Words by Ruby Ellam Art by Liam Grant
When Harry Met Sally, famously claims that “men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.” But what about when the sex is part of the friendship? Are friends with benefits a real and viable mode of relationship, or are they just a delayed heartbreak under the guise of our modern fear of commitment?
Nowadays, it seems like everyone and their dentist is in a not-really-committed, shaky, sex-orientated relation-ship. The heteronormative stereotype of the emotionally immature and despondent man and the overly invested and jealous woman pervades pop culture, and with almost every film concerning these types of relationships ending in monogamy, FWB seems more like a stepping stone to commitment than a viable alternative to traditional relationships.
I’ve been in these situations before — and not all friends-with-benefits are created equal. Highlight include being ghosted after a seven-month quasi-relationship (he stopped texting me after I sent a nude with my face as Mike Wazowski’s so that’s kinda on me), a man shitting in my bed and a desperate proposal over Facetime from someone who had moved to China.
Here’s the good news — friend-with-benefits situations are possible. But it’s hard and you should ask yourself some questions before you own the label.
Starting with (and this may sound stupid):
Are they actually your friend?
Imagine this person has no sexual or romantic attachments to you and is just another wonderful bestie. Would you accept their behaviour? If your platonic friend only contacted you for one thing — think money, drugs or simply to whine about their life, without ever tending to your emotional needs, you wouldn’t be friends for very long. If your friend with benefits only talks to you when they need sex or an emotional crutch then sorry to break it to you, they aren’t actually your friend.
Now a total lack of emotional connection is not necessarily bad; maybe you are extremely sexually compatible with no need for all the bells and whistles, but both parties must be honest and comfortable in this type of relationship.
I’ve had a handful of these ‘friends’ from whom I obtained benefits, but only one is still my genuine and lasting ally. Ask for a favour, hang out in a group setting, or do something that isn’t physically intimate to figure out your boundaries — with both a sexy friend and regular ones.
Now what happens if you start to like them? You’ve gone through your checklist, you think of this person as a true friend and potential romantic partner, and you want to take it to the next level. As someone who has furiously googled ‘does he like me’ since I was 13, I know that you probably crave the same distinct answer that I do. Look, the thing is — I don’t know. However, I do know that I have never regretted being honest with someone.
They’re the one catching feelings? Bring it up. Don’t let them pressure you into a relationship, but also don’t let them sit in their own misery because you feel awkward. Everyone has a responsibility to be a good friend, partner, or booty call, no matter which side of the coin you’re on.
So, whether the love is at 100%, or all you want to do is fuck each other’s brains out (or a healthy balance of both) — keep your friends close and your friends-with-benefits closer.