Catherine Townsend: Sleeping Around

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The Independent Online

"Honey, would you mind pouring me a drink?" Jonathan, the sexy architect with whom I'd just had a fantastic first date, was undressing me in front of the full-length mirrors in his bedroom. But before things got too hot, I wanted more time to explore.

Most men find it a bit weird that "Your place or mine?" is a rhetorical question for me, because I almost never take men back to mine. This is partly because I live with a flatmate, and paper-thin walls, but also because I've discovered that a man's flat is often a metaphor for his mental state.

A few scattered garments is OK, but a floor ankle-deep in old newspapers and ashtrays layered like the floor of a gerbil's cage is a really bad sign. So, too, is a suspiciously sparse flat, a sure sign that he's married with a family home somewhere else.

Most men don't realise that, for women, a quick nip to the loo is often a fact-finding mission, when we play Miss Marple, checking for clues to personality types. Shelves stocked with tampons and new toothbrushes? (The Player). Exfoliating scrubs, hair gel and waxing strips? (The Metrosexual). Drawers filled with expired condoms? (The Fantasist). A quick peek inside Jonathan's medicine cabinet revealed Kiehl's male-grooming products, which seemed to indicate that he's into his appearance but not obsessed.

I'll never forget my ill-fated encounter with Chris, a hot tattoo artist/bartender who took me back to his flat after a night at the movies. When I went to get a beer, I found a kitchen counter with its own ecosystem, littered as it was with opened two-month-old vats of Chinese takeaway sludge. The final straw came when I went to the loo, and noticed the pentagram hanging on the wall, right next to a bunch of books on Satanism. "If you're looking for a virgin to sacrifice, you're barking up the wrong tree," I cracked, before getting the hell out of there.

It is possible, however, to take foraging too far. A girlfriend of mine once turned over an entire flat while her man played cricket , and then freaked out when she found pictures of his ex-girlfriend in a box under the bed. She confronted him, and he dumped her for invading his privacy. I don't blame him.

My rule is to stick to items that are visible to the naked eye. When Jonathan asked if I wanted ice, I scanned the room and noticed that the shelves contained actual literature (not just self-help books), and family photos - no Loaded posters in sight.

"Do you like what you see?" he asked, leading me back to his bedroom, which was lined with mirrors. I tore his clothes off, and we watched ourselves from every angle. He had an amazing body, and the sex was like watching a live porno film.

"So, can I come back to your place next time?" he asked as I was leaving. I'll have to think of an excuse: he might find the lavender sheets-and-fur-handcuffs combo unsettling. And if he finds my super-kinky sex-toy box, he'll really think I'm crazy.

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