The Complete Guide to a One Night Stand

Step one: don’t forget the condom.

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There’s an episode from How I Met Your Mother where they go through all of the different types of sex. Some serious, while others are mostly for the jokes, there’s one type of romp that nearly everyone wants to have in their lifetime: the classic one-night-stand.

You know how the scene goes: you’re on a date with a gal and while you’re attracted to her, you don’t foresee it turning into anything further. You get the hint she’s on the same page, and you both let your mind run wild… all the way to the bedroom. You enjoy an evening of pleasure together, and you make no plans—and set no expectations—for future contact. It was, as the name suggests, a one-night deal that you can both think fondly about and add to your flip-book of sex scenes.

While they’re fun for sure, they can also be tricky, especially when it takes two to do the dirty. For those who are accustomed to long-term, committed relationships, navigating a casual encounter can be confusing too. Not to worry though—we’ve talked to the sexperts to map out your strategy, and are proud to present the complete guide to having an amazing one-night-stand…tonight.

First: figure out if a one-night-stand is actually for you.

When it has been so long since you’ve had sex, you worry if it really is just like riding a bicycle, the idea of any type of action is appealing. But one-night-stands can be a slippery slope (no pun intended) for those who aren’t entirely sure about how they feel toward no-strings-attached sex. As licensed marriage and family therapist, Courtney Geter, LMFT explains, a one-night-stand is neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’ but many people associate a certain connotation toward the concept.

One night stands can allow for sexual exploration without the need to commit to another person and allow for the release of sexual tension. On the other hand, one-night stands may not bode well for those prone to anxiety or those needing emotional closeness with a partner”

This might be bred from their upbringing, or leftover from times they felt ashamed during adolescence but, whatever the case, a healthy dose of self-discovery will ensure you don’t find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. “One night stands can allow for sexual exploration without the need to commit to another person and allow for the release of sexual tension. On the other hand, one-night stands may not bode well for those prone to anxiety or those needing emotional closeness with a partner,” Geter continues. “Since a one-night stand is a casual hook up and occurs on the spur of the moment, you are not able to get to know this person like you would a dating partner or a friend with benefits. You also don’t remain in contact with the person, which could trigger anxiety.”

Especially if you say you’re on board for the approach, but then feel grimy about yourself afterwards, it could make you doubt if you’re lovable or relationship-material. If you think you’re capable of fun without the love, then go for it. After these next steps, of course.

Second: get checked for STIs

Sure, it’s not the sexiest of topics but when you’re sleeping with a stranger, you definitely have no idea where they’ve been, or who they’ve been with. Before you engage in any sort of X-rated play—from oral to intercourse—get yourself checked. Geter explains you should know your STI status and be up front with your partner about it, while also practicing safe sex with condoms or other barrier methods. Though a one-night-stand is a wham-bam-thank-you-m’am experience, maintaining your sexual health is not a one-off. “If you engage in sexual sex with different people, get regular STI checks to prevent the spread of diseases and to enjoy your time with others. Don’t take others for their word as well,” Geter continues. “Always use condoms and keep condoms on you just in case your partner does not have any.”

Third: be honest with your partner.

While friends-with-benefits is another type of sex, one-night-stands are less focused on connection beyond animalistic. The goal is quite simple on its face: please one another and part ways. If you don’t intend to have any sort of relationship past this enchanted evening, Geter says it’s vital to chat with your partner. This will prevent any sadness or miscommunication, and bond you together before you become intimate—which hey, could be hot on its own. “If you realize that your partner is giving mixed messages such as saying one thing but acting another way, choose to not have sex with this person to prevent hurt feelings or confusion after the fact,” she recommends.

Fourth: ensure consent.

For an erotic and fulfilling sexual experience, both parties need to give full consent to the act. Though it has always been a mandatory step, the prominence of the #MeToo movement has brought a brighter light and a deeper understanding of the value of asking before touching (or groping or kissing). And even if your partner is giving you all of the right signals, multi-certified sex and relationship educator Anne Hodder-Shipp, ACS reminds men to ask for consent throughout the progression of your encounter. “Consenting to oral sex, for instance, does not mean you’ve consented to vaginal or anal sex. If you suspect your partner might not be as excited about what’s happening as they seemed to be earlier, check in with them,” she recommends. “This shows respect to them—and yourself—and helps prevent the one-night stand from becoming a negative or painful memory.”

You should also tune-in to your own body and mental reactions as you’re going through the motions and ask yourself if you’re still into the one night stand. As Hodder suggests, ask yourself: Does this feel pleasurable? Am I as excited about it as I was earlier? “If you answer ‘no’ to any of those questions, you have every right to stop the sex right then and there,” she says.

Lastly: create a game plan for self-care.

Fair warning: the first time you have a one-night-stand, it’s normal to feel a bit off. Since most people begin their sex life with someone they care about, dipping a big toe into the world of casual romps might not feel natural. That’s why creating a self-care plan is smart to keep you emotionally and mentally healthy. Geter suggests figuring out what your after-orgasm rules are: do you want your partner to stay the night or do you want them to leave right away? And then think about the next time you have a one-night stand: Are you okay with bringing people—er, strangers—to your home, or would you prefer to book a hotel room? What information will you share—and what will you keep to yourself? What about booze? “Having a plan will help you better choose a partner and make a decision as well as protect your own mental health afterward,” Geter notes.

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