To the one night stands. To the fucks who didn’t love me, or ever need me to love them: a heartfelt thank you. You were not mistakes, but memories.
“A man can sleep around, no questions asked, but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes she’s a tramp.” ― Joan Rivers
I’ve lost count of how many people I’ve slept with. I know, that sounds dismissive of me. And weird, seeing as I used to explicitly number them. I reckon with a pen and paper I could sit down and write you a list, and count everyone up like gold coins in my purse, but off the top of my head I couldn’t give you my actual magic number. It’s not deliberate. I’d quite like to know it just for interest’s sake, so maybe I’ll do this exercise at some point: reminisce about the ones who dropped by only fleetingly, and remind myself of a few who stayed for breakfast.
How many people have you slept with?
More than one, less than one hundred.
I don’t think someone’s number matters, and I definitely don’t want mine to. It’s fun to know it, for navel-gazing reasons and reminiscence wanks and all that jazz, but there’s politics in the actual number, isn’t there? Especially if you’re a straight woman. There’s this idea that fucking somehow despoils you – diminishes and makes you smaller. As if the people who shag you rub something off, like waves on the sea eroding pebbles into sand.
OK, too poetic: it’s about stretching cunt, isn’t it? The assumption (along with the assumption that you and your men are all cisgender) is that penetrative sex will stretch you out. Make you ‘loose’ and therefore unpleasurable. Unfuckable. The idea is that the men who fuck you change you – make you different.
As a sex blogger, it’s my job to tell you that they don’t. That those who plough your cunt won’t alter you forever. But I’ll let you in on a secret:
The people who fuck me have changed me
Please don’t get me wrong: they don’t change you like that. One night stands are barely able to leave dents in my mattress, let alone permanent stretches in my cunt. But they have changed me nonetheless: in my heart. Where it matters.
Each one night stand, each casual fuck, each person who is willing to share their body and their time with me – all those people have shaped and changed me, whether they mean to or not. The ones who taught me good jokes or weird sex moves. The ones who reminded me, when I was down, that it was possible to have fun without backstory. The ones who brought tequila or dessert or sun dried tomatoes, and made me smile when the rest of my life was crumbling. And yeah, let’s face it: each person I slept with gave me a valuable token that I treasure to this day. Shiny and precious far beyond words and diamonds, that metaphorical token is etched with the legend ‘you’re worth fucking.’
How many guys have you banged?
How many do you get on a football team?
One night stands are not ‘mistakes’
The quote at the top of this article is a joke, but it’s funny because it springs from an awkward truth: there’s an idea that (for women especially), one night stands are usually mistakes. They’re the ones we couldn’t sink our talons into hard enough, for long enough, to turn them into ‘proper’ long-term lovers. They’re the ones we picked up drunk, then regretted the next day when we realised they didn’t suit us. But what if we accepted that some one night stands are just perfect for that precise moment? What if ‘one night’ was all we really needed then and there?
One night stands have changed me. They’ve added something to my life that makes it richer – stories. The good ones and the bad ones and the in-between ones: all of them bring memories, which make stories.
And as you can tell, I fucking live for stories. They are what make me ‘me’.
Dating during Covid is hard, but in the long-distant-past I’d collect these stories like tiny, shiny jewels. Some of these one night stands turned into longer affairs: a few dates, a few weeks, the odd shag when they happened to be in town. A fuck buddy dalliance that occurred on random Fridays, perhaps, or good friendships that I treasure to this day. Each fuck added a new story to the broader narrative of each of our lives.
How many people have you fucked?
Plenty, and never enough.
But to some people the numbers matter a lot more than the stories. Numbers matter to those men who ask me ‘how many?’ and expect a single-digit reply. As if the number of people I’ve fucked in the past makes them less special in the present. When we talk about numbers, and the fact that men are considered heroes if theirs is high while women are considered villainous sluts, I think there’s more to it than just the gendered bullshit: there’s the assumption that sex is something given and received. Taken or lost. That the more love others have ‘taken’ from me, the less love – the less me – there is to go around now.
That’s completely the wrong way round, no? Sex isn’t something taken, but added. An additional experience: like riding a rollercoaster or reading an awesome book. Laughing at a comedy show or getting lost halfway up a mountain on a hike in the pouring rain. Sex is an experience, and that experience will add a shiny new story to your life. And what am I but a walking bag of stories? What are humans, really, but a collection of atoms and stories?
Each fuck is a story that makes up part of who you are: a story you can tell to remind yourself of who you have been and what you have done and what choices went into creating the ‘you’ that exists in the present. And it’s a story you can remember, or tell, or try your best to forget – but the act of remembering or retelling or forgetting shapes who you are today too. You are your stories. You are your fucks. Even if they only happened once.
This post is written for the Quote Quest meme, recently set up by a lovely (and very talented) blogging colleague – Little Switch Bitch. I’ve been meaning to join in with it for a while but my schedule’s been a bit hectic and my life’s a mess. But this week’s one she specifically asked me to join in with, and the quote inspired me so here I am being a good girl and doing what I’m told. Also, you know, it was fun to reminisce about one night stands in the long-ago Before Times when we could fuck strangers without risk of Covid. Click the button below to see who else is joining in and writing using this quote as a prompt.