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The Unsaid One-Night Stand Rule Book That Guarantees Pleasure

And if you're not following it, you're setting yourself up for heartbreak.

By Ellen "Jelly" McRaePublished about a year ago 8 min read
Top Story - September 2022

I'm pretty sure I've said this a thousand times in my life. But what's one more reminder?

In relationships, there are no rules.

You can make up your own rules. A couple, a relationship, decides how they want their relationship to be. It's up to them. And as long as it keeps them happy and doesn't hurt anyone else, each to their own.

But let's not be so romantic and fantastical when it comes to one-night stands. Because they aren't relationships. They're glorified sexual and pleasurable transactions.

And if we were being truly honest here, you could say they are a farce. The performance of a lifetime.

Most people tend to fixate on the one night itself. That's when it all happens; that's where you can have the greatest experience of your life, or feel the greatest pain too. But that's not where it all happens. The sex itself is largely irrelevant.

If you want to avoid pain and maximise your pleasure with a one-night stand, it's simple. Follow the rules, and no one gets hurt.

Rule #1: Don't talk about fight club - I mean, one-night stand club

No one involved or outside of the one-night stands needs to define what your brief encounter is. 

Sure, between you and your friends you can call your one-nighter for what it is. But other than that, there are no labels involved with this short-lived relationship. Or lack thereof.

Here are the issues with trying to define a one-night stand with the person you did it with:

  • It's not a long-term commitment so why have the uncomfortable conversation?
  • You can look like a weirdo trying to over-define a brief union
  • You could accidentally turn a one-night stand into something more, which is problematic if that's not what you want
  • You're ruining the point of what it is, a one-night affair, which is one night. So why talk about the future?
  • You make the situation more complicated than it needs to be, for you and them

The (rare yet permissible) exceptions to the label rule

The only time you can exercise flexibility with this rule is when you know the person you've had the one-night stand with. 

I mean, really know them, as in they're a friend or someone close to you that you will see again.

You might need to establish it was a one-night stand to avoid hurting the feelings of the person you were with. In some circumstances, you have to exercise clarity so the other person doesn't think this is the start of something else.

But if you're lucky, the two of you might come to this understanding without having to explicitly say it.

Rule #2: Forget they have a phone

What's unsaid about a one-night stand is how the relationship ends once the night is over. That means, in practical terms, neither side:

  • Contacts each other in any way
  • Attempts to make contact through other sources
  • Approaches each other in social situations, unless forced to act friendly in front of other people

Most people think this rule is implied. I mean, come on, it's in the name for crying out loud. 

But others think it polite or necessary to engage in follow-up contact, for fear of offending. To those people, you're mistaken.

The (dire, hopefully avoidable) exception to the rule

If for some reason, you've walked away from the one-night stand thinking you've found the one, who am I to stop you from contacting that person? 

Yet, I stress you need to truly believe that it's the case, and the other person will reciprocate. 

If the other person is following the rule book, don't act surprised when they flat out refuse your second advance.

If you want to do the one-night stand again, contact is permissible by the rule book. But once again, make sure you remember it's sex and not to expect anything more. You're breaking the rules, after all.

And this might seem obvious, but if your one-night stand results in pregnancy or any sexually transmitted diseases, all rules are out the window.

Rule #3: Gossip? You hardly know her.

One-night stands aren't secrets. 

It's not like you need to keep it from the other people in your life and that you're forbidden from telling anyone. Unless that's what you and the other person agree to.

And it's not that one-night stands are something we need to feel ashamed about and need to hide from the rest of the world. Far from it. Sing it from the rooftops, if you want.

But turning your one-off encounter into social gossip comes with risks. These involve:

  • Spreading the news around to people you don't want to know about it - Friends love to gossip. And often we tell other people without even meaning to.
  • The story getting back to the person you were with - If you tell a horror one-night stand story, it might get back to the partner you had it with. Though you might not care about their feelings, you don't want to be the jerk who unnecessarily trashed someone else's sexual performance. And would you want it done to you? No.
  • Judgement - Some people don't agree with casual sex. You open yourself up to unwanted judgement from those who judge too much.
  • Past relationships - This happened to me. My one-night stand with my ex affected my next relationship because they knew each other. I wish I hadn't said anything to anyone. It wouldn't have been an issue if everyone kept their mouth shut.

Rule #4: Abstain from history pillow talk

One-night stands are all about an illusion. It's about that moment, pretending everything in the world doesn't exist. It's just you, them and no one else. So why bring the rest of your life into it?

And especially when it comes to your sex life. The person you're having a one-night stand with doesn't want to know:

  • How many people you've had sex with
  • Who was your first
  • Who was your last
  • How often you have sex or how long it has been between sleeping with someone
  • How many times you've had a one-night stand before
  • What things you like in the bedroom they didn't do or didn't get right

You don't owe the person any of this information. They don't need to know your history unless it relates directly to them (STDs come to mind). If they want to ask, that's a different story. But it doesn't mean you have to tell the truth or answer at all.

When you start talking about your life like this, you're inviting emotional intimacy. 

One-night stands are all about the opposite of this. It's about keeping as much emotional separation as possible so you can both walk away without either one feeling hurt or used.

Rule #5: Beware the cold light of day

Waking up somewhere you're not familiar with, or without all your necessities, has some drawbacks. You have nothing to maintain the illusion you're a put-together person. 

These include toiletries (toothbrush especially), clean clothes and necessary medications to get your day started.

Whilst you shouldn't have to leave a lasting impression on the person you've slept with, sometimes you can't feel like yourself without life's luxuries. 

If you're one of those people, leave the encounter under the cover of darkness. Don't stay overnight, even if it seems tempting. You can't undo it in the morning.

The other risk with a sleep-over-one-night stand is the risk of morning awkwardness. 

  • Should we go to breakfast? 
  • Should we have sex again? 
  • Should we do this again? 

Sometimes the sex and dash approach is the only way to exit without leaving the impression you want more.

Rule #6: Act cool, not a fool 

Sometimes you can't avoid seeing the person again. It happens; sleeping with friends, or friends of friends will do that. When you see them next, avoid:

  • Acting like they are an ex you feel instinctually obliged to hate
  • Acting like they're a complete stranger
  • Acting like a lovesick puppy around them
  • Acting like you have some dirty secret you're keeping from the police
  • Acting like the one night is something you now regret

Sure, you might feel awkward. You can't control that. Acting upon this feeling, and making the entire situation weird for everyone, isn't necessary. It also destroys any confidence you have to venture down that path ever again.

You can make it weird between you and the person you slept with all you want. It's completely up to you. But why you would want to doesn't make sense. And it violates the implied ethics behind one-night stands.

They're effortless and uncomplicated unions. The weirder you are about the encounter, the less effortless it becomes. 

You spoil your own enjoyment and probably theirs too.

I didn't make the rules, I only lived by them

These implicit rules about one-night stands aren't anything new. Yet, it's not something they teach in an educational institute. Though they probably should. 

Because most of us have to learn them the hard way. And by the time we do, it's too late.

I didn't invent these rules. I don't completely agree with them all, either. And thinking they are going to work for everyone is naive.

Yet we have these rules for a reason. We're trying to protect ourselves, and for the most part, that's what the rules do.

Be a rule breaker, go for it. Yet, I wouldn't expect to survive if you do.


About the Creator

Ellen "Jelly" McRae

I’m here to use my wins and losses in #relationships as your cautionary tale | Writes 1LD; Cautionary tale #romance fiction |

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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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    Well-structured & engaging content

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Comments (10)

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  • Lynn Anderson 8 months ago

    "You can look like a weirdo trying to over-define a brief union." I feel this.

  • A.R Woodsabout a year ago

    Glad to have found this writing. Most people I've met needed to know this or should know that emotional connections are indeed not useful.

  • Gooseabout a year ago

    **Insert validating approval-prose which is the only kind of comment the public is allowed to respond in towards anything of this theme.** You wrote it well, and you put it well. And I entirely agree with everything you said here. What I find interesting is how we all automatically know there's no disapproval socially allowed of the theme. Anyone who dares to voice critically upon the topic gets overwhelmingly attacked, shunned, or more-or-less "cancelled" by society as our modern culture likes to put it. I think you'd agree with me that is funny. It's more taboo to be publicly against the theme of extramarital/love-less sex with strangers — than it is to normalize or promote it. In fact, we have a term for that very thing even, we call it "casual sex", because who a person actually is, and learning who they are and falling in love with them for who they are and desiring them from exactly that, is just radical. You gotta have tattoos and do drugs and ride a motorcycle nowadays to be the type of outcast who only has sex with people you're actually in love with nowadays. Give it a couple years nobody's going to even write bios on dating websites anymore. Just physical body stats.

  • keenan eliezerabout a year ago

    I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. Your descriptions are so vivid.

  • Fei Ye Lanabout a year ago

    Well written

  • Mariann Carrollabout a year ago

    Never had a one night stand but it’s good to know. 👍

  • aaliyah kaleabout a year ago

    Well written

  • Bo Ellisabout a year ago

    Thanks for sharing and great work!

  • La Coulon Jabout a year ago

    Thanks for sharing and great work!

  • Kylaraabout a year ago

    Thanks for sharing and great work! I agree to all of those points except No 4. pillow talk definitely helps me to feel more comfortable, more human. Although, I would not tell them my whole life story and I ask questions as well (If they don't want to answer, I accept that of course). Guess that is a personal preference though.

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