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Casual sex or hooking up are certain types of human sexual activity outside the context of a romantic relationship. The term is not always used consistently: it may refer to extramarital sex, sex in a casual relationship, one-time encounters, promiscuous sex, or sex in the absence of emotional attachment or love, which can include prostitution and swinging.
Other terms sometimes associated with casual sex include recreational sex, social sex, nonrelationship sex, no-strings-attached (NSA) sex, physical relationship, or sex with no games. Recreational sex or social sex refers to sexual activity which focuses on sexual pleasure without an emotional aspect or commitment. Recreational sex can take place in a number of contexts. It may, for example, take place in an open marriage, among swingers where sex is viewed as a social occasion, or in an open relationship. It can also take place in a casual relationship.
World-wide attitudes to casual sex range from conservative and religious views, the extreme of which is capital punishment for sexual relations outside heterosexual marriage, to liberal or libertarian views, the extreme of which is free love.
During the sexual revolution in the United States and Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, social attitudes to sexual issues underwent considerable changes. The advent of the pill and other forms of birth control, the Women's Liberation movement, and the legalization of abortion in many countries is believed to have led to a wider practice of casual sex. Most religions disapprove of sex outside of marriage (see religion and sexuality).
Swingers in the lifestyle engage in casual sex with others for a variety of reasons. For many, an advantage is the increased quality, quantity and frequency of sex. Some swingers engage in casual sex to add variety into their otherwise conventional sex lives or for curiosity. Swingers who engage in casual sex maintain that sex among swingers is often more frank and deliberative and therefore more honest than infidelity. Some couples see swinging as a healthy outlet and means to strengthen their relationship. Others regard such activities as merely social and recreational interaction with others. A swinger party or partner-swapping party is a gathering at which individuals or couples in a committed relationship can engage in sexual activities with others as a recreational or social activity. Swinging can take place in various contexts, ranging from a spontaneous sexual activity at an informal social gathering of friends to a regular social gathering in a sex club (or swinger club), private residence, or other pre-arranged location such as a hotel, a resort, or a cruise ship.
A study of hooking up at the University of Iowa found that waiting to have sex doesn't contribute to a stronger future relationship. Instead, they found that what mattered most was the goal individuals had going into a relationship. Individuals who started by hooking up tended to develop a full relationship later on if that was their goal going in.
In some countries there are laws which prohibit or restrict casual sex.
In some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Maldives, Morocco, Oman, Mauritania, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Yemen, any form of sexual activity outside marriage is illegal.
A 1995 study of Canadian students who had traveled to Florida for spring break, found the key elements of a spring break vacation to include a group holiday with friends traveling and rooming together, a perpetual party atmosphere, high alcohol consumption, sexually suggestive contests and displays, and the perception that casual sex is common. Overall, there was a perception that sexual norms are far more permissive on spring break vacation than at home, providing an atmosphere of greater sexual freedom and the opportunity for engaging in new sexual experiences. Of the 681 students who completed a questionnaire after the break, 15% of males and 13% of females had engaged in casual sex during the break.
A casual sexual relationship, casual relationship, or casual dating, is a physical and emotional relationship between two people who may have casual sex or a near-sexual relationship without necessarily demanding or expecting the extra commitments of a more formal romantic relationship. People in a casual sexual relationship are sometimes referred to as "friends with benefits". The involved parties may have a degree of emotional attachment but do not want, for whatever reason, to have "strings attached". In practice, however, there are often "strings" to these relationships among singles. A 2011 study published in The Journal of Sex Research found 2 out of 5 single women and 1 out of 5 single men in "friends with benefits" relationships hoped that their relationship would eventually turn into a full-fledged romance. This stands in contrast to swinger couples who are already in committed relationships and are only seeking compatible friends with whom they can engage in recreational sex.
A hookup (colloquial American English) is a sexual encounter between friends or acquaintances that might consist of manual stimulation, oral sex, or sexual intercourse. About one-third of hookups involve sexual intercourse.
Hooking up became a widespread practice among young people in the 1980s and 1990s. Researchers say that what differentiates hooking up from casual sex in previous generations of young people is the "virtual disappearance" of dating, which had been dominant from the postwar period onwards. Today, researchers say, casual sex rather than dating is the primary path for young people into having a relationship.
Students likeliest to hook up are white middle or upper-class heterosexuals. Black and Latino students are less likely to hook up, as are evangelical Christian students and working-class students. The data are mixed on gay and lesbian students: some research says they hook up at the same rates as heterosexual students, but other research says they do it less because college parties, where most hookups happen, aren't always gay-friendly.
A one-night stand is a single sexual encounter between individuals, where at least one of the parties has no immediate intention or expectation of establishing a longer-term sexual or romantic relationship.
Anonymous sex is a form of one-night stand or casual sex between people who have very little or no history with each other, often engaging in sexual activity on the same day of their meeting and usually never seeing each other again afterwards.
Friends with benefits is where two people have sex with someone they generally consider a friend or someone they are fairly close to. They are not in an exclusive romantic relationship with that person and probably never will get into a relationship with them.
Many specialist online dating services or other Internet websites, known as "adult personals" or "adult matching" sites, cater to people looking for a purely physical relationship, without emotional attachments. These can provide a relatively anonymous forum where people who are geographically close but in totally separate work and social circles can make contact.