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“Nice Shoes, Wanna Have Sex?”: Understanding the One Night Stand Phenomena through Social Exchange Theory-John P. Holtz & Drew Vining- John P. Holtz & Drew Vining

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“A one night stand is defined as a sexual encounter, usually lasting only one night between two people who are strangers or brief acquaintances. Some physical sexual interaction is typical, but it may or may not include sexual intercourse. Such sexual experiences are usually spontaneous (i.e., something that ‘just happens’); alternately, the goal of a one night stand is planned but the target of the hookup or the individual with whom the hookup occurs is unknown. In addition, one night stands are usually anonymous in that the partners are strangers or only brief acquaintances and rarely, but not always, continue to build a relationship.” There has been little research done on this phenomenon from a communication standpoint. With this paper we seek to remedy this problem. We have applied the theory of social exchange to the phenomena to study not only the reason for a one night stand, but as well the communication aspects of this type of sexual activity. We studied existing literature and conducted a survey of a college population to answer fundamental questions pertaining to communication aspects. We found several factors that affect a one night stand and have tried to apply to social exchange theory.


The study of the one night stand phenomena is important to a variety of persons. First, we must consider the ramifications of this study to the academic community. While other areas of academia, such as psychology and sociology, have examined the role and repercussions of casual sex, communication scholars have overlooked this growing trend among young adults. The lack of research on this specific type of interaction causes communication scholars to miss an opportunity to further our understanding of how society interacts through communication.

One night stand participants and those who will encounter this occurrence in the future will greatly benefit from this line of research. Those who have already experienced a one night stand will have the potential to understand the event and the actions performed by their partner. A stronger understanding can then help reduce feelings associated with this occurrence such as regret and embarrassment that come with social norms. As for individuals that potentially become involved in a one night stand, this research study can be used to inform them about the pros and cons that result from a one night stand based on the situations in which they occur. This newfound understanding of the phenomena can then be used as a decision making factor for future actions.

Finally we are concerned with society as a whole benefiting from this research. It seems that society attempts to block out things that are outside of what is considered the social norm or socially acceptable. By wishing to keep the one night stand in the category, “not to be discussed”, we do a disservice to ourselves. By shedding light upon the topic and creating real understanding, many problems that are associated with one night stands could then be overcome.

Literature Review

In order to understand social, physical, or psychological factors, we must lay out the major concepts and terms involved in this phenomenon. First, we must understand what a one night stand can entail. Communication is a shared set of symbols that allow people to share meaning. As a result, there are many different ways to label a one night stand. This being said, a firm understanding of a one night stand must be constructed. Grello et al. notes this phenomena is identified by many different terms. Synonyms to a one night stand include “chance encounters”, “hookups”, “sociosexuality”, “anonymous sex”, “casual sex”, “meaningless sex”, “friends with benefits”, or “booty call” (Grello et al., 2006, p. 256). With the knowledge that many synonyms exist, we can be comfortable in boiling these terms into one definition. For our purposes of this study, we have chosen to use the definition created by Paul et al. It states,

“Hookup”, which represents a one night stand, “is defined herein as a sexual encounter, usually lasting only one night between two people who are strangers or brief acquaintances. Some physical sexual interaction is typical, but it may or may not include sexual intercourse. Such sexual experiences are usually ‘spontaneous’ (i.e., something that ‘just happens’); alternately, the goal of hooking up is planned but the target of the hookup or the individual with whom the hookup occurs is unknown. In addition, hookups are usually anonymous in that the partners are strangers or only brief acquaintances and rarely continue to build a relationship, let alone see each other again” (Paul et al., 2000, p. 76).

By laying out this definition we now have the basis of our study, and can understand all factors and terms that are included under the umbrella statement, “one night stand”.

Physical Factors

The first realm to concentrate on in the one night stand scenario is the physical application. This is the most clearly identified factors within the one night stand occurrence. Grello et al. defines the physical as, “non-coital behavior such as kissing and mutual masturbation to genital sexual behaviors including oral sex, intercourse, and anal sex” (Grello et al., 2006, p. 256).

The fact that the action of physical involvement occurs is not the area of soul importance; instead, the literature connects the implication between the action and the age at which physicality begins. To set up understanding of these claims there must be some level of understanding about human sexuality. In Grello, Michael Schofield’s (1975) study found that 80% of men and 61% of women surveyed reported having had premarital intercourse by age 25 (p. 239). Based on these numbers, it can be assumed that there is a majoritarian aspect to both male and female roles in promiscuity. Grello et al. (2006) discovered that individuals in their study “who reported having casual sex began engaging in sex earlier than those who did not report a casual sex experience” (p. 267). After reviewing these facts, there is enough ground to argue that with a high number of individuals engaging in sex at a young age gives way to higher rates of one night stands. Although this function is the first thing thought of when considering one night stands, it in no way ends with the physical. There are several other factors that must be addressed to gain a deeper understanding of this phenomenon.

Psychological Factors

Next, we will be entering the psychological involvement pertaining to a one night stand. Psychological involvement pertains to the desires of engaging in physical activities. These are factors which affect individuals during their decision-making process about participating in as well as the effects that occur after a one night stand. Literature addresses several categories within the psychological realm. These categories include: biological psychosis of early man, loves styles, personal beliefs and values, and esteem issues.

First we need to address the early human factor; this is to say that many of our psychological feelings today can be traced back to the plight of early man. Richard G. Whitten, an anthropologist at the University of South Dakota, has done research that suggests we derive our sexual psychology from as far back as Australopithecus. (Whitten. 1982 p. 99) He feels, “[T]hat the completely unnecessary, yet very large, ranges of primate mounting postures suggests that a certain amount of play, learning, and reward is involved in primate copulation.” (p.99) As well, Whitten feels that not only is there a history of sex as play, but as well that all primates have an instinct to seek out multiple partners. (p.100) We draw from Whitten’s study that sexual behaviors are imbedded in human nature or psychology to a large degree. These primordial behaviors had two goals, pleasure and propagation of the species. Psychologist, Devendra Singh (2004), noted “the assumption of evolution-based mate selection theories is that female attractiveness reliably signals health, reproductive age, and fertility” (P. 43). Therefore Australopithecus would mate with as many attractive females as possible to complete both goals. These same actions of promiscuity can be seen in today’s society. There is seemingly no other needed explanation for seeking out multiple partners or one night stands than to say they are completely instinctual. One night stands serve no other practical purpose in today’s world than to act out early evolutionary needs, which are embedded in our psyche. Now that we have looked at the psychology of human sexuality, we will move into a modern topic labeled love styles. Love styles suggest that not only are there personality differences when dealing with sex, but also huge fissures between male and female psychology towards sexual relationships. Paul et al. reported loves styles are a useful tool to predict relational patterns. Individuals can hold a range of love styles when in a relationship. Paul et al. indicates that “fears of intimacy may underlie casual sexual behaviors for some individuals” (Paul et al., 2000, p. 78). This is rooted in a person’s level of desire for emotional connection with others. “Avoidant individuals tend toward promiscuity in an effort to maintain emotional distance, and anxious individuals use sex to satisfy their needs for security and love” (p. 78). Lee (1973) discussed six love styles. These love styles explain the different approaches people take when dealing with relationships and sex in general.

“Individuals with an avoidant attachment style are likely to have a ludic love style, demonstrating low commitment in a romantic relationships, the use of sex for fun rather than as an expression of intimacy, and acceptance of multiple relationships. Thus, we expected ludic individuals to have experienced hookups. In addition, it was expected that individuals with an erotic love style were more likely to have experienced hookups given their focus in passion and physical pleasure.” (p78)

These various approaches to relationships are one of several factors that should be considered when trying to understand the decisions people make about a one night stand. Another factor that has been investigated by previous research is the affects of an individual’s beliefs or values when dealing with a one night stand.

According to The American Heritage College Dictionary (2000), beliefs are “mental acceptance of and conviction in the truth, actuality, or validity of something” (p.125). A person will use their beliefs to some degree when making decisions that affect their character. To aid in the decision making process, an individual calls upon their values which are implicated within a person’s belief system. This means a person relies on beliefs or values to guide them in situations which have a high level of uncertainty.

As noted in our definition of a one night stand, at least one person in the relationship is unaware that they are involved in the situation until after it has occurred. In the past, beliefs and values were instilled at an early age by family and religious groups. However, as seen in studies, beliefs began to separate from these traditional influences. A study from the 1960’s reported “Religious beliefs do seem to affect our sexual standards and behaviors. The more devout individuals are usually more conservative sexually. (However, in 1960 there were) already signs of a liberalization of religious attitudes regarding sex” (Robinson et al., 1968, p. 121). This liberalization could be caused by a number of social trends that shifted during the time period. A study that ranged ten years found “[T]he view among females that premarital coitus is immoral had declined from a high of 70 percent in 1965, to 34 percent in 1970, to 20 percent in 1975. The same attitude among males had changed much less; in 1965, 35 percent believed premarital coitus to be immoral and in 1975, 19.6 percent held this view” (King et al., 1977, p.56-57).

Beliefs and values are instilled by some force. This force has changed from religious backgrounds to popular culture. Kevin Ryan (1989), a psychologist in sexuality education, stated that “[I]n our media saturated world where sexual images are continually portrayed, attitudes valuing youth and sexual freedom are easy to acquire. Descriptions like ‘sexually active’ connote vitality and freedom, often leaving the average monogamous married adult vaguely inert and out of step, while chased single adults may well perceive themselves as relics from our puritan past” (p. 218). Most college students thrive on vitality and freedom. Freedom and vitality manifest themselves in many collegial themes such as bars, clubs, or house parties. The idea presented by Ryan is reinforced by Albert Ellis’ study of monogamy versus promiscuity. Ellis (1968) reported

“[M]onogomic marital and family patterns of living foster several important values, including those of responsibility, patience, and high frustration tolerance. The freeing of the human spirit, however, is also a most important value; and in regard to sex-love and even family attachments, many people find that they are freer, more labile, and more truly themselves (as distinct from well-behaved conformists) when having promiscuous than when having conventional mating relationships” (p. 65).

So as we can see, society’s beliefs and values have undergone change, so too have their attitudes and behaviors towards sexuality. This gives credence towards a higher involvement in promiscuity, or a one night stand.

Transferring now to an issue that is heavily tied to the psychological aspect of sexuality is that of self esteem. The idea of self esteem is defined as “ones positive or negative attitude towards themselves” (Rosenberg 1965). This said, a framework around the concept of self esteem and how it affects the phenomenon of a one night stand can be established. How one’s attitudinal status, along with confidence factors are the basic makeup of self-esteem, yet this is a complicated factor to figure into attitudes toward a one night stand. Paul et al.(2000) states that “[E]vidence is contradictory regarding whether self-esteem plays a positive or negative function in the initiation of casual sexual behavior.” (p. 78) Paul actually takes into factor a study done by Walsh (1991) that “suspected that implications of self esteem for casual sexual behavior fluctuate with changing social norms defining acceptable and unacceptable behavior. For example men with high self esteem had significantly more sex partners… In contrast, adolescent girls with low self-worth were more susceptible to peer influence on sexuality. Casual sex may lead to further decline in women’s self esteem.” So as we can see from this we may not always be able to predict the affect of esteem, yet we can obviously see it is generally a factor underlying towards one’s decision about participation in a one night stand scenario. Being as the norms of self-esteem are ever changing it is very difficult to control in a research setting for this factor, yet we cannot overlook it. We must treat the idea of esteem as the theoretical which we must live with as un-testable.

Social Factors

Finally we address the social factors included in the phenomena. At this juncture it will be helpful to break the social factors into two categories, male and female. We will do this because studies by many in academia suggest that men and women operate on very different social levels, and therefore are moved by different social pressures.

One such scholar, Deborah Tannen, who is the premiere in gender research, discusses the idea that men and women operate in what could be classified as differing communicational cultures (Griffin, 2006, p.470). The theory of Genderlect, by Tannen, discusses the idea that men seek out status and power from social interaction, while women seek to build relationships and connect with people through social interaction (p.473). Since men and women operate in different cultures of communication, social factors are approached because of different motives which drive the two cultures.

To start, we will analyze the males of the species. The social norms emanating from the individuals reference group influences the formation of intentions towards activities, such as a one night stand. This idea comes from a study done by Maticka-Tyndal et al. in 1998 (p. 254).

Expanding on this idea, one could infer that a reference group which supports promiscuity might result in a higher probability that an individual would seek out or participate in a one night stand. Grello et al.(2006) reports of a study done by Impett and Peplau “found when males comply with sex in a casual relationship, their motivation is often to increase their sexual experience, peer status, or popularity” (p. 256) .This can lead us to infer that individuals will be more likely to participate in a one night stand if their reference group holds social norms that foster one night stands.

Moving on to the fairer sex, women tend to have a nearly 180 degree turn from the male prospectus. Again, Tannen believes that women use communication as a means to connect with others. Tannen reports that women tend to use methods such as rapport talk, cooperative overlap, and active listening to aid in building relationships with others (Griffin, 2006, p. 473-475). Based on the culture that women operate under, we can now ask why women act the way they do in terms of social factors that affect them.

To reinforce this idea we can look at the fact that reference groups have the same impact on a woman as it can for a man, yet the goal of desired interaction is completely different than the male mentality of trophy sex. (Maticka-Tyndale et al., 2006, p. 255). To go even further down this path we can look at Impett and Peplau once again. They found in their study that, “females were more likely to comply with sex in a casual relationship to satisfy their partner or to increase intimacy in a potential relationship.” (p.256)

We must then assume, if this study is accurate, that since women seek to increase intimacy through sex the motivated results of a one night stand would generally lie with the male. It is worthy to mention the fact that women are held to a double standard by society’s norms. This double standard suggests that if a woman is promiscuous, she is labeled with negative reputation and identified with loose morals. Where does the double standard come from? Although, this is not the main concern for this study (we will leave this aspect to future research), it is part of a societal factor which can affect the participants of a one night stand. Reference groups construct the society we live in. It is as if there are two societal norms existing at this time. One norm suggests that women can operate like men and engage in promiscuity without criticism (Robinson et al., 1968, p.121) (Ellis, 1968, p.65). The old social norm that is still present, mainly due to religious beliefs, views promiscuity and pre-marital sex as immoral. Therefore, when women do willingly participate in a one night stand, they face the chance of ridicule, unlike men, due to the double standard which may or may not play as a factor for women when making a decision that pertains to a one night stand.

One social setting that regularly occurs but is not mutually exclusive is the use of drugs, usually referencing alcohol, and participation in a one night stand. Since this phenomenon is most popular in a college setting, we can look to the social settings that may include some type of drug use. Maticka-Tyndale (1998) identified ten experiences that influence “situations on engaging in casual sex: partying, being in a break-loose mood, drinking alcohol, getting drunk, watching contests such as ‘hot body’ and ‘wet t-shirt’, dancing dirty, trying to ‘pick someone up’, someone trying to ‘pick up’ the respondent, the appearance that everyone was having sex, and someone wanting to have sex with the respondent.” (p. 255) As one can see with these many different kinds of casual sex atmospheres, alcohol seems to be a reoccurring theme. This alcohol theme is what we are going to bring our focus back upon.

Assuming most cases of alcohol consumption occurs at a bar setting or a house party, “Leigh (1990) hypothesized that the purported disinhibitory powers of alcohol serve as an outcome expectancy, especially for sexually inhibited or nervous individuals” (Paul et al., 2000, p.77). Other research argues that when women use alcohol, it acts as an indicator for men of the woman’s sexual availability or desire (p.77). If a one night stand does occur while under the influence of some type of drug, (Lang, 1985) & (Cooper, Skinner, & George, 1990) support the idea that people will use the drug as an excuse for their behavior. They support the idea of the “excuse function” which means when “promoting uncharacteristic behavior that individuals believe they can’t be held accountable for when they are drunk” (Paul et al., 2000, p. 77).

In a study about adolescents’ drinking and sexual behavior found “positive relationships between drinking, drug use, and risky sexual behavior among adolescents.” (Morrison et al. 2003, p. 162) Further more, Paul et al. (2000) states that “[A]lcohol use is strongly associated with casual sexual behavior” and “that the frequency and quantity of college students’ alcohol consumption was associated with the number of sexual partners in the last 11 weeks” (p.77). This shows that there is a strong correlation between drug use and one night stands. We can then make a transition from the usage of alcohol, to why it is used. To further discussions made by Paul et al. they claim, “males and females were found to be more likely to consume alcohol when they were less well acquainted with their partner. (Temple and Leigh, 1992)” With this understanding in mind we can then hearken back to the idea of URT (uncertainty reduction theory). For the sake of a refresher, this is the idea that we as human beings wish to reduce the uncertainty we feel when in a situation with people we either do not know, or are not certain of. The revelation of alcohol being more prevalent in these situations tells us that drugs which are inhibitors tend to be a bridge towards uncertainty reduction.

Social Exchange Theory

After reviewing the available literature addressed by scholars rooted in different fields of study, such as psychology, anthropology, sociology, and communication, we have ascertained a general understanding of the different factors which affect a one night stand. That is, “[B]y its very nature, sexual intercourse is moral. It is moral because it is social, involving another person with human dignity and rights. Sex is a mutual giving and mutual taking. It affects body and mind, a person’s physical and psychological well-being” (Ryan, 1989, p.218). While these studies have given a clear understanding of the one night stand in many realms, we still do not have a strong grasp on the phenomenon from a communication perspective. For this study, we want to examine the one night stand through the guides of Social Exchange Theory.

Social Exchange Theory, also referred to as interdependence theory, “is based on the general principle that people want their rewards to outweigh their costs.” (Guerrero et al., 2001, p.200) This theory is an objective approach on how people manage relationship (i.e., how we form, interact, and end relationships). To manage relationships, people employ a cost/benefit analysis based on the potential rewards and costs that are associated with the other person in his/her relationship (p.201). To apply this theory to our study, we chose to focus on the rewards and costs people had when dealing with a one night stand. Specifically, we considered six variables that can be used when making a cost/benefit analysis. These being: love, services, goods, money, information, and status (Foa & Foa, 1980).

With a general understanding of the theory, we can introduce our research questions and hypotheses. Our research question asks, is there a correlation between participating in a one night stand and the participant viewing the encounter as a beneficial interaction? From this research question, we propose two hypotheses. First, we hypothesize that the males which engage in a one night stand will report a higher emphasis on status change and less value on emotional rewards. Our second hypothesis purports that the women who engage in a one night stand will report higher levels of emotional reward than men and less change in their status due to the encounter.


Research was gathered through a survey of seven questions in an effort to gain an understanding of a one night stand through Social Exchange Theory. The survey was administered on the Kansas State University campus in the Bosco Student Union Plaza. The survey was conducted from noon to two p.m. on Thursday, November 30, 2006. We chose to distribute the survey in a neutral area as to not skew the results. We chose the student union to conduct our research instead of a bar setting because we felt we would come across an unusually high number of individuals who had participated in a one-night stand. By isolating the survey to one campus we understand the results are not representative on a global scale, but these results can direct us towards drawing inferences about a one night stand and the social exchange theory.

One hundred individuals were surveyed at random; fifty-three women and forty seven males completed the questionnaire. Reference (Appendix A) to view a copy of the survey distributed. Although we did not ask for age, education level, or ethnic background, we sampled individuals who appeared to be undergraduate and graduate students at the university, ranging in approximate age of eighteen to thirty years old.


To highlight once more, our hypothesis and research questions were as follows; our research question asks, is there a correlation between participating in a one night stand and the participant viewing the encounter as a beneficial interaction? From this research question, we propose two hypotheses. First, we hypothesize that the males which engage in a one night stand will report a higher emphasis on status change and less value on emotional rewards. Our second hypothesis purports that the women who engage in a one night stand will report higher levels of emotional reward than men and less change in their status due to the encounter.

The findings in these regards proved to be most interesting, and for the most part were found to be consistent with our hypothesis. While we found small majority towards male status increasing over women, our very interesting results come from other sections of the survey. The following is the breakdown of survey results.

In the first section we will break down the results of respondents. For question one, which was, “Have you experienced a one night stand? Yes/No” 25 of the 47 male respondents said yes. On the other hand 16 of 53 females responded yes to the question. For question two, “Do you feel you have benefited from the encounter (meaning gained comfort, pleasure, status, ect.)? Yes/ No” 15 of the 25 males responded yes, while 6 of 16 females said the same. From here on we averaged the responses of the surveys of those who responded yes to question one. Of 25 male respondents “love” was ranked at a 1.4. Of all 16 female responses 1.8125 was the average for love. Men ranked “warmth” at a 2.04, while women ranked it a 2.25. Men ranked “happiness” at a 3.16, while women ranked it 2.8125. Lastly “caring” was ranked at an average of 1.52 with me, and 1.9375 for women.

In question four which read, “Would you say that you received some type of service or good (material possession or experience)? Yes/No” 12 of 25 males responded yes, while 4 of 16 women said yes. In question five, “Did any money change hands before, during, or after the encounter?” 25 of 25 said no money changed hands, this was universal among the sexes. In question six, “Did you use the encounter to obtain information from your partner that you otherwise would not have been privy to? Yes/No” 2 of 25 males said yes, while 3 of 16 women said yes. Finally, Status went up 3 of 25 times with men, and 1 of 16 times with women. Status went down 2 of 25 times with men, and 2 of 16 with women. Status was said to have no change 20 out of 25 times with men and 13 of the 16 times with women.

To break these results down further we can look at some interesting trends. For those males who responded “yes” to question 2 average a “love” response of 1.3, while “no” responders answered the same. Women “yes” responders averaged 2.5, while “no” responses averaged 1.4. Warmth with male “yes” averaged a 2.26 and “no” male respondents answered at a 1.5. Female yes responders averaged a 3.3, while female “no” respondents averaged a 2.

On the question for happiness, 3.6 was the average for “yes” with regards to males, and a 2.2 was recorded for “no’s”. Women ranked a 4 in the “yes” category, while “no” respondents averaged a 2.1. Finally, on the rankings in caring, 1.6 was the average for “yes” males, and 1.3 was the average for “no”. Women “yes” respondents averaged a 2.5, while “no” averaged a 1.6.

On question 4 which was, “Would you say that you received some type of service or good (material possession or experience)?” “yes” respondents averaged a love rating of 1.583 for males, while “no” respondents averaged 1.23077. On the other hand women “yes respondents averaged 2.75, and “no” respondents averaged 1.5. Further more warmth had a “yes” respondent average for males of 2.16, while “no’s” rated in at 1.92308 for men. Women “yes” responses averaged 2.75, and “no” was averaged to be 2.416. The happiness question ranked 3.16 with “yes” male respondents, and 3.23077 with “no”. “Yes” female responses averaged 4 while “no” averaged 2.416. Caring was an average of 1.75 by “yes” male respondents and 1.30769 by “no” male responses. “Yes” female responses averaged 2.75 and “no” averaged out to be 1.6.

On question 6, “Did you use the encounter to obtain information from your partner that you otherwise would not have been privy to?” For males who responded “yes” to this question they averaged 1, while no respondents averaged 1.43478. Women averaged a 2.6 for “yes responses, and 1.61539 for a “no” response. In warmth, male “yes” respondents averaged 2, while no’s averaged 2.04348. Female “yes” averaged 3.3, while “no” averaged 2.30769.

Happiness saw an average, of male “yes” respondents, at 4, while the “no” respondents averaged at 3.08696. Women “yes” respondents averaged 3, and “no” averaged out to 2.76923. Caring averaged a 2 with male “yes” respondents, and a 1.47826 with “no” respondents. Female “yes” responses averaged to a 2, while “no” averaged 1.92308.

In the area of individuals who felt their status went up; in males love was averaged a 1.6, warmth at 2.6, happiness at 4.6, and caring at 2. Females averaged; love 2, warmth, 4, happiness 4, caring 2. In the cases when male status went down; love was averaged at 1, as was warmth, happiness, and caring. Women averaged; love 1, warmth 1.5, happiness 1.5, caring 1.5. When there was no change in male status; love was averaged 1.4, warmth 2.05, happiness 3.1, and caring is averaged at 1.5. Females averaged; love 1.92308, warmth 2.46154, happiness 2.92308, and caring 2.


Based on the results of the research we can discuss our research question and hypotheses as well as draw connections to previous studies that covered the three sections we discussed in the literature review. First we will address the three sections, physical, psychological, and social. Next we will discuss our findings in terms of the social exchange theory followed by the limitations of our study. We will then conclude the discussion with future study plans.

In review of the physical aspects recall that a majority of men and women participate in sexual activity before the age of twenty-five. From our research, we found that there is a majority of men participating in a one night stand, but not women. However, a one night stand does not consider sexual interactions within committed relationships. As well, we can draw connections between our research and the literature covering premarital relations. At very least, a majority of males and females have participated in some type of sexual interaction at a young age out of wedlock or some form of committed relationship.

As for the psychological factors that affect a one night stand, our data reinforces the ideas from the literature that human sexuality is imbedded in our psyche to some degree. As seen in our statistics, males more commonly participated in a one night stand. This leads us to believe that men wish to maximize their mating potential. This also strengthens the physical factors that affect a one night stand because the data points towards a lust for pleasure. There must be a primal urge that exists in human nature because there is no other logical reason as to why an individual would participate in a one night stand. In our current societal situation, there is no fear of extinction for the human race, thus, the argument can be made that a one night stand tries to fulfill our primal needs of sexuality instead of a need for survival of the species.

Now we turn our attention to the main focuses of our study, societal factors and the social exchange theory. Recall that Tannen supports the idea that men and women operate in two separate communication cultures. These cultures have different goals and value structures and use interaction to accomplish those goals. In our research we were able to break down our study population into two distinct groups. The lines that divide the male and female responses on our survey our quite clear. This shows us that in fact Tannen was correct in the notion that men and women operate on different value sets. Although we found little change in the actual status changing, we found that the majority those who felt status increased were male. This tends to tell us that the male tribe puts a positive value on the occurrence of a one night stand, while females generally do not.

As well we can see a divide in almost every factor whether it be love feelings being higher with women, and men responding higher on a more physical reward basis. Our findings show real support for the literature. We feel there is no doubt that men and women operate in two completely different societies when it comes to sex, and the issue of the one night stand is no exception. In fact this seems to be one of the reasons for the one night stand. It seems that these two worlds are so vastly different, that it makes it so much easier to have a one night stand, rather than a relationship. Through the one night stand each communication culture can have it’s needs fulfilled, with out having to worry so much about pleasing the opposite societies values. Our research would seem to support the Social Exchange Theory because individuals tend to look for greater reward with minimized cost. What greater way to do exactly that than a one night stand? Each side seemingly gets exactly what they desire wile minimizing cost to nearly nothing.

As we touched on in the methods portion of our study, and will again be addressed in our conclusion, there are some limitations in our research. One such limitation is the small area which we had for our study population. Further research should be done with this in mind. We would suggest a similar study conducted in such a way as to canvas a more complete representation of colleges across America. This may yield more correct results, and may be held up top greater academic scrutiny. As well we could very easily expand this research asking for more background information such as, “What was age of first one night stand?”, “How often does the engagement in one night stand occur?”, along with many other factors that while important were seen as outliers for the purposes of our study. That is one of the strong elements of our research; it can be made to study a very wide variety of questions with very few adaptation problems.


This study set out to understand the one night stand phenomenon by studying existing literature and conducting research at the Kansas State University campus. We found that existing studies noted that there are three main factors, physical, psychological, and social, which contribute to the occurrence. From our research, we attempted to understand the phenomena from a communication perspective, Social Exchange Theory. However, there is much research that still needs to be done on a much larger scale to make generalized findings about human interaction and the one night stand in relation to the communication theory.

Continued research is necessary to strengthen our initial findings. As well, a larger and more diverse study population is needed to gain more representative findings for a more complete analysis of the one night stand phenomenon.


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Appendix A


A one night stand is defined as a sexual encounter, usually lasting only one night

between two people who are strangers or brief acquaintances. Some physical sexual

interaction is typical, but it may or may not include sexual intercourse. Such sexual

experiences are usually spontaneous (i.e., something that ‘just happens’); alternately,

the goal of a one night stand is planned but the target of the hookup or the individual

with whom the hookup occurs is unknown. In addition, one night stands are usually

anonymous in that the partners are strangers or only brief acquaintances and rarely, but

not always, continue to build a relationship.

Male_____     Female _____

1.) Have you experienced a one night stand?  Yes   /     No

2.) Do you feel you have benefited from the encounter (meaning gained comfort, pleasure,

status, etc.)?     Yes   / No

3.) Rank on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being least and 5 being greatest) the following emotional

rewards that you received from the encounter:

Love 1  2  3  4  5     Warmth 1  2  3  4  5   Happiness 1 2  3  4  5  Caring 1  2  3  4  5

4.) Would you say that you received some type of service or good (material possession or

experience)?     Yes   /   No

5.) Did any money change hands before, during, or after the encounter?

Yes, gave money              Yes, received money                No, no money was involved

6.) Did you use the encounter to obtain information from your partner that you otherwise would

not have been privy to?   Yes   /     No

7.) How do you feel the encounter affected your social status?

Status went UP Status had NO CHANGE Status went DOWN