To cast a wider net into the dating pool, Christan Marashio opted to list “casual sex” under her OKCupid preferences. She shares the (sometimes funny, sometimes helpful) findings of that experiment.
I have used OKCupid off and on for about three years. After a six-month relationship with a man I met on OKCupid ended, I took a brief break. When I came back I decided to shake things up a bit.
I updated my relationship preferences to include casual sex.
The messages I received ranged from sincere to overly complimentary to graphic. I got invites to gang bangs, 7am face sitting requests, and the occasional offer to lick my calves. I told a close male friend of my experience and he said that, with the casual sex option checked, some men see no point in playing the game and just get right to it.
The effusive if not disingenuous compliments about my “hot mouth” and “sexy legs” didn’t really work on me. I know that some men can have sex with a woman and it doesn’t necessarily mean he finds her attractive. The main objective is just to get laid. Attraction is secondary. Who I might be able to attract for a casual hookup is not indicative of the type of man with whom I could have anything more consistent and substantive. I also knew that it wasn’t a good thing if a man told me he wasn’t looking for anything serious at the moment but thought that I’d be ideal hookup material. I don’t give men credit for “refreshing honesty.” In fact, I shave points off for revelations like that. That’s an insult disguised as a compliment.
Another male friend said that it was better to just choose long-term/short-term dating and new friends. That way, he explained, I wouldn’t be on the radar of guys who think invites to pull a train are welcome. He also warned that a woman who selected casual sex might set off a warning bell in the minds of many men.
“I’d say there are two assumptions: one is that a woman, no matter what she says, is always ‘looking’ for a more-than-sexual relationship should one present itself, and two is that a woman can get ‘just sex’ pretty much anytime she wants, without much effort. So, a woman who seeks ‘causal sex’ or selects it on her profile is suspect.” – G., Male, 37, NYC
In my three years of using OKCupid off and on, I’ve never had any of those bad dates we often hear about. Because of how I screen profiles, I don’t accept invitations from anybody who asks. Since I have a good idea of my typical OKCupid audience, I’d be on alert when a guy who was above my typical pull would contact or respond to me.
I didn’t judge a man if he selected casual sex as an option. As long as he made an effort to complete his profile and post pictures that didn’t appear to be from some ’80s era Playgirl shoot, I didn’t care. (Side note: Naked torso shots. Why? Discuss.)
There were a number of take-aways from this experience.
First, just because someone chooses casual sex doesn’t mean they’re looking for a one-night stand. A person’s willingness to be open about that interest should not be held against them or get them labeled a player or slut. I ended up dating three men during this time for 3-6 months each. We did “couple-y” things like go to the movies, make dinner, and spend weekends together. We weren’t meeting up for quickies as some people might assume. There was intimacy and affection and shared confidences. There just wasn’t exclusivity or expressed commitment. I wasn’t seeking “just” sex, so adding casual sex as a relationship choice actually worked to my advantage. It exposed me—in various ways—to a broader audience. One that I may not have been exposed to had I been a “good girl” and listened to my well-meaning male friends and only selected short and long-term dating.
Another lesson? That About Us section with all the questions is a gold mine! That’s where someone’s real personality comes out. For example, if a guy answered questions like, “Do you want your partner to be kinkier than you?” with “Not possible!” I bailed. In my experience, people who go out of their way to broadcast how much sex they have are trying to overcompensate for something.
Next, some men select casual sex to convey another message. I polled a few men as to why they checked off casual sex. One man said he did so to make clear that sexual compatibility was important to him. Another said he did it so that women would understand that he would not date someone for too long without sex being part of the equation. A different man not only selected casual sex but clipped his profile by telling readers he was currently dating other women. When I asked him about that he told me he wished to avoid meeting women who might develop other expectations. There’s another example of “refreshing honesty” that I find questionable. That admission was the equivalent of engaging in a pleasant conversation with someone and having them randomly poke you in the eye without warning. It’s rude and unnecessary. My analogy proved accurate when, after we met, he told me he knew “immediately” that he wasn’t physically attracted to me. Um…thanks for your honesty, I guess?
Another observation I had was that a lot of the men contacting me during this time were in transitional phases of their lives. There were a number of couch surfers, recently divorced/separated guys and newly single types seeking women who might be, as the kids say, “DTF.” I didn’t want to be anybody’s “get over the hump” hump. If they admitted in their profile or in messages that they were newly single I didn’t engage further. I made sure I traded enough emails to discern what their relationship/living situation was. I was not interested in being a rest stop for some OKCupid hobo.
I also learned that some men send messages of the “I want to worship your ass” variety with the intention of shocking a woman into a response. The point is to engage her by any means possible, even if it means offending or harassing her.
The biggest lesson I learned was that, even in 2013, a woman’s choice to pursue a non-monogamous relationship is met with a great deal of skepticism and judgment. It is assumed by many men that a woman can get sex easily. Therefore, why would she even need to check that box? Something is either wrong with her or it’s a trap. Then there’s the harassment factor, which nearly drove me off OKCupid altogether.
Sometimes I get bored with OKCupid and want to mix it up a bit. In those moments I go back and check that box. The upside is that I widen my pool of potential matches. Yes, many of them are cubs looking for a cougar or guys in Joey Buttafuoco pants doing their best Joey Tribbiani impersonation. There are also many sex-positive and emotionally evolved men on there who don’t ascribe to the Madonna/Whore philosophy. Those are the men I’ve met. It takes a little longer to find them but they are there.
I’ve accepted that some men will see that decision as a red flag and reject me. They likely would have eventually rejected me anyway. I also accept that I have to screen men more stringently who show interest when I have that option selected. Nothing is fail proof, of course. But at least I get to do it on my terms.
Christan is an NYC based writer and columnist. Her work and advice has been featured in media outlets such as Match.com, YourTango, MSN’s GLO Network and The New York Post. You can find more of her work at And That’s Why You’re Single. As a 40-something dating in Manhattan she can teach you that sometimes the love of your life is the love of your life. Follow her on Twitter at @ATWYSingle