Sex and Love
One night stands
OK, so you met this fantastic woman down the pub, and one thing led to another, and well...whatever the circumstances of your meeting, now she's offering you sex.
Probably with no-strings, probably you'll never see her again. Question is: what do you do? Oh, by the way, you're in a relationship. To cheat or not to cheat, that is the question.
There's no doubt that many men do think about having casual sex if they believe they can get away with it. But the facts about how many do it are harder to establish.
An NBC News survey in the USA suggests that while 16% of men have actually cheated on their partner, a much larger number - 30% - have fantasized about it, suggesting many more men would do it if the circumstances were right. (Presumably meaning, if they believed they could get away with it!)
What's also been established is that when men have a one-night stand, their selection standards are much lower than they are when they choose a long-term partner. (This is not true for women who are cheating on their partners, who, now, apparently equal men in numbers.)
This suggests that men like casual sex, and relish the idea and the execution of a one-night stand so much that they don't really care who they pick up.
Presumably most of the men who are engaging in one night stands are not premature ejaculators! I assume that would be unacceptable to the women who they were having sex with?
I don't really know about the dynamics of one night stands, having rarely had such experiences.
It's not hard to imagine why we like casual sex so much - we're programmed for it. Eons ago, the men who had the most sex partners would leave the most offspring, many or all of whom would inherit the desire to have the most sex partners....and so the genes for sexual promiscuity would spread.
Women wanted a faithful mate to help rear the kids, so they would develop strategies designed to test the faithfulness and persistence of their potential mates - hence courting behavior.
But even so, it's still to the reproductive advantage of the species that men desire to spread their genes around, and presumably we still have that desire.
What's more, sex with a new partner can be very arousing - potentially much more exciting than sex with a partner you've been fucking for some time.
This is because our senses habituate to the same old stimuli - a new partner brings a whole new range of stimuli and excitement to spice up the senses. And even more rewards come from the thrill of the chase and the sense of prowess that a man gets when he beds the woman he's been after. Yes, it's a powerful combination.
But it's a mistake to think that all men will jump into bed with any woman who proposes sex. Many men turn women down - most often because the man is in a faithful, monogamous relationship. The next most common reason for turning a woman down is that she's in a relationship!
There are plenty more reasons why people turn each other down: one or other of the couple have been drinking; there's no emotional connection (sex without love can be just as empty an experience for men as it is for women, though as Woody Allen remarked, "As empty experiences go, it's one of the best!"); because cheating breaks the guy's moral code; and so on.
But what if you're unhappy and there's the prospect of some emotional connection from an affair? I hate to say it, but I doubt there are many guys who wouldn't cheat on their partners if the right set of circumstances came along.
And what if it happens to you? What if you wake up the morning after the night in the pub and find yourself next to someone you met over a drink? Do you tell your partner? On the one hand, if it was a horrible accident and you've resolved never to do it again, why make everyone suffer by a confession? If you can't handle the guilt, that's your problem.
On the other hand, if you carry the secret there's some strain and loss of intimacy. If your relationship survives, then it might be stronger and better. Yeah, right.
But how many sexual partners do men and women have in a lifetime? The table below shows the % of men and women who reported each of a certain number of partners.
What this proves is that women are less promiscuous than men, though it offers no explanation of why: women may fear social exposure, shame, or violence and disease more than men, or they may just be less sexually motivated to seek out new partners, and that in itself could be because they have a lower sex drive or because they are genetically programmed to stick to one mate.
Update (2006): In fact the statistics above are simply wrong. When you allow women to complete the survey in private, with no possibility of being overlooked or identified, the numbers of sexual partners they report goes up dramatically. And when you ask them to complete the test in situation where they believe their answers may be checked for accuracy by means of a lie detector, they report numbers of sexual partners almost equal to those reported by men. Reference here.
To see how comical men can be about the prospect of a one night stand, read this hilarious piece of advice from Askmen.com (a fairly sexist website, to be sure). If you don't understand why it's comical, you're either naive or you're getting a lot of one night stands.
On the other hand, it seems women may be getting increasingly fond of the one-night stand. Who knows for sure?
Updated 23 February 2020