Rethinking the one-night stand

One nightstand –Klara Woldenga (graphic)

One nightstand –Klara Woldenga (graphic)

One-night stands are among the most taboo of weekend activities. It is difficult to go through university life without this topic being presented in some form. It is a slang term that refers to sex that was the first and last of its kind. Though one-night stands fit nicely into the world of modern love, our approach to them does not. So often we feel the need to lie, justify, exaggerate or conceal our experiences because of the strict categories we are often pressured to put them in.

The one-night stand conversation typically has two camps: supporters and condemners. We all know someone who thinks one-night stands are an empowering and enjoyable experience, and we all know someone who thinks they are empty and shameful. The latter opinion has been popular in the past, considering that cultural stigma surrounding casual sex has long pinned the one-night stand as public enemy number one. However, as cultural norms surrounding dating evolve, so does the meaning of this controversial rendezvous.

So, who is right? Do one-night stands deserve a walk of shame the next morning or a walk of fame? I firmly believe that the answer is neither. I have noticed a pattern in previous discussions on the topic. Often, when a person is asked if they have ever personally engaged in a one-night stand, their description is based on a highly personal and unique understanding of the term. The following are examples I have heard that might sound familiar to you, as well: “Yes, but we were friends for three years before that night,” “Yes, but I had a huge crush on him after that and texted him every weekend,” “Yes, but we spent the whole day together the next day and now I’m thinking of asking her out,” “Yes, but we had a magical connection for that night.”

All of these constitute a one-night stand in some respects and a meaningful relationship in others. Clearly, labelling the topic is nonsensical, given the richness of this grey area. When we take into account the variety of interpretations of this act, the word begins to lose its meaning. If a person feels a connection toward a one-night stand for a long period of time, it becomes a lasting experience. Two people can have sex that’s a one-night stand for one, and not so much for the other. Though this is a seemingly fixed action with black and white opinions surrounding it, a one-night stand may be a relative term.

Instead of forcing ourselves into the “lover” and “hater” category of the great one-night stand debate, we should simply embrace its place in the “it’s complicated”-section of our sexuality that is already home to so many aspects of our personal lives. Whether you’ve  had one, haven’t had one, would like one, or would like to forget about one, the choice is yours: the one-night stand is in the eye of the beholder.

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