There are so many wrong headed ideas about the differences between men and women. Yes, there absolutely are differences, but we learn some real myths in our teenage years that just won’t go away. It’s hard to know whether this is due to seeing those myths again and again on TV and in the movies or if the media is just holding the mirror up to life. Gender based ideas about the desire for sex (even for new dads) is a particularly prevalent one–as is how to have casual sex.
And it doesn’t go without saying, so I’m going to say it, this post focuses on straight men and women.
I remember being given the evolutionary understanding of this as a fifteen year old. I’m sure you’ve heard it: In the dawn of time men need to continue their line (and populate the earth since we weren’t all packed into the cities then) and the best way to do that is to sow their sperm in as many places as possible. And they could do this, several times a day actually. But women could only have one child at a time (or at least plan on one child at a time. I don’t know the statistics for multiple births back then) and in order for that one child to grow up to continue their line they needed to keep that man with them for as long as possible in order to protect and nurture them and their baby. Conclusion: in the 1990’s men desire to have sex with many people, many times a day, but women want to have sex once every nine or ten months with one man.
Seems like fully thought out logic? Not at all.
One of the fun things we struggle with as humans, and this has a shred more scientific basis, is called cognitive dissonance. We just can’t really take in information that doesn’t jive with what we already absolutely know to be true. It’s why statistics about anything rarely change someone’s mind. It’s at the root of some of your most basic arguments about science, religion, or politics. It’s why therapy takes some time and why therapists tend not to give advice.
Advice just usually doesn’t work.
So when we have a good story, we tend to make other things fit in with that story and dismiss any evidence that it doesn’t. It makes us feel safe and it doesn’t rock our world too much. Think about it—think about any time that you were really faced with something that changed your mind. It probably has happened so rarely that you can think of the one or two times that something really made you re-evaluate all you had thought before.
Well, it’s uncomfortable to do that. We like things to be consistent.
Whose Behavior Should We Look At? Yours
Dr, NerdLove (AKA Harris O’Mally) applies this to the male and female ideas about casual sex. He puts the challenge behind straight men having success with casual sex back in the man’s lap (sorry, couldn’t resist.) And that’s good because lots of men I talk to will be angry at the woman who didn’t want to sleep with them. There will be a litany of reasons:
- she only likes guys that are bad for her
- she was judging how I dress/look
- she’s a prude
They (and all the other “reasons”) only serve to help you keep your dignity and stop you from taking any responsibility. Dr. NerdLove explains that, “the difficulty in finding people who are down for a casual hook-up has less to do with any biological differences between male and female libidos and more to do with the behavior of the men involved.” And, of course, whether the women are even down for having sex with men is not a given.
It’s scary out there and going home with someone is a risk, no matter what the gender or how strong you are. I mean, you want to really talk about cognitive dissonance—is there any other activity that would get you naked in an unknown place with a complete stranger. Why isn’t casual sex considered the most dangerous thing to do, ever?
If you are a guy who wants to know how to have casual sex, well, how much attention to do you pay to signaling to a woman that you are not going to harm her? She’s taking a huge risk going home with you—the least you can do is help her feel that you’re not dangerous.
While the evolution myth (at least a myth when it comes to men/women and casual sex) is not true, slut-shaming is an absolute reality that most men rarely face. So there’s this obstacle: if a woman wants to have casual sex with you, she needs to also overcome society’s stigmatization. How are you helping with that? Being an alpha male may just be reinforcing it.
Being the “nice guy” hasn’t helped your game either, but trying to jump to the other extreme will most likely be uncomfortable and awkward, and could also be dangerous. Most pick up artists are training others to treat women as an object to be conquered. I mean, the online dating world is challenging enough without all this other bad advice.
Don’t believe the hype that there’s a formula for how to have casual sex, but do take a look at the messages you’re sending out, whether you’re on a dating site or in a bar. Are you making her feel that she’ll be safe with you? Are you aware of your words and actions to ensure you’re not reinforcing the slut shaming stigma? This doesn’t mean that you’re now going to have sex with every woman you want to have sex with. She still needs to be interested in you, attracted to you, and all that, but you’re going to be ahead of the game if you are aware of how you are presenting yourself.
If you think it may be helpful to have a more in depth talk about this, please reach out to me any time. Or take the “Should I Talk to Someone?” test.
Justin Lioi, LCSW is a men’s mental health and relationship expert based in Brooklyn, NY (and online throughout New York State and internationally.) He received his degree from New York University and has been providing counseling for men and their families for over 10 years. Justin is on the Board of the National Association of Social Workers and writes a weekly column for the Good Men Project called Unmasking Masculinity. He can be found on local and national podcasts talking about assertiveness, anger, self-compassion, all with the goal of becoming the man you want to be.