A Shot in the Arm: Is It Ever Really “No Strings Attached”?

There’s been a good deal of discussion lately about “friends with benefits”: can it be done? Are the participants in denial about their relationship? Or are they just commitment-phobic sluts? And yes, boys can be sluts as well as girls. There have even been two feature films on the subject released in the past 8 months. I haven’t bothered to see either of them, mostly because I figured they’d “Hollywood” it and make the protagonists end up in some happily-ever-after relationship, which would annoy the hell out of me. The whole point of friends with benefits is that you don’t want to have a relationship with the person. There’s attraction, of course, but it only goes skin deep.

A lot of people will tell you that a pure, sex-only, friends with benefits situation cannot exist. The common view is that men and women who become sexually involved will inevitably find that they have a romantic connection as well. While this is true in many cases, I am here to tell you that it does not have to go this way. If you are really, truly honest with yourself and your “buddy”, you can have no-strings attached hook-ups without damaging the friendship or ending up in a *gulp* relationship. I’ve known many people who have gone on to have healthy friendships with former fuck-buddies, and even more who’ve added physical fun to casual-friendships, with sexy results. Only you can decide if you’re ready for sex with no strings. To help you make that decision, here are some basic principles to keep in mind when considering taking a friendship to a naughty level of playful:

Know your limits. I’ll say it right now, friends with benefits are not for the faint of heart. Are you the kind of person who falls in love with everyone you make-out with? If you just answered “yes”, or even “maybe”, you should probably just forget about trying to have commitment-free hook-ups and stop reading this article. To successfully engage in a friends with benefits situation you and your partner both need to have the ability to separate sex and love. They are not the same thing, as much as teen-dramas would have you believe otherwise. You can have sex with or without love; the choice is really empowering for some, and really depressing for others. If you know yourself to be one of those sentimental people who simply cannot detach lust from love, I’d advise you not to proceed. On the other hand, if sex is just something fun to do with (or to) another person, I say go nuts!

Choose your “friend” with care. I won’t try to sugar-coat it, this part is tricky. The ideal person is someone with whom you have a good rapport, are attracted to, but know that you could never “date”. There are lots of things that can make a person un-datable. Perhaps they laugh at all the wrong things, or don’t share your views on politics/music/religion, or maybe they snore (the WORST). More often than not, the ideal person will be what I call a “small-doses” friend – someone you like well enough, but can only spend a limited amount of time with before they start to become annoying. The word “tolerable” comes to mind. You know what you are attracted to. If the person you’re having meaningless sex with has too many of the qualities you admire, you could be setting yourself up to fail. Either way, once feelings are involved, you’ve left friends with benefits country, for better or worse.

Best friends make bad fuck-buddies. This is simply because there is too much commitment already involved in the relationship. Roommates are even worse. Think about it: you already live with them, add sex and you might as well marry the fucking person. And, if the arrangement goes south, you could be looking for a new place to live, along with a new sex-buddy. With all these cautions, you might be thinking “Well who should I have casual sex with?!” The answer will be different for different people, but, generally speaking, casual-friends make good casual-friends.

Be honest about your feelings and expectations. Don’t let your fuck-buddy think that they have a shot at becoming a boy/girlfriend. Alternatively, don’t agree to “no strings attached” if your real goal is to end up in a relationship. If one of you expresses the desire to be “just friends” *wink*, you have little to no chance of changing their mind by having sex with them. Your mother was right, if they’re getting the milk for free, why would they buy the cow? You’d do better to hold out and hope that your unattainability cracks their resolve. But then again, do you really want to be with someone who doesn’t really want to be with you? Hearts get broken when people aren’t honest with themselves and each other and, in these situations, honesty has to be non-negotiable. Casual-sex is only casual if both parties agree it is. Obviously, if you try to do this with a hopeless romantic, it’s not going to work. Honesty really is the key here, so keep the lines of communication open. This person is a friend, after all. It is only when someone isn’t forthcoming about their feelings that the underlying friendship is put in jeopardy. As I mentioned above, I know many people who have tested these waters. The ones who were the most successful (meaning they didn’t fall in love or have to end the friendship) were the ones who maintained an honest dialogue about the situation.

Ultimately, friends with benefits should be fun and pressure-free. If you can stick to that mind-set and follow these guidelines, you should be able to enjoy yourself (and your friends) both inside the bedroom and out.


A Shot in the Arm is your weekly dose of advice, counsel and sound reasoning. Whether it be a serious dilemma or quirky happenstance, Cait’s here to post solutions to your prickly problems!

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  • Danny DeVito

    Excellent article… though I am confused about the chipmunks.

    • http://www.provocativepenguin.com pengoo

      See the line above the pic “go nuts”