As millennials, we wait for very little. Want to know when your film starts? It’s on your phone. Want a quick meal? Get it brought to your house with Deliveroo. Want to get laid? A girl is just a hop, skip and a swipe away. So is it any surprise that we’re no longer wanting to wait until daylight before we make a post-coital escape back to the comfort of our own beds?
Enter the half-night stand. The Irish goodbye of the hookup world. Ephemeral fucking for a fast-paced generation. Channel 5’s recent documentary Swipe Right For Sex: Half Night Stand, presented by 4Music’s Maya Jama, sheds light on the rise of this millennial approach to dating. “[Sex is like] having a drink of water in the morning,” one girl tells Maya, “it’s very casual.”
In this case, the water in the cup is Tinder. Started in 2012, the app is now synonymous with single twentysomethings – in a New York Times profile of the company, a “person with knowledge of the situation” said they were approaching 50 million active users, boosting hookup culture tenfold.(sex advice)
Whereas people used to forge romantic links through friends and family, the internet makes it so that the strings of association are well and truly detached; it’s a momentary meeting of strangers that doesn't need to go any further. But what kind of effect does such a fleeting relationship have on a person?
“A few one night stands aren’t going to hurt,” sex and relationship expert Annabelle Knight tells me. “However serial dating isn’t great for morale. Replacing anything 'real' for a string of short encounters only around sex serves the body but not the mind.”
Whilst Tinder might serve as a certain type of ego boost – it only lets you know if your swipe has been successful, eliminating any fear of rejection – Annabelle says that half-night stands can also raise self-esteem and, as long as both parties are aware of the arrangement, it doesn’t diminish any respect between the couple.
She notes, however, that it’s still hard to escape stereotypes when it comes to casual sex. “Half-night stands could potentially be damaging as they fuel the ignorant belief that it’s okay for men to behave that way and perpetuate [the idea] that women should remain celibate in times of singleness.”
Whilst it would seem that a mutual want for quick sex would – and should – promote a move to further gender equality, it’s still considered women come out worse from these arrangements: a scroll through Reddit sees men react to women who enjoy a half-night stand as “damaged” and “detached from reality” for wanting the same thing that the man wants.
But a recent article in Vanity Fair on hookup culture suggests that dating apps like Tinder work as a “short-term mating strateg[y]” for women too. There are still strides to be made to disregard that double standard that women face when it comes to casual sex.
No-strings sex is not a new phenomenon. As a reaction to the more prudish attitudes of the previous generation, the babyboomers of the sixties and seventies embraced the “free love” movement, with a utopian ethos that fornication was protected and premarital.
So how have we got to this point? Technology makes it entirely possible to have no precursors to a hookup. The only connection one needs now is the mutual want for sex. Does that make us sluts? Research suggests that perhaps the opposite might be true: an academic study by Jean Twenge at San Diego State University revealed that American millennials have far fewer sexual partners compared to baby boomers (1940s - 1950s) and Generation X (1960s - 1980s).
Perhaps this is a symptom of 21st century living, an indication that our advances in technology and the prevalence of social media in people’s lives mean we don’t spend as much time in the company of others, including our sexual partners.
What is certain is that the landscape of dating continues to change. Intimacy is out, immediacy is in. Does this mean romance is dead? Annabelle says that the rise of Tinder and half-night stands “pretty much murders it, chops the body into pieces and sticks it in a bath of acid.” But she also reasons that people know what they’re getting themselves into when they sign up for Tinder – they know romance isn’t what’s on offer. It’s not a solution to loneliness, or a fast track route to a relationship – it simply scratches an itch.
Technology has made sex more flexible that it has ever been. Many are no longer looking for a soulmate, but for simple, no-strings pleasure: fast, furious, and unadulterated. Tinder opens the door to that world, welcoming them with open arms, and the half-night stand shuts it quietly behind them once they’re done. We can get gratification without the worry of reproduction, dating without the rigmarole of familiarity. We can meet and fuck and be on the bus home before the sun comes up, another Tinder match already lined up with the flick of an index finger. This Brave New World we live in is a fast-moving one, and hookup culture has no intention of slowing down.