Casual Sex

Adam Buker's picture
Submitted by Adam Buker on Mon, 2006-02-20 21:35

I'm racking my brain looking for Objectivist writtings of any kind dealing with this subject. Besides Francisco's talk with Hank in Atlas Shrugged and the Playboy interview, I've not found much of anything that gives any in depth analyisis to this issue. I'm rethinking a great deal of what I previously thought on the subject and I am searching for more information and a discussion. My definition of casual sex is consen sexual activity occuring between two adults for the sole purpose of physical pleasure detached from the context of a relationship. I used to believe that casual sex was immoral in the sense that in order to take such an action implies that one has no self-esteem or is betraying it.

My questions are:

Does every act of consensual sex (casual or not) imply the complete sharing of oneself?

Can the intense physical pleasure of sex justify it as an end in itself, or does it's very nature mean that it should not be severed from romantic love?

Does the morality of the situation change in different contexts (i.e. two drunks hooking up at a party vs. two rational people who don't love each other persay, but admire each other enough to be comfortable sexually with each other.)


Duncan Bayne's picture


Pete L and Lindsay are both right; it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis for the individuals concerned, and provided one observes the rights of others, it's no-one's business to prescribe to the individuals concerned.

On a humourous note, isn't this the perfect 'horny' avatar?

Very Horny

Edited to add: In fact, I propose that this magnificent beast be the new SOLO Thrust mascot Smiling

Casual sex and...'CASUAL' sex

Rowlf's picture

~~ O-t-1-h, Rand did say somewhere (PB intvw?) that she considered sex important enough an aspect of one's life that a commitment of some level should be existing there. As to if and how this may specifically be derivable from the morality of O'ism is unclear. If such is not, then 'casual' sex is not necessarily immoral, unless, presumably, IF one, at a deciding moment, lets a chance of an 'important' sex-relationship (beginning or continued) go by the wayside (ie: a betrayal, if not of the other in a 'continued' one, then of one's self re at least the potential of a 'beginning.' Several of the last decade's 'college-sex-comedy' movies seem to deal with this choice.)

~~ Then again, o-t-o-h, according to N.Branden when he asked her "What does 'philosophy' say about sex?" her purported answer was "Nothing; except that it's good."

~~ I think that there's 'casual sex' (as in 'disposable-partners'-of-the-moment), whether paid prostitutes or 'swingers-club' meetings, and then there's 'casual sex' as in, "I do care for you...but, I'm not saying there'll never be anyone that's 'more'...or at least as good...for me."

~~ In short: there's 2 types of it. Unfortunately, there's no 'name' for my second described type, ergo, they both fall under 'casual.' But my point is, to talk about one is not to talk about the other.

~~ Then, of course, there's 'love' (talk about 'commitment'!), which I do believe can include (to be sure, ONLY for some couples) polyamory; but, that's another whole subject dealt with elsewhere. Anyhoo, such is definitely NOT 'casual sex,' even where multiple-partners exist. --- Anyone commenting on this paragraph, please do not bring the 'underground' Mormons into the subject; talk about another (and irrelevant) whole subject!)


Claudia's got it in one. Sex

Ross Elliot's picture

Claudia's got it in one. Sex and intimacy can't be divorced, not unless you choose to treat yourself and your partner as mere automatons.

It's quite possible for a person to have many sexual encounters within a short period of time, all involving intimacy, all without any loss of self-esteem. What differentiates that from promiscuous behaviour is that promiscuity is akin to scratching an itch that can't be satiated. Like any addiction (and yes, sex addictions do exist) promiscuity is a substitute for, or diversion from, a deeper dissatisfaction.

Fuck ya brains out if that's what floats your boat. Hell, pork everything with a pulse. Just ask yourself if you're scatching some unfocused itch or exchanging values. It doesn't have to be deep, just meaningful.

Re prostitution, it's profoundly damaging to the sense of life. Indulge in some sort of Pretty Woman fantasy if it helps you get past the meaningless, uncountable penetrations. Self-esteem is a capital sum reduced by moral profligacy.

That ain't moralising. It's about the way you account for yourself to yourself.

Hey Link, that link doesn't

Adam Buker's picture

Hey Link, that link doesn't link I think.


double post

Adam Buker's picture

double post

Related Discussion

rinkuhero's picture

In my Ayn Rand LiveJournal community we had this same topic about six months ago, if anyone wants to read the post and thread from that time:


If it's life-serving

Lanza Morio's picture

Well said, Shayne and Claudia. If it's life-serving (in the long-term) then it's what you want. Ask yourself, "Will this make my life better or worse?" and you'll have your answer.

The happiest people I know tend to avoid casual behavior of any kind. They know what they want and are intense about finding it.

all things considered

Olivia's picture

The thing with casual sex is that the two people involved usually try to convince themselves and/or eachother, that they are not REALLY intimately connected - despite the fact that they take part in THE MOST intimate activity know to mankind. The contradiction here is just too massive to be real, right, good or true.

Divorcing intimacy from sexual behaviour is like trying to separate emotions from the ego.

On your own

sjw's picture

There are many areas of life where Objectivism does not offer much explicit guidance. Some might be inclined to conclude: Well, then anything goes. But this is operating to a religious standard, "if the Bible doesn't call it a sin then it's OK."

The primary thing to understand here is that regardless of whether we can explicate it, there IS a right and a wrong, there are principles that govern it, and if we are not aware of them we may be exempted morally (depending on how conscientious we are) but we certainly can't escape the consequences of flouting them. Which I think is exactly why Adam is asking the question--he realizes this.

The other thing to consider in questions like this is personal context and psychology. You can ask: Would Howard Roark, an exemplar of Objectivist psychology, ever gain anything beneficial from this action? Which may indeed yeild a different answer if you ask the question of yourself, precisely because you are not an exemplar. What is right for an ideal man may not be right for you, and vice versa.

I wouldn't do that if I were you!

Robert's picture

"she's offered me a 'freebie' encounter, though I probably won't take it."

My advice on that score is don't! For starters is ~she~ getting a "freebie" encounter from you? & if not, that's hardly fair is it?

The thing about casual sex is that you never know when it might lead to something better and bigger than just sex. It is possible that your lady might wonder if it was just sex or sex + love - what you get from her.

You'd have to ask yourself what the hell were you doing it for. If you love the lass, why risk screwing that up with some tawdry encounter?
But you're the one to judge the risks - you know her better than we do.

~If~ you are thinking seriously about spending your "freebie" have a think about what you want out of the encounter. If it's just some interesting sex, save yourself the hassle and get a Karma Sutra or similar. Heck, you could even try a casual-encounter role-playing thing with your girl...

I'm not against casual sex, I'm just against it in this context.

I just think that you've got something there worth more than anything you could get out of a casual encounter. And remember, there is no garuantee that casual sex will be ~good~ sex! Certainly it isn't likely to be as good as it is with someone you've been with for seven months, someone who knows all your little foibles.


Adam Buker's picture

I didn't mean for this to be about advice, being that I'm in a relationship. But how all this came up is that I have no experience with casual sex (I've only been with one other person than my current girlfriend) whereas my current girlfriend has had some experience with it, and that got me curious and thinking about it in a way that I hadn't thought before. Although she's not an Objectivist, her statements on it are pretty close to Allie's and the second paragraph of Pete's post. We've been together for over seven months and both of us can see this eventually heading toward marriage. With that in mind, she's offered me a 'freebie' encounter, though I probably won't take it.

No, sorry ...

Duncan Bayne's picture

It's a site-wide setting - which was added at the request of another user Smiling Perhaps we need a poll ...


Jody Gomez's picture

LMAO! If I were to do that and she were smiling at me...well, let's not go there. After all, we have some SoloYouth running around here somewhere.

Jody: What if I want to

Ciro D Agostino's picture

Jody: What if I want to insert into a colon????without having some god-damned fat-assed smiling face staring at me?

Jody what are you talking about?

Ciro D'Agostino


Jason Quintana's picture

When I was in Amsterdam matters... worked themselves out on their own. But I did have a long chat with one of the girls in the red light district. Nice Czech girl. She told me all about her line of business and tried to get me to go into her little room for a discount but at that moment I decided to pass.

- Jason

I hate emoticons

Jody Gomez's picture

What if I want to insert a colon and the right side of a parenthesis into a post without having some god-damned fat-assed smiling face staring at me? Can one initiate force against emoticons?

"Legal prostitution is a

Jody Gomez's picture

"Legal prostitution is a much easier way of going about it. No need for dishonesty, no need for outside obligations and no complications."

Ahhh, I can see that when you were in Europe you spent some time in Amsterdam. Smiling

Know the risks involved

Pete L's picture

There are two possibly dire consequences in casual sex: STD's, and in the case of male-female encounters, unwanted pregnancy. Some 'risk management' can certainly be practiced to mitigate the chances of undesired consequences, but the fact is that it's a roll of the dice each time you get with a new partner. If you're willing to accept the consequences that might come about, and you feel positive about the experience after it happens, then it's hard to see the experience as anything but moral.

Personally, I feel casual sex is most effective as a place holder in between serious romantic relationships. Sometimes people need to blow off steam if they haven't gotten any in a while. The key, though, is not to compromise your standards, which can happen with alcohol especially. Also, it's important to establish terms prior to proceeding. As much as that might seem to ruin the moment, many women are attaching romantic sentiments even in a one night stand situation, and as Jason pointed out, many men proceed under false pretenses to seal the deal. Sometimes it's better to back out if it's clear the other person wants something more than just the sex (it's a similar lesson I learned in sales - sometimes you have to walk away from a deal).

The whole 'swinging' or 'open relationship' thing is a whole different story for me, though. I personally wouldn't feel comfortable about 'sharing' a woman I was seriously involved with romantically...well, if I was sharing with another woman, maybe...even so, it would seem to introduce an unknown quantity into the relationship that could have detrimental effects. However, I will stop short of declaring that open relationships are bad for everyone. And regarding Rand, I don't consider her Branden affair to be swinging (hopefully that goes without saying). It is obvious that she viewed her relationship with Branden as the closest thing in her life to John Galt and Dagny, not some partner swap type of deal.

No :)

Jason Quintana's picture

I'm not suggesting that men are somehow more guilty in these matters.
I would say that there is nothing wrong with casual sex given the proper contexts.

Legal prostitution is a much easier way of going about it. No need for dishonesty, no need for outside obligations and no complications.

- Jason


Jody Gomez's picture

Hell, don't most objectivists jump up and down as if Hitler had just walked in the god-damned room when one tries to defend prostitution. I'm thinking I've seen this behavior before. Or am I just thinking about a very prudish phunny-pharm denizen?

"I would have far more respect for a guy that visits (clean) prostitutes every so often versus one who puts on pretended romantic airs with various girls in order to "get laid"."

I agree with you completely. Of course, as to the false airs bit, I would think this would have to be an act played out over a period of time. If I walk into a bar and tell a girl upon first meeting her that I want to devote my life to her, and she sleeps with me that first night, well that's her own damned stupidity. And I do wish to say this is not a one-way-gender street. Sleep with anyone you just met, and you are having casual sex, thinking otherwise is wishful thinking. And no, there's not a damned thing wrong with casual sex.

Prostitution as the rational alternative

Jason Quintana's picture

Taking this question more seriously -- the difficulty with such relationships is that in many cases both parties have a different take on what their motives in a relationship are. Legal prostitution allows someone to have casual sex in a rational manner without having to consider the motivations (and feelings) of the other party because he already KNOWS what their motivation is. I would have far more respect for a guy that visits (clean) prostitutes every so often versus one who puts on pretended romantic airs with various girls in order to "get laid".

The strange thing is that most view the purchase of prostitutes as something immoral and taboo while the later group is stereotyped as partaking in typical male behavior.

- Jason


Allie's picture

Casual sex is probably perceived differently by men and women. The way I see it, men have a much easier time with having sex without any emotional involvement whereas women, even those who may appear to be OK with casual sex, probably invest more emotional energy (or false hopes) into it than men.

To answer the original questions though:
1. Does every act of consensual sex (casual or not) imply the complete sharing of oneself?

-- No, I definitely do not think that it does. "Casual sex" with a complete stranger probably does not involve the emotional intimacy, openness, and "sharing of oneself" as does sex with a partner for whom one actually has feelings for.

2. Can the intense physical pleasure of sex justify it as an end in itself, or does it's very nature mean that it should not be severed from romantic love?

-- Can it? Smiling It seems that that's precisely what it does for people who have casual sex. Is that how it SHOULD be? I personally don't think of that as being ideal, BUT, if nobody's hurt in the process, be it physically, emotionally or spiritually, it's hard to argue against it on moral grounds.

3. Does the morality of the situation change in different contexts (i.e. two drunks hooking up at a party vs. two rational people who don't love each other persay, but admire each other enough to be comfortable sexually with each other.)

--Well, using your examples, 2 people who are drunk don't necessarily know what they're doing and I wouldn't be as comfortable calling it perfectly consentual in their case. So my rule in judging the morality of it all would be to go back to what I already said, which is that if both partners are OK with the idea on physical, emotional and spiritual levels's fine.

How's that again?

Rick Pasotto's picture

I'm quite sure that Rand thought that one should do many other things than have sex within the context of a romantic relationship.

Alec's interview of Nathaniel Branden ...

Duncan Bayne's picture

... was where that comment was made. Pinch, salt, etc. Smiling

There is nothing casual about sex

Marnee's picture

Coincidentally I was just reading the section on sex and romantic love (Happiness) in OPAR last night. Its a very good discussion.

I think the point is that something as important as sex should not be taken lightly. The reasons were many. Basically I think that one should save this intensely intimate and uniquely pleasurable act as something to share with a person that deserves that kind of intimacy with you. Someone you are very close with, admire, share your primary values with, and, of course, thinks the same about you. It follows that if the partners are honest in this regard that this would tend to lead to a more intensely happy life and a more satisfying experience, in the long run.

Kissing however.... Eye

Read Casey's article ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... the precise reference is in there. Smiling

Rand herself didn't think

Tom Matassa's picture

Rand herself didn't think that one should only have sex within the context of a romantic relationship. Unfortunately, I can't remember where I read this, so I can't give you a reference, but I remember reading about her asking Peikoff whether a new woman in his life was a friend, a girlfriend, or a "friend with benefits," with the last being a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Too difficult to judge but...

Scott Wilson's picture

it comes down to first being true to yourself. On the one hand, any union between people must come down to a mutual respect of the mind, heart and body of the other. There should be some aspect of ALL of those features that appeals and sparks ardour befor sex can happen. However, the brain reacts to certain cues that are very peculiar to the individual, cues that are more instinctual about the appearance or aroma of someone you are attracted to, which can be enhanced by how they move, act or talk. If you try to make these up because you love someone's mind, it wont work. Similarly, denying sheer passion because you aren't sure the person is an objectivist is using your mind to override yourself.

There is little doubt that sexual attraction itself can be without much reason, even that which biologically is about reproduction, as so much of what turns people is something inate to them, or exposure to experiences or people as they grow up. Connections are made in the brain between different sights, sounds, smells and touches that repel or arouse - the question becomes how these are put into practice.

Casual sex can occur between two people who click, find themselves aroused and want to be physically intimate and find it a passionate expression of their OWN selves. It can also be a mindless escape from reality by submitting to a thrill of the senses with little consciousness of who the other is. The problem is, you rarely know as an observer, except the acid test of remembering and feeling happy you did it, or wondering why you woke up next to a "why the hell did i pick her/him?".


Jason Quintana's picture

Go for it ! Smiling

Hey Pete.

Adam Buker's picture

Do you remember which thread that was?

I think ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

... it's foolish to prescribe for others. As long as it doesn't involve force or fraud, kids or dogs ...

I have some thoughts in Romance & Rationalism, in the HQ archive.

Interesting comments on Rand's view by Casey in his new article.

There is no firm Objectivist position on the subject.

Pete L's picture

I remember this subject being debated on the old SOLOHq site. Some will say it's outright immoral because it's hedonism, others will scream 'context'. I tend to agree with the latter, although I haven't seen anyone come close to defining universal standards as to when casual sex might or might not be proper. Since the moral is that which supports and sustains one's like, I suppose each individual has to conduct an honest cost-benefit analysis of each sexual opportunity.

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