Rebecca Holman | Editor | Thursday, 29 May 2014

The Casual Sex Project Forgets To Mention That Sometimes One-Night Stands Are Crap

The Debrief: The website is compelling and thoughtful - but it ignores the fact that not everyone's experience of casual sex is a positive one

When was the last time you had casual sex with someone? Was it a guy you met in a bar? A friend of a friend? Or an ex colleague you always fancied but hadn’t seen in ages? 

We’ve gotten into the habit of assuming that the only people who have one-night-stands are pissed students who are exploring their freedom and sexuality before the adult world of jobs and long-term relationships loom. But this is about as far removed from the reality of the situation as you could get. It’s been well documented that 20-somethings are staying single for longer than ever before. And while we’re single? We’re hooking up with friends of friends, guys we’ve met in bars or those fit ex-colleagues. 

It’s why Zhana Vrangalova set up website The Casual Sex Project – an attempt to, as she puts it, demystify casual sex encounters.  ‘There is so much talk about the hook-up culture these days, about hooking up completely replacing dating on college campuses and young people in general, about casual sex invading the sexual space and disrupting time honored traditions and norms,’ she told the Huffington Post.

‘But most [people] rarely get to hear about specific casual sex experiences other than those of their closest friends, and thus have a very limited idea of what that may entail. So I thought it would be useful for people to have a place to share their stories of hook-ups, in a sort of structured and organised way, and to read about other people’s experiences in this way.’

The website allows people to share experiences of their one-night stand, including the sexual experience itself, how they met, what happened after, whether they used contraception and how much they’d view the experience as negative or positive.  

Speaking to Nerve.com, Vrangalova has said that the overwhelming number of experiences shared were positive. ‘On the Casual Sex Project so far, most people have shared hook-up stories that they don’t regret at all.’ It’s also worth noting that most of the entrants are in their twenties, thirties and even forties. 

The site is certainly compelling – because, let’s be honest, reading about other people’s sexual encounters in great detail is always compelling. And it’s true, most of the experiences are overwhelmingly positive and thoughtfully written. But there’s also an element of self-selection involved.

The people who are going on the site to write about their casual sex encounters (albeit anonymously) are, almost by definition, having great, fulfilling sex that they want to write about. So it’s hard to find a story on there from a girl (or guy) who’s woken up after a drunken one-night-stand feeling utterly wretched about the whole thing, or even just ambivalent about the experience – which has happened to plenty of us from time to time.

In fact, in our experience, women are far worse at slut-shaming themselves when it comes to casual sex than anyone else (when you talk to your friends about a drunken encounter with a random, how often do you express regret, or say ‘I wouldn’t normally do something like that’ – even if your friend couldn’t care less?). And we certainly don’t want to add to the scaremongering around the impact casual sex has on women.

But let’s be honest – the wrong person, at the wrong time, for the wrong reason would make anyone feel pretty shitty about themselves. And do you know what’s not going to cheer you up? A website filled with people proclaiming to be better at one-night-stands than you. 

Yes, we should all be championing our right to be sexually liberated human beings – and not to get judged for it when we exercise that right, but it’s a little disingenuous to assume everyone enters and leaves a one-night-stand feeling wonderful.

In reality, sometimes it’s amazing, sometimes it’s underwhelming, and sometimes it’s depressing, because that’s the way it goes. We all feel this need to champion casual sex because there is (wrongly) a huge stigma attached to it. But by only sharing the positive experiences, we make the people who don’t enjoy it feel like a failure. 

Follow Rebecca on Twitter @rebecca_hol 

Picture: Lukasz Wierzbowski 

Tags: Sex