Sex column: Something casual? Choose the meaning

It is tough to crack what people mean when they say they are looking for “something casual” in a dating context. Does it mean casual sex or casual dating? And casual as opposed to what?

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Introducing the word casual to any dynamic makes it very difficult to crack. Take the dress code smart casuals for instance. It is the most confusing of all dress etiquettes with a lot of room for interpretation. Most people get the smart bit because it implies well groomed, but the term casual can lead to a breach in dress etiquette. 

Poor sartorial choices can be easily laughed off but poor dating choices often end in a pool of tears. 

Obviously, it is way tougher to crack what people mean when they say they are looking for “something casual” in a dating context. Does it mean casual sex or casual dating? And casual as opposed to what? Committed? But, what is commitment on a dating app? Does an exclusive relationship count as casual? Or, can it be labelled as a committed relationship without marriage? 

Also read: Why women ghost? It's not them, it's you

This is a dating app and not a matrimonial app!

Do those carry this public service announcement on their dating profiles truly believe swipers fail to notice where they are? Or, have they been propositioned one time too many? Or, perhaps their sensibilities are offended by those who are open to getting hitched on a so-called hook-up app? 

There are no guarantees that this warning deters the matrimonially minded just as the strictly hook up seekers are not deterred by profiles that claim they are looking for a meaningful relationship!

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After all, a dating app is just a medium for meeting people regardless of the reputation it enjoys and it is up to the swipers to use it as they see fit. This is why some people feel the need to even define dating in the first place. Is it about hanging out? Going to restaurants? Just platonic? Does it involve any emotions? What about physical intimacy? Is it exclusive? To sum up, there’s the classic question on most people’s minds while meeting someone: “Is it just coffee or something more?” 

Instead of asking or wondering you can always see how it pans out. But, wait and watch might not be a good strategy if you are going to invest time and energy only to discover a complete mismatch later on. Defining even basic terminologies upfront can help to avoid mix-ups and heartaches.

Also read: Sex column: Decoding your Tinder bio. It's not rocket science

Friends first, with or without benefits afterwards

“Funnily enough I get pinged a lot for paid fun as they say. And a lot of them call it friends with benefits,” says Freddy, 50, a creative consultant from Chennai. That is why he prefers to clarify when somebody says FWB, “Do they mean financial benefits or a physical relationship with someone they are not emotionally involved with?”

To Freddy, casual dating is about not committing to a relationship with someone. “It doesn’t necessarily imply that I want to have a sexual relationship with someone. Casual just means you go out on dates, you go to a restaurant, you spend time together. If there is physical intimacy as a result of that, it usually happens in an organic manner and not because you plan it. It evolves when you spend time with someone and get along with them and are completely comfortable.”

Having said that, Freddy feels sex does not alter his relationship status and make him want to commit to the person. Manya*, 42, a management consultant from Pune abhors the whole lack of commitment, especially when it implies a lack of basic human decency. As an independent single woman who is not groom hunting, she freely admits that it is possible to have a casual relationship where one feels valued and respected. But, when it means that the person has nothing to offer beyond sex, she loses interest before the man has finished explaining his position.  “When men have told me they want something casual, they have meant sex start and sex stop. Beyond that they don’t want to meet any expectation as a human itself.” 

She believes in connecting at a human level first. That is possible only when there is mutual respect and that is why her relationships last long after the romance has worn off. “I like to build a relationship. It is important to me to care about the person and it’s friendship first, benefits or not, comes later.” 

Also read: Sex tips: Oh-so-stupid things men must stop saying, even if women don't call them out

Is there someone better out there for me?

The fear of missing out (FOMO) is not just driven by social media fuelled aspirations but an overabundance of opportunity. Why would someone want to settle when there is a  chance that there might be somebody better out there? 

Vidya, 43, who works in a BPO in Mumbai, has met not one but three guys who want to experiment outside their marriage. They want to explore kink or try something new with different partners. Another phenomenon that she has encountered is that these men are more attracted by the fact that she lives independently and they don't have to go anywhere or book a hotel to get laid. 

While Vidya sends these men packing, she is glad that she knows about their intentions at the outset. According to her, men who don't seek emotional attachment should approach those who are open to something like this and not get into a relationship with someone and then explore their options. However, not all lonely souls look to deceive.

Looking for Mr Right Now and not Mr Right

"Many people on dating apps are confused and don't know what exactly they are looking for. So for them something casual is a way to explore and figure out what they want because there are so many choices," says Koushik*, 40, a sales guy from Kolkata. "Many women tell me they are not looking for something serious. They are busy from Monday to Saturday and on the weekend they just want to meet a stranger and go for a walk or to dinner or just hook up. I feel that these people are lonely and they would like to be with somebody they can share that moment with and the next week, again, it's like whoosh it's gone!"

He strongly feels that successful women, who are around 40 or so, who have been in relationships, marriages, divorces in the past, don't want to go through the rigmarole of setting up a home and putting their heart and soul into building all that all over again. "Basically, they don't want that kind of stress in their life."

Also read: Loss of erection? OMG! What’s happening? Is it ED?

I want to keep it casual but exclusive!

Vidya is content with her single status and does not seek any support from any man. She is not on a dating app because she wants to take the edge off her loneliness either. "I don't want to be in a relationship where a man tells me what I am supposed to do or not do. I do miss physical intimacy and I want to be able to bond with the person and be in a relationship where we get together and have a good time. It is a commitment in the sense that I am looking to be in an exclusive relationship with one person, rather than hanging out with multiple partners."

Many of the women who didn't want to be quoted echoed her sentiments. They were afraid of the slut shaming that would follow if they expressed that sex was in the cards when marriage was off limits.

Among the 40 plus lot, the term casual in a dating context does not often imply a hook up sans any attachment. Every person who spoke to THE MAN in the context of casual dating expressed a desire to connect with the person and see where the journey took them with no goal post in mind, be it in the form of marriage or a even a live-in relationship.

Casual dating stereotypes

* Women who are looking for a relationship have marriage on their minds

* Men who say they want to keep it casual mean they just want to hook up

It is better to communicate clearly what terms like "something casual" or "relationship" mean to you at the outset to avoid any confusion

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