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Sexual Health (young people)

One night stands

Most people think one-night stands are okay if they are single, careful, don't have unrealistic expectations, and use a condom. One night stands don't always have to involve sexual intercourse, but may often happen at parties, or when people have been drinking.

 

Thinks one night stands are fine as long as you're careful, single and protect yourself.

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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What are your views on one night stands?

I'm not really sure, I don't think there's anything wrong with them as long you are sensible and careful, you know who you're going home with, and you use protection. 

I mean if you have them regularly and you're not using condoms and there is a risk that you could be transmitting sexual diseases and things, or that you're being unfaithful to a partner by doing it, then I think it's wrong, but otherwise if both of you are consenting and you're using protection I think it's okay.

Have you had any experience of it?

One, yeah.

Okay and did you use protection on that occasion?

Yes, we did we used condoms.

 

Says she 'has a go' at her female friends who put themselves at risk of STIs.

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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What to you think about one night stands?

 

What do I think about one night stands? I think fair enough kind of thing, it's not something that I would do sober, it's not something that I could imagine myself like actually intending to go out and pull someone in the sense of having sex with them coz I never think like that anyway. I'm just like if you're going to pull someone I'd get off with them or whatever but not like the whole hog kind of thing but I think with lesbians it's different because obviously... 

 

I always have a go at my straight friends for having one night stands and not using protection kind of thing, like very recently like a friend of mine, a couple of friends of mine have gone through like pregnancy scares and what not, and they've been really scared about pregnancy and yet obviously that's been drummed into them. 

 

And I'm just like 'how can you be like so concerned about pregnancy and you're not worried about like diseases that can kill you' you know what I'm saying, like a baby, whether or if you are pregnant it can be got rid of as, whether you believe in that or not there, you know, there is something that exists that can solve that problem but if you catch something like AIDs or HIV or I don't know, I don't really know that many kinds of thing. 

 

But if you get that which can come from a one night stand, that you possibly wouldn't even remember due to alcohol - is it really worth it, like it doesn't take that much to put a condom on does it really.

Guys and women may see one night stands differently, with men using them for sex, whilst women may want a relationship. Some guys believe one-night stands might lead to a relationship, but they're not always certain at the time
 

There are different attitudes towards men and women who have casual sex.

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Age at interview: 18
Sex: Female
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Do you think that men and women have different attitudes when it comes to casual sex?

I'm not really sure, I think there's probably more women who think it's not okay to do and that you shouldn't do it, but not that many at my age I think, but I think men congratulate each other if they've done it. 

it's like wow you pulled her and they congratulate each other, there's probably more peer pressure on them to have causal sex as well as there is on girls, girls aren't really that bothered about it.

And girls are sort of less likely to boast about it and talk about it?

I think girls would probably say 'oh I went home with this bloke, blah, blah, blah' but they'd probably be more talking about it as if he was really nice, I'd like to get to know him better, whereas a boy would just boast about that night, what the sex was like that night and things like that.
 

Says relationships sometimes start with a one-night stand.

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Male
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Oh well, you know, it's just, this person fancies you, you fancy that person, and you know it's just, you just feel the need kind of thing. You know there's something between you 'burning', and it just needs to be done really, that's all I think about it.

OK.

It could always turn into something else, but you know, you just never know.

It seems now you have experienced, or you are experiencing a more serious relationship. What do you think are the differences at the physical level between sex within a long term or serious relationship as opposed to a casual one?

As I say it's like this...

There is more, carry on...

Well one night stands are worse, do you know what I mean, it's just like you just, you just never know, 'cos I mean I've had partners, I mean it's always been like one night stand first and then from there you always just go on and see what happens. Probably just sometimes then they're just like friends, like partners or whatever, and that kind of thing, yeah.
There's also a double standard that exists, so girls who have many partners are called names like 'slut' or 'slapper', particularly by other women, whereas men are considered to be 'studs'
 
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Says that other women do not like women that are known for having many partners

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Age at interview: 22
Sex: Female
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To a certain extent, yes. I've had quite a lot of partners you know, not, well two or three years ago you know, it kind of stopped and then I met my husband and then got married and that's been the last two or three years, but before that I had quite a lot of partners and I think a lot of women didn't like me because of it. 

 

I had quite a lot of male friends and that was okay with them but the women didn't like me because of it. I don't know if they felt jealous or what, I don't know, and yeah it was not really the done thing. If I had of been male it would have been okay, yeah I think so definitely.

 
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Attitudes are changing but men are still seen as 'studs' and women as 'sluts' for very similar...

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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I think that whereas I would really like to say it's equal, it's okay, all you have to do is think of the names that people are called when they've had sex, by their friends. You know a guy is a stud, well done, that's great and the girls, quite often it's by other bitchy girls not necessarily by men, the names are like you're a slut, slapper, you know, all behind their backs. 

 

It's quite bitchy but you know, having said that I do think we're going in the right direction of changing attitudes. You know, it's okay for a girl to have said, I think, to a partner that they're not their first.

Many women are also worried about the risks of having a one night stand (including rape or being forced to do things they don't want to) and most would worry about going home with a total stranger.  
 

She would only have a one night stand with someone she knew and felt safe with.

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Age at interview: 21
Sex: Female
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Yeah I mean I have, I've had sex with people I've had sex with only one night but I'm not sure that I'd ever be prepared to do it with someone I didn't know. One person I had sex with one night was a friend who we just went, we were out getting drunk together and we ended up in bed together so, I mean it is a one night stand but it's kind of different because you know the person well so it's not like just going back to a strange man's house. And the other person was, he's actually become a three night stand now but it was a one night stand kind of.  

It was a friend of one of my friends who I'd kind of met vaguely before as well so also was, I just felt safe. I'm not, I kind of like the abstract idea of being able to just go home with someone you've just met but I'm not sure that I'd be prepared to do it because I don't think it's that safe, I don't think I'd feel safe. 

I'm not sure that I'd feel, if I went home with someone like that I don't, I'm not sure that I'd feel able to not have sex with them and I wouldn't want to put myself in that situation where I had to have sex with someone. And well I'd feel like I had to have sex with someone. And for some reason if you kind of know someone before it might feel a bit, I think I'd probably feel more prepared just to say "Actually no I don't really feel like I want to do this." 

So yeah I mean I don't think there's anything wrong with them but I think it's probably wise to, it's nice if you at least have something in common with the person you're having a one stand with, it makes you feel a bit safer.
Most people still expect girls to have fewer partners than men, and many girls find it hard to find a boyfriend if they have a 'reputation'. Some said it is still not okay for girls to show a 'healthy sexual appetite'.
 

Thinks men are reluctant to have a relationship with a girl who has had several partners.

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Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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Yes like I said earlier it's okay for men to go out and have casual sex. They can have a different partner every night of the week and everyone thinks 'oh he's a stud', you know, he's well cool, his mates think he's great. If a girl does that all the girls will hate her.

Why?

Well not all but most of the girls will hate her because they'll say oh you know she's a slapper, just really really bitchy comments and just be really nasty and maybe it is just because they're jealous because they want to be able to do that as well. Whatever their reasons are, they can be really nasty about it and also if a girl's doing that then quite often guys will, they lose respect, they can lose respect.  

Some guys will be like oh you know, that's cool, that's brilliant, but quite often you know if you meet a guy that means a lot to you and they know that you've been sleeping around then they can behave a little bit weird.

In which way weird?

That's what I'm trying to clarify.

That maybe you are available?

Yeah, I think they expect you to carry on behaving like that and they will treat you like that's what they're expecting so they will be with you for a bit of fun, maybe for a one-night stand. Whereas maybe with that particular person your feelings might be strong and you might want more but he sees oh you know, this is what she does and that's what she will always do and so it can be very difficult to get into a relationship when people know you've had a lot of one-night stands.

And it can also be hurtful to you?

Yeah, it's the whole situation of stereotyping you know, people see what you've done and think that's all you do and that's all you are and actually it's not.
Some of those we interviewed had never had a one night stand because it just doesn't turn them on. Many of those we talked to said they are not as emotionally satisfying as relationships (see 'What sex feels like, in your body and your head'). 
 
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Believes sex should only happen in serious relationships.

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Age at interview: 19
Sex: Female
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Whoever I've slept with is someone who's meant something to me' because I'm the kind of person that just wants to be in a long-term relationship, I want to know the person. It's just something I wouldn't do
Others we spoke to were aware that they were more at risk of catching an infection from a casual sexual partner who is sleeping around. They also knew that condoms are not 100% safe; they split, or sometimes come off (especially if they are not used properly). 

Some people we talked to had felt that they were being used in casual relationships. One woman said that as she has got older she has become more assertive and would no longer have sex just because someone finds her attractive. 

Most people we interviewed said they wanted a longstanding relationship rather than 'a string of' one-night stands. Often people we talked to learnt what they thought about one night stands after they've had one.

 

A couple discuss the double standards about casual sex.

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Sex: Male
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G' Not had a whole heap of experience with one night stands. I think I'd prefer to be in a relationship.  

B' Yeah, I guess I haven't had a great deal of one night stands and they're not terribly fulfilling and there's always that worry about where has she been, and who's she's been with and so there's, there's anxiety on that front. It's better to be with someone I think.

G' Yeah. And they're usually also connected with alcohol and stuff, so you usually can't really remember. That's also a bit stressful.

Do you think that men and women have different attitudes when it comes to casual sex?

G' I don't know.  

B' I don't know whether it's just men and women or just society but I've always, it's always seemed to me that a man who's with a lot of women is a, he's a stud or you know he's... it's something to be proud of. But a woman who's considered a slut, you know if she's with a lot of men. So, there's a bit of '

G' Double standards, isn't it?

B' Yeah, yeah.  

G' At the same time a man does keep a, it seems more of my female friends have a lot more casual sex than my male friends who tend to prefer to want to be in a relationship.  

Yeah?

G' Yeah. I don't know if my friends are just different!
 

Thinks people learn from their own mistakes about one night stands.

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Age at interview: 25
Sex: Female
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I think again, if you're careful and use contraception and you use a condom then I can't really see anything wrong with it as long as you both know it's a one-night stand. I mean I've had a few one-night stands myself so it's very easy. You're in a club, you get talking to someone and you have a massive party back at his house and one of your friends goes with one of his friends and it just happens, it's quite normal. 

I don't think it's very good for you, It can be a bit emotionally tiring as well, especially if you like him and you think 'oh I'll go out on a date with him properly next week' and it just never happens.

Okay, so emotionally it could have that effect?

Yes, emotionally it's not very good for you but I think everyone has to have a one-night stand or two one-night stands to not do it again. I think you learn from your mistakes, yes.

Last reviewed January 2016.

Last updated August 2012.

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