Sex + Love

Let’s Spend Some Time Together

An argument in favor of one-night stands.

Illustration by Caitlin.

Illustration by Caitlin H.

It happened when I was pining after a boy. We had supposedly ended things, but I didn’t want them to end. We were out dancing with mutual friends, and he was ever present on the dance floor. I knew he had no interest in going home with me, much as I should long for him. So I turned my head in the opposite direction, and that’s when I saw him—a different him. He was standing by the bar, wearing a leather jacket, with floppy hair I wanted to run my hands through. Before that moment, I couldn’t have imagined wanting to taste anyone else’s lips besides those belonging to my ex. But here was a chance to lighten the shadow that he had been casting over my emotions for a month or so, ever since we’d had sex. And this is how I came to have my first one-night stand: as a premeditated act of defiance.

Emboldened by my determination to wash that boy right outta my brain, I danced over to the floppy-haired guy and introduced myself. I understood for the first time why the music is always so loud at dance clubs: It forces you to lean in close to be heard, to bump faces and grab on to arms and shoulders. We shouted into each other’s ears about our tastes and interests—I remember being excited that he also loved Bruce Springsteen and Arcade Fire. Then we kissed. A few hours later, this random specimen of the male sex was lying next to me, lightly snoring (You can fill in the part in between.)

The next morning, I was in a remarkably good mood. He went home, and I walked with my head held high to go buy milk. It was a bright, sunny day. I was lucky enough to know I wouldn’t be judged by my friends, who were rooting for me to move on from boy number one, and given me approving looks the night before when they saw me dancing with my head on boy number two’s shoulder. I knew that no one I knew would call me a slut nor praise me as some kind of model of sexual liberation—both extremes being common reactions when it comes to young women who make a habit of sleeping with strangers.

I have never understood what anyone could possibly have to say about anyone else’s sex life. As long as you aren’t hurting anybody (including yourself), and as long as you’re doing what you really want to do, I don’t see what could possibly be degrading or “wrong” about having sex—or not having sex, if that’s what you choose. But for some reason, a woman’s personal choices about what she wants to do (or doesn’t want to do) with her body are subject to heavy scrutiny. The word slut is used to scare us away from doing exactly what we want.

Then, if you refuse to be scared away, you’re seen as “liberated,” like you’re doing it specifically to make a point. But everyone’s idea of liberation is different, and for some people that means not having sex with anyone, or only having it in the context of a committed monogamous relationship. Freedom is about choice, after all.

Since that night at the club, I’ve had sex with strangers when the opportunity arises, which isn’t as often as every week or even every month. Sometimes I’ll want to go out and focus on my friends rather than strangers and just won’t be in the mood. But that’s what I love: I can take or leave sex on just about any given night.

I know one-night stands aren’t for everybody. You hear that you’ll feel “empty” in the morning, or that you’ll becoming emotionally attached to anyone who dares enter your bed. I’m sure these things are true for some people, and obviously, those people should avoid overnights. I’m fortunate in that that all I feel after a night with a stranger is refreshed, and ready to move on with my day/life. For other people, one-night stands (ONSes) can be an opportunity to get in touch with their sexuality again after a period without sex, a quick ego-boost when they need one, or just for a chance to enjoy the pure fun that sex can be. ONSes also give you the opportunity to learn about what you like and don’t like. Every person is different when you get naked with them, and every difference gives you a chance to experience something new. Not all one-nighters are going to be great, but even the so-so ones are experiences to learn from. (This is where the phrase “no regrets!” seems obligatory.) And, finally, if you, like me, don’t currently have a significant other but you do enjoy sex, ONSes are the easiest and most practical way to get what you want.

For me, a one-night stand is a fun alternative to nursing a long, drawn-out crush on a fellow human being. Not that crushes are terrible, but they can be exhausting. Are they easy on anybody? When I have a crush, I am constantly wondering and worrying about what that person is thinking (particularly about me), and fantasizing about our potential future together. This is why I love one-nighters: They are a vacation from painful emotional ties, from obsessing and overanalyzing, from high expectations and dashed hopes.

To call my latest encounter a one-night stand would be exaggerating: I didn’t know his last name, and he was in and out of my dorm room in 30 minutes. I find actually sleeping with strangers boring and cramped and just unnecessary, so I didn’t mind when, after we’d had our fun, he left with the excuse that he had to be up early in the morning. My neighbor’s door was open, so I ended up paying her a visit and telling her what had just gone down. We ended up talking and laughing until the sun came up, musing over how ridiculous sex can be. Basically, I got the best of everything—physical pleasure and emotional bonding—just not all with the same person.

That’s an important point, actually: I live in a dorm. There are always friends and neighbors around and awake, so bringing a new dude to my room isn’t as risky as it would be if I lived in an apartment or house. (And I always bring people to my room rather than go to theirs—I feel safer that way because my friends are close at hand and paying attention.) If you’re thinking of having a quick romp with a stranger, exercise extreme caution! Don’t go with them to an unfamiliar place. Be sure a few friends know what’s up. Crucial information to give them: the other person’s full name, where you’ll be, and what time you’ll contact them in the morning. Keep an eye on your drink—never leave it unattended. DON’T bring anyone home if you’re even tipsy—you’re much more likely to have unsafe sex after drinking. Speaking of safe sex, ALWAYS use a barrier method with an ONS, for obvious reasons! Have a bunch of condoms/dams/whatever you use in your room at ALL TIMES. Keep a few in your bag, too, just in case something goes down at a friend’s place. Always trust your instincts. If something feels off, walk away. You are not obligated to give anyone the gift of your company.

I would never recommend sleeping with someone you are going to see on the regular, unless you are 100 percent sure you would never develop feelings for them. Unless you can deal with everyday awkwardness, stick with people you are unlikely to see again. If you’re looking to hook up with someone, go out with the spirit of exploration and discovery: You could meet ANYONE tonight: a potential sex partner, a great dance partner, a new best friend. All of these are exciting prospects, and I find if you go out into the world with your mind open to every possibility, you’re likely to encounter almost all of them.

One of the best things about a one-night stand is that you don’t have to get breakfast with the other person (unless you want to) or friend them on Facebook the next day, unless you really really want to. In fact, you may very well never see them again, which lets what happened between you exist as this fleeting moment when you were physically close, if not necessarily emotionally so, that lives only in your shared memories. And it’s kind of nice to share such memories with total strangers. It keeps them pure and special in your mind, and, depending on how interesting the person was, it gives you good stories to tell. I think of my ONSes as encounters with humankind to add to my bank of experiences. And for those you’d rather forget, well, at least you won’t have them around reminding you. (And if you do run into them, you have nothing to feel embarrassed about, but you don’t have to say hi either if you don’t feel like it.)

So I look forward to brushes with more human beings, because sex is fun, and it’s nice to know that I don’t have to be in a relationship to have it. Neither do you. And for this, we are lucky. ♦

31 Comments

  • r.b June 23rd, 2014 4:43 PM

    This article is so great.

  • Libby June 23rd, 2014 4:54 PM

    I really like this! I mean, I’m definitely not ready to have sex yet, but I’m feeling this way about making out. I want to smooch but I don’t want to, like, go through that whole relationship thing at the moment. In all honesty, I’m hesitant about it because I know if I get off with anyone, I am bound to see them again and that would be awkward, but if I was in the position to go to clubs, etc, this is definitely the attitude I jibe with, ya know?
    (also – this is unrelated, but I wasn’t sure where else to ask; if I’ve submitted a piece to Rookie, will I get a response within a certain timeframe, even if it’s a no? I don’t want to clog up the inbox with follow-up emails, but I wanted to know!)

    • Anaheed June 23rd, 2014 4:57 PM

      Hey, Libby. We’ll do our best to get to your submission in a reasonable timeframe, but tbh, we’re ridiculously backed up, so it might take a while. I’m sorry, and thank you for submitting (and for your patience!).

  • Salomeq June 23rd, 2014 5:37 PM

    I have to say a huuge thank you to the rookie staff! The funny thing is, lately, you have been posting so many things about sex and love that it’s really a miracle! Because I have been waiting for articles like that for so long! I had all these messed up feelings and thoughts about having sex, what people will think, what will happen afterwards, what sex will be like and so on, but you guys just helped me make sense of all these mixed emotions! So thank you very much!

  • ColoredSoft June 23rd, 2014 5:40 PM

    I would recommend letting your audience know what ONSes is. That seems a bit obvious, but I was confused

    • Anaheed June 23rd, 2014 6:28 PM

      Good point — thanks! Done.

  • ColoredSoft June 23rd, 2014 5:42 PM

    “In fact, you may very well never them again” at the end of the paragraph…you mean, ‘in fact, you may very well never see them again’? One thing Rookie should work on: proofreading.

  • amescs June 23rd, 2014 6:10 PM

    i loooove this!! so good

    and i hate to be this person but i noticed a couple errors so i’ll (hopefully) be helpful and point them out:
    in the 10th paragraph, last line I’m pretty sure there isn’t meant to be an I there
    “You are not obligated to give anyone I the gift of your company.”
    and in the 12th paragraph, 3rd and 4th line the word see/meet has been missed out
    “In fact, you may very well never them again,”

    • Amy Rose June 23rd, 2014 6:18 PM

      Thank you for this! You are not being “that person,” unless “that person” is a very helpful one.

  • JGrace June 23rd, 2014 6:11 PM

    I really like this. I’m in a monogamous relationship right now, and my current partner is the only person I’ve ever had sex with. As strong and awesome as our relationship is currently, we’re aware that we’re going to have to make some changes in the future because we’re both going to college and don’t think we’d handle long-distance well. We want to take a Ross/Rachel-esque “break” so we have the opportunity to see other people while we’re in college, and I’ve been a lil nervous about it because I’m not sure if I’m going to want to sustain a physical relationship with anyone else for a while. But reading this opened me up to the idea a little more and eased my mind about having sex with other people, whether or not there’s any emotional attachment.

    tl;dr I’m super glad I read this

  • Tiana June 23rd, 2014 6:35 PM

    I love that you made one night stands into a good experience and taken away the negative views usually associated with it. Great article!
    Tiana x
    http://Www.tianaesparon.blogspot.co.uk

  • soufflegirl June 23rd, 2014 6:51 PM

    A very interesting article. Completely not in line with my worldview or what I consider to be living a fulfilled existence but I respect your opinion. For me, sex is only a symbol of love – on its own it seems to me to take away the true significance of such a wonderful thing. With love it is about giving all you are to another person, and them giving all they are to you. That’s the way I see it at least. And I know it sounds frumpy to say that I think sex inside marriage is the only way to go but instead of sex being about hoping you don’t have to see your casual partner again, inside marriage you care so much about the other person, you know so much about them (so much so that you went and married them) that sex is personal, and it’s about loving and knowing the intimate things about your partner. For me, this is a fulfilled action. I guess casual sex seems appealing for any human who’s not asexual but I preserve my virginity and that special relationship of intimate knowledge and desire to know a guy for that particular man who shows that he wants to know me by actually getting down on one knee and asking! But your article is thought provoking and made me think about why I think what I do, so thank you.

  • Vlada June 23rd, 2014 7:27 PM

    Oh gosh you always post good stuff!
    I really see the point in this post and agree with it. I wish I was a person who can stand one-night-stands (see what I did there?) but I don’t.
    I overanalyze everything so much and hate having things out of my control so I guess I should work on that and let myself enjoy life a bit
    Thanks as always :)

    PS: this is my blog btw http://speakingofvlada.blogspot.com.es/

  • giov June 23rd, 2014 7:31 PM

    unfortunately I have had to come to terms with the fact that casual sex is just not for me, at least not right now. I say unfortunately because, as is often the case with sex, I have had to find out the hard way: having a few encounters I ended up regretting. It’s just that people out there can be super shitty, especially with regard to sex, and once your trust is broken it’s quite hard to get it back. so be careful hey! just sleep with nice people, even for one night.

  • jflg023 June 23rd, 2014 8:14 PM

    Love this, and needed this – tired of feeling like I have to justify my ONSes to people that think they can never be truly satisfying for a woman or a byproduct of low self-esteem. This is not considered the case for men, so why should it be for women? Sex should be fun and empowering, never a source of shame, no matter the context. Emotional messiness and physical messiness are not mutually inclusive!

  • georgiinnaaa June 23rd, 2014 9:07 PM

    I love this!

  • Maradoll Mynx June 23rd, 2014 9:45 PM

    I love your attitude about connection with other humans. My goodness, we don’t have to take every. single. encounter. with another human THAT SERIOUSLY. Enjoying oneself is beautiful…and a tiny act of mutual caring. I will go out even more openminded after reading this b/c you’re right…there’s more than one kind of connection to look forward to having with someone!

    • ifellfromlalaland June 24th, 2014 3:07 PM

      Yes! Connecting with other people is great, even, and sometimes especially, only for a short period. Sharing a moment with someone then never seeing them again means that moment will never be changed (or ruined by you gaining knowledge pf that person’s annoying laugh or whatever).

      This train of thought reminds me of the movie Before Sunrise about two twenty something strangers who spend a night wandering the streets of vienna (I think) and then they decide not to have any contact with each other after that night

      (even tho they actually do cos there are two more ovies about them, my point stands) – V V highly recommend

  • istmiy June 23rd, 2014 10:31 PM

    I love this article! I’ve had a couple of ONSes and although my friends never judge me and I do not feel bad about it at all, I cannot help but feel a bit like a “slut” sometimes, which is awful because I know me and the rest of people who have ONSes are not “sluts” (I hate this word). After reading this I feel so much better about myself and the choices I’ve made! Thank you! xxxx

    • Naomi June 24th, 2014 9:06 AM

      never feel bad about doing something you enjoy <3

    • Berries June 26th, 2014 9:57 AM

      The word ”slut” should be omitted from the vocabulary of everyone, imho. It is a curse word, it brings nothing good in life, should be gone.

      That being said, the word ”slut” does not exist in my vocabulary because there is no such thing as a ”slut”. I can’t even say ”You’re not a slut” because NO-ONE IS A SLUT.

      Like, really! *glare*

  • anaisabel13 June 23rd, 2014 10:46 PM

    This is really honest and cool and so much yes to experiencing new people without strings attached :)

    http://anexerciseofmyfaculties.blogspot.com/

  • MabelEnchanted June 24th, 2014 7:23 AM

    Very interesting piece but it’s so hard for me to feel empathetic. I’ve never even kissed anyone, I’ve had my chances on outings but I over think way too much. (What if I’m crap? What if he’s a horrible person?! etc). I do wish I had Naomi’s personality because sometimes I just feel like a tragic teenager.

    http://mabelsmind.blogspot.co.uk/

    • Naomi June 24th, 2014 9:06 AM

      no way did i use to feel confident enough to approach people, even for a kiss! you can work at it though and then eventually, if you really want to, you can be badass enough to kiss as many people as you want. you are in no way tragic!

  • mollyjane June 24th, 2014 7:47 AM

    This reminds me a bit of the story that IRA ran for This American Life a few months ago about the Rumspringa from a long-term relationship. Especially the point that ONSes can be fun too because you get to go on like these awesome tours of random people’s apartments and see what kind of stuff they have on their nightstands, and what books they keep at arm’s reach.. I live in Paris too so it’s awesome to be like hey you have a neat view of *insert famous point monument here*.

    also, sorry Anaheed, but one more proofreading thing: in the 11th paragraph “You could met ANYONE tonight”, perhaps meet?

    • Anaheed June 24th, 2014 7:51 AM

      Gah! What the HELL. Thank you!

  • kitsune13 June 24th, 2014 12:16 PM

    I really liked the tone of this piece, and I definitely think safe casual sex something young women need to know and think about. I’ve been thinking a lot about the ‘not hurting anybody (including yourself)’ issue lately, because a friend of mine has gone from having healthy casual sex to having a careless attitude towards ONSs which is hurting herself and two of her close friends in the process. Maybe someone could write a follow-up article on how to recognise when you’ve crossed the line from healthy to harmful (emotionally and physically).

    Personally, I learned a lot more about sex and my likes and dislikes when I was in a relationship, while my experience with one night stands has been more comedic than erotic. But, like Naomi says, if you’re free and single and up for sexy fun then go forth and get some!!

  • bonnie.mclovin June 24th, 2014 6:09 PM

    thankyou so much i needed this
    getting slut-shamed is not fun
    i guess what I’m trying to say is this whole article helped me rationalize what I’ve been doing, though i am not actually sleeping with strangers. Id like to think i can do what i like as long as i feel safe
    -Bonnie

    http://the-green-lighter.tumblr.com

  • Berries June 26th, 2014 9:54 AM

    Interesting! Always nice to read sexual experiences :)

    I am often more into the f-buddy / friend with benefits (to be clear: not friends that I already know, because I will get totally paranoid about that!) kinda thing than one-night stands. When I go out I seldom see attractive dudes, only attractive girls. And I’m seldom in a gay bar so that’s kinda annoying!
    But I must say, when I want sex I want it to be good, and maybe my idea of ”good” is kinda a high standard? So than a sexbuddy will be easier.

  • amelia3 June 27th, 2014 11:04 PM

    I totally think everyone should be able to do what they want sexually as long as consent is a-go. :)

    That being said, I can see two big reasons why someone might not want to have sexytimes with a stranger. a) I think it can take several encounters with the same person for the participants to get an understanding of what the other person likes/gets off with, especially if either one is just starting out– so in that case a one-night stand wouldn’t be that fulfilling. And b) I also think that most people don’t want to share their nakedness with someone who might not respect their boundaries in re: protection, specific activities, etc. Even if you’re just having casual sex with a friend, you know you can trust them to respect you and vice versa. With someone you just met, you don’t have that assurance.

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