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Science Defines Booty Calls, One-Night Stands

A sexy woman on the phone.
Booty call relationships are based on spur-of-the-moment sex.
CREDIT: Refat, Shutterstock

At long last, science has defined "booty call."

And unsurprisingly, the point of these casual relationships is (drumroll, please) … sex.

As silly as it may seem, defining booty call, one-night stands, friends-with-benefits arrangements and other casual sex relationships is important for psychologists, who can't study relationships without defining them. That's why Peter Jonason, a psychologist at the University of Western Sydney in Australia, focused on these relationships in a new study, published Nov. 1 in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior.

"There is such a range of relationships, and we tend to be loose in the terms we use to define and describe them," Jonason said. [6 (Other) Great Things Sex Can Do For You]

Jonason wanted to provide definitions that offered insight into the functions of each of these relationships. People get involved with other people for many reasons: sex, companionship, love and even for a self-esteem boost. The results, he surmised, could explain why people might get involved in a booty-call relationship versus a one-night stand or long-term affair.

Booty call or one-night stand?

Previously, Jonason had studied booty calls — or casual sexual relationships in which one party calls or texts the other for sex that day or evening — and found that they involve more emotion than one-night stands but are far less "touchy-feely" than long-term relationships.   

In the new research, Jonason surveyed 192 undergraduate students — 124 women and 68 men — at the University of West Florida. Each participant was asked to rank how likely booty calls, friends with benefits (people who have casual sex while remaining "just friends"), long-term relationships and one-night stands were to fulfill each of four functions: sexual gratification, social and emotional support, a "trial run" for a serious relationship and a placeholder to stave off boredom or to bide time until something better came along.

After this series of questions, the participants filled out a survey that made them match one relationship to one function. Next, they answered questions about their own attitudes toward sex and relationships in order to measure their individual comfort with and interest in casual sex.

Functional relationships

The results, though limited by a college-student-only population, reveal that different relationships serve different functions. The predominate function of long-term relationships was social support, followed by being a trial run or a placeholder, with sex bringing up the rear.

Booty calls were primarily for sex, with placeholder coming in as the second function and trial run coming in third. Social support came in dead last.

Sex and placeholder tied for first as the main function of friends-with-benefits relationships, with trial run coming in third and support, again, coming in last place. Finally, one-night stands were for sex, participants agreed, with placeholder second, trial run third and social support last.

In the forced-choice questionnaire, the answers were similar, although booty call and friends-with-benefits both matched the placeholder function best.

"Individuals engage in these different relationships to serve different needs," Jonason told LiveScience.

Notably, men and people with more comfort with casual sex listed more functions for short-term relationships. This tendency to get a lot out of even casual relationships may facilitate short-term mating strategies, Jonason said. 

But the motivations for some other types of relationships are still up for debate, he added. Polyamory (having more than one intimate relationship with the consent of all involved) swinging and other forms of group relationships probably serve their own yet-to-be-studied purposes, he said.  

One nebulous term that still lacks an official definition is "hooking up," which research shows can refer to anything from making out to sex in today's college environment.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

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