I was reading this article on MSN entitled, Secret Sex: At What Risk? It discussed the Ewan McGregor movie, Deception, which is apparently about a group of people who engage in anonymous sex as part of a list, not for money or as swingers, but solely for the pleasure and/or thrill of “intimacy without intricacy.”
There are many different versions of casual, if not always anonymous, sex: cheating on a partner, one night stands, short-term relationships based on sex, multiple sexual relationships, friends with benefits, f-buddies, sex rings, prostitutes…
As the article points out, the consequences of such behavior can vary greatly. On the negative side, casual or anonymous sex can result in everything from low self esteem to legal problems, diseases, destroyed marriages, and destroyed careers. Apparently in the movie it puts McGregor’s character’s life in danger.
But is casual sex always bad? In certain circumstances, the dire warnings are almost certainly warranted (I can’t really think of a scenario where paying for anonymous sex when you’re married isn’t going to turn out badly…). But eliminating some of the more extreme examples, I think it really depends on what motivates the person.
This article and another by a former “sex addict” suggest a few different “needs” that a person may be trying to meet through casual sex: physical desire for sex, fulfillment of fantasies outside the norm, seeking an emotional connection that one hopes can be filled by sex, trying to create self worth through sex, using sex to try to mask other needs, or addiction to experiencing the thrill of doing something illicit and dangerous. I think that list, as I've arranged it, progresses from motivations that make engaging in casual sex generally innocuous to extremely high risk.
I think so long as the motivation is related solely to the desire for sex or to act out sexual fantasies, casual sex can be a perfectly healthy way to meet a basic human need. It depends on the person, it depends on the circumstances (particularly related to whether the person is in another relationship), it depends on so many things… But I do think that it is possible to have even anonymous sex in a way that is not destructive as long as the motives are pure. Or not so pure, I guess.
I think the reason this article jumped out at me was because I connected with the phrase “intimacy without intricacy.” I would prefer to have intimate and intricate relationships with everyone in my life, male and female. To me, intimate can mean sex, but it also means trust and friendship and connectedness. Intricacy is the way those things play out in solid relationships through compromise and support and patience. But intricacy implies complications and challenges. Those things are fine, and are what make certain relationships stronger. But I find that many relationships are lacking sufficient intimacy to make the intricacy worth the effort. It’s kind of like work friends: you like them, you hang out with them occasionally, you share with them to some extent, but you just aren’t close enough to be burdened with all of the drama of a real friendship. Every so often you meet a work friend who becomes a real friend…and then you stop calling them a work friend.
I think it is the same with sexual relationships. You meet lots of people who might be able to meet your sexual needs, but very few are worth the intricacy of a relationship. But just like work friends, you can like them, hang out with them occasionally, and share with them to some extent, but that doesn’t mean you are close enough to be burdened with all of the drama of a non-sexual relationship.
I’m not saying casual sex is right for everyone or in every manifestation, but I do believe that intimacy without intricacy is sometimes exactly what a person needs, both sexually and in general.