9 out of 10 women in U.K. study call one-night stands "immoral"

Ever-so-slightly fishy-sounding report says women are judgmental about casual sex.

By Page Rockwell
March 31, 2006 7:00PM (UTC)
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U.K. papers are all over the results of a University of Sheffield study that found that nine out of 10 women believe casual sex is "immoral and that those women who engaged in it were not doing so primarily for pleasure," according to the Telegraph. The finding is based on interviews with 46 women ages 23 to 83. Psychologist Sharron Hinchcliffe described the findings at a meeting of the British Psychological Society in Cardiff on Thursday: "There was a view that if women had one-night stands they were doing it for reasons other than their own pleasure, more out of a feeling of being desperate, needy or looking for something, or that they had lost control through drink or drugs ...

"They referred to the women as emulating male behaviour. It was certainly the view that it was not the way women should behave. Some of the respondents said these things even though they admitted they had had one-night stands themselves. I was surprised at how judgmental they were. It makes me question whether women have really gained all the sexual freedom they are supposed to have gained since the Sixties."


In addition to not enjoying the sexual freedoms the '60s were supposed to deliver, a couple of the articles about the study also note sagely that women don't seem to be that much like "Sex and the City" characters after all. All of this is potentially slightly interesting. But, as Sexual Freedom Coalition spokesperson Tuppy Owens told the Telegraph, it's tough to know how much stock to put in this study when we don't know what the interview questions were. "Perhaps if they had asked the questions in a different way they would have got different answers," Owens suggested. (At least so far, the full report doesn't seem to be available online.)

Owens also objected to the study's reliance on loaded language like "one-night stand": "Two people just banging away at each other can be pretty meaningless and an empty experience, unless there is some passion, care and feeling towards the other person. However, if you go out wondering what might happen, ready to give as well as receive, you might have the most wonderful adventure."

So maybe the overwhelming majority of British women believe casual sex is immoral and unfeminine. (In which case, the creators of "Ladette to Lady" may have much to answer for.) Or maybe the study asked its slender sample slanted questions. Either way, new studies of the subject will no doubt emerge with conclusions of their own. And we'll still be here wondering over the lack of studies on whether casual sex is good for people, instead of just the chicks.

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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