Trying to define a sexual relationship these days can sometimes seem to require a degree in linguistics. You might be spending this Valentine with anyone from a one-night stand to a booty call, a friend with benefits, a full-blown girlfriend or boyfriend–or someone who falls somewhere in the 50-plus shades of gray. A recent survey found that 69% of people out with a love interest didn’t know whether they were on a date or just “hanging out.” Blame texting and hook-up culture for the confusion.
TIME asked a number of psychologists—including Justin Garcia, an assistant research scientist at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction and a professor at Indiana University, and Peter Jonason, a psychologist and sex researcher at the University of Western Sydney—about what makes one person more prone to having one-night stands while another tends to find herself in committed relationships. Dating habits are influenced by various factors, from how competitive you are to even genetics. In one study, Garcia found that individuals with a specific gene variant were more likely to have a history of uncommitted sex, like one-night stands. Not to mention, men and women have major differences in attitudes toward casual sex (sexual orientation was not taken into account in either Garcia of Jonason’s studies). In Jonason’s research, college women were more likely to avoid contact, intimacy, and ignore a partner on social media in order to keep things casual. “Women have the power when it comes to relationships,” Jonason says. “They decide when it becomes sexual or not,” likely because women have the more at risk when it comes casual sex, and more limited resources (eggs).
In the spectrum of relationships, are you in it for the long haul or are you more of a hit-it-and-quit-it dater? Take our quiz and find out.
- Introducing the TIME100 Climate List
- Accenture’s Chief AI Officer on Why This Is a Defining Moment
- U.S. Doctors Can't Be Silent About Gaza: Column
- Inside COP28's Big 'Experiment'
- The Movie Wives Would Like a Word
- The 100 Must-Read Books of 2023
- The Top 100 Photos of 2023
- Want Weekly Recs on What to Watch, Read, and More? Sign Up for Worth Your Time