Sociosexuality: Having Sex Without Commitment or Emotional Attachment

Some people prefer to have casual sex. The kind in which there's no emotional connection with the other. This inclination is called sociosexuality.
Sociosexuality: Having Sex Without Commitment or Emotional Attachment

Last update: 09 August, 2022

For a long time now, sexuality has been stripped of certain of its previous taboos. This has been evidenced by the growing recognition and acceptance of different sexual orientations and practices. One of them is sociosexuality. It refers to having sex for mere physical pleasure, without any kind of emotional or personal bond.

This term was coined by the biologist and sexologist, Alfred Kinsey, in the first half of the 20th century. However, it became more popular in the 90s. In fact, psychometric instruments have even been created to measure the level of sociosexuality in people.

We must emphasize that sociosexuality isn’t a new sexual orientation, but rather the term refers to a behavioral pattern that has always existed and that many choose. Nevertheless, in the past, such behavior was stigmatized, especially in the case of women. Today, though, it enjoys a certain openness.

Indeed, there are even apps that allow sociosexual people to connect with each other, so that they can enjoy intimate encounters without commitment.

Couple having sex in car.

How is sociosexuality measured?

Maybe you’re wondering how sociosexuality manifests itself in people. Is it a categorical concept or can it be expressed in degrees?

Psychology professor, Lars Penke, created an instrument to measure this behavior, which he called the Sociosexual Orientation Inventory (SOI-R). The test consists of a questionnaire of nine questions, which are grouped into three categories:

  • Behavior. The number of people with whom the participant has had casual sex without any emotional bond.
  • Attitude. The opinions they have regarding sociosexuality.
  • Desire. Their desire to maintain sociosexual relationships.

From the data produced by the nine questions, a compatibility profile of the person with sociosexuality is obtained.

Differences between men and women

It’s a well-known fact that society has stigmatized women more than men when it comes to showing sexual openness. Nowadays, this isn’t as marked as before. However, there are still certain cultural prejudices that significantly determine the way in which women and men experience their sexuality.

Having said this, it’s totally valid to ask if, depending on gender, there are differences in the manifestation of sociosexuality. In fact, from the beginning, researchers have considered this variable as a determining factor. That’s why they used the SOI-R to check if there were differences between men and women.

Men scored higher on the SOI-R than women. In other words, men feel more comfortable with sociosexuality than women. That said, we must be careful with these generalizations, as there are individual differences between the same gender that must be taken into account.

The psychologist, Anna Campbell and the sociologist Paula England demonstrated that heterosexual men have a higher level of satisfaction than women regarding sociosexuality. Women tend to report feelings of guilt after having sexual encounters lacking in affection, or feelings of disappointment when seeing that the relationship doesn’t go beyond sexual contact.

However, the results vary if the variable of sexual orientation is introduced. For example, women who identified as bisexual had higher sociosexuality scores than those who identified as heterosexual or lesbian.

In the case of men, homosexual men showed a higher level of sociosexuality in the attitude category, compared to bisexual and heterosexual men.

couple in bed

Other factors associated with sociosexuality

In addition to gender and sexual orientation, there are other variables that significantly influence the manifestation of sociosexuality. For example, research suggests that people who exhibit certain individual characteristics, such as openness to experience, extraversion, or impulsiveness, have higher scores on the SOI-R.

On the other hand, people with individual characteristics such as kindness, humility, and honesty have lower scores regarding sociosexual behavior.

Individuals with an avoidant attachment style are more likely to develop a pattern of sociosexual behavior. In contrast, people with secure attachments are the least likely to develop this behavior.

Another variable related to this kind of sexual behavior is religion. People with an intrinsic religious orientation (where religion is an end in itself) tend to have low sociosexuality. While subjects with an extrinsic religion (as a means to achieve goals) score higher on the SOI-R.

The factors associated with sociosexuality aren’t exhausted here. In fact, it’s also been related to variables such as age and psychopathy, among others. Therefore, we can affirm that sexual behavior can’t be understood in isolation. In addition, not everyone experiences it in the same way or with the same intensity.

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  • Schmitt D. Sexual Strategies Across Sexual Orientations. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality [Internet]. 2008 [consultado 9 agosto 2021]; 18(2-3): 183-214. Disponible en: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1300/J056v18n02_06
  • Del Río E, Ramos-Villagrasa P, Castro A, Barrada J. Sociosexuality and Bright and Dark Personality: The Prediction of Behavior, Attitude, and Desire to Engage in Casual Sex. Int J Environ Res Public Health [Internet]. [consultado 9 agosto 2021]; 2019; 16(15). Disponible en: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6695927/