Are “friends with benefits” really of benefit?

friends with benefits

In the Noughties, the Sex and the City girls popularised the phrase “having sex like men”, (which I might point out is very sexist: not all men have sex this way) ie with no strings attached. No feelings, no “is he gonna call me?” hang-ups. Fast forward ten years or so and films like “Friends with Benefits” (FWBs) have further cemented the idea of regular sex with little or no emotional entanglements.

What’s more, it’s become a part of mainstream dating culture. For example dating app Tinder- which allows users to peruse and rate photos of nearby potential matches, grew massively in popularity within its first few months of launching. The app has become synonymous with hook-ups and has capitalised on the casual sex trend.

Not that casual sex is a new phenomenon, as the Guardian points out.

Having said that, the Samantha Jones version of female sexual liberation certainly gave women a green light. She glamourised promiscuity which meant a woman could escape being labelled a slut, in some cases anyway (see: every case of misogyny ever. A woman is a slut, a man is considered a stud/lad. Double standards still exist.)

Anyway, I was watching something the other day where two friends were discussing whether to add benefits to their friendship. And it struck me: there’s never really such a thing as no-strings sex. Unless you’re utterly devoid of any emotion, one person will be left feeling something from their night of passion. As one commentator pointed out, at the very least, for FWBs, the string is the friendship.

As someone who has been in a meaningful relationship for many years, I can’t help but wonder: aren’t we selling ourselves short if we ask for nothing in return for physical intimacy? I mean, it’s never “just sex” is it? It’s the most vulnerable we ever get with another person. It is baring your body and your soul. Doesn’t that count for anything?

Perhaps I’m romanticising it too much. Well there’s a reason for that.

Men are from mars… etc

Men and women are wired differently; that’s clearly no secret. The source of a woman’s sexual desire is very different to a man’s- and much harder to identify, apparently. Studies have shown that men are aroused more spontaneously by visual images. Whereas women take a lot more nurturing before you can get us in the sack. It’s why we like the whole romance, seduction thing- it appeals to our emotions. When a man takes time and effort to engage with us on an emotional level, it makes us feel valued, special, and it makes us feel desired. It’s that desirability that makes for great sex!

So I find it hard to believe someone who says casual sex is fulfilling. It leads me to think they’ve never had the real thing. Or perhaps they would say I’ve never really experienced the ‘freedom’ and the thrill that comes with casual sex. But to me that in itself is counter-intuitive: I believe you can only really be free with someone who you know and trust explicitly. And the thrill comes from knowing you don’t have to worry about whether they’ll call you in the morning- you know they will. Yes that kind of relationship takes time to develop but it’s worth the work.

Relationship with herself

At the end of the first Sex and the City film, Samantha breaks up with Smith Jerrod- a kind, supportive, genuine not to mention gorgeous guy “to have a relationship with herself.”

Riiiiight….

Yes, you need to be comfortable in yourself before you can function successfully in relationship. But ultimately we were built for companionship. It’s why we crave love.

I think the idea of friends with benefits being a healthy, viable alternative to a committed relationship- that involves sex, will simply leave us confused about real intimacy, and open us up to heartache.

And personally I believe I am worth too much to give away the goods that easily.

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One thought on “Are “friends with benefits” really of benefit?

  1. I constantly preach this. It can be done and indeed many males and females constantly seek out FWBs but I find that it shortchanges the intimacy, the vulnerability and the gains to the relationship when two committed individuals engage with each other sexually.

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