One night stands get a bad rep. They’re frowned upon, met with judgement, and they’re seen as the most superficial and least intimate form of casual sex. When we hear about one night stands it almost always focuses on the perils – the physical dangers, the “walk of shame”, STIs, unwanted pregnancies.
Women in particular suffer under the prevalent narratives about one night stands. We’re called sluts, whores, and ‘easy’ just for engaging in casual sex… *eye roll*.
Apparently we’re meant to all wake up after a one night stand with a hangover and a lot of regret. But we know this isn’t true for everyone. So, what’s with all the bad press?
One night stands aren’t all bad
There’s actually a bunch of research that suggests hookups are good for us.
A 2020 review of 71 studies looked at emotional reactions (such as excitement or regret) and emotional health (self-esteem, depression) and generally found a positive emotional outcome from casual sex experiences for most people.
And as Dr. Tara recently explained to us, research shows that “people who tend to enjoy casual sex are the people that also have high sexual self esteem”.
One night stands are perceived to be the opposite of serious relationships. They’re fleeting, superficial, and so it seems counterintuitive that they will develop into long-term, serious romantic relationships. However, in Singles in America, Match.com found that 27% of people who had one-night stands ended up turning them into long-term relationships. The research further argues that men were three times more likely to want to turn a one-night stand into a relationship.
So hooking up isn’t full of regret after all?
Other surprising research by Peter Jonason et al. compared booty calls, one night stands and long term relationships. They were surprised to find that participants who engaged in one-night stands were similar to those in serious romantic relationships and reported more emotional acts (e.g. hand holding, kissing) than sexual acts (e.g. manual sex, penetrative sex) when together. Whereas booty calls reported more sexual acts. They also found that after booty-call sex, individuals were likely to leave immediately, whereas after one night stands thy were more likely to stay longer. This research suggests that one-night stands and serious romantic relationships are more alike that they are different in regards to sexual and emotional activities.
But it’s not all good…
As you probably know by now, people with vulvas are dealt a bad hand when it comes to one night stands. They’re less likely to experience an orgasm in casual sex compared to a committed relationship. One study found that women were twice as likely to have an orgasm in serious relationships, compared to hookups. Another study found that about 40% of women had an orgasm during their most recent casual encounter, compared to 75% of women who had an orgasm the last time they had sex while in a committed relationship.
Perhaps this explains why some studies show that while men regret the sexual opportunities they missed, women regret some of the casual sex they had.
So, as you can see, whether one night stands are good or bad isn’t black and white. There are many factors that affect how a one night stand will be and ultimately, your own personal experiences will inform how you experience and think about one night stands.
Not all one night stands were made equally.
But, whether your one night stand is fun, pleasurable, disappointing, or anything in between, there are a lot of things that you can learn from them.
8 things you can learn from a one night stand
1. How to communicate your wants and desires
You’re not going to see this person again, so this is a great time to practice being vocal about your wants and desires. Sometimes it’s easier to be upfront with people we don’t know. When it’s someone random we don’t need to worry about how we come across. That’s not to say to be rude, but just to be clear about what you want.
After all, this person really doesn’t know you, so if you want to be pleasured you need to tell them what you like and how you like it. Where do you want them to touch you? What kind of touch? What kind of pressure, speed, intensity?
2. How to be completely uninhibited
One of the best parts about a one-night stand is that you can be truly uninhibited. Try out some new things, get creative, have sex the way you’ve only ever dreamed of before. Obviously get your hook up partner’s consent first and discuss anything you wanna do. But let loose and enjoy it!
3. Learn new things
You have a new person in front of you with a whole life’s experience of sex that is completely different to your own so why not take this chance to learn something new. Education is the key to great sex after all.
Find out what they like, try new things if you want to. Maybe they want to pee on you and you’ve never thought about doing that before. Does it pique your interest? Do you want to try it? If you’ve been looking for a way to mix up your sex life but haven’t known where to start, sometimes it help to try it with someone totally outside of your normal zone.
4. How to have pleasure, without orgasm
OK so we know that for people with vulvas, one night stands don’t always end in an orgasm. We sure as hell aren’t making any excuses for the pleasure gap BUT what if you could enjoy sex and experience pleasure without focusing on the end goal of orgasm? It takes the pressure away and shows you that you can still experience great pleasure from sex without the orgasm.
5. How to play and have fun
Many of us have been conditioned to believe that sex must be serious, sexy, and passionate. But these things are pretty hard to come by when you’re doing it with someone that you’ve just met. So, tap into your inner child and remind yourself that sex is fun, and it can be pretty funny too. Laugh, talk, scream, grunt, tickle, make strange noises – whatever you want but just make it carefree and fun.
6. How to focus on your pleasure
When you’re in a relationship, if you’re a people pleaser like me 🙋♀️, you may prioritize your partner’s pleasure over your own. But in a one night stand there is no space for that. You don’t need to worry about the pleasure of this person that you’ve just met. That isn’t to say that you don’t please them, but it doesnt need to be the first and foremost thing on your mind. How freeing is that! Focus on yourself and your own pleasure for a change.
7. How to be intimate with someone new
Many people save intimacy for their partners, close friends, and family. But it can be incredibly therapeutic to feel it with someone new. Cuddle, ask them to spend the night if that’s what you want.
8. How to take a break from your life
It can be very freeing and therapeutic to be intimate with someone who exists outside of your regular life. They don’t know anything about you and that’s great. Make the most of stepping outside of your bubble for a while – no need for chats about your family, work, life stresses, or anything else.
One night stands aren’t for everyone, but they can provide a way to experience pleasure and express yourself sexually without the additional obligations of a relationship.
Watch a realistic portrayal of a one night stand on afterglow
A no-strings-attached hookup or the start of something special? Jessica (Jessica Starling) and Mike (Shreddz) meet on Friday night and what’s expected to be a fun night with someone new turns into a very satisfying weekend.