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Can a woman enjoy casual sex like a man?

MAKE no mistake; when it comes to sex, men and women are on two very different planes.

It's the great conundrum of our times. Ostensibly, we live in a world where men and women earn the same and enjoy similar successes and status. What's more, years of being fed chick-lit and 'women come first' TV shows like Sex and The City have led women to believe that what's good for the gander is definitely good -- if not better -- for the goose. Yet here's the rub; when it comes to matters of the heart (and the bedroom), men are from Mars and women are from some place else entirely.

Case in point; Tallafornia's star-crossed couple Kelly and Dave.


Throughout their fling, the pair were barely in the same church, let alone on the same hymn sheet. While Kelly appeared adamant that her romance with beefy Dave was much more than a showmance, Dave appeared to have different ideas.

Often Kelly played the sexual libertine, telling all and sundry that she had her feelings for her boy toy under control.

Try as she might to convince us -- and herself -- that she was in the driving seat of their romance, her resolve went to seed in the presence of the blonde beefcake. While Dave scoured Tallaght's clubs for a better offer of an evening, Kelly made herself readily available regardless.

Dave, for his part, branded Kelly a whore once he caught her playing drinking games with fellow cast member Phil, and noted: "You're dead to me and I can't say that any nicer." As we go to press, the pair are reportedly back on (so are plans for a second series, in a rather neat coincidence).

Meanwhile, Nikita was bedded and dumped by Phil on more than one occasion. Once again, Nikita probably fancied herself as a liberated wild-child ... but going back to Phil time and time again for a replay after being unceremoniously ditched tells a different story.

Alas, the slut shaming wasn't just confined to the house. While Tallafornia's male cast members were publicly lauded as studs and players, their female counterparts came up against no shortage of ire and disdain in the big bad world.

And so, with Tallafornia's 'Score Room' seeing plenty of action in recent months, the question looms large. Can women really have sex like men; with little emotional attachment or concern for the consequences?

Years ago, I spoke about the emotional repercussions of casual sex in Ireland, and received the following letter: "I don't know what friends you have, but they would want to get over themselves," it said.

"Let me tell you I am a healthy 30-year-old girl and so are my friends. We train hard, work hard and eat healthy and are all single.

"Our hormones are working incredibly. We go out and meet some amazing looking men with amazing bodies and so it is hard to resist them and vice versa.

"If we sleep with a guy on the first night, we have no guilty feelings or regret it. They actually make you feel like a real woman and satisfy our needs."

So far, so encouraging ... yet according to sex therapist Dr Ian Kerner, science says otherwise.

"There's this thing that women can and should do as men do, when from an evolutionary and biological approach we know they approach sex differently," he says.

"Women can have sex but does it work for them in the same way as men? Not really."

According to Ian, men are very much able to compartmentalise between sex and emotion, and separate them in a way that women don't. While men may want more sex, women want more meaningful sex. Men respond to single sexual cues," he explains. "From a single cue, the process of arousal kicks in. Women neurologically operate on multiple cues.

"They need other types of stimulation, and have a higher threshold for arousal.

"Seeing something sexy plays a role for women, but connecting and feeling safe and comfortable plays a role too. The pursuit of sex taps into the reward centres in the brain, hence the thrill in the chase. Yet for women, the more sex is postponed, the more it's desired."


But what of the idea that women are just as capable of having no-strings-attached sex as men are?

"[It happens] in some cases," says Ian. "Women get horny and have an equal libido to men, if not surpassing them. It's about the factors that lead to sexual desire. Women are legitimately sexual and like the idea of waking up next to a warm body.

"It's just that when women think they can simply go into something just for sex, it often backfires on them. Even on a one-night stand the oxytocin kicks in and gets the emotion stirring. Also, while everyone wants to be wanted, women won't necessarily get the same ego boost from sex that men do."

Play games like this at your peril, says Ian: "You can have sex like a man, but the more casual the situation, the less likely it is you'll achieve orgasm or any emotional state of happiness. Can you compartmentalise between the pleasures of sex and its emotional qualities? If you're having casual sex as a means to an end, navigating the 'means' may be trickier than expected."