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Promiscuous Intimacies: Rethinking the History of American Casual Sex


  • Barry Reay

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    • Barry Reay holds the Keith Sinclair Chair in History at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His most recent books include New York Hustlers: Masculinity and Sex in Modern America (2010) and Sex before Sexuality: A Premodern History (2011). He may be contacted by e-mail at


Casual sex has become a cultural commonplace since it was named in the 1960s and later became associated with the US college sex phenomenon of “hooking up”. However, contemporary accounts of this sexual practice are curiously lacking in historical perspective. This article explores this modern history, both before and after uncommitted, non-romantic, sexual encounters – sex for sex's sake – were named as casual sex. It agues that studies that contrast the increased “sexual possibilities” of hookup sex to the assumed restrictive practices of an earlier era distort both the restrictions of the earlier period and the freedoms of the latter.