December 2, 2014 2:12 pm
Updated: December 2, 2014 2:48 pm

Booty call or friends with benefits? How men, women differ on casual sex

Casual sex has been around for centuries, but lately there’s been distinct language to describe it.

Jeremy Maude/ Rex Features via The Canadian Press
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Warning: This article contains language that some readers may find offensive. Discretion is advised.

PARIS – You’re cuddling up next to your one night stand, or is it your booty call, or friends with benefits arrangement? When it comes to intimacy, the lines may be blurred.

New Canadian research suggests that women understand the dynamics in casual sex more than men who tend to muddle the terms. But women pay attention to the nuances of their bedroom relationship out of necessity – their reputation, the risk of pregnancy, and even physical safety are on the line.

“These are modern, sexual relationships. They’re ongoing and involve negotiating feelings, friendship and interaction. Sometimes, it’s implicit or explicit; it involves people being aware of what’s going on. That takes relationship savviness,” Dr. Jocelyn Wentland, a University of Ottawa professor and sex researcher, told Global News.

Wentland studies casual sex, online dating and relationships.

READ MORE: A spreadsheet of excuses? Here’s why married couples stop having sex

In her latest findings, published Monday in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, Wentland sought to understand how men and women perceived their hookups. It’s the second of three installments on studying casual sex.

Casual sex has been around for centuries, but lately there’s been distinct language to describe it. Wentland suggests that within the past five years, “hooking up” became the default term. The trouble is, it’s incredibly unclear and ambiguous.

“It’s defined however you want. There’s no standard and that gets worse when you look at relationship subtypes under the umbrella of hooking up. We can’t even agree on what casual sex is anymore and we need to figure out how we’re defining it so that it matches how people conceptualize it,” Wentland said.

Defining the boundaries in casual sex

In her previous study, she had participants offer definitive descriptions of various casual sex arrangements.

One night stands are typically two strangers meeting in a social situation, such as a bar or party. Alcohol is involved because either one or both parties are under its influence. Post-coitus, even if contact information is exchanged, there’s no expectation to connect.

The other categories have their definitions built into their name, and it isn’t inadvertent, Wentland suggests.

READ MORE: The 6 most common regrets men and women have after sex

Booty calls, for example, rely on a late night text (or phone call if you’re too intoxicated to compose a legible message) to your partner asking for sex. It typically happens if your evening plans fall through, or if you realize you’re not getting lucky at the club.

“People know what’s implied in the message of that text. Participants say that if it becomes too regular, though, you end up in f*** buddy territory,” Wentland said.

This category, Wentland said, consists of a partner you meet solely for sex. Your arrangement doesn’t require alcohol, but it could include dinner out or other activities.

“F*** buddies have dinner but it’s a cover to legitimize why we hang out,” she explained. Once the sex runs its course, the friendship dissipates too.

Friends with benefits involve legitimate friends who “sometimes have sex, but sometimes they hang out.” Sex is the addition. You wouldn’t text your friend the same way you’d reach out to a booty call, the study subjects said. That’s disrespectful. Alcohol might have been the catalyst for your first friends-with-benefits encounter with your partner.

READ MORE: Having sex is all about quality, not quantity, says Canadian study

After your arrangement ends, you might try to retain a friendship, but Wentland says there isn’t much research on whether that transition happens successfully.

(Wentland says her paper is the first to identify the differences between these last two categories. And there is still no published research on when sex happens in a new relationship and how its appearance affects the relationship’s trajectory.)

Why the sexes differ

In her third installment of research, Wentland is looking at the mechanics of each arrangement. Participants have to consider how partners knew each other, what happens when they interact, their surroundings, and other subtleties to the relationship.

This time around, about 885 men and women who were “highly educated” and under 30 years old had to identify the correct definition of the four terms.

More than 80 per cent of participants properly identified each arrangement. Turns out, women fared better across the board, though.

Men tended to mix up f*** buddies with friends with benefits.

READ MORE: Faking it in bed? Your partner can tell

Wentland isn’t surprised. She says she’s a broken record when she recites this line to her students: “The cost of casual sex for women is higher. Full stop.” She’s paying attention and weighing the risks more than her partner.

That doesn’t mean that casual sex means more to a woman, Wentland clarified.

“There’s this view of women, that they’re helpless, they go into casual sex and want a relationship. It’s so stereotypical. Men could prefer a relationship but we don’t allow room for discussion of that,” she said.

The landscape of sex and relationships is quickly transforming.  Scientists would argue that when you orgasm, oxytocin is released and pair bonding occurs – you cannot have casual sex. But it’s not as simple as that, Wentland suggests.

READ MORE: This one tip will improve your sex life, Canadian researcher suggests

Partners need to ask themselves if they’re compatible in health, lifestyle, political views, values, for example. These factors aren’t a concern when courting a match exclusively for the bedroom.

For her next steps, Wentland’s looking at online dating applications, such as Tinder, Grindr and eHarmony, to better understand how people are capitalizing on short-term relationships.

Her research team at the University of Ottawa is conducting a study to examine modern dating patterns based on whether or not individuals met their most recent partner online or offline. You can participate in the online survey by clicking here.

Read Wentland’s full findings here.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

© 2014 Shaw Media

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