Casual sex: Natalie Portman is a commitment phobic in No Strings Attached

Natalie Portman has slipped out of her tutu and into the shoes of a career-oriented commitment phobic for her role as Emma,  a doctor slogging out 80 hour weeks and with time for nothing more than emotionless hook-ups. Come along old-time friend Adam, played by Ashton Kutcher, throw genuine emotional and romantic investment out of the bag and replace it with a heady does of passionate, uninhibited casual sex, and for a while their friends with benefits plan is going swimmingly. That is, of course, until one of them starts to yearn for the real thing.

Director Ivan Reitman said in an interview that the movie speaks to the kinds of sexual relationships young people have today: “I’ve noticed from my own kids that with this generation in particular, young people find it easier to have a sexual relationship than an emotional one. That is how the sexes deal with each other today.”

The 1980s flick When Harry Met Sally was considered groundbreaking in its time for raising the question whether men and woman ever just be friends without sex getting in the way.  Now, Reitman suggests, there’s a new dynamic at play: “Is it possible for a man and woman to have a purely sexual relationship without emotions getting in the way?”

Casual sex — be it a one off sexual encounter or, as is in the movie, an agreement to have “no strings attached” sex that stretches over a longer period of time — is sex without commitment. It is sex for the pure pleasure of sex, rather than for emotional satisfaction.

“I’ve done a lot of these kind of movies, but this one is a little bit more grow-up,” Kutcher said of his role. “It looks at whether leaving feelings out of it actually works. For a new breed of woman, career comes first, and that has changed the nature of relationships. We should have just called the movie Clooney. That’s the kind of relationship George Clooney has had for the past 20 years. He seems happy.”

[adsense]Whatever your take on casual sex may be, it goes without saying that the world of sex buddies  — and  hook-ups without hang-ups, shagging without sharing, passion without promise  — can invite a host of undesirables, from pregnancy to sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV. Due to the nature of casual sex, chances are you won’t know the sexual history of your partner and what STD they could potentially have.

In case you’re still thinking it’s not something that can affect you, read this for a reality check: Each year in the U.S. alone there are approximately 19 million new cases of STDs, about half of which occur among youth ages 15-24. Left untreated, STDs can cause a host of problems, including infertility, so safe sex is really your safest bet. And getting yourself tested would be a wise move too, especially when one takes into consideration that the majority of us are not even aware that we have an STD.

Take Chlamydia, for example, also referred to as the “silent infection” or the “quiet love bug”. It is one of the most common STDs affecting women and men, yet around 75% of women and 50% of men are not even aware they have it. This can have dire consequences, as left untreated woman can be left unable to conceive a child and men could find themselves with painfully inflamed testicles and a reduction in fertility.

Read here for more in depth information about how STDs are transmitted, how they can be avoided and what the symptoms are: Genital Herpes,  ChlamydiaGonorrheaCandida Yeast (Thrush).

Images: Wikimedia Commons

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