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Imagine, if you will, the frozen meat section of Tesco. The soft hum of the refrigerator, the tantalising sight of raw drumsticks, the sweet smell of meal deals on the horizon. Somewhere between an overpriced steak and a sketchy slice of chicken, you find yourself mere meters away from someone with whom you have exchanged approximately seven words and a couple bodily fluids. You need to get to the till but he’s in your way, and you can’t go backwards because you just glimpsed a former tutor near the American section.
You’ve got yourself a one night standoff.
Regardless of your views on the emotional sanctity of genitals, sex is unquestionably an intimate act. Stripping down to your barest assets, grinding up against each other, making noises you would never dream of making in polite company… All of these things are entirely unacceptable in most contexts. To reveal yourself to someone in this manner requires trust, something that is unlikely to have been established in the two odd hours that you’ve known each other since first locking eyes in the Vic. By copulating without the foundation of friendship, you are going against both social convention and basic instinct.
To reconcile our carnal lust with our rejection of social norms, we are often seized by feelings of shame after engaging in a so-called One Night Stand. Mumbled goodbyes and mortified walks home may stave off the humiliation for the moment, but what can we do when the object of our ignominy appears before us in person? What if they attempt to engage us in conversation? How can a person possibly react in such a disastrous scenario?
I got with a stranger during Freshers’ Week 2015. I first encountered him post-hookup at the Union, where I spoke to a mutual friend for nearly ten minutes while he loitered in the background, staring at the pool tables and determinedly pretending that I did not exist. Eye contact appeared to be too great an intimacy for the guy who, just seven days earlier, had groped me on Market Street and slept in my bed until noon.
It seems that the default response to shame is ignorance, a mental denial of what may or may not have happened. The strategy of blanking, in my experience, is one mostly employed by men. Plenty of ladies (myself included) have of course embarked on a rather embarrassing one night stand or two, but I’ve found that we tend to shrug them off rather easily. This could be attributed to our lack of worry that the boy might desire a relationship.
Let’s face it: The person you drunkenly sleep with after Tequila Tuesday, without so much as knowing their name or hopes for the future, isn’t the person you want to date. Alcohol guides you into the arms of the nearest warm body, regardless of what personality that brain possesses. The next day, you will both go your separate ways, having come to a mutual understanding that the previous night came with no strings attached.
Boys, however, have been socialised to believe that girls are constantly on the hunt for The One. If Sex and the City and women’s magazines have it right, females seek nothing more than commitment, a long-term relationship with some poor unsuspecting male, forevermore locked out of bachelorhood in favour of matching jumpers and shared Facebook profiles. To avoid this fate, boys tend to employ harsh tactics to keep potentially randy girls at bay. I knew a boy who often bragged about blanking his previous hookups, explaining that he wouldn’t want to “give them any ideas” post-sex.
And that is where I struggle. Whether you are a virgin by choice or a self-confessed slag, sex should not be a taboo subject. If anyone, male or female, makes the decision to get it on with a classmate, then why treat it as something dreadful? I understand the distinction between “would bang” and “would date,” but at the very least polite conversation can be tolerated between past lovers.
Like it or not, we’ve seen each other naked. Don’t make it awkward by implying I want to marry you because of it.