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Can Casual Sex Lead to a Relationship? What You Need to Know

Can casual sex lead to a relationship? Sure, why not? After all, even friends with benefits catch feelings sometimes.
Editorial team
July 31, 2023
June 15, 2024
min. read
can casual sex lead to a relationship
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Any gay person who’s ever compared their body count to that of their straight friends may discover that the stats differ somewhat significantly. While the rise of dating apps in the mainstream has normalized casual sex for heterosexuals, there’s no doubt that we gays have been at it a lot longer.  

Even once we’ve found a significant other to hold onto, open relationships are commonplace among gay men, with a recent report by the San Francisco-based Gay Therapy Center finding that 30 percent were not strictly monogamous with their partners. 

But how did this come to be? And what exactly constitutes “casual sex” anyway — and how likely is it to turn into something more?

A cruise through history  

Casual hookups can be traced back to Ancient Rome and Greece, where it was socially permissible for men to take a male lover — setting the scene for totally hot (and historically accurate) gladiator porn a couple millennia later. 

Over the years, as homophobia (sadly) became more commonplace throughout the world, gay men had to get creative in our quest to get laid. From donning green carnations to establishing cruising spots like bathhouses and dark rooms and eventually inventing apps like yours truly, we gays have come up with countless ingenious solutions for satisfying our horniness, normalizing hookup culture in the process. More recently, the use of PrEP has allowed us to enjoy casual sex without compromising our health, precipitating our community’s first sexual revolution since the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and ’90s. 

What is casual sex?  

Netflix and chill, booty calls, one-night stands, no strings attached — whatever you want to call it, casual sex is simply intercourse that takes place outside of a formal relationship, usually with no expectation for it to progress to anything more significant. Some people may espouse the superiority of sex with someone they love, which is a genuinely beautiful sentiment and all, but the fact remains that the intention — and the act itself — is often quite different.  

What are the benefits of casual sex?  

Of course, sex within a formal relationship can be emotional, intimate, and loving, and that's great. That said, many people, regardless of their sexual orientation, consider it the healthier, "more normal" option, which isn’t necessarily the case and also borders on puritanical slut shaming. On the contrary, when practiced in the proper context, casual sex arguably has plenty of perks:

  • Fun and games. As a species, we humans (along with dolphins and pigs) have sex simply because it feels good. Craving sexual pleasure is just part of our basic biology, baby. The physical and mental benefits of casual sex are the same as those you'd receive in a formal relationship — they fulfill your needs as a piece of flesh and blood who thrives from a good fuck. 
  • Constant fresh meat. Part of what makes casual sex hookups so exciting is the possibility of sharing an orgasm with a sultry stranger (or strangers) whenever — day after day, night after night. We’re all about finding that oh-so-sweet spot between quality and quantity, but even so, the numbers add up to something long-term monogamous couples can’t realistically emulate.    
  • Good health. Hot and heavy sex doubles as a vigorous workout — it raises your heart rate and puts your body to work. For some, casual sex also increases self-esteem and confidence, making them feel better about their physical appearance both in and out of their clothes.  
  • No pressure. It’s just no-strings casual sex, meaning there are no strict obligations. Sometimes you’re figuring things out after a breakup, or maybe you just don’t want to be in a relationship right now — and sometimes, there’s just no explanation needed. As long as everyone’s on the same page regarding the rules, you’re good to go (so go get some!). 
  • The greater explorer. Perhaps you’re looking to try something new or explore a fetish. Sleeping with more partners helps you figure out what you like and don’t like, meaning you'll be a more confident partner all around, a major plus if and when you decide to enter something more long-term.


Can it evolve into something more?

Whether casual sex can turn into love depends on the people, the dynamic, the context and any number of factors that set the scene for your situation in the first place. Some people prefer to test the waters with potential partners by first establishing a sexual relationship, meaning they’re more comfortable with physical closeness before taking the leap into emotional intimacy. After all, it's still getting to know one another just in one particular way. 

But if it turns out you share the same values, goals and interests, then there’s every chance you could become something more than just champion shaggers. 

Just know it might not always work out the way you’d like. Sex and the City dedicated an entire episode to the matter — appropriately entitled “The Fuck Buddy” — where Carrie fails miserably in her attempt to spark a romantic relationship with her casual sex partner, discovering they lacked anything in common outside the bedroom. And then, just like that, she lost him as a hookup, too.

How to go from casual sex to an official relationship

If you’re feeling like you want something more than just friends with benefits, then how can you take it to the next level?

Read the signs 

If you're only getting late-night booty calls and having monosyllabic exchanges despite your continual efforts to progress things, then you might construe that as him not being interested in pursuing anything further. But if your chemistry extends to the outside world and you find yourself spending quality time together, a romantic connection could very well indeed be in the cards.

Speak up 

Arguably one of the most obvious risks of casual sex is becoming attached and getting burned when the desire for commitment isn't reciprocated. But if you do suspect the feelings are mutual, say so! It's really worth voicing it, even if only to help decide what comes next (if anything).

Try going on a date 

It may seem obvious, but if you’re ready to graduate from hooking up to casual dating, have a go at something low-commitment. Meet up for coffee, grab drinks or dinner, or visit a museum. Doing something that requires clothing — whatever it may be — gives you the opportunity to get to know each other beyond the parameters of pound town. 

Let's get serious 

Whether you’re on the hunt for Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now (or both), Grindr’s got you covered, with more than 10 million monthly active users. Get the Grindr app, or browse hands-free with Grindr Web — the same Grindr you know and love, now available on your laptop or PC with no download required.

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