TOP ANTHROPOLOGIST: 'Hooking up' may be making Americans better at love

Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher is likely our most-respected researcher on love. 

Her books — like “Why Him? Why Her?” — are bestsellers.

Her TED Talks have been watched millions of times

And in a new article for Nautilus, she makes a great argument for why hooking up is good for long-term love. 

She notes that in the “Singles in America” annual study of 5,000 Americans that she co-leads, 66% of single men and 50% of single women reported having had a one-night stand in 2014. 

While having an “uncommitted sexual encounter” with a stranger might “appear reckless,” she observes, it’s a hugely efficient way to get to know someone. 

Fisher explains:

Any stimulation of the genitals promotes dopamine activity, which can potentially push you over the threshold into falling in love.

At orgasm, oxytocin and vasopressin — neurochemicals linked with feelings of attachment — spike. With just one night of casual sex, risky as it is, you may win life’s greatest prize: a devoted mating partner.

After a one night stand, Fisher says that people often move to a “commitment-lite” relationship, in which “a pair has coitus when convenient, but they don’t appear in public as a couple.”

In other words, you may be sleeping together, but you’re not tagging each other on Instagram. 

That arrangement is super popular, too: Fisher reports that in the 2013 Singles in America study, 58% of men and 50% of women had been in a friends-with-benefits situation. 

And it’s not like those relationships are going nowhere. 

Fisher reports that 28% of the 2014 survey participants had experienced a friends-with-benefits arrangement grow into a long-term relationship

So hook-ups lead to friends-with-benefits, friends-with-benefits lead to long-term partnerships.  

But the news for the casually sexual isn’t all good. 

Research from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia indicates that couples who wait to have sex until later in their relationship report having higher quality marriages.

Some of the “people who are already more likely to struggle in romantic relationships — such as people who are impulsive or insecure — are also more likely to have casual sex,” write report authors Galena K. Rhoades and Scott M. Stanley.

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