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Female liberation is a myth, delegates are told at the British Psychological Society conference.

The idea that women might seek to have a one-off sexual encounter purely in the pursuit of pleasure is simply not believed by most women, who regard others who have one-night stands as desperate, pitiful or extremely needy.

Dr Hinchliff conducted interviews with 46 women to explore their ideas on sexuality as part of a wider research programme on women’s sexual health. Participants, chosen from the electoral roll in Sheffield, were aged between 23 and 83, with an average age of 48.

The findings, presented at the British Psychological Society annual conference in Cardiff, show that while women did not condemn others who had casual sex, 90 per cent believed them to be wrong.

Many believed that women couldn’t have sex for their own pleasure outside of a committed relationship.

“They argued that women who have casual sex or one-night stands do it not because they are sexually liberalized, but because they have ‘lost control’ on alcohol or drugs or because there is ‘something lacking’ in their lives. They pitied these women and they saw it as deviant behaviour,” Dr Hinchliff said.

The findings show a degree of double standards.

The 10 per cent of women who admitted to having had one-night stands said that in their case it had been different — they had simply been finding out about relationships.

Overall, older women were more accepting than younger women, although they still shared these views.

[By Alexandra Frean; Valko RN, 31Mar06]