Is Casual Sex Losing its Zing?

By Rusty Wright

Hot news from CNN:  Some university students are giving up casual sexual activity because they feel it’s not fulfilling.

I am not making this up.

Take, for instance, Vanderbilt University student Frannie Boyle.  She told CNN that, in the past, she sometimes drank to excess before parties and hooked up with a stranger or acquaintance before the night was over.

“I saw it [hooking up] as a way to be recognized and get satisfaction,” Boyle admits.  But satisfaction eluded her.  “I felt so empty then,” she laments. 

So she decided to kiss casual physical involvement goodbye.

(Intergenerational translator: “Hooking up,” an ambiguous term, refers to no-commitment sexual activity ranging from making out to intercourse.)

Kissing Casual Sex Goodbye

Criticism came.  Some male friends shunned Boyle.  “They probably weren’t my friends anyway,” she observes.

“I’m respecting myself,” she affirms.  “And I won’t waste my time with some guy who doesn’t care about me.”

Boyle is in the minority, but she’s not alone.  Of course, many students abstain from non-marital sex because of spiritual convictions.  But nowadays, even nonreligious campus groups are promoting sexual self control and commitment. 

For example, CNN notes that the Love and Fidelity Network features speakers and discussions to encourage students to rethink uncommitted sex.  The secular nonprofit promotes “sexual integrity” and marriage.

Some observers, citing online dating’s campus popularity, say many students long for a return to traditional dating.

Even entertainer Lady Gaga said she’s chosen sexual abstinence “because I don’t have the time to get to know anybody.”

What’s going on here?

Sexual Revolution Backfired?

The long-term emotional links between the heart and the sex glands can be stronger than one might recognize when passion rages.  Of course, in an HIV world, health and safety also are concerns.

A longing to be close to someone or a yearning to express love can generate intense desires for physical intimacy.  Yet often sex brings an emptiness rather than the wholeness people seek through it.  When I appeared on her television program discussing this topic, one producer told me, “Frankly, I think the sexual revolution has backfired in our faces.  It’s degrading to be treated like a piece of meat.” 

The previous night her lover had justified his decision to sleep around by telling her, “There’s plenty of me for everyone.”  What I suspect he meant was, “There’s plenty of everyone for me.”  She felt betrayed, devalued, and alone.

Cosmic Killjoy?

I was on her program to discuss the positive influence that faith and spiritual convictions can have on sex.  Mixing faith and sex may seem surprising.  Of course, some see the biblical God as a cosmic killjoy.  But as popular speaker Josh McDowell points out, “A God who created sex can’t be all bad!”

The biblical writers portray God designing sex for pleasure, unity and procreation.  “Let her breasts satisfy you at all times,” recommends a proverb about marital sex.  “Be exhilarated always with her love.”  Hardly prudish.

Faith can provide love, self-esteem, wisdom for choosing the best, and inner strength to follow those choices.  Plus forgiveness and hope of restoration when we blow it, as we all do.  Practical stuff that affects life between the sheets and life in general.

Sex is not the key to love; love is the key to sex.  Many nonreligious people are making similar sounds these days.  Might those ancient texts have some genuine wisdom after all?

Rusty Wright is an author and lecturer who has spoken on six continents.  He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford universities, respectively.  

Copyright © 2010 Rusty Wright

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