This morning when I woke up, I found myself in my bed lying next to a guy I did not know. I tried to think of a million gentle ways to say this, but for those of you who read what I write often you know that I’m neither gentle nor subtle in the way I describe things.
Let me caution you: the description that follows is not an erotic reconstruction of the previous night’s events. No 50 Shades in the making here. What will follow is the same thing that always follows my introductions: an honest account of my experiences, why I think they are important, and why I choose to make them public.
Understandably I debated whether or not to write about this on my blog. Is there such a thing as being too personal or too open? For some people yes, and even I have my limits, but in this case I decided sharing was the right thing to do.
Of course, one-night stands are hardly a unique part of the human experience. They happen everyday and every night to millions of people for millions of different reasons. And believe me I do not flatter myself in thinking that my sexual history will be of paramount interest compared to anyone else’s. It’s just mine.
To provide some background, this encounter happened in much the same way that most one-night stands happen. With a bit of alcohol and the general sexual desire we all feel at times. I went to a club last night with one of my friends here in Oxford (out of courtesy to others I will not be naming names or places).
We were having a good time, not getting crazy or drunk. I’d had a few ciders but wasn’t out of control or past the point of consent. I knew exactly what I was doing. Anyways, for those of you who frequent clubs from time to time, you know that 9 times out of 10 these encounters start with a look. You lock eyes with someone from across the room and automatically know what you both are thinking. This then leads to awkward small talk, perhaps another drink, and some bad dancing.
Then when it becomes clear what both your intentions are, you act upon them. In this case, get a cab back to my flat and…well you can guess the rest.
Once again, I’m not telling you this because my story is particularly unique or special: quite the contrary. This happens to so many people, but of course embarrassment, mortification, sometimes shame often follow these nights when you’re forced to look upon them in a sober light the next morning. In my case, realizing that I was sleeping next to someone that I didn’t know.
The morning proceeded much as one would expect: making more awkward small talk, figuring out where you are, and then parting with as much dignity as you can muster. Luckily, we were both on the same page in terms of understanding that this was just a crazy, one-night thing and that’s it. It’s always terrible when one person thinks it meant something and the other didn’t etc. So in that respect, it couldn’t have gone better.
Not that there is ever an optimal time to have a one-night stand, but I picked a truly horrible one since I hadn’t slept all night, had a slight hangover, and was meeting my supervisor for the first time in a few hours (I’d like to dub this the dark side of overachieving). Thankfully though the meeting went splendidly, and I think I held it together well.
However, we now come to the second reason I am choosing to recount this story. Unfortunately, despite all my radical feminism and women’s rights activism (whatever the hell that means), we did not use a condom. I personally have never had unprotected sex before, and while I was fine with the encounter itself and how it ended, I was of course both a bit freaked out and disappointed in myself. I definitely knew better, but hey we’re all human and shit happens.
Fortunately, I live in a country where sexual health resources are not only readily available, they are for the most part completely free.
So after I met with my supervisor and took care of a few college things, I went to my locally pharmacy, Boots, to get the morning-after pill. I had to do a consultation with the pharmacist, a very nice middle-aged Indian man who was definitely more uncomfortable than I was, and then he sold me the pill for £26 and instructed me how to use it. The pill has a 72 hour window in which to be effective, but your best chance is taking it within 12 hours of having unprotected sex. In addition I bought a pack of condoms and then asked him where the nearest clinic was for an STD screening. He directed me a few blocks down to the Oxfordshire Sexual Health Centre in Cowley.
At this point it was bit after 3pm, and the centre closes at 4pm, so I got there just in time. The staff was very nice and very helpful. They explained that it was obviously way too early to know if I had any STIs or if I was pregnant, but that they could test me now as a baseline and then I go back in two weeks for another test. This first test will make it much easier to determine whether or not I have an STI when I go for the second.
Unfortunately, since I’m from the U.S. and am used to paying ridiculous amounts of money for basic healthcare, I was unaware that I could’ve gotten the morning-after pill at the clinic for free. However, I was provided with free condoms, a free pregnancy test, and a free 3-month supply of birth control pills. I can’t even begin to describe how grateful I am to the people at the centre and for the resources they provide. Of course the NHS and healthcare system in the UK has its issues, it’s not perfect, but knowing that if I need them these resources are there at no cost to me made the process so much less stressful, I can’t even tell you!
Afterwards, I walked home, contraception in tow, stopped at Tesco’s for some chocolate because after a day like today I sure as hell had earned it, and finally got home at about 4:30.
So, once again, why am I choosing to share this with you? In addition to the reasons mentioned above, there are several more.
First is awareness of your options: if you find yourself having that oops moment of unprotected sex, know that while it is always best to be proactive, it is not the end of the world, and you have options. The morning-after pill does come with some side effects, nausea chief among them, but it is an invaluable tool that is becoming more readily available in many countries.
I also wanted to highlight the fantastic experience I had courtesy of the NHS and sexual health centre. Regardless of how mature you are or evolved you are in your sexual history, moments like these are scary and when you encounter people who are non-judgmental and helpful it truly does make all the difference.
But chief among all of these reasons is simply honesty and to show that I am not ashamed of or embarrassed about what happened. Is it a bit nerve-wracking to share this information publicly? Honestly yes. But beyond that I do feel a responsibility to do so not just for myself but also for others out there, especially women, who may be struggling with feeling ashamed or that they are suddenly tainted or slutty or irresponsible following a one-night stand.
This experience is so universal, yet it is rarely talked about and often looked down upon despite the hypocrisy in doing so. And despite the very limited readership of my blog (I love everyone to pieces who bothers to keep up with the craziness in my life), if I can make one person feel better or less alone by sharing my experience, well then that’s everything.
We’re all human, we all have desires and needs, he enjoy sex, and whether that sex is casual or with a long-term partner is entirely your choice and no one else’s place to judge. The best way I’ve found to try to keep things in perspective for myself is constantly asking if I could go back and change something, would I do it. And in this case, while I would have been more careful and used a condom, I would not go back and undo the encounter. It was my choice, as well as his, and despite the morning’s awkwardness, it was honestly a lot of fun.
Only time will tell how I situate this experience along with the thousands of others in my life and how it affects me. But I can honestly say I don’t regret it, I know it doesn’t make me a bad person, and it’s just yet another part of the insanity of the human experience that we partake in.
I’m sure there will be some people who do not share my opinions and will not appreciate my honesty. And that is absolutely 100% fine. My one-night stand was for all intents and purposes not so bad, but this is certainly not always the case for others.
As I’ve said before, this blog is not meant to be a road map or instruction manual for how others should lead their lives. We’re just stumbling along and trying not to fuck up too bad, and we all do that in very different ways.
You just have to do what you are comfortable with and what makes you happy, and if the rest of the world doesn’t agree then they can fuck right off!
No shame. No embarrassment. No judgment. For me it’s the only way to truly live