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Casual sex and psych 101

December 10, 2009 | 12:55 pm
Is having "friends with benefits" emotionally damaging?

Nope, says a study from the University of Minnesota. Researchers surveyed 1,311 young adults about their sexual history. The result: Casual encounters are not, as federal abstinence education teaches, likely to mess with your head. 

To debunk that myth, the paper also points out that depression often precedes "sexual debut and high-risk sexual behaviors among adolescents," not the other way around. 

Even though casual sex doesn't necessarily lead to trouble, the phenomenon still seems to be relatively uncommon. Only a fifth of participants said that their most recent partner was a casual partner -- either an acquaintance (8.2%) or a close but nonexclusive partner (12.4%).

One last point -- while the study did not find any psychological damage, the authors said, "Our findings do not minimize the legitimate threats to physical well-being associated with casual sexual relationships, and the need for preventive messages in sex education programs." For a resource on sex and dating, check out Sex, Etc., a by-teens-for-teens advice site set up at Rutgers University.

-- Amina Khan