I did the college thing.
I moved away from home and lived on my own for the first time. I partied a lot, studied little--yet still managed to get an education. My BA in mass communications says so. Yeah, I got an education--an education in life, women and sex. College presented me with my first sexual encounters and I literally dove head first into them. It didn't even matter if most of those encounters were with strangers.
One-night stands to you and me.
I went to college in the 90s. Not 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. The 90s. A time when we were more aware of the HIV-virus and other sexually transmitted diseases than at any other time in our history. A time when we would like to believe health-consciousness has driven a stake directly into the heart of the one-night stand. But has it really? Are one-night stands really dead?
Susan J. Britt, M.Ed., is a psychotherapist. Britt counsels singles and offers them advice on how to meet other singles. "I think one-night stands exist, but to a very limited degree," she says, "and the reason I think that is most people are aware of the fear of contracting disease. They're certainly not gone, but the degree to which people in general felt free to do that is greatly hampered by the fear of AIDS. Adults are very much aware of that and are very fearful and cautionary and that's the way it should be."
Yes, that is the way it should be. Your health should always be of the utmost concern. Experience, however, tell us that not everyone shares the same thinking.
A mutual friend brought Nicole over to my apartment and introduced us. Within hours the friend had vanished and Nicole and I introduced more of ourselves under the covers. Having had enough of foreplay, I asked her if I should "get something" -- meaning I was ready for intercourse, are you? Her answer? It's up to you -- meaning it really doesn't matter if you use protection or not. I reached for a condom.
Josh, on the other hand, doesn't always. A 22-year old graduate student studying science at Philadelphia's Temple University, Josh has had "10-15" one-night stands during the past four years. Josh attended undergraduate school at a small Western Illinois college before coming to Temple. During his first five months of residency in Philly, Josh had engaged in four one-night stands. "Sometimes you go out with the intentions of getting laid," he says. "Not using protection was a mutual decision. But I'm starting to think more about that. It's definitely becoming more of a concern living in a bigger city."
"There's certainly something to be said for avoiding one-night stands," says Dr. Michael Broder. Dr. Broder is a psychologist who has spent much of his 27 years of practice working with singles and studying their lifestyles. "There are some perilous situations, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't happen," he says. "There's certainly times when the calling kind of superimposes itself over what is rational."
Ah, yes, the "calling." It occurs among both sexes and contrary to what today's trash-talk television programs would want their viewers to believe, men aren't always thinking with the little head. Females can initiate these encounters just as well.
Stefanie and I had become familiar with one another just from seeing each other on campus. One night we ran into each other at a fraternity party and started talking. (By the way, she had a boyfriend.) Soon, the talking ceased as the fondling increased, right in the middle of the party.
Then I heard the magic words. (No, not I love you.) I admit I was a bit shocked to hear them at first, so I asked her to repeat them to make sure I had heard her right. "I want to have sex with you," is what came back. Yep, I had heard right. Just an evening's worth of getting to know each other had passed and already she was anxious to bump uglies. A rare phenomenon?
"I think men have always been more likely to engage in one-night stands than women in terms of sheer numbers, but not in terms of instances," says Dr. Broder."Obviously, if you're having a one-night stand, you're having it with somebody. There's as much desire among women as there is among men. Whether they actually do it is another story. In terms of desire, it's similar, but I think women are going to tend to be more cautious about that."
Well, not always. Josh says he developed a reputation in Illinois for being a frequent participant in the one-night stand. That fact didn't seem to deter many women when he crossed their paths, though. "I had that reputation and that attracted girls to me," he recalls. "I don't know if they thought they could convert me, or if they were looking for the same. I think men seek one-night stands out more, but it takes two."
At this point, some of you may be thinking Josh and others like him act the way they do because of inexperience and immaturity. You could be right. Remember when I said I did the college thing? Well, maybe that was just it--a college thing. Are we still participating in the same activities once we graduate into the real world?
"It would be different for younger men as opposed to men in their early 30s," Britt says. "I would say men and women in their early 20s are in a period of experimenting still. They're experimenting in terms of their identities. They're experimenting, I'm sure with drugs, alcohol and sex."
In that sense, the one-night will never die. Maybe it will live on until we stop experimenting and start maturing. It will live on until we finally realize that sex is a powerful action and much more meaningful when it is accompanied by feelings of love. How then do we get closer to finding true love and making the one-night stand a less common experience in our lives?
"Network," Britt says. "Tell people that you are available and hoping to meet someone for dating and possibly a relationship if that's what you want. Tell everyone you know, and if they know someone, to let you know."
During my senior year of college, I realized I was ready to become committed to just one person. I hinted to a friend that I was interested in meeting one of her sorority sisters, Kristen. Six years later, I am married to Kristen and I have experienced the most fulfilling relationship of my life.
I haven't had a one-night stand since.