Sarah Williams: The evolution of the one night stand

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Is a one night stand perceived differently by men and women? Photo / Getty
Is a one night stand perceived differently by men and women? Photo / Getty

When I was little I was never allowed to watch The Love Boat. My parents felt that the "shipboard romances" were the equivalent of one night stands and sent the wrong message to an impressionable little girl.

I sneakily watched it anyway but found myself far too busy trying to copy Julie the Cruise Director's awesome flicky hairstyle to grapple with any moral dilemmas.

I no longer covet a flicky blond hairstyle but I do wonder where we are at with the concept of the one night stand.

It has been said that the incidence of STI's has increased alongside the popularity of online dating, and although this is largely anecdotal it does make you wonder.

A one night stand may not be the modern equivalent of a good night kiss but it is certainly more prevalent and obtainable than ever before. There is also less stigma and judgment attached to casual hook ups, though it is never likely to be completely acceptable behaviour.

Morality is a social code reinvented by each generation. It is however, merely a recommendation and how you express your sexuality is your own business.

Meeting someone for a casual liaison or otherwise used to involve a lot of work. There were nightclubs to get into, much alcohol to be consumed, expensive taxi fares - all with no guarantee of success. These days we are all sitting behind the computer in our jim jams, glass of wine in hand.

This ease of getting together has spawned a new concept - particularly among the younger generation. It's called "dating" and it sounds a lot like an extended one night stand to me.

There is no exclusivity or presumption it will lead to something more permanent. There are nights out, shared beds and a vaguely comforting sense of replacability that Tinder and its cohorts offer up in spades.

Are we really okay with this more casual approach to relationships? When it comes to one night stands, how does it feel the morning after, and is it perceived differently between men and women?

To get a handle on this, I conducted an informal survey of my unsuspecting friends. It was a rather bland result, with the exception of one male friend who likened his experience to consuming a bucket of KFC: "I had this incredible craving for it but afterwards I felt a bit sick and couldn't understand why I thought it was such a good idea".

Durham University in England carried out a more reliable survey involving 3,300 people aged between 17 and 40 years. Perhaps not surprisingly, while 80 per cent of men reported positive feelings following a one night stand, this contrasted with just 54 per cent of women.

With regard to negative feelings, the most common phrases used amongst women were "regret at being used" and a perception they were viewed as "cheap and easy". Typical comments from men taking part in the survey included "excitement and lust", "euphoric" and a good way to "blow off steam". Society really is a b*tch...

Despite the fact that just over half of women felt dissatisfied the morning after, it was the feeling of flattery and desirability that lead them to partake in the first place. Feeding into this mind-set was the further revelation that men actually lower their standards for a one night stand, so this flattery may well be unfounded.

Interestingly it seems women raise their standards, preferring a more attractive specimen to walk the wild side with.

So, if you're a woman, a one night stand is easy to come by. Just make sure you are comfortable with it and have eyes wide open. Perhaps you really fancy someone but don't want a relationship. Or maybe it's just "been a while". Your reasons are your own.

Alcohol and self-doubt fuelled hook ups are unlikely to be an empowering experience for anyone and are best avoided.

Here are my top five reasons when to avoid a one night stand, regardless of gender:

1. When you are feeling emotionally low
2. If you secretly think it will lead to something more
3. If you feel unsafe or at all uneasy with the person
4. As a way to feel better about yourself
5. When you are not fully in control of your actions

So, has the one night stand evolved? For men, no. For women, it seems likely that a few more of us are okay about it; despite the social stigma still being very apparent.

It goes without saying that a one night stand is no substitute for love. If all you want, however, is a warm body and no strings, then as they say on The Love Boat: "Welcome aboard".

- nzherald.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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