The rumpled sheets, the perfectly tousled hair, the must-have-you-now chemistry — one-night stands sound like, in theory, a dream scenario for casual sex. But the truth is hardly as glamorous as TV and movies would have us believe.
No one knows that better than truth-teller Mindy Kaling, who showed up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week and opened up about the pitfalls of her dating life. In the interview, Kaling said reality can get in the way of actual one-night stands:
Yep, meds and flossing. Kaling isn't as wild and crazy as her character on The Mindy Project, she told DeGeneres: "I think people get a little disappointed because my true self is that I could never have a one-night stand."
Because in place of perfectly tousled hair and must-have-you-now chemistry is often tangled hair, smudged makeup and, er, performance failures. Not to mention the way unexpected sex throws off our comforting evening routines. Yet how we talk about the allure of one-night stands rarely includes the candid realities of having an unexpected sexual encounter with a stranger or friend.
According to a Match.com survey, 44% of adults had a one-night stand, while other studies have estimated it as more than half of all men and women. That means it's time for some real talk about what one-night stands really entail and why we like them — or don't. So we tapped a few 20-somethings to reveal how they really feel about one-off romps.
Sometimes alcohol gets the best of us.
"One-night stands can sometimes be unfulfilling. The other night I slept with a girl. We took a cab to her place, discretely engaging in backseat foreplay. Got to our destination. I wanted to use every technique I ever knew for as long as possible, but alcohol has a tendency to work against you sometimes and my performance wasn't as great as I wanted it to be," Brian said.* "Sometimes, you expect sex to work out like how it does in porn. Which couldn't be farther from the truth."
"There's performance issues. Like one time if I didn't eat much that day and was drinking whiskey shots and beer. Everything felt primal about what we were doing, except it took me way longer to get aroused," said Brian.
Hygiene can go out the window.
"You just sort of have to accept that you did not bring a toothbrush. Morning breath will happen. That is a hoop you need to jump through," Frances said.
"[Thinking about one-night stands,] my mind immediately went to after a night of dancing when you try to hook up with someone but your underwear is clearly soaked in sweat so you have to run into their bathroom and and rip it off shove it in your purse or back pocket," recalled Rhiannon.
"The worst part is smelling like a stranger when you don't have time to shower the next morning. Sometimes you really just feel dirty even if you tell yourself you don't," said Norah.
We often end up unsatisfied, physically and emotionally.
"Sometimes the sex is so lame you wish you just got a solid night's sleep instead. I'd rather be watching Friends and passing out," Norah said.
"This one time I was with a guy who was a multiple cummer, as in, there was no limit. It just got boring after a while, like a Peter Jackson movie where it climaxes for three hours straight," said David.
There can be a bit of an "ick factor."
"One of the biggest downsides to any sexual encounter is the possibility of contracting an STI — which may only become a 'down side' when you really think about it the next day, or week or month — especially since so many sexual encounters involve oral sex without protection. I don't know anyone who uses a condom during oral sex," said Shannon.
"I've found them stressful in concept. I don't like getting very physical (read: sex) with someone if I'm not close with them. Unusual for a guy, but it's true. I need some level of trust with a person if I decide to sleep with them," Mike said.
"There's just something weird about having sex with a stranger. Would you rub your genitals on a homeless person? 'Cause it's about the same effect." Brett said.
The morning after is far from simple.
"I sent her a light-hearted text to test the communication waters. She never got back to me. It's like that thing that always happens with the ones that YOU like. The ones you want to forget aren't keen to taking hints. You don't always know its a one time thing till days later," Jim said.
"The downside: Not necessarily being able to see him or her again, even if you want to," Britney said.
"What I don't like is not seeing them again, if it was good. Once I've established sexual chemistry with someone and enjoy their company, there are few reasons I wouldn't want to give that another go," Shannon said. "Or, if I didn't like them, it's annoying to have to field their texts."
"If it occurs with a friend, that can definitely lead to awkwardness down the road," said David. "They often occur spontaneously and with alcohol, so normal precautions can vanish as you seize the moment: like forgetting to lock your door as a friend walks in or being a bit too loud or staying up far too late to make the most of it. And then there's the morning after."
But there are, of course, reasons we keep doing them ...
"The benefits: Experiencing someone new. Potentially learning something new about your own sexuality. The privacy from having experiences outside your friend or community circles. Getting some good stories to tell when you later settle down," Sheila said.
"On the rare occasions it happened, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, had absolutely no regrets, found them remarkably convenient and generally made for a good (and often funny) story," said Greg.
"It doesn't take that much for me to feel comfortable. I did enjoy the few sexcapades [I had] and found them good for what they were and what I wanted," Sharon said. "They did not leave me feeling missing of anything nor did they stress me out at all. It was exactly what I wanted — good sex with cuties, and that's what it was."
* All names have been changed to allow subjects to speak freely on private matters.