Casual hook-ups are the post-11pm takeaways of the dating scene. One-night stands are the greasy spoons. They’re not necessarily nourishing, they often don’t fill you up, and invariably they come served with a side-order of regret.
But oh boy, sometimes nothing else will hit the spot. Yes, I’m a woman. And if that surprises you then it proves my next point: men have a way to go before they understand just how much our attitudes to sex have changed. A study conducted by researchers at Florida State University and the University of Hawaii back in 1989 revealed that, while 70 per cent of men would agree to casual sex with an attractive woman who propositioned them, not a single woman would do the same when the tables were turned.
More recently, however, reports show that just as many women as men say they’d take the fetching inquisitor up on his offer. In the 2009/10 Great Australian Sex Survey, for example, 68.5 per cent of respondents admitted having a one-night stand. Crucially, the survey found women were slightly more likely than men to have indulged.
Women, it’s clear, have transitioned. The trouble is, men have not. Male courtship behaviour, to coin an especially anachronistic phrase, hasn’t shifted at the same pace as female attitudes. To put it bluntly, if we’re up for it, we’re up for it.
We just don’t need you jamming a stick in our spokes by employing some kind of awkward idea of chivalry (or, worse still, no sense of chivalry at all). We are here to tell you that the sweet spot exists, somewhere between Neil Strauss and Mr Darcy – both of whom, incidentally, could really have done with reading this. Here is the perfect life cycle of the 12-hour relationship.
THE “IT’S ON” MOMENT
Theoretically this can happen anywhere. Be it bar, club, restaurant, party or gig – the venue doesn’t matter. What does is a correct reading of the situation. It can take the form of anything from a shared look to a knowingly whispered, “Do you want to get out of here?” in her ear. In fact, she could very well whisper it in your ear; women hold the cards in this situation. Whatever the set-up, be confident, be courteous, be open.
However vague or capricious this might sound, the rules here are actually fairly simple. First, if we’ve only just met and we’re offering/agreeing to leave with you, we know precisely what this is. Repeating something pathetic like, “But…just for fun, yeah?” will only make us angry. Discussing leaving together is unlikely to be your first conversation of the evening (and if it is, you might want to check your pockets) so you should have already spelled out your position in much less obvious ways. Try explaining how you’re really enjoying the dating game, for example; or how you’re not long out of something serious; or even chatting about that golf trip you’ve got coming up with mates. Don’t worry, she’ll get it.
For you and her both, it’s a case of innocent until proven guilty – it’s just a one-night unless it becomes something else. We won’t expect too much from it other than for you to be a normal human being and above average in bed. Pay the bill while we’re doing our final bathroom sprint, put your hand on the small of our back and walk us out.
DON’T SAY “So what will it be, your place or mine?”
DO SAY “We can definitely do better than here . . . Fancy escaping?”
THE JOURNEY HOME
This one is simple: get a taxi. There’s no stronger antidote to aphrodisiac than a 16-year-old, jacked up to the eyeballs on Monster, with Flo Rida blaring from his mobile across the night bus aisle.
Before stepping into the cab, before ordering it even (and please, do order, because there’s nothing sexy about standing in a queue at the taxi rank) offer up your place as a destination. Only, don’t ever actually say the words, “Want to come back to mine?” It has a cheap ring and makes you sound like a balding-in-denial pony-tailed bachelor. Instead, give her a reason to come back to yours that has nothing to do with sex. It could be that good bottle of Pouilly-Fuisse you’ve been chilling for an occasion more special than a House Of Cards marathon. It might be that rare copy of What’s Going On you have on vinyl that you simply must play her.
Whatever the enticement on offer, 99 per cent of women will prefer to brave your man cave than let a complete stranger into their oasis of tranquillity. Our homes are intimate spaces. Putting up with the fact that you don’t have any make-up remover in the house is a small price to pay for not having to make awkward chat about who the people in our photos are.
State your address loudly and clearly to the taxi driver. If your part-time love asks you to repeat it, don’t look alarmed. It’s not so she can Google-Earth your house when she gets home, it’s so she can safety-text her mates in case you turn out to be Patrick Bateman. Letting her know where you live is away of saying, “I’m not a psycho!” without actually saying, you know, “I’m not a psycho!” Which sounds exactly like the kind of thing a psycho would say.
Lastly, kiss and hold hands, but let that be the limit of your physical interaction.
Why? A) There’s another human being sat a metre away from you. B) We probably need to visit the bathroom again already. Save something for the main event.
DON’T SAY “Hold on a second, I just need to look up bus times.”
DO SAY “Don’t worry, I’ve got a five-star rating on Uber.”
THE FIRST ACT
Three words: wrap it up. You don’t know where we’ve been anymore than we know where you’ve been, and waiting to be asked is rude. Only a special brand of moron doesn’t have the foresight to wear protection nowadays. Carrying a condom in your wallet, or having one in your bedside cabinet, isn’t presumptuous. It’s sensible. And in this case, sensible is good. Sensible is sexy.
When it comes to the sex itself, you don’t need us to tell you what to do – at least, for your sake, we hope not. Just keep it playful, fun, and err on the side of vanilla. Christian Grey is fictional, and most women think he’s a dick anyway. Just make sure she comes. The importance of this issue cannot be stressed enough. Just because this is a short story doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have a happy ending. Not only is it polite, it’s prudent. She’ll be much more likely to reciprocate and/or be up for a repeat performance if you get it right. Note: please do not comment on our vaginas. A blithe, “Ooh, Brazilian!” will kill the moment in half a second flat.
Casual sex does not require footnotes. The same goes for anything remotely
girlfriendy. Hair stroking, eyelid kissing, calling us “baby”, telling us you “love how we smell” – consider it all contraband. In fact, you’d do best to prohibit the L-word altogether.
DON’T SAY “I love how you feel.” She is not a sheepskin rug.
DO SAY “That last thing you did was intense.”
THE IMMEDIATE AFTERMATH
There’s nothing wrong with a post-party spoon and, if this were your girlfriend we were talking about, you’d be well-advised to put some tenderness on display. But she is not and so you must not. These are 12-hour rules and they are specific to your situation. Avoid advanced acts of intimacy at all costs, including the whispering of sweet nothings in her ear. Even if you do love the dimples in her lower back, you do not express it thus. You’ve only just met her. It’s creepy. Instead, chat to her. Lighten the mood.
Talking to you is what had her interested in the first place – don’t let that side of your personality fail just because you’ve had an orgasm. Do Not Turn Your Back. She’s now stuck at your house for the next five-to-seven hours and all she has to her person is a good Little Black Dress from Witchery and some Agent Provocateur underwear. Give her one of your shirts – one long enough to cover her bottom, so she can answer the call of duty without encountering your flatmates looking like a high-class hooker.
Subtly locate her clothes while she’s in the bathroom, but do not fold them up.
The latter says one of two things: “I want you out,” or, “I’m a weirdo who’s just been rifling through your things.” Neither is an emotional unguent. This moment is about sensing the tone and acting accordingly. She’s not looking for assurances from you that she did-the-right-thing by sleeping with you. But, much like you, she’ll want to know you enjoyed yourself and be treated with respect, not flippancy.
Lastly, a quick word on shut-eye. You know the “hug’n’roll” episode of Friends where Chandler doesn’t like cuddly sleeping and hugs Janice before reeling her away in her slumber? Yeah. We saw that episode too. It might come as news to you, but we kinda like our own space when the lights are out.
DON’T SAY “Hold on a sec, I’ve probably got something here that’ll fit you – girls leave stuff here all the time.”
DO SAY “Here, you can wear this, on the condition you’re naked again within five minutes.”
THE MORNING AFTER
Just like the “It’s On” moment, this conversation involves a great deal of signal reading and decisive behaviour. You might think that our emotions run highest straight after sex, but in the 12-hour relationship, the morning after can be a psychological minefield.
Post-congress, if you’ve made sure we’re satisfied, there’s an oxytocin buffer sheltering us (and you) from serious emotional conflict. In the harsh light of day, potentially with a hangover the size of Belarus, there is no such buffer. This is when your behaviour is most crucial. If she’s awake and/or slipping on her shoes at the end of the bed, she has stuff to do. Offer her a cuppa then let her get going. Don’t, whatever you do, suggest breakfast. She’ll think you’re clingy and redouble her dressing speed.
If you’re both awake, lying close together in bed, then it’s probably safe to say she’s comfortable in the moment and your environment. Your efforts last night might actually mean she’s craving a repeat performance: one final encore before she exits stage left. Suggest morning sex only in the subtlest of ways, with gentle desire as opposed to pressure. (A firm yet proprietal hand around the stomach or a gentle stroke of the breast is good; an uninvited prod in the thigh is not.) Whether it happens or not, bring her some water, perhaps some Nurofen, and tea in an inoffensive mug. Give her a towel, too. A clean one. Don’t be shocked if she doesn’t take up the offer of a shower. She probably just doesn’t want to spend the rest of the day smelling of your Kiehl’s Pour Homme body cleanser.
If you think there might be a hint of something else there between you – and only if – consider a proposition of breakfast off-site. But if it was what it was – and more often than not, it was – you’re both adults. It’s time to say goodbye.
DON’T SAY “Morning Sally!” Her name is Sarah.
DO SAY “I’m making coffee – good coffee. Stay right where you are.”
THE FINAL WORD
The Number-Ask remains a contentious issue. So take this as the final decree, handed down by all womankind: “Thou shalt not ask for a girl’s phone number if thou dost not intend to use it.”
You might think it’s polite. But if you’re not going to call, or are just going to send a that-was-fun-it-was-really-nice-to-meet-you-take-care message, it is not.
As well as being like a greasy spoon, a 12-hour relationship is also like a board game (note: a woman is allowed to mix her metaphors). It is designed specifically for good times, when merriment is high, fun is to be had and respect for the rules is observed nonetheless. But as soon as someone starts taking himself too seriously, everyone wants to forfeit and go home. Fast love is a trivial pursuit, indeed.
You might think you have nothing to lose by getting it wrong at this point – the deed is done, after all – but that could not be further from the truth. It’s what separates you from the Mad Men of this world: charming to the penultimate furlong, losers to the last. See her to the door, kiss her properly, tell her you had a fantastic time and, if that’s really it say nothing more. In the end, the key to getting it right is not so much what you say, but what you don’t. So sshhhh, stud.
DON’T SAY “Take care” – or anything else you’d write in a letter to your grandmother.
DO SAY “I’m really glad we met.”