At the same time that same-sex couples push for recognition of their relationships under marriage laws, demanding the right to legally solidify commitments that are monogamous and life-long (at least in their aspirations), a growing body of social science research is demonstrating greater plasticity in many different-sex relationships (otherwise known as “heterosexual relationships”).  That research seems to reinforce what the popular media (such as Skins) is portraying about young, hetero-sex and about homo-sex (such as Modern Family).

Two newly published articles in the Journal of Sex Research document the rapidly diversifying forms of sexual/intimate affiliation routinely entered into by young heterosexual men and women, thereby complicating the traditional account of heterosexuality as either taking the form of one-night stands or dating/long-term relationship.  Read against the same-sex marriage litigation’s testament to the responsibility and stability of lesbian and gay relationships, it’s intriguing to consider whether young straight people are increasing becoming less conventional, more polymorphous, indeed even more queer in their sexuality than the homo-sexuality currently on display in lesbian and gay politics and litigation.

One new article that goes some way in blowing up the one-night stand/long-term relationship binary is: Positioning the Booty-Call Relationship on the Spectrum of Relationships: Sexual but More Emotional Than One-Night Stands, by Peter K. Jonason; Norman P. Li; Jessica Richardson.  Here’s the abstract:

Most research on human sexuality has focused on long-term pairbonds and one-night stands. However, growing evidence suggests there are relationships that do not fit cleanly into either of those categories. One of these relationships is a “booty-call relationship.” The purpose of this study was to describe the sexual and emotional nature of booty-call relationships by (a) examining the types of emotional and sexual acts involved in booty-call relationships and (b) comparing the frequency of those acts in booty-call relationships to one-night stands and serious long-term relationships. In addition, the manner in which sociosexuality is associated with the commission of these acts was also examined. Demonstrative of booty-call relationships’ sexual nature was individuals’ tendency to leave after sex and infrequent handholding. In contrast, the romantic nature of booty-call relationships was demonstrated through the frequency of acts like kissing. The results suggest the booty-call relationship is a distinct type of relationship situated between one-night stands and serious romantic relationships.

Next is Romantic Partners, Friends, Friends with Benefits, and Casual Acquaintances as Sexual Partners, by Wyndol Furman and Laura Shaffer. Here’s their abstract:

The purpose of this study was to provide a detailed examination of sexual behavior with different types of partners. A sample of 163 young adults reported on their light nongenital, heavy nongenital, and genital sexual activity with romantic partners, friends, and casual acquaintances. They described their sexual activity with “friends with benefits,” as well as with friends in general. Young adults were most likely to engage in sexual behavior with romantic partners, but sexual behavior also often occurred with some type of nonromantic partner. More young adults engaged in some form of sexual behavior with casual acquaintances than with friends with benefits. The frequencies of sexual behavior, however, were greater with friends with benefits than with friends or casual acquaintances. Interview and questionnaire data revealed that friends with benefits were typically friends, but not necessarily. Nonsexual activities were also less common with friends with benefits than other friends. Taken together, the findings illustrate the value of differentiating among different types of nonromantic partners and different levels of sexual behavior.

Of course, non-straight people surely continue to have a range of sexual/intimate encounters that do not necessarily mirror the marital form.  It’s just worth noting that as a research and public relations matter in the current moment hetero-sex is being portrayed as much more polymorphous than is homo-sex.


46 comments

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