What Casual Sex Is Like For Women

He rolls back into the bed sheets with a grunt and a satisfied sigh. She lays onto her belly, back covered in sweat and cum. They pant in silence for a few minutes before he pulls her in close for a cuddle. Maybe he softly strokes her shoulder. Maybe he doesn’t. 

She lies there with her eyes open, edging her nose into the pillow so she doesn’t have to smell the whisky on his tongue. After a while, she feels his breathing pattern change. He’s fallen asleep. She’ll be awake for another two hours.

According to statistics, 75% of women never reach orgasm through penetrative intercourse. Unfortunately, for those who participate in casual heterosexual sex and are a part of the majority, penetration seems to be the primary focus. Sex finishes when he does. If she comes, it’s a bonus.

I surveyed 210 of my heterosexual friends— 138 women, 72 men— about their experiences with casual sex. Recently, through a number of conversations, I have come to recognise the great disparity in pleasure derived from casual sexual experiences. Naturally, I wanted to see if this was the norm in my broader social circle.

According to the results, only 3% of women “…always…” orgasm during casual sex. Out of the 97% who answered otherwise, 49% accounted this to the fact that their sexual partner “[didn’t] try to get me there”. For men, 18% “…always…” orgasm, and out of the 82% that answered otherwise, 70% cited being “under the influence” and the primary reason for failing to.

I spoke with a girl friend about these numbers over Facebook Messenger as the results of my survey started rolling in. She shared with me that the other day, she “…legit masturbated before this guy friend came over because I already figured he wouldn’t [get me there]”. 

The bareback statistics went on to add more colour to this image. 61% of women say that their casual sexual experiences, on average, are not equally pleasurable. 62% of men say that they are

Another friend tells me that once, she kept a “cum tally” in her journal with a particular sexual partner. She had only slept with him four times in total— he came 9 times, she came once. She then goes on to confess that she had fantasised about leaving the tally stuck to his wall with chewing gum the next time she saw him, but thought she was better off not seeing him again. The next time he invited her to come round after dinner, she politely refused and never initiated another conversation again.

unnamed (11).jpg
unnamed (10).jpg

Growing up religious meant that I grew up with the unquestioned conviction that I would save sex until marriage. After a series of events, namely sexual assault and my eventual “back sliding” from Christianity, I entered the secular world unsure of where I stood on the moral issue of sex. Since I could remember, I was always taught that the more people I had sex with, the lesser I became. I quickly learnt that sex didn’t make me lesser, but rather, the way I was treated in the bedroom that really determined my sense of self-worth. Upon reflection, in the majority of my casual sexual experiences, I had felt inferior. When did my pleasure become secondary?

I had a guy I was seeing come round I started to feel a bit sick so he stayed up with my room mate watching TV I walked out to get some water and caught them making out on the lounge. I then went to bed had a cry was slightly numb already he finally came into bed and started to initiate sex I didn't mind I just laid on my side let him do what he wanted and he passed out. I couldn't say no because i was just emotionally destroyed and I wasn't even sure what was happening around me at that point. I just remember be hurt used and broken. I used sex as way to validate myself and thought he was special.

73% of women have had casual sex even when they didn’t want to. In fact, these women say that on average, 72% of their casual sexual experiences were not truly wanted.

Why do women have sex with these men if they don’t want to? Because “we had gone too far for me to say no” (65%), they said. “Because I didn’t want to disappoint them” (58%). Always tip-toeing around sexual partners. Never wanting to offend. Never wanting to upset.

We were having sex in doggy (TMI) and without warning we were having anal and I'd never done that before. I didn't want to continue but we were already having sex. He picked me up from my place so he had to take me home after, I didn't want to potentially annoy him because I didn't even know him!

I think about the times I have slept with someone again and again, even when I didn’t want to, even when I knew that, in the balance of all probabilities, it wouldn’t be pleasurable for me. I, like 58% of my sisters, simply didn’t want to disappoint. I also wanted validation, because women are not brought up with the belief that they are sexual creatures. As a child, the prevailing culture told me that only men watched porn, and only men masturbated. A man touched me before I had even touched myself. I wanted him to know me, even if I didn’t want him.

I asked women if they felt comfortable enough to share a story where they felt they couldn’t say no to sex. A lot of these involved past trauma, or the pervasiveness of verbal and physical pressure, obligation (“…they paid for dinner…”) or the sense they they played a role in “leading them on”.

A few weeks ago I was about to fuck this guy that I hadn’t fucked before and was into it, and then experienced what I think is a post traumatic stress response due to being raped a few years ago, where I sorta just freak out and freeze and then just need to lie down for a bit and chill, it’s hard to explain. Anyway so that happened and then I was fine, but then I was just like ugh I just don’t even feel like having sex anymore like whatever I’d just rather go to sleep, and anyway *moment of clarity* who the fuck is this guy like what sort of 27yo man doesn’t own condoms?? anyway whatever can’t be bothered explaining to them sometimes it’s easier and less draining to just go along with things than to explain why you’re going to sleep or going home or whatever.

At this point, it is important to note that 55% of men have also had casual sex in circumstances when they didn’t want to. However, only 29% of their sexual experiences were unwanted in contrast to the 72% for women. The main reason why they went through with it, was because they didn’t “…want to hurt their [partner’s] feelings/for them to feel rejected…” (70%). For the most part, it was because they found the girl unattractive, and they felt bad about it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with not wanting to sleep with someone because you’re not attracted to them, but the differences between the male and female responses were stark. It came down to a lack of attraction vs. a lack of a sense of safety. 

We had spent the whole night chatting and getting along, and she linked arms with me when I said I was going home and I didn't want her to feel rejected by the fact I wasn't attracted to her

When I asked women what would make them feel more comfortable in the bedroom, the most frequently used word, from a sample size of 84 responses was— ASKING

I remember a kind, warm-hearted sexual partner cupping my face in his hands asking “Are you sure you want to do this? We don’t have to. There is no rush.”, right before we slept together. I don’t know what it was, but something about that question made me burst into tears. He held me for a long time before I managed: “Nobody has ever asked me that question before”. While the direct question isn’t always necessary, the significance of having a clear “out” if I didn’t want to, was something of immense value. The fact that he would still want to see me if I said no, that there was nothing wrong with me or him if I simply chose not to.

I told my friend this story over text. She replied with: “That is what all men should be. I don’t think I have ever been asked.”

When I asked men what women could do to make them feel more comfortable in the bedroom, many stated that they wanted women to feel more comfortable in themselves and more accomodating in the bedroom. COMFORTABLE was the most commonly used word out of a sample size of 43 responses.

By being comfortable themselves. Having sex with someone who is nervous or uncomfortable tends to just feel wrong.

Someone who appears nervous or uncomfortable probably is nervous and uncomfortable. It feels wrong because it is.

Most women are afraid of men. They hold keys in their hands when they walk home at night. They cross the street and make fake phone calls. They look at houses nearby with their televisions on and they tell themselves they’re safe houses if they’re being followed. This is by no means some form of paranoia or delusion. One in two women across Australia have experienced sexual harassment; 1 in 3 have experienced sexual or physical violence. As for the rest, they have a friend or a sister or a mother who has. They’ve often cried with them over how unjust it all is. More often than not, the world seems to turn a blind eye. Just read Eggshell Skull by Bri Lee.

Women have always been taught to please men, to “…Make His 4 Sex Wishes Come True…” (Cosmopolitan cover, February 2012). Women have been systematically programmed to “submit to their husbands” (Ephesians 5:22-23). To top it off, there’s the whole cognitive dissonance in the idea that women are not naturally sexual. That they need a man to teach them what to do, to validate them, and dictate their inherent worth based on a sick, free-market economy of who’s worth fucking.

Both men and women want more communication in the bedroom, both before and during casual sex. However, when you peel back the layers of gender inequality and abuse, and situate it in the context of a man buying meal or offering a couch to crash on, when he’s bigger or stronger or more self-assured, when he’s handsy and forceful and suggestive, it’s easier to understand why in many situations, women keep their mouths closed and believe the better option is to just “get it over with”.

This particular comment, by an woman who participated in my survey, describes a hauntingly similar situation to many before them, as if it’s some twisted Groundhog Day where sexual power and agency is drained at the carotid artery of an entire gender. However, it also demonstrates what the power of initiating conversation can do:

unnamed (12).jpg

The most recent situation was on the first date with a guy I thought I really connected with but in retrospect, I was caught up in those new flirtatious feelings and looked past the earlier warning signs. The night was solely revolved around him and his interests (including watching sports on the pub tv), then when leaving it was obvious I shouldn't drive home and with his persistent encouragement, I finally agreed to stay at his instead. I knew that there was probably an expectation that I'd sleep with him, it's just what tends to happen every time a guy asks if I want to stay the night, whether out of necessity or not and tonight this thought bothered me more then other times. So we got back to his, watched some tv and eventually he moved closer, put a hand on my hip and he kissed me. It wasn't good and I knew the sex wouldn't be either but at this moment I couldn't muster the courage to speak and say no thank you or maybe something of the kind. I know that if he asked or verbally initiated in some way that it would have helped me be able to start a dialogue and let him know how I was really feeling. But at that moment it felt near impossible, even with the voice in my head saying, you can speak up you don't have to be asked. Personally, I worry that if I were to say something earlier on that it would ruin future possibilities with the person or that they may become angry or hostile towards me.  

We need more conversations in the bedroom. We need to be more intentional with physical intimacy, so both parties may feel safe to pull out the stop sign at any point in the evening.

Consent is sexy.

Many who don’t participate in casual sex may read this article, and from their throne of higher morality tut-tut at the sexual frivolity of their peers. To read this article and think “this is why casual sex is wrong” would be missing the point entirely. It is not the game that must be questioned, but the players.

After decades of being in the church, I was taught that sex is the most intimate thing you can do with someone. As someone who has experienced rape, and as someone who has also experienced very average casual sex, I have come to learn that sex is not the most intimate thing I can do with someone. Intimacy requires consent. And yes, intimacy can be sex, but it can also be softly stroking the hand of your partner in the cinema or at the bus station. It can be your best friend bringing you in for a hug when you’re upset. It can be a vulnerable conversation over dinner. Casual sex doesn’t have to be emotionally intimate, but in order to achieve physical intimacy, all parties must feel comfortable. All peoples’ pleasure must be considered. Yes, including women.

All shots snapped by the amazing Thea Elder. Follow her on the ‘gram.