Ask Ainsley, Student Life

Ask Ainsley: How can I have a safe one-night stand?

Dear Ainsley,

Now that I’m in my first year of university, I feel like a lot of my friends are having one-night stands. I’ve never had one before, but I want to prepare myself for the possibility. Do you have any tips on how to have a safe one-night stand?


Contemplating casual sex (CCS)

Dear CCS,

I’m so glad you’re thinking about this—being safe when engaging in a one-night stand is super important! We tend to view these encounters as having ‘no strings attached,’ but we often forget to think about the potential repercussions of casual sex, especially when it’s with someone new.

When going into a one-night stand, just as in any sexual situation, it’s extremely important to make sure you’re both giving enthusiastic and continuous consent. If you’re at a party and have been drinking, remember that your own and others’ abilities to make rational decisions and give consent might be compromised. If you have the slightest inkling that someone is too drunk to consent, trust your gut, and do not try to engage in sexual activities with them. When you go out, try having one designated friend stay sober and check up on the group in the event that anyone gets too drunk to consent. And, even if you’re sober enough to make decisions on your own, if you’re having doubts about going home with someone, remember that it’s more than okay to change your mind.

If you have decided to go home with someone, it’s a good idea to tell a friend where you’re going and with whom. Regardless of how good things might go, it can be helpful to have someone looking out for you.

Once you’ve made it to your home or theirs, you still have the option not to have sex. Often during one-night stands, there are pressures or expectations to engage—but you are never obligated to do anything and you have the full right to say ‘no’ at any point in the evening.

In the case that you do decide to have sex, be sure to use protection. There are several kinds, ranging from condoms to the pill, so decide what’s best for you. Either way, you want to make sure you are protecting yourself against STIs and, if applicable, pregnancy. I know it can be intimidating to bring up the topic of birth control with someone you don’t know very well, but the fact that you’re not familiar with each other—or your practices—makes it even more important.

If it’s your first time venturing into a one-night stand, don’t forget to have fun; there’s no shame in enjoying the night. Keep in mind, though, that because you don’t know this person very well, a one-night stand might not be the best time to push sexual boundaries. This is probably not when you want to try unconventional sexual positions or sex toys, unless you and your partner have both explicitly consented to that beforehand. While it’s important to feel comfortable expressing yourself sexually, if you just met the person you’re with, they may feel pressured into saying ‘yes’ to things because they don’t yet know you well enough to say no. If there’s a time to keep things simple, it’s now.  

When it comes to spending the night, it’s important not to have too many expectations. Don’t assume that you will sleep over at someone’s place or that they will stay over at yours, because for some people, sharing a bed is more intimate than sex. If you find yourself wanting to say a simple “bye” post-sex, honesty is your best bet. Kindly tell your partner that you prefer to sleep alone, or that you’ve got to be up early the next day. They should respect your decision, just as you should respect theirs.

On another note, it’s definitely worth communicating your long-term expectations with your partner post-sex. Whether you want your one-night stand to remain one-time, you want to see the other person again, or you want to take things to a new level emotionally, let them know, and hear them out if they want something different. Romantic comedies tend to portray tired tropes of one-night stands as the beginning of a happily ever after. Sometimes this is the case, sometimes it isn’t, and the only way you’ll know is if you talk about it.

One-night stands can be fun, but they require care and communication. The best advice I can give you is to prioritize your happiness, comfort, and certainty surrounding the decisions you make. Everyone has their own preference when exploring intimacy and sexuality, and it’s all a matter of personal choice when discovering what you want.

Stay safe,


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