By Bethany Stotts

Casual sex, common on many college campuses, leaves many female students dissatisfied and with hurt feelings, according to the authors of a recent column for The Chronicle Review, a publication of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

“For the past 12 years, I have taught a course on sex differences to college juniors and seniors,” writes University of Virginia professor Steven E. Rhoads in his coauthored article “The Emotional Costs of Hooking Up.”

“When we talk about relationships and sex itself, most of the men, sometimes sheepishly, indicate that they enjoy hookups—but the vast majority of the women are unhappy with them,” he writes.

He continues,

“Women don’t want sex for long without an emotional connection, a sense of caring, if not real commitment, from their partners. As one student wrote in a paper for my class, ‘We are told not to be sexual prudes, but to enjoy casual sex, we have to be emotional prudes.’”

“A lot of the men seem to believe what one told my wife a few years ago: She was teaching Shakespearean romantic comedy to an all-male college class and asked what sort of women the men imagined they would fall in love with,” he later writes. “One young man said he was not interested in love at that point because he hadn’t slept with enough women yet” (emphasis added).

Politics prof Rhoads is the author of Taking Sex Differences Seriously (2004). Although the article is written from a first-person perspective, he acknowledges UVA grads Laura Webber and Diana Van Vleet as co-authors.

According to professor Rhoads, a breadth of scholarship has shown that:

  1. “… women who hook up get less enjoyment and feel more guilt than men do”;
  2. “… female teenagers are much more likely than male teenagers to become depressed after sexual encounters with multiple partners”;
  3. “… college men who sleep around the most are the least likely to report symptoms of depression, while female college students who engage in casual sex are the most likely to report depression”;
  4. “… having more sexual partners is associated with ‘poorer emotional states in women, but not in men”; and
  5. “The more partners women have in the course of their lives, the more likely they are to be depressed, to cry almost every day, and to report relatively low satisfaction with their lives.”

“Similar to our previous research, an important finding in this study is that sexual behavior in a romantic context was not associated with symptoms of depression,” write clinical psychologist Catherine Grello, University of Tennessee professor Deborah Welsh and Queens University of Charlotte professor Melinda Harper write in their 2006 article for the Journal of Sex Research, “No Strings Attached: The Nature of Casual Sex in College Students” (pdf).

Rhoads asserts that “My female students tell me that the emotional pain caused by casual sex goes largely unreported by women, because they are often ashamed that they care about men who treat them like strangers the next morning.”

The reason for the gender difference? Prof. Rhoads chalks it up to “evolution,” particularly the theories of Syracuse University professor and “evolutionary anthropologist” John Townsend, author of What Women Want—What Men Want.

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia, where this article originally appeared. Used with permission.