After reading headlines such as “Links in Mental Health and Hooking Up” and “Is Casual Sex Hazardous to Your Mental Health?” I have concluded that, based on the popular idea that women with poor self-esteem partake in casual sex more often than others, a lot of people probably think I’m extremely depressed. I’ve often been warned to slow down on my sexual endeavours. My personal favourite is when somebody hits me with “no self-respecting woman would sleep around like you do.”
Here’s the thing about self-respect: it’s a personal thing. That’s where the word “self” comes into play. I can be sexually promiscuous and still respect myself. If you wouldn’t respect yourself if you were sexually promiscuous, then that is fine. But that is also your own prerogative and has nothing to do with me. I could sleep with hundreds of people and still respect myself. In fact, I could sleep with that amount of people and even respect myself more than somebody who has slept with 3 people. There is no way to find out for sure, though, because self-respect varies from person to person and it is no one else’s place to define it for you.
The above headlines, and many like them, are not asking the right questions. It should not be a matter of whether somebody has casual sex, but rather about why somebody has casual sex. The act itself cannot determine anything about your mental health, values, or self-respect. It goes much deeper than that (pun intended). So, why do I have casual sex? Simply because I want to. I shouldn’t need to explain myself, nor should I need any other reason than that. I want to, I like it, I enjoy it, and exploring my sexuality is one of my favourite things to do. I am not ashamed of this. These are all valid reasons for having sex. Moreover, these are all autonomous motives. When somebody has non-autonomous motives for hooking up, the affects could be damaging. This is where mental health comes in.
There are plenty of people out there who use casual sex as a tool (pun intended again) in their mental health. I know women who use casual sex to feel better about themselves. I know men who use casual sex to fit in with masculine standards. I know people who use casual sex as a distraction from what is really going on in their lives, who use it to fill the loneliness in their lives, and who use it because they do not have any self-worth without it. This is damaging and yes, this is a cause for concern. Mental health issues and casual sex often feed of each other and can become a cyclical experience. If you feel as though you are only engaging in casual sex to feel something other than pure enjoyment of sex, then I urge you to explore the real reasons behind your actions and take steps to better your life. You’re worth more than you think.
But if you have casual sex just for the hell of it, then keep on doing you (and others). I’m not saying that casual sex and mental health aren’t connected, because there are multiple studies that prove otherwise. What I am saying is that this is not the standard that casual sex and the people who engage in it should be reduced to. A lot of us are self-respecting, mentally healthy, sexually active beings. It’s okay. It is normal. Whatever you personally decide is normal for yourself is exactly what normal is, and no one else should be shaming you into thinking otherwise. But they will. Keep your head up high, your sex drive even higher, and show the world exactly how you respect yourself.