Why “Friends with Benefits” Relationships Are on the Rise

Can men and women really just be friends? Or does the sexual tension that exists between a man and woman get in the way and make a platonic relationship impossible? A new study explores the changing dynamics of the male/female relationship and the latest trend in young adults referred to as “friends with benefits,” friends who have sex without a commitment. It seems this type of relationship can work, but only if the expectation are managed.

But are men really from Mars and women from Venus or have our gender roles blurred making it easier for men and women to share a common bond? After all, we’ve come a long way since the era in which women were at home and men were in the workplace. This modern relationship model is all the rage these days, with examples in the media like the Natalie Portman-Ashton Kutcher film “No Strings Attached” and Justin Timberlake-Mila Kunis take on the topic, “Friends with Benefits,” in theaters now. So why precisely is this trend a growing phenomenon?

Since the 1950s, women have entered the workforce in increasing numbers. Gone are the days of women in traditional gender roles. Now, women and men work side by side, creating more of an opportunity for both friendship and romance. Women today may also feel less tied to conforming to the traditional feminine role in relationships and more willing to be assertive and less concerned with commitment, traits generally considered more male than female.

Men and women seem to be increasingly freer to indulge in physical relationships with fewer consequences. While various forms of birth control have been used for hundreds of years, it didn’t become readily available to women until the early 1960s with the introduction of the birth control pill. The “pill” made contraception easy, safe and also contributed to our changing attitude about sex. With birth control used by millions of women today, sex no longer needs to have long-term consequences. Before birth control, “friends with benefits” relationships could have produced a lot more than hurt feelings.

This new study revealed that 60 percent of 125 college students questioned reported having had at least a one-time “friends with benefits” relationship. The participants reveled that they enjoyed the sex with a trusted friend without the commitment. Some reported that a possible negative consequence was that someone might develop romantic feelings that aren’t reciprocated. In general, the study participants engaging in casual sex did not negotiate any terms or ground rules for the relationship.

Sure, the concept of “friends with benefits” can seem appealing: a convenient sex partner that you are comfortable with and no strings attached. But complications frequently arise.  Typically, the longer “friends” engage in a “friends with benefits” relationship, the more attached they become. Someone almost always becomes emotionally invested and feelings of jealousy may interfere with a relationship that’s supposed to be fun and convenient. Not to mention, it may end up destroying a friendship in the long run.

Can women and men be friends? Sure, but if you have to ask yourself, you probably like the person more than a friend…and in your case you know the answer. Otherwise you wouldn’t be Google-searching for scientific evidence that your crush may turn into something more!

4 Comments

  • Allan Bloom had some caustic things to say about students 25 years ago who lived this way, roomies for whom sex was included with the rent and utilities, and who parted with a handshake when the school year was over.

  • Or this:

    “The contemporary youth, pampered in perpetual adolescence through college and graduate school, is spared, or, it may be said, is unaware of the necessity that self-sufficiency is a prerequisite for marriage.

    He lives in a serial non-pledged monogamy, in ad-lib cohabitation. This is preceded by no awe-provoking exchange of oaths, or reminder of his (now legal) duties.

    When he tires, and eventually marries, the ceremony will be understood as supererogatory–has he not engaged in cohabitation several times before? He knows how to live with woman, he has done it many times.

    The awesomeness of an oath, and the meaning of his signature on a legal document committing him to various responsibilities, will occur to him–though only at the *end* of his marriage. They in their totality are known as “divorce”, which has, in our day, replaced marriage as the culturally determined ritual signifying “leaving home”.

    The ceremony of beginning one’s new home, of separating from one’s parents, originally ending in marriage, with desire and joy, has been replaced and is now attended by rancor and shock: the community has finally insisted upon its rights.”

    — David Mamet, The Secret Knowledge, 2011

  • If two friends, one a man and the other a woman, feel no physical attraction it is certainly possible for them to be just friends. That changes the minute one feels a physical attraction to the other.

  • Yes,I am agree that now, women and men work side by side, creating more of an opportunity for both friendship and romance. Women today may also feel less tied to conforming to the traditional feminine role in relationships and more willing to be assertive and less concerned with commitment, traits generally considered more male than female.

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