yet, without question, casual sex experimentation is most destructive to our youth. All parents must come to grips with this problem. Why? Young adults and the youngest of teens are the most likely to be taken in by such thinking.
The current adult generation has yet to deal with the problem of and the problems caused by promiscuous sex. Our sex-crazed society willfully overlooks the bad fruits of its actions.
Contraceptivesincluding condomsare not the solution. The harm done goes much deeper than an unwanted pregnancy or being struck by a health-threatening sexual disease.
New brain research proves that there is no such thing as safe sex outside of marriage. How science has come to this conclusion is amazingly interesting.
The Brain and Sex
Neuroscience research has uncovered useful information about how sex affects the human brain. Using mri techniques, scientists have gained a clear picture of what takes place within the brain during sexual activity. Although it is not new knowledge, science confirms that the use of sex can either give us wholenessor damage us, possibly for a lifetime. These scientific facts add support to necessary sex instruction that must be provided to protect our teens and young adults.
Joe McIlhaney and Freda Bush, both ob-gyns, have taken the current neuroscience research and translated it into a plain-speaking, easy-to-understand book titled Hooked. Dr. McIlhaney also founded the Medical Institute for Sexual Health in order to tackle the global epidemics of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (stis). These two medical professionals have much experience in working with teens and young adults. They have seen the incredible damage done to our youth as a result of the improper use of sex.
In Hooked, the duo confront the emotional and psychological damage casual sex does to young, developing brains. [W]ith the aid of modern research techniques and technologies, scientists are confirming that sex is more than a momentary physical act, they write. It produces powerful, even lifelong changes in our brains that direct and influence our future to a surprising degree.
In other words, the use of sex can either keep the human brain healthy or severely damage it.
The brain has been described as the largest human sex organ. Neuroscience confirms this fact. Sex triggers a magnificent biochemical process within the human brain. Three different chemicals flood the brain from initiation to completion of the sexual act: dopamine and oxytocin in women, and dopamine and vasopressin in men. Each chemical is designed to fulfill a specific purpose.
Dopamine is known as a feel-good chemical rewarding us when we accomplish something thrilling or exhilarating. Runners often experience dopamine highs during exercise. Dopamine has an addictive property that causes us to want to repeat whatever we have accomplished.
Oxytocin is present in both males and females, but it has a far more important role in the life of a woman. Science has known for some time that oxytocin is present when a mother nurses her baby. It aids and accelerates the human bonding process between the mother and child. During sex, the release of oxytocin in the female brain helps a woman bond with her mate.
Vasopressin serves a similar function in males. Besides helping a man to bond with his children, during sex it aids bonding with his mate.
How does all of this relate to casual sex? McIlhaney and Bush connect the dots. They emphasize that parents need to understand the role these hormones play in sexual experience.
Concerning dopamine and young people having casual sex, they write: It seems that the dopamine reward signal is working very well in these young people. Once they experience sex, they want to repeat it again and again. We have discussed elsewhere how sex is similar to drug, alcohol, or nicotine addiction; it is understandable that a young (or older) person would want to experience that same rush again (ibid.).
The dopamine reward process in the brain is values-neutral: It cannot distinguish between positive or negative behavior. If an individual gets a thrill out of risky sex, the dopamine reward will encourage the repetition of the risky behavior.
Loss of Connectedness
The dopamine reward for sex is intensely powerful. Thus, a sexually active couple upon breakup will often move quickly to sexual intercourse with a new person. In a culture that encourages casual sex, many people are moving quickly from partner to partner. Sexual addiction is often the result. The tabloids are full of accounts of the broken lives of people suffering from this addiction.
Certainly this is a terrible problem that is extremely difficult to overcome. Yet those who move from partner to partner suffer even greater damage.
The bonding biochemicals oxytocin and vasopressin are just as powerful as dopamine. Neuroscience shows that these hormones are released with intimate physical contact such as hugging or kissing. McIlhaney and Bush explain: When two people join physically, powerful neurohormones are released because of the sexual experience, making an impression on the synapses in their brains and hardwiring their bond. When they stay together for life their bonding matures. This is a major factor that keeps them together, providing a desire for intercourse, resulting in offspring, and assuring those offspring of a nurturing two-parent home in which to grow (ibid.). Although not new knowledge, science confirms the immeasurable value of monogamous sex within marriage.
Science also affirms a destructive downside to casual sex. The doctors explain: [E]very time a person has sexual intercourse or intimate physical contact, bonding takes place. Whenever breakups occur in bonded relationships there is confusion and often pain in the brains of the young people involved because the bond has been broken.
The problem described here also has much deeper and long-lasting effect. The authors report: Further, there is evidence that when this sex/bonding/breaking-up cycle is repeated a few or many timeseven when the bonding was short-liveddamage is done to the important, built-in ability to develop significant and meaningful connection to other human beings.
Living a casual sex lifestyle spawns a loss of human connectedness. The truth is, we all need human attachment to survive and thrive. Right use of sex promotes personal wholeness and builds stable family life. Casual sex, by contrast, impairs an individuals ability to form lifelong relationships.
McIlhaney and Bush warn that in fact, the emotional corrosion caused by casual sex makes people less than human: It may sound blunt, but if we try to eliminate this connectedness from sex, we remove the uniquely human aspect of it, and the sexual act becomes nothing more than raw animal behavior. It is time well spent to think deeply about that quote.
Abstinence Until Marriage
Lets be honest. Science is uncovering what God knew thousands of years ago.
God placed within the pages of the Bible vital instruction on the proper uses of sex. Just after the creation of Eve and while at the first marriage ceremony, God taught our first parents to be one flesh. The newly created couple were to use sex to bind them together for life. They were also instructed to multiplybuild a family that would rule and beautify the Earth (Genesis 2:24). There was no shame to sex within this God-ordained boundary (verse 25).
The Bible also warns of the penalties that accompany the abuse of it. Study Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 2 Peter 2:6.
We shouldnt need science to tell us what God has already told us. Unfortunately, we have ignored God. It is likely that humans will also ignore the evidence of science.
Human sexuality was designed by a great Creator God to bestow lifelong benefits to mankind. To reap those benefits, sex must remain within the bounds of marriage. Abstinence until marriage is the only workable safe-sex practice. It is interesting to note that a survey taken among teens revealed that 93 percent of the teens questioned believe that teens need to be given a strong abstinence message from parents and other adults.
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote this in his book The Missing Dimension in Sex: God designed sex to produce pure, righteous, clean, holy and rich blessings! He made it to be the loving bond which not only would inspire a properly mated couple to marry but which would preserve that marriage in love. Sex should be the energizing magnet to draw constantly closer and closer together with increasing love a husband and wife .
This wonderful, factual book is available to you at no charge upon request. Mr. Armstrong used the Bible and science to provide the missing dimension so prevalent in sex knowledge today. In the hands of loving parents, this book is the best tool to instruct our youth on how to avoid the damage caused by casual sex.
If one really takes the time to look through the literature it becomes fairly clear that the hyper-stimulation of the hypothalamus gland can cause damage to the gland causing it to shrink or change structure while causing individuals to need larger and larger doses of naturally occurring sex hormones involved in natural sex bonding. Just insulin receptors can be desensitized it is clear a similar thing can happen involving sex which can led to depression, other addictions, abnormal sex bonds, increasingly risky sexual behavior to achieve the sexual high.
I don't think it is strange that some studies show homosexuals have morphological changes in their hypothalamus being somewhat smaller. What you one isn't often told is that a study in rats showed that when a group of male rats were divided into two groups one which was presented with an endless string of females in heat while the other group disinterested females that the group of hyper-sexed males had significantly smaller hypothalamus regions at the end of the experiment where as before the experiment they did not. I suspect you'd find the exact same thing in sex addicts, and other sexually disordered populations.
If you have any emotional depth then you will find casual sex to be something empty, meaningless and completely soul depriving.
I am saving this for when my daughter is older....there’s so many things I wish I had truly understood the repercussions of and didn’t. This is really well written - thank you for posting it.
I have always found an odd discontinuity between the “progressive” attitudes towards casual sex and rape.
If sex is something that can and should be indulged in with a recent casual acquaintance, we are saying that it has no more emotional or moral significance than having a cup of coffee together. This attitude is well demonstrated by a populat slogan from a few years back, “Sex is nature’s way of saying hello.” If so, then being forced to engage in sex should be no more damaging or desctructive than being forced to sit and drink coffee.
Yet just about everyone, including most liberals, agrees that rape is profoundly damaging. To my mind the two attitudes do not logically fit together. Either sex is something much too important to be casual about, or rape should be no big deal.
This is so true. Like most other things, sex can be beautful or it can be ugly. It all depends on whether we follow God’s plan for us or not. I know of what I speak.
This article happens to be right-on, BTW.
You are welcome. We all have to find some things out the hard way. The key is what we learn especially with how to be honest with ourselves. Look at how much our society has been hurt with naive ideas about sex. Trillions is spent in an attempt to patch the damage while the people the money, tolerance, and free love is supposed to help are left even more damaged even more lost and often in a state of near permanent emotional detachment because they become incapable of establishing the deeply personal bonds that are very much a part of what it is to be human. The profile of the most promiscuous have several things in common, depression, drug use, risky sex behavior, increased risk of suicide. The good thing is that this kind of thing can get better. People can and do escape the prison of their own making.
I find it really disturbing how many young men are becoming “addicted” to porn via the internet & claiming sex addiction has become a defense when caught by wives & girlfriends.
Thanks, Bill Clinton. He really helped lower the bar for an entire society.
Excellent, Maelstorm, excellent! Dead right-on, and goes into the real reason casual sex, or any sex outside of the marriage relationship is extremely damaging.
Believe it or not, I addressed this subject - in a much less thorough manner due to the purpose and brevity of the book - in a little book I wrote in the early ‘90’s for young singles, which ended up being highly recommended by no less than Elisabeth Elliott. It is titled, “Male and Female Created He Them” and is on God’s original purpose in creating these two totally opposite creatures who desperately need each other and compliment each other - and all God’s enemy has done to attempt (often successfully) to keep that purpose from being achieved.
For any who are interested, it is out of print, but can be found here:
I may have missed it, but if I didn’t, do you have the source for the rest of this piece?
excellent article. thanks for posting
Do you really think that Bill Clinton caused significant damage?
Paris doesn't agree.
That's a good point. I never thought of that.
I know that in my younger days when I was first in the service and sowing my wild oats that this was true for me. I was much more hurt and damaged when I fell in love with a girl in high school who I was very good friends with and when I told her she “just wanted to be friends”. I still think about her to this day and still get sad. Even though I am married to a wonderful woman and we love each other dearly.
Must read and pingout tomorrow placemark.
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Everything was great until the Armstrong part. I seem to remember reading something about him and it was not very reassuring.
I have not read her books, but I did BSF when it was only five years, and she wrote the lessons. Awesome recommendation.
Thanks for posting this
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I have TONS of casual sex: I casually walk up to my wife and ask her for sex and she casually tells me to go away.
Happens all the time in my house.
I think every man has one girl from his youth that stays with him, no matter how real the relationship was.
I’ve often pondered the resemblance that old married couples begin to share and the Biblical “one flesh,” that perhaps physical intimacy actually produces not just an emotional bond but a literal, physical one.
Extend this observation or suspicion if you will, to multiple, casual sexual encounters. Not healthy, confused immune response, all manner of physical and emotional maladies ... which is pretty much what we’re seeing after decades of detached casual sexual encounters in much of the populace as a whole, isn’t it?
"You never forget your first girl."
thanks for the post.
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Thanks for the ping. Excellent article.
There is a chapter in this book about pop culture that explains it far better than I:
BTTT. Thanks for posting!
If so, then being forced to engage in sex should be no more damaging or desctructive than being forced to sit and drink coffee.
Very strange, almost bizarre, take on this topic.
Is there a difference between freely giving money to charity and armed robbery? If so, what is that difference? Then substitute casual consentual sex and rape into the equation. I think the difference will become clearer to you.
That’s a good point. I never thought of that.
Really? You can really equate casual and consentual sex and rape?
The expression of violence in rape doesn’t separate them much in your mind?
I freely admit the idea has its limitations, but I still find it odd that an activity can be considered so meaningless as to be engaged in casually, and at the same time so deeply meaningful that being forced to engage in it is devastating.
I do believe you misunderstood my point.
Rape = sex + violence (or threat thereof).
Armed robbery = financial transaction + violence.
My point is not that rape = consensual sex. It is that the conventional wisdom is that violence + sex is more destructive to the victim than violence + anything else.
If sex is, or should be, no big deal, so that engaging in it casually is appropriate, then this equation is imbalanced.
I am not in favor of rape, I am opposed to casual sex, and I think most of those indulging in it are deceiving themselves about its effects. YMMV.
And it starts with parents and children being told that masturbation is perfectly harmless and natural. It is the first step in setting people up psychologically to associate sex as empty pleasure devoid of human interaction. It also may be a precursor to homosexuality as it is sexual pleasure acquired through same sex (self) manipulation.
Ah, was going to get this one. Excellent article and absolutely true.
Seen it plenty of times in friends and coworkers.
Sex was not meant to be random.
I don’t think you understood his point.
I dont think you understood his point.
Fair enough. I might be looking at his point a little further downstream than you are.
Then why are you taking it up with me instead of him?
Then why are you taking it up with me instead of him?
I’m not following your question.
You posted something to me and I responded. I think that’s how it often works. What am I missing?
Your wit is outstanding but you could have continued further with that great comeback, “Fair enough. I might be looking at his point a little further downstream than you are.” and said that looking so far down the stream is perhaps too advanced for her so you would give her some time to catch up. Or, better yet, just stay quiet because for me she got defensive and ruined her point altogether right then. Then again, why be so hard on her. She probably wouldn’t get that either.