Sexual regrets: why women feel more remorse after one-night stands than men

There are many reasons people regret an encounter with a stranger, including fear of pregnancy or disease – and feelings of disgust

Name: Sexual regret.

Age: Roughly 45 seconds younger than however old the sex is.

Appearance: That depends who you are.

Surely everyone experiences sexual regret. Just because everyone you’ve slept with has been consumed by permanent regret, it doesn’t mean it’s the same for the rest of the world.

I suppose I asked for that. Anyway, the Norwegian University of Science and Technology has published a study involving 263 students, aged 19 to 37, to see how the behaviour of men and women is affected by regret after casual sex. They conducted two questionnaires at 4.5-month intervals and the answers are fascinating.

How so? It doesn’t seem to affect people very much at all.

Really? Really. The study found that women are more likely to experience higher levels of regret after a one-night stand, with 35% of respondents admitting to feeling guilt.

And men? As you might have guessed, it’s a little lower. Only 20% felt regret after a one-night stand.

Do they know why there was a difference? According to the study, women had greater concerns about pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease. They were also more likely to be disappointed by the quality of their partner.

Now why doesn’t that surprise me? The level of regret was lower among those who felt gratified, or that their partner was sexy. Meanwhile, remorse was more common in those who felt “sexual disgust” afterwards.

Well, that’s fine, as long as everybody learned from it. Here’s the thing – they didn’t.

Really? No. They had more casual sex regardless. That’s because however strong an emotion regret might be, it isn’t strong enough to overpower basic human lust.

So what’s the point of regretting something you’re bound to do again? Exactly. That’s the whole point of the study. Most negative emotions are designed to protect us. We feel fear to keep us safe from danger. We feel disgust to keep us safe from infection. But regret, according to this study, serves no purpose. You go out, have sex with a stranger, feel bad about it and then go out and have sex with another stranger.

Just to be clear, this was a pre-Covid study? Of course. Regret about sleeping with someone is one thing. Terror that you might contract coronavirus is something else entirely.

But this isn’t the only form of sexual regret, is it? No, there is also regret at passing up a one-night stand.

Who feels that more? Men, obviously. While 80% of women were happy about turning down the chance of casual sex, only 40% of men felt the same.

This study had some pretty unsurprising reveals. Quite.

Do say: “Regret is a wasted emotion.”

Don’t say: “That’s my chat-up line for when the clubs reopen.”

The GuardianTramp

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