website statistics

Why casual sex won't actually make you crazy, but Laura Sessions Stepp might

Sex.Really. does at least one thing right: They have Lena Chen blogging for them. You may remember Lena from some notorious goings-on at Harvard University that pitted her (and her blog Sex & The Ivy) against True Love Revolution, the on-campus abstinence group.

Her Sex. Really. post, entitled "Oxytocin: The Pseudoscience of the Hook-Up Hormone," is strong blast against ongoing contentions that casual sex reliably leads to heartache, loneliness and even mental illness due to all that crazy oxytocin coursing through our girly après-sex bodies. Citing recent evidence to the very contrary, she writes:

"As a now-monogamous former sex blogger, I'm living proof that hooking up doesn't make you crazy or unable to commit. But if mainstream media reports of the past few years are to be believed, I'm the exception, not the rule. Recently, however, researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted one of the first large-scale studies on the effects of hooking up and found the following:

"Although there has been speculation in public discourse that sexual encounters outside a committed romantic relationship may be emotionally damaging for young people, this study found no differences in the psychological well-being of young adults who had a casual sexual partner verses a more committed partner."

We recently caught up with Lena at the Harvard Abstinence Conference and we're excited to share a bit of our interview with her on this blog next week. But for now, here's how she describes one of the chief proponents of the oxytocin-is-dangerous theory in her post:

Media coverage of the supposed "hook-up culture" often echoes misconceptions first promoted by abstinence advocate Dr. Eric Keroack, the Bush-appointed former deputy assistant secretary for the Office of Population Affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services. During his tenure, Keroack made the case for abstinence-only sex education by claiming that premarital sex damages one's ability to form attachments down the line.

The layman's version: oxytocin, the so-called "bonding hormone" which is produced during intercourse, will be less effective at bonding us to our future mates if we overindulge in the chemical cocktail by bed-hopping through our youth.

Aside from Lena's updates on these discredited oxytocin theories, I find it totally delicious that she directly challenges Laura Sessions Stepp's work on oxytocin and the perils of casual sex (Unhooked) – who we recently learned is closely involved with Sex.Really, the host of the post. I would say it's totally cool they ran with it, except the editors seemed to feel the need to include a note from Laura Sessions Stepp saying "I have never heard of Keroack nor read anything he wrote"

Really, Laura? Because Bush's appointment of Dr. Keroak was major, major headline news. Keroak, an anti-contraception and anti-choice crusader, and abstinence-till-marriage advocate, was actually appointed the head of the office charged with providing women with contraceptives and pregnancy prevention counseling. How did a self-described feminist like Laura Sessions Stepp miss that?

Cory Silverberg, writing at, came up with a wonderful definition of casual sex, which inovlves no craziness whatsoever:

"When sex is casual, I think the word is used to mean that the sex is detached from those traditional sexual and gender scripts. This is, I would suggest, precisely what is so threatening about casual sex. Casual sex isn't sex by the rules."

Read his entire thought-provoking post here