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The dating & mating game

Sarah Jessica Parker is doing it. Beyonce sings about it. Britney Spears did it before she got married to that K-Fed guy and had a kid (who are we kidding, maybe she's still doing it). That's right, all of these independent women either sing about -- or flaunt -- having casual sex.

This isn't the 1950s anymore, and with technological advancements like the development of the pill, sociologists theorize that the playing field is evening out a little more -- women don't have to be worried about getting pregnant, so they can have all kinds of casual sex. If every night is a man buffet, than for ladies it's all you can eat.

But is this true? Can women have casual sex like men, no strings attached? Or does the whole "caring the baby in your uterus for nine months" thing make the decision a bigger deal for women? Is it a biological fact that women associate more emotions after having sex then men, or can ladies be playas too?

Sociologist and nationally recognized relationship expert, Pepper Schwartz, said it all depends.

"Socio-biologists would say 'duh, ya of course women only have so many eggs and men have thousands of sperm, so women are going to be a little picker,'" Schwartz said.

Socio-biologists say that women have to be selective, picking the smartest, best looking men so their babies won't look like Elmer Fud or flunk cutting class. They say it's hard-wired for women to be choosy, and men to be predatory.

But what about some of my friends, that leave their apartment at 2 a.m., only to come back an hour later with a smug on their face and their shirts on backward. Being a pimp isn't just for Snoop Dog anymore, many of my smart, attractive, ambitious girl friends are giving casual sex a try, saying it's a good way to relieve stress after a gloomy, rainy week of midterms and wet socks.

Schwartz said 50 years ago no one would have thought women could be as highly sexual they are. According to a 1994 study by Edward Laumann, John Michael and Robert Gagnon, by the 1980s women had as much premarital sexual experience as men before marriage, with 51 percent of them engaging in premarital intercourse. Schwartz describes two types of women that are more inclined to have multiple sex partners in year: the alpha female who knows what she wants, and the lonely woman who wants to be wanted.

"The alpha woman is very together ... she knows what she needs, and she knows how to get it," Schwartz said, likening this woman to Samantha, the character in Sex and the City that proved to women they could have sex purely for the pleasure of it.

Some of these women say they're too busy for a relationship, others say they wouldn't mind a relationship, but for tonight a one-night stand will do. If a boyfriend is turkey dinner, than a hot boy toy makes a tasty snack.

"It's like gee, I would like a five course meal, but a sandwich isn't bad," said Schwartz, saying when some women have casual sex it isn't always an indication of a hurting ego.

In fact, it may indicate a very healthy one. Continuing with the food analogy Schwartz asked, "What is she supposed to do, not eat?"

Conversely she described the woman who has sex frequently merely to please her partner as a woman with a damaged ego.

"These are the types of women that go to bars and go home with a guy and then are upset when they call the next day," said Schwartz. "And the guy is thinking, what? I picked her up at the bar!"

However Schwartz said it is a fact that men are more visual then women, perhaps making it easier for them to lust after a woman and be completely satisfied after getting ... satisfied.

"Women can be visual, none the less if he's dumb as a stump or has a girlfriend it's going to be harder to be physically attracted to them and satisfied after one encounter," said Schwartz.

She said she knows a lot of college-age women -- and men for that matter -- who chose not to have casual sex because of the relatively empty feeling it leaves.

The bottom line is sexual intercourse is an extremely vulnerable act -- physically and emotionally -- to do with someone you don't know. I guess it's like my favorite line in Clueless, when Alicia Silverstone's character defends her virginity. "You see how picky I am about my shoes, and they just go on my feet," she said. Perhaps that's the allure of casual sex -- it's thrilling and adventurous -- and makes for a great story when you tell your friends about that hot guy you met in Italy that ended up in your flee-infested bed at a sketchy hostel. Women and men who do it have to be very gutsy, and very sure of themselves to do such a personal act in a low-trust situation. It's like free style snowboarding, or mountain climbing -- thrilling, but not for everyone.

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