Sex & Relationships

Why One Night Stands Are Good for You

Casual sex isn't for everybody, but there is a lot to be learned about yourself through purely physical-based encounters.

Casual sex isn't for everybody, but there is a lot to be learned about yourself through purely physical-based encounters, especially for women who are taught that sex is this precious gift that is only to be given away in the most idyllic circumstances. Meanwhile, men are raised to have a much more casual physical relationship with sex. No wonder we women give it so much emotional play.

Which is not to say sex isn’t emotional. There is no denying that having sex with someone immediately takes things up a notch. And for someone who has a hard time keeping the physical and the emotional in perspective, no matter how many times you tell yourself that you will keep it casual, once you’ve been naked together, you become more vulnerable.

A friend of mine who experiences the dilemma says she often finds herself feeling even more lonely after these types of encounters because they remind her of what she doesn’t have. She resolved to hold out for “the right guy’’ and not sleep with him or anyone until she was sure of this. It was a nice theory until she realized she might be waiting a long time and that, even if she felt someone was “right,’’ she had no guarantees.

She decided she liked sex too much for this and would be better off learning how to separate the physical and emotional, something I have been encouraging her to do for years, after watching her go through one painful casual encounter after another.

Recently, she told me that she’d had a revelation. For the first time, she really felt what I had been trying to tell her -- that if she was going to sleep with these guys, she couldn’t let herself get so emotionally invested. Even though it had always made sense intellectually to her, she hadn’t felt it until now. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this came after working with a therapist on issues around why she needs constant approval (both physically and emotionally) from men.

So she has given up the vow of holding out but has compromised by giving up the drunken one-night stands with strangers and is only sleeping with men she feels she could at least be friends with. This way she gets the physical attention and if it doesn’t work out as a relationship, she still gets the male attention in the form of a friendship.

As an added bonus, she’s come to realize that the emotional expectations she laid on men she barely knew were more about her issues than why a total stranger couldn’t immediately give her what she wanted. Granted, it’s a little more complicated and difficult to get right than simply vowing you won’t ever have a casual encounter again, but I do think it’s more realistic. As for those really drunk one-nighters, not only are they usually more depressing and almost always unsatisfying, they’re also a little dangerous.

But I somehow doubt that most people’s trouble with casual sex stems from a genuine concern for people’s health and well-being, especially when it comes to women, who seem to still incur the most disdain for being slutty. I suspect it is much more of a morality issue mixed in with some resentment toward women who are often the ones who decide whether sex will happen.

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