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U of O researchers find women are better at labelling sexual relationships

Edits: Marta Kierkus

In response to the growing use of casual sex terminology in sexuality studies, a recent study from the University of Ottawa looks to identify strict definitions for the terms that are loosely used when we talk about hooking up.

“The purpose of this study was to verify, with a bigger sample: If we give people these definitions and we give them the terms, are they able to match up the right definitions?” said U of O sex researcher Jocelyn Wentland.

“And it turns out that, yeah, they very much (can).”

Recently published in the Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, the survey included 885 participants, mainly “highly educated” people under the age of 30.

The survey asked them about their own sexual experiences and had them identify the definitions for four terms: fuck buddy, friends with benefits, booty call, and one night stand.

Women proved to be more adept at defining the terms than their male counterparts.

That’s because of the greater risk casual sex poses to women, according to Wentland, such as pregnancy, social stigma, and violence.

“Women are just paying more attention to it because the names do matter, because they’re reflective of other behaviours, which are related to the costs for women in (ways that) just aren’t the same for men,” she said.

Wentland said she wasn’t surprised when participants who reported having no sexual experience were not as adept at correctly identifying the four terms.

“If you haven’t gotten into the sexual game, I don’t expect you to be able to figure out the nuanced definition between a fuck buddy and a friend with benefits,” she said.

The specific type of sex the participants reported having didn’t affect their accuracy in defining the terms.

“It speaks to the pervasiveness of these relationships in our society that you don’t ever have to (have) had one, but you can tell me exactly how it works,” said Wentland.

But while the terms one night stand and booty call were easily identifiable, matching the correct definitions for friends with benefits and fuck buddies proved to be a more daunting task, especially for men.

The study is the first of its kind as it looks to set a standard for how these terms should be used. The first part of the study used focus groups to lay out the definitions of the terms.

“Terminology used is very important. If you dilute what you study, your results are even more diluted. In the worst case scenario, you generate wrong conclusions,” said Elke Reissing, Wentland’s supervisor.

Wentland will soon release the third part of the study, which offers a more detailed description of how these sexual relationships work.

She’s also working on another study analyzing modern relationships, including what leads to sex between two people and how sex changes things afterward.

Students can participate in the study by visiting datingandsexsurvey.com.