Artwork by Maisie Mannering
I’m relatively proud that I’ve never watched a single episode of Love Island, in spite of the fact that I went to school with one of its most renowned contestants and my mum has a villa water bottle. The broad concept seems vaguely appealing, but the physical outcome just…isn’t it. I’m more than happy to mind my social media business each night come 9pm - or at least I was until this year’s cast made their island debut.
Hugo Hammond may have marked a step forward in mainstream media’s efforts to increase inclusivity as the show's first disabled contestant, but as it turns out, he’s a bit of a dick. His pre-entry VT cited the term he proudly proclaimed to have coined himself, the ‘half-night stand’. In essence, his version of this means he can kick a girl out of his bed after a night out once he’s done with her, in order to prioritise his beauty sleep. At first glance, it’s probably a concept many other guys are vocal to support too - it’s not exactly a stretch to imagine this playing out after a messy night in the club. But if we strip away the never-ending layers of smug misogyny and selfishness, we’re left with an entirely different concept altogether. And it’s one I’m no stranger to.
Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had an issue with sleepovers. I was either crying to go home while the night was still young, or the first awake in the early hours of the morning, with my bags packed and ready to leave. I’ve not had a birthday party since I was 13 and I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever invited one of my friends back to my house. That’s the thing about being an awkward introvert; you need to know you can leave anything, whenever you want to. Pretty difficult to do when you’ve got someone staying in your room who has difficulty waking up.
I’ve come to learn over the years that feeling you’ve had your fill of a social situation is actually extremely common. When I started dating, I wasn’t sure how I was going to manage it. In the early days of figuring out my sexuality, it was fairly easy - the common lesbian roadblocks were conveniently in place, with distance meaning your first test of the waters were mostly over Tumblr. When things got more serious I made the mistake of crossing personal boundaries. I didn’t even know what personal boundaries were. To be a good girlfriend, you had to give it your everything, right? Fit into the social blueprint that was laid out years before you got there. Still being in my early twenties, it was both incredibly easy and extremely difficult to avoid full commitment. A first date could conveniently end in the early hours of the evening or be followed by a weekend stay at a cruddy university campus. Perhaps it was just because I naively picked the wrong people, but I pushed myself beyond my mental capabilities and I still feel the repercussions of that. I once went three days while only eating a singular piece of toast, all because I was too anxious to spend nights with the girl I supposedly loved.
Fast forward a few years, and the picture looks extremely different. A few girlfriends have come and gone, and I’m now well acquainted with the world of casual dating. I’m 24 and have figured out that long-term dating isn’t quite right at this stage of my life. Incredibly, it turns out that you can have exactly what you want on your own terms. I’ve never stayed the night at another person’s house since, and I’ve been all the better for it. Regardless of why you want to have sex, it should be fun and consensual. As soon as I started having fun but declining the invitation to stay the night, I hit my stride. I’ve never felt more empowered than when I realised 99.9% of people are absolutely okay with you doing what you need, as long as it's effectively communicated - something dear Hugo has poorly expressed.
It’s these years of personal experience that lead me to believe that a half-night stand, at its core, is one of the most important tools for sexual empowerment we have at our disposal. We should all feel comfortable enough to take the steps we need to have a healthy, fulfilling sex life - and sometimes that means being back in your own bed by midnight. Learning what I need casually has undoubtedly sown the invaluable seeds of personal development I’ve been able to build on. Catch me slapping down boundaries left and right every day… sometimes, you just need to do what works for you.
Article by Jasmine Valentine