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America's Fleeting Passions

One-night stands are not that rare, survey says

TUESDAY, May 29, 2001 (HealthDayNews) -- Back in 1960, the Shirelles rode the heart-tugging plea "Will you still love me tomorrow?" to the top of the charts.

Forty-one years later, the likely answer is, um, "Probably not."

That's one of several findings in a new survey of the nation's bedroom habits that says 48 percent of U.S. adults have had at least one one-night stand.

The survey, of 1,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 65, also says 9 percent have chalked up at least 11 one-nighters, 26 percent say they've had between two and 10 one-night stands, and 5 percent say they're not sure whether they've ever had one.

The survey was sponsored by Adam & Eve, one of America's largest erotica companies, and conducted by the polling firm Yankelovich Partners.

In keeping with the stereotype of the sexually predatory male, almost 70 percent of the men say they've had a one-nighter, double the rate of women. The average number for men was seven, compared with one for women.

"With men, especially young men, there often is a need to 'score,' a complication of the Don Juan complex," Kenneth R. Fineman, a sex therapist, says in a statement accompanying the survey. "With others, it may be due to anger or frustration at another, i.e. using sex as a weapon. Some motives produce the desired effect, others cause even more frustration."

A University of Chicago study found that the median number of sexual partners for the average American over the course of a lifetime is six for men and two for women.

Kate Wachs, a Chicago psychologist who runs The Relationship Center and is the author of Dr. Kate's Love Secrets, says women tend to shun one-night stands for a variety of reasons.

"Women don't enjoy one night with anybody. A lot of women think they're going to have a relationship, and the guy doesn't call again," she says.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the occasional fling, Wachs says. But they can be risky, leading to sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. And people who seek them regularly may have problems forging lasting relationships, she says.

"It doesn't mean you can't do it; you just need to be aware of the risks," Wachs says.

What To Do

So what happens if you sleep with someone expecting more than a single night of bliss, only to find that they had other plans? Don't feel badly, Wachs says. "If it happens, you shouldn't go into a depression. Don't feel badly if anyone rejects you for any reason. It just means that you're not compatible."

If you're single, try keeping a journal about your experiences and jot down precautions to take to avoid getting hurt. "Learn what you can from it, but put it in a positive way," Wachs says.

To learn more about emergency contraception, visit the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy. You can also try Plan B, or Preven.

SOURCES: Interviews with Kate Wachs, Ph.D., author of Dr. Kate's Love Secrets, Chicago, Ill.; Bob Christian, spokesman, Adam & Eve, Hillsborough, N.C.; May 2001 sex survey, Yankelovich Partners
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