Sex + Relationships

Breaking: Casual Sex Bad for Self-Esteem

Guest blogger Neal Pollack has been a satirist (Vanity Fair), a sexologist (Nerve.com), and a cultural anthropologist (McSweeney's). Here, Pollack will explore all the wild, weird, and noteworthy stories you may have missed.

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From the "They got a grant for that?!" division comes the recently published University of Minnesota study on the sexual behavior of young adults. I'm sure parka-clad research assistants were lining up around the block to get the gig. In any case, the study concluded that people who engage in casual sex are no more likely to suffer long-term psychological damage than those who choose to waste their 20s in committed relationships. This is being trumpeted as a massive defeat for the abstinence-only crowd, who believe that if you save yourself for the right gentleman vampire, your life will be so much richer.

However, lost in the confetti-and-trumpets celebration of these "duh" findings is this little gem: That depression and general psychological weirdness often precedes "sexual debut and high-risk sexual behaviors among adolescents." While we love the idea of a "sexual debut," like it's a cotillion and not something disappointing that happens on your parents' water bed while they're out of town on a ski trip, this sort of undercuts the main thesis. In other words, casual sex among youth may not cause the crazy, but the crazier you are, the more likely you are to fall into bed with a stranger. Thanks to the University of Minnesota, we now know that the world isn't full of sane, healthy young adults who have sex with whoever they want, whenever they want, without consequences. More's the pity, because we know they're right.

This all leads to our "One to Grow On" moment of the day, in the form of another study, this one conducted by Pediatrics, which shows that parents are talking to their kids too late about sex. By the time the words "STD" and "condom" are discussed around the dinner table, many kids have already experienced "genital touching," the survey delicately says. In conclusion, we should say to our kids, "Honey, if you're going to have sex, be sure to wear protection. And don't worry, sex won't make you crazy. Unless you already are." If Earl Woods had given little Tiger this talk 20 years ago, it probably would have saved his son a lot of grief.

—Neal Pollack

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