At the party where they'd met, the prospect of a no-strings, one-night stand with a handsome young man had felt sexy, slightly dangerous, liberating and a salve to the ego following the end of a four-year relationship. After all, in this day and age, if men can do it, why can't women?
Only when Aisling woke up, she didn't feel liberated. As her conquest departed with barely a backward glance, she felt used and cheated, even though she'd been under no illusion that it might lead to anything more. She worried about what the man really thought of her as a person, what friends would say if they found out, why her one-night stand had been so eager to depart without asking for a phone number. In short, she regretted every second of it.
We ended up having sex, and in the morning I was mortified. They'd say whatever it took to get me into bed and then drop me. It all felt rather unpleasant and I started to realise I didn't want to sleep with men I didn't feel a connection with.
I wanted to have more self-respect,' says Aisling, who was always meticulous about practising safe sex. I actually think that sleeping with lots of Mr Wrongs puts up a barrier to finding Mr Right. One night stands left me feeling utterly deflated and worthless and when I found myself single again in June last year, I decided to wait for Mr Right before I had sex again.
In today's heavy-drinking ladette, anything-he-can-do-I-can-do-better culture, the prevailing belief appears to be that what's good for the gander is good for the goose, too, so to speak. According to new research published last week by Anne Campbell, Professor of Psychology at Durham University, the answer appears to be a surprising no. Indeed, her findings suggest that the majority of women aren't suited to one-night stands at all, no matter how much they try to persuade themselves otherwise.
Analysing the responses of 1, men and women who responded anonymously to an online survey - admitting to one-night stands - she found that 58 per cent of women, compared with only 23 per cent of men, regretted their fleeting, casual encounters with the opposite sex. The chief emotion expressed by these women was overwhelming regret. We can't have casual sex in the same way men can' They spoke of feeling 'used' and 'cheated' and of having let themselves down - even when they had no desire for the one-night stand to lead to a more permanent relationship.
Many spoke of their distress at their partner's 'disrespectful' and 'dismissive' behaviour the morning after, which felt to them like a cruel rejection after the intimacies of the night before. Didn't work though - I felt cheap and dirty after. Contrast these comments with some of the men's: There has been a wholesale rejection of double standards and the message to young women has been, 'if they do it, why shouldn't we?
There is an experimental element in which they tell themselves: In short, men really aren't very choosy at all about whom they have one-night stands with, so spending the night with you is not necessarily a sign that he finds you especially attractive at all.
She has had two one-night stands - one with a good male friend from university - and a drunken one with a good-looking stranger she met in a college nightclub in Exeter, where she was studying English Literature - an encounter she describes now as 'meaningless'. She is now looking for a more settled relationship and has shunned casual encounters.
Men can separate their feelings and just have sex, whereas women connect on a much deeper level. I am beginning to think that it doesn't.
He stayed in my flat, we had a few drinks and one thing led to another and we ended up in bed. I didn't feel used, but I was so worried it would affect our friendship. I was lucky in that I could trust my friend not to hurt me, but if he had been a stranger I could have been easily hurt. Therefore in a 'pair-bonded' society, a woman who shuns casual sex and appears the faithful type increases her attractiveness, or 'mate value', as a long-term partner and potential mother to a man's children.
From the woman's point of view, says Professor Campbell, unlike males, who are far from choosy, females are subconsciously drawn to the 'Brad Pitts' of this world for their one-night stands. As for actually marrying the 'Brad Pitts' of this world, a promiscuous woman jeopardises her chances of attracting a high-status long-term partner by giving away her assets too cheaply. If, however, in the sober light of day, last night's 'Brad Pitt' in fact looks more like Mr Bean, then a woman's self-respect plummets.
Enlarge Erin Woodward, 27, has never had a one-night stand and never would, saying they are "destructive to happiness" Twenty-seven-year-old Erin Woodward, from London, who works in PR, says she has never had a one-night stand and never would. In terms of 'mate value' she rates highly and indeed, it is no surprise to find that her boyfriend of two years is a lawyer. What do you gain from that as a woman? Sex is such an intimate encounter, and you are prepared to give everything of yourself to a stranger?
It must be so embarrassing the next morning. Women are different from men - to me, sex means emotional involvement, that is the way we are programmed. It was meaningless and I don't think I gained anything from it,' says Lisa, 'but I've been fascinated to see just how promiscuous women have become.
My generation of smart, university-educated women believe we can treat sex the same as men - purely casually. It seems to be the norm to meet a guy in a club, have a couple of drinks, then go off and have sex. Currently in a long-term relationship, she says she would happily go back to casual sex if she were single.
Some have worked out well, others have been a disaster, but overall I think they are cool. Sex can just be sex - who cares? Women have complete equality. I am free-spirited and follow my heart. The only person I should answer to is myself. According to recent polls, 53 per cent of Britons indulge in one-night stands and in one survey 75 per cent of people said it was acceptable to sleep with a partner on the first date. However, another survey two years ago by psychologists at Sheffield University found that 90 per cent of respondents said one-night stands were immoral.
But if so many women find casual sex disappointing, downright depressing and damaging to their self-esteem, why do they continue to do it? Women may indeed be biologically programmed to go in search of their very own 'Brad Pitt' - and may even make a quick conquest. They just shouldn't be surprised when he doesn't call the next day.