The first rule of being a slag is to always shag at your own house. It’s a safe environment you know well, your vibrator is there and, most importantly, you know you won’t be crashing on a mattress on the floor of some ketty hellhole. While there are arguable benefits to ditching a bed frame, there’s another aspect to most men’s bedding arrangements that remains to be explained: the singular ratty pillow.
This pillow is somehow thinner than a sheet of paper, and lumpier than a bag of oranges. This pillow is always yellow, like nicotine-stained wallpaper. This pillow, when treated to a pillow case, usually comes enrobed in one of the three following options: a mangy navy case robbed from their mother’s house, an "ironic" Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles case from their favourite childhood bedding set, or a devastatingly cringe scene, the likes of which you’d see on a canvas in B&M Bargains: a black-and-white cityscape including either an NYC yellow cab or a red London bus.
But why? Why would anyone choose to live with one pillow, a single duvet and no bed sheet set, when a minimal investment would get you the far more luxurious option of four pillows, a double duvet and nice bottom sheet? And why is it men who are like this?
Steven T. Richards, a depth psychologist and psychotherapist, went into a lot of detail explaining exactly why men are like this. An uncomfortable bed, Richards tells me, is an instinctive decision. "It means that men don’t get too comfortable, in case they have to wake up suddenly and defend the 'cave' against predators, or even other men."
Fully on board with comparing the average pale ale touting lad to a caveman, I considered Richards' conclusions without a hint of irony. "The worn out pillow, being probably on the unclean side, will enhance immunity," Richards elaborates, "so even that has survival value, in the context of male 'warrior' instincts."
Comparing these notes with the interviews I conducted with pillowless men, I couldn’t help but consider these instinctual nods are not what lurk in the subconscious of the average lazy 20-something. The warrior mindset is almost definitely not within the guy who Charlotte, 34, slept with, who used "a rolled up hoodie for a pillow" every night. I doubt collecting immunity against the common cold is why one guy was using “his folded Thomas the Tank Engine bedspread” to lay his head on.
The general consensus from the men who copped to only owning one pillow was that it’s a strictly functional choice. Jake, 26, summed up his decision-making with: “Beds are for sleeping, anything more is just a display. No one needs that much comfort."
Instantly, I’m reminded of Jennifer Aniston taking on the role of manic pixie dream girl in Along Came Polly, and destroying Ben Stiller’s bitchy ex’s decorative cushions. From this, it’s worth wondering why exactly men are so averse to adding comfort or anything aesthetic to their beds. Maybe Richards is right and, as he claims, "it’s fundamental that men can’t afford to 'sleep on the job' and lose their instinctive edge".
Gina, 26, suggests that maybe this ‘instinctive edge’ is less of a Darwinian hangover and more to do with subconscious sexism – that maybe some men "believe it's not ‘manly’ to have a decent bet setup". Charlotte disagrees, believing that the one pillow situation isn’t a choice, but more likely a lack of action. “Left to their own devices, most cishet men – i.e without a significant other or female guardian – don’t even think about things like dirt, washing or the fact they have had the same stale yellow pillow for ten years," she explains. "Their priorities are different. I once had to replace my ex’s pillows that were over 15 years old."
The conclusion for the guys, gals and the psychotherapist is that, no matter the reason for our primordial counterparts choosing to sleep in hellish conditions, when shown the true wonder of a feather pillow and a 10.5 tog duvet, they rarely look back. Whether it's down to some oedipal need to be looked after, or just being too lazy to hit up a John Lewis, is debatable – but as I survey my sisterhood of straight single ladies who continue to bang blokes with Power Rangers pillow cases, there is only one logical conclusion that I can draw:
If having one pillow isn’t going to stop us from shagging the male population, then why would they change it?
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.