There are all kinds of different ways to hook up. Maybe you and a buddy have some major chemistry and decide to try being friends with benefits. Maybe you find a consistent, casual hookup partner who satisfies your needs (and the feeling is mutual.) Or maybe you want to have a one-night stand. If so, great! One-night stands can be safe, pleasurable, and super hot — so long as you take the appropriate measures to look out for yourself and your partner.
What is a one-night-stand?
A one-night stand is a hookup entered into with the expectation that it will be a one-time thing. One-night stands often happen spontaneously. You might meet someone at a party, find out a cute friend-of-a-friend is equally into you, or just hit it off with a stranger while you’re out on the town. That said, one-night stands can also happen intentionally, often via dating apps. The most important common denominator of a good one night stand? Honesty and communication. You can establish expectations early on by saying something like, “I’m looking for a casual hookup with no strings attached.” Or you might try saying, “I want this to be a one-time thing. Does that sound good to you?”
Why do people have one-night stands?
People have one-night stands for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes, they’re just looking for a fun time while on vacation. Sometimes, they might be getting over a past relationship and not looking to emotionally invest beyond one night. And sometimes, they’re in a place in their life where they don’t have the time, energy, or desire to pursue anything more serious. Lots of people seek out one-night stands as a chance to sexually explore alongside a partner without any pressure or expectations about the future.
Is a one-night-stand safe?
One-night stands can be safe and responsible, as long as you take the right precautions. However, there are always risks involved when sleeping with someone you don’t know.
Physical safety is a major factor, including the risk of STIs, even if you use a barrier method. "Condoms help reduce the risk of most infections, not all,” board-certified ob/gyn Antonio Pizarro, M.D. told Self magazine. That’s because barrier methods, like condoms and dental dams, don’t protect against infections that are transferred by skin-to-skin contact, like HPV and herpes. There are also potential emotional risks to having sex with someone you might never see again: "When people engage in one-night stands they sometimes crave intimacy and excitement. When that doesn't happen, they end up feeling let down," psychologist Janice Hiller told Cosmopolitan.
How to have a safe one-night-stand.
While there are risks involved, there are some steps you can take to help ensure your one-night-stand is fun and safe. Here are just a few things you can do to have a positive experience.
1. Communicate expectations.
When things start getting flirty with a potential hookup, take the opportunity to start a dialogue about where the night might go. Let them know what you’re looking for out of the experience, and clarify your expectations about safe sex. From there, gauge their reaction. Are they able to communicate their own needs and expectations? Do they seem respectful of yours? Listen to your gut -- If anything feels off, or the person doesn’t seem able to engage thoughtfully, consider aborting the “mission.”
2. Tell a trusted friend where you are.
If you have a smartphone, you can also allow them to track your location for an extra sense of safety. You might additionally consider asking them to check up on you at an agreed-upon time. Being sure that someone knows where you are and is on the alert is a great additional security measure.
3. Stay sober throughout the hookup.
Using substances can make it harder to ensure that your boundaries are being respected, and that you’re respecting your partner’s. What’s more, being inebriated loosens your inhibitions, which risks blurring your existing boundaries. You might, for example, be more likely to consent to sex acts you wouldn’t necessarily while sober. Staying sober keeps you present and able to make choices you’ll feel positive about, long after that shot of tequila wears off.
Of course, hooking up with a stranger while sober can be anxiety-inducing, particularly if you’re new to it. It’s perfectly understandable if you want to seek out a little liquid courage to get the ball rolling. Realistically, one-night stands do often involve substance use, and while you should aim to remain sober, it’s important to be prepared for what to do if you aren’t sober.
If you do choose to use substances, it becomes even more critical to be vigilant about your safety. Try to limit your intake. Ask a friend to look out for you, and to make sure you’re not too intoxicated to make safe choices. Get their opinion on your potential hookup buddy, and trust them if they think something is off.
4. Establish consent.
It’s crucial to talk about consent with your hookup partner, before things get hot and heavy. Clearly communicate which sex acts you are and are not okay engaging in, and make sure you understand your partner’s boundaries as well. It’s also important that you both know consent can be withdrawn at any time.
5. Disclose if you have an STI.
Before engaging in sexual acts, ask when the last time your partner has been tested and disclose when you’ve been tested and if you have an STI. The conversation may be a bit awkward, but there are plenty of good ways to tell a partner if you have an STI. You can also read our guide on how to respond if a partner tells you they have an STI. Regardless of you or your partner’s STI status, it’s still possible to have safe sex. Still, you and your partner should have all the information before making the decision if the hookup should proceed.
6. Use protection.
Every. Time. Come prepared with a condom or dental dam so you’re not relying on your partner to take responsibility.
7. Communicate wants and needs throughout the one-night stand.
You may be hooking up with a stranger, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get intimate about what you like in bed. Throughout the experience, check in with your partner about what turns them on, and be vocal about your own desires. If you’re normally a little shy in the bedroom, try to view this as a low-stakes opportunity to experiment and speak up. You and your partner will be happy you did. Being vocal about what you want and being receptive to your partner’s needs can elevate a one-night stand from being a casual situation to a sexy and pleasurable experience that can teach you about sexual desires you might like to explore more in the future.
8. Check in with yourself and your partner.
Stay aware of how you’re feeling throughout the sexual experience. If you become anxious, concerned, or uncomfortable at any point, know that you can always call it off. Again, consent can be withdrawn at any time. Ask your partner how they’re doing, if they’re enjoying themselves, want more or less of something, and if they are in a positive headspace about the situation.
The bottom line
As you can see, one-night stands require intentionality and consideration for yourself and your partner. Once you’ve taken all the necessary steps to ensure that your hookup will be safe and pleasurable, it’s time to have some fun.