Lesbians and Casual Sex: Can We Leave the U-Haul Behind?

By Maureen Bogues, Gay Therapy Center Staff Writer


The joke about what lesbians bring on the second date—a U-Haul—might be a stereotype, but it speaks to a truth about lesbian dating: Many women move quickly to selecting a china pattern before they have even met each others’ cats. 

I once dated a woman who wanted to start using the word “girlfriend” after two dates. Needless to say, that pairing didn’t last.  

What about casual sex? Do lesbians even do that?

Some younger women—who may identify as lesbian, bisexual, queer, or who resist labels altogether— are more open to sex without commitment, but many women are not, said Sarah Brook, a lesbian therapist with the Gay Therapy Center New York.

A few of her younger clients are polyamorous, and like to explore a wide range of relationships. “With the ground rules of consent, respect and communication, they build and sustain a great variety of connections with sexual partners,” she said. “I do find that younger women are often more empowered to ask for what they want sexually, and seek out creative ways to meet those needs.”

Casual Sex Taboo

Casual sex is typically more difficult for lesbians. Sarah says that in her experience, clients express a wish for casual encounters, but that it is somewhat “taboo” in the lesbian community.

“There is a belief that desiring a relationship is the default, and if casual sex is the goal, it has to be specified,” she said. “My lesbian clients often report feeling anxious disclosing their desire for casual sex because they perceive that it falls outside the norms of this community.”

Jen, a 48-year-old lesbian who has been single for two years after leaving a 15-year relationship, says she doesn’t want to partner up just yet, but finds that several of the women she has met aren’t open to casual encounters.

“There’s no such thing as casual sex with women,” she said. “It takes three weeks to happen.” 

And by then? “It’s a relationship,” she said, laughing.

Lesbians! Can’t they just hook up like the gay guys do? 

Women and Internalized Shame

Based on her clinical experience, Sarah said she would love to see more women abandon shame and enjoy the occasional hook-up. “Sex can certainly be celebrated for its own sake, without the need for a ‘legitimizing’ relationship,” she said.

Jen thinks that lesbians tend to get hung up on the words “one-night stand,” so she suggests an alternative: “some night stand,” she joked, because women say they want something more, “but really, they don’t. It’s all semantics.”

Sarah cites two major factors for the stigma of hooking up for women: internalized homophobia (or biphobia), and the reluctance of women (regardless of orientation) to express their sexual needs. “Much of my work with clients involves unearthing these systems of belief that have been unknowingly internalized, and helping clients to identify and meet their sexual needs from a place of empowerment,” Sarah said.

Jen finds that it is always a dance, and that it is “always complicated.”

She’s tried a few online dating sites with mixed success, and has made friends through Meetup.com, but has had few dates. “I can go to a Meetup, but if I go home with somebody, there would be drama,” Jen said, “because the expectation is usually unclear, and many women are looking for relationships.”

“I wish, if women were into it for a one-night stand, they would express that and not feel guilty or weird,” she said. “A lot of people are not in a place for a relationship, but sometimes you have physical needs. Just be honest about it.” 

Connection and Self-Knowledge

A healthy sense of self is important regardless of whether a woman decides to become more sexually adventurous or pursue a committed relationship or something in between. 

“We can only form healthy relationships if we are healthy and confident in ourselves and empowered to ask for what we want,” Sarah said.  

It’s just good to be clear on what you want, and communicate that to potential dates.

Jen loves the fact that, as a rule, women tend to focus more on emotional connection than on sex, but every once in awhile, she’d like some variety. “I’d like somebody to step out for a little bit,” she said.

Toward that end, she has decided to check out a Meetup group for polyamorous bisexual or lesbian women. “I thought maybe these women might be more open to connecting in a casual way,” she said.

Maybe Jen will get her “some-night stand” after all. 

Want to read more?  Here are our articles on lesbian issues:

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