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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Bristol chapter.

Now casual shags and one night stands are becoming so common, maybe we should ask if it’s empowering and fun or damaging?

Times have changed, even films made only 10 years ago like the rom-com What’s Your Number? seem embarrassingly outdated, with sexist and slut shaming remarks made about the number of people women, especially, have slept with. Only a few generations ago in the UK was there this idea of ‘lie back and think of England’ type sex. Luckily there’s been a massive shift since then and now we see sex as something more enjoyable, consensual, not shameful and basically just fun.

But, is this easy-going view of sex actually healthy?

Yes, it allows us -women- to have more autonomy over our bodies, more than our mothers for example. You can discover and express your sexuality, whilst learning about what you want from a partner.

Casual sex is beginning to have less and less shame attached to it. But, only around 3 years ago did sex education actually become compulsory in UK schools. This means that most of Gen Z have had varying amounts of -usually very bad- education around not only how to practice safe sex (let alone how to have protected sex as a queer person) but also what consent is and what a healthy relationship looks like. We end up using shows like Sex Education for our actual sex education. This obviously isn’t enough, as according to data from the government in England the amount of chlamydia tests done by women aged 15 to 24 decreased by 1.2%, whilst in the same group the number of chlamydia diagnoses increased by 21.8%, with other STIs on the rise too.

Casual sex done badly isn’t only detrimental for our physical health but can be bad for our mental health as well. Using dating apps can make us view potential partners as only objects without a personality, a life, a family or people who love them; they start to become a sexual object and nothing more. Obviously, this isn’t an okay way to view anybody. People also start viewing themselves in this way, which is detrimental to self-esteem and self-respect. We need education on how to be physically healthy but also to teach kids that people are people in their own right and with their own thoughts.

Relationships are hard full stop. What’s harder now is how normalised casual sex is. For a young person wanting to begin the sexual part of their life, hookups can be a confusing way to do this. This is because we’ve been conditioned to want the fictional, unrealistic love of rom-coms like The Notebook or When Harry Met Sally. But when we get to early teen hood and our first time is drunk at a party where you never talk to the person again – it’s not exactly our tween dream of them standing outside your bedroom window and singing to you in the rain.

The effect of hook-up culture on women can also be very damaging and although times are changing, there still exists a definite double standard of people who shame women for their ‘body counts’ but wouldn’t even stop to think about the number of people a man has slept with. Certain men seem to expect women to be the ‘cool girl’ (referenced in Amy Dunne’s monologue in Gone Girl), unrealistic and pretty much impossible to achieve. This trope then makes casual sex, for a woman, impossible to get right.

A causal relationship or casual sex done right, can allow you to grow, become confident and active in your sex life as well as boost your self-esteem. I think it’s safe to say the majority of Gen Z however have not managed to get there yet. In fact, I think we’re only half way there: within our generation most of us accept casual sex and don’t see it as something shameful, but enough work hasn’t been done to ensure that these relationships are both physically and mentally healthy. As a generation we have been let down by the education system and so we can’t yet achieve these goals. Only once educating young people on the nuisances of relationships is taken seriously, do I think casual sex will have majorly positive effects.

Hey, I'm Martha in my first year at Bristol, studying anthropology. Feminism has been an important interest of mine for my life and so has writing, so I think Her Campus is going to be perfect for me to understand more about both of these things. I've grown up in a village in south Devon and am excited to experience a city where I don't know everybody! My interests include books, music and politics as well as being outside and in water.