The Rise of the Half-Night Stand

Millennial women aren't getting what they want in bed. So they're leaving early.

After a drunken, dance-filled night in 2011, Veronica*, then 20, went home with classmate. She'd just broken up with a different guy in his fraternity, and all she wanted was a steamy hookup—instead, she got a jerk with whiskey dick. Not wanting to waste any more time, she left not long after he'd gotten his pants back on. It wasn't even 5 a.m. 

The half-night stand, a postcoital exit to avoid the awkward morning-after "walk of shame" completely, seems to have caught on with young women slowly in 2011 and really picked up in 2012. (The same year Tinder launched, maybe not so coincidentally.) As the app became the go-to for twentysomethings looking for casual sex, young women began taking a page out of guys' playbooks and leaving before morning. But instead of leaving because they got what they came for (an orgasm) like guys do, they're leaving because they didn't. 

Both college women and post-grads point to particularly bad sexual encounters as the reason they've made the half-night stand a habit. Though Nicole, 21, had a guy in her own room most recently, she suggested he not spend the night with her once she "discovered he had a micropenis. He literally couldn't even get it to go in, so I asked him to leave." 

Veronica, who had several half-night stands before she met her boyfriend of 11 months, can name instances both in school and afterward when she just wasn't happy with what she got: "I have left halfway through the night because the guy was a dick before. Like he refused to return the favor, or wanted a BJ and I wasn't feeling it. I've also left if the hookup wasn't satisfying for me and the night was still young." 

A friend of Veronica's, Lydia*, 24, seconded that quickly: "If you're not going to return the favor and then you're not going to cuddle, bitch, please." There have been fewer of these unsatisfying nights since they've graduated from college, but not being on a campus hasn't stopped them from leaving a guy's place when it's clear they're not getting what they want.

When 10 men between the ages of 24 to 27 who had all been half-nighted were asked, not one of them believed the woman's lack of sexual pleasure contributed to her leaving before morning. Two said they hadn't even considered that was a possibility, but that they didn't think it was likely. One said, "No, I know I am the best at [sex]." Instead they pointed to early morning meetings and women not wanting to take the big step of sleeping over at their place as reasons their hookups left early.

Jacob*, 27, finds the recurrence of the half-night stand concerning. Though he too doesn't think actual sex skills had anything to do with it, he was "just sort of miffed about why" a girl he was seeing recently decided repeatedly to leave in the middle of the night. He considers "the sex part" to be an important step in a relationship and gets nervous when someone leaves afterward.

"When a girl wants to leave at 4 a.m., I just feel responsible for her safety. Now I have to worry about her out at 4 a.m.," he explained. "To me, the cutoff is if I want to see her again, I hope she does stay and if I definitely don't, I guess it would be OK if she just so happened to prefer her own bed."

For women who don't one-night stand often, wanting to sleep in their own beds is another big part of why they leave a guy's place early. The last time Bridgette*, 23, decided to head home after hooking up, "it was definitely a combo of hardly knowing him, wanting my own bed, and thinking it may be less awkward to leave now than in the morning." "Obviously sometimes you just want your bed and a shower," Veronica confirmed. 

A few other women who were asked attributed their recent late-night exits to guys being creepy or rude. Two women mentioned they'd been shamed so hard for a previous morning-after walk that leaving in the middle of the night was just easier than dealing with judgment from roommates again. 

It's difficult to say why exactly women began making the half-night stand a habit, but how women use Tinder may have something to do with it. The app works perfectly as a "short-term mating strategy," according to a recent Vanity Fair article, for twentysomething women not looking to commit as well as it does for their male counterparts. If the sex is bad, young women think, just leave and keep swiping.

Many think the half-night stand may be creating its own vicious cycle of bad sex for twentysomething women. In 2014, a Rolling Stone article about millennial hookup culture found that women report more sexual satisfaction in relationship sex than hookup sex — possibly because they feel less comfortable explaining what gets them off to strangers — and, as Jacob pointed out, half-night stands don't exactly lead to relationships. And yeah, maybe the lack of communication involved in a half-night stand is breeding a generation of naive guys who don't know good sex from bad. But is it our responsibility to train guys on how to give an orgasm? 

The fact is that twentysomething women are hooking up for the same reason dudes do — they want hot sex. If said women are not getting their hot sex from their Tinder hookups, they're not going to waste a whole night on it. The message is in the action: I'm leaving because I didn't come. The first female reference to the half-night stand on Twitter sums up the sentiment:

2015: the year a cozy night in her own bed finally surpassed a one-night stand as the most pleasurable thing a young woman can do. Long live the half-night stand.

*Names have been changed.

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Tess Koman

Tess Koman covers breaking (food) news, opinion pieces, and features on larger happenings in the food world. She oversees editorial content on Delish. Her work has appeared on,, and