Woman looking sad, regretting casual sex
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Casual sex and regret: the man-woman difference

By Sarah Moses Friday, August 11, 2017 - 12:38
​​​​​​​Have you ever regretted a one-night stand? Your answer is likely to depend – at least in part – on whether you’re a man or woman, research shows.

It’s the morning after a one-night stand. You go over everything: how you met the guy you went home with, whether the sex was any good, and if you’ll see him again. Though you were totally into it at the time, you can’t help but regret having slept with him.

Regretting casual sex is not unusual – especially for women, past research has shown. There are different theories that explain why this might be. On the one hand, there’s evolutionary theory, which argues that the consequences of an unwanted pregnancy after casual sex are higher for women. But there’s also social role theory, which says that in societies where woman and men are less equal (so most parts of the world!) casual sex is frowned on for women and more acceptable for men.

Sexy Scandinavia?

But so far, research into regret after causal sex has largely been done in the US. Maybe in a more egalitarian and sexually liberal culture women would be less likely to think twice after a one-night stand? Like maybe in… Norway? That’s what a team made up of researchers from Norway and the US got to thinking, anyway.

To test out their theory, they found over 250 Norwegian students between the ages of 19 and 37. The students were asked to fill in questionnaires about the last time they’d had casual sex as well as the last time they’d passed up on an opportunity to do so.

Men regret missing out on sex

First off, the researchers wanted to know whether the students regretted their decision. But they were also curious about other aspects of casual sex, like worries about unwanted pregnancy, STDs, or reputation, and also pleasure – whether the sex had been any good and the student had reached orgasm. Finally, the researchers asked about the students’ sociosexuality, a personality trait that reveals how comfortable someone is having sex outside of a committed and loving relationship.

When it comes to post-casual-sex regret, women tend to feel more of it, even in an egalitarian country like Norway, the researchers learned. Men, on the other hand, are way more likely to regret missing out on an opportunity for casual sex!

More pleasure, less regret

You’d think part of the reason would be that women have more to lose if they get pregnant. But that wasn’t the reason for the difference in post-sex regret between guys and gals, the researchers learned. Neither were concerns about getting an STD or reputation (women were more worried about both), or the fact that men tend to get more pleasure out of casual sex than women.

Puzzling, indeed. But the research did shed light on why some people – whether they be men or women – are more likely to feel pangs of regret after casual sex whereas others aren’t. First of all, if you’re more likely to feel like there’s nothing wrong with having outside of a committed relationship, chances are good you won’t regret it afterwards. And not surprisingly, the more people enjoy it, the less they regret it!

Reference: One night stand regrets, Norwegian University of Science and Technology

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