We’ve all heard of friends with benefits. There has even been a movie recently made on the topic, which, being a romantic comedy, romanticises the notion, and of course, implies that such a course is not doomed to disaster.
The tv series, Boston Legal, also visited the subject with two of their longer-running characters. Of course, the fact that the woman in question was a very assertive, strong woman, who controlled the connection (at one point, she had two such “friends” at the same time) and that the main friend was in love with her made the whole scenario rather untrue to life.
I know people who have walked that path. In most cases it has led to disaster. Way too many women think that if they go along with it, eventually the man in question will be smitten by their charms and will lay his heart at their feet. In a couple of cases, it has worked out ok, but only when both people seriously do not want any more than a purely sexual arrangement, and both have eventually gone their separate ways quite happily. But I personally, don’t know anyone that started off with that arrangement, and ended up together happily ever after. No doubt it has happened, somewhere, to someone…but I would be very surprised if anyone could prove it to be a statistical probability.
So, what is friends with benefits? It is theoretically, an arrangement where two single people agree to meet sexual needs with each other, without all the hassle of a commitment of any kind (including something as harmless as boyfriend/girlfriend). In essence, there are no promises, no guarantees, and either party is free to walk at any time guilt-free. It sounds very mature, practical and modern, doesn’t it?
Personally, since it is called friends with benefits, my literal assumption would be that the two people concerned were aquaintances, with common bonds and ties of friendship, and some background of liking and respect for one another. Under those circumstances, and with suitable levels of sexual attraction for one another, and a background of social interaction which might or might not lead to sex on any given occasion, I could almost see this as being an eminently practical solution for many singles.
There is a problem though.
Many, many people who announce they want friends with benefits publicly – i.e. dating sites – are men…mostly very young men. But for those who actually spell it out, they are not looking for any kind of friendship, or bond or social interaction with the opposite gender. They just want to have sex without any kind of connection at all. Most of them don’t even want to go through the parade of some kind of dating situation first. Essentially, they want to name a time, a place, have the woman show up, satisfy the man’s needs, and then she disappears. Purely mechanical, without any socialisation aspect to it at all. Another, less flattering, but undoubtedly more honest name for this arrangement is a booty call. Of course, to put it in it’s plainest, most unflattering terms, what these men want is a prostitute…but they don’t want to pay for one. They want sex without intimacy, without developing any kind of liking or interest in the other person beforehand. It’s the sexual equivalent of fast food.
Of course, some women are happy with this arrangement. I haven’t personally met one yet, but I am sure they are out there. Mind you, I am sure the real working girls must eye with disbelief, those who exchange sex for…..nothing. I don’t know if they have a motto, but if they do, I am sure it is something like “If you’re going to get laid, then you might as well get paid!”.
This is the point at which someone is going to accuse me of being overly moral, or prudish…or possibly immoral after making up that slogan.
But seriously…isn’t it really kind of sad and pathetic when two human beings couple in a mechanical, animalistic way…without having any genuine liking or interest in the other person? And if you are happy to walk away without a background glance afterwards,then don’t try and argue that there is genuine liking or interest. All you really mean is the other person didn’t revolt you.
Humans are naturally social animals. There is the odd exception, but most hermits become that way after being revolted or horrified or disgusted by the other humans they interact with. An emotionally healthy human being, with healthy contacts with other human beings does not become a hermit. Some people don’t need a lot of interactions, as long as those they do have are of high quality. But we all need some.
Sexual pairings are one way to add to our level of social interaction. Certainly the whole courtship dance, whether or not it is designed or destined to end in a permanent pairing, is quite an exciting social interaction. The initial attraction, flirting, the build-up of sexual tension, the anticipation…all of these things add value to our lives. When we skip all of that, and cut straight to the mechanical aspect of sex, then we lose all that excitement…the whole adrenaline rush of courtship.
This leads me to suspect that those who seek only a no-strings attached coupling (NSA sex) are unable to achieve intimacy. I exempt those who are in a temporary state of damage; e.g. the person who is recently out of a bad relationship, for example. But for someone who doesn’t have that excuse….someone who simply want to “f*ck and flee” on every occasion…there is something definitely wrong with them, because a healthy social animal doesn’t work that way.
As I said, there seems to be a preponderance of them on online dating sites. I suspect that what seems to be an excessive number may be in part due to them flooding any and all prospects with their enticing emails..”U r hott…want 2 hav sum fun?”. But there are certainly far more of them then there should be.
So, friends without benefits is, to my mind at least, a bad idea. So, I would like to suggest an alternative…sex with benefits.
It works this way..two people meet who are sexually attracted to one another. Rather than running at one another like animals in rut, and then running away again after before there can possibly be any suggestion of any other kind of interaction, they take a whole new approach. They both actually work at heightening the attraction. They flirt, they do things like dancing (incredibly sexual activity), they learn how to seduce the other person’s mind (yes, seduction is actually very sexual…who’d have thought?), they create an environment where brushing the other person’s hand is enough to trigger that rush of excitement and thrills. And then when the tension is at it’s height, then and only then take the steps to actually engage in the next level of intimacy…and do that in the expectation that sexual intimacy also takes time (more than one night please!) to build and heighten into something bigger and better.
Ok, maybe this won’t result in a white wedding, house in the suburbs, and 2.4 kids. I never said they would, and in fact those results actually have very little to do with emotional intimacy…in many cases, those things can directly destroy or more frequently lead to atrophy of that intimacy. But maybe, if more people learnt how to focus on building that intimacy in the first place, then relationships would be better overall, and have a higher success rate.
And if, to get back to my food metaphor, people ate a lot less fast food, and learnt how to cook their own gourmet meals in partnership with others…they have a far better chance of eating in style for life. And if one cooking partnership falls apart after a while, then you are better situated to find a new cooking partner in future. Less running from one fast food joint to another, and more long-term exploration and development of fine restaurants (if you are still hanging in with this metaphor, good for you!).
Anyway I, and I am sure a lot of other people out there don’t want an endless chain of soulless sexual encounters. We want sex…but with all the benefits that it can bring…social interaction, emotional satisfaction, and sometimes even, an actual relationship. Because frankly, if we are going to treat sex like a business transaction…then we might as well be getting paid for it.