There’s something uniquely reassuring in the comfort of Sex With Friends [trademark pending?].
There is a different sort of intimacy that comes out of camaraderie. You know each other in ways distinct from someone you’re dating or romantically interested in. There is less rose-tinted idealizing. I might admire a friend, but I don’t put them on a pedestal. So in a way, it’s a much more honest relationship. And with that honesty comes a clarity of experience that is exclusive to Sex With Friends.
But maybe it’s just me.
Reactions to the topic have been stupid funny. Even if inexperienced in platonic explorations of sex, everyone has an opinion. [It’s one of the few things you can knock without trying, if it’s to admit that you wouldn’t be able to handle it. But please hold the judgement of others.] One friend says it would make her feel too self-concious around them after. No matter how solid the friendship, going out with the group later would be a new level of uncomfortable. Her mind wouldn’t be able to get past the “I’ve seen you naked, and you did things to me.”
Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely happened to me. [And my mind never stops thinking about it, giggling in some dark corner of itself.] I have had more than my share of awkward social gatherings. I would hook-up with a friend and have to pretend like nothing had happened the next day. Blushes occur, and eye contact may weigh loaded and infrequent. The thing about Sex With Friends is that it isn’t dating. You’re just friends. And friends accept each new experience as they come.
It’s up to each pair whether they’re open to others knowing about their bedroom [out-of-bedroom?] activities, or not. Everyone’s unique. I’ve had deals where one group of friends were rather incestuous and no one minded. It was a specific situation in our grouplife, and we were all aware of what was happening. Then there have been times when a friend and I would hang out normally, and more-than-friendly things happened. As far as the world was concerned, we just watched TV like we did every Thursday; only we knew. Some friends don’t care if others know, and some want others to mind their own fucking business.
College sees the worst sides of Sex With Friends. Adina puts it well: “It’s fun, but it’s dangerous.” Our Hook-Up Generation has a particularly terrible aspect: it conditions us to treat sex with an overly casual attitude. It can range from simply dismissive to surprisingly disrespectful, and young adults can be too underdeveloped to handle the fallout. I personally reached a point where thoughtless gossip and crass attitudes became too much, and pulled back from it all. It was emotionally damaging, because the snide comments and judgemental jokes didn’t come from random strangers or social enemies– they were spoken by friends. And during such a fragile developmental period of life as college, when you’re still learning what life is and how to deal with it, these incidents can be particularly harmful.
Such circumstances arise when people treat Sex With Friends without sensitivity. Just because the relationship lacks romance, doesn’t mean it lacks emotion. Sex is a profoundly intimate act, and should be treated with respect. You are engaging in one of life’s most penetrating experiences; anyone claiming to have sex without emotion is dead inside. [Seriously: a sociopath or zombie, but needing therapy either way.] Even if the emotion is as light-hearted as dopamine-fueled happiness or oxytocin-powered trust– the reactions are there and biologically proven. So I hold issue with people who say friends-with-benefits means sex without emotion. If it’s without emotion, it’s just fuck buddies. [See full definitions here.] Sex With Friends definitely has emotion– they’re just not romantic ones. They’re platonic, they’re sexual, they’re genuine affection. I can appreciate a friend’s sexuality, attractiveness, and fun without being starry-eyed. And I can definitely appreciate that special trick they do without wanting to be their girlfriend.
“It’s a good idea, until it’s not.”
Then there is the situation where one of the two grow more than platonic feelings, and everything goes to shit. Someone forgets that it isn’t dating. They start to take the little compliments as an intent to woo, when it’s really just a friend telling you your eyes are pretty, or they like how you do that one thing with your mouth. Suddenly the little moments become charged, and eggshells are required for walking. I recommend cutting it off immediately. Talking is necessary to make sure the air is cleared between the two of you, or you’ll never return to the friendship you had before. Note: the friendship will never be like before. Be real, you’ve done dirty things together. But it can go back to something good, if you’re up front and honest.
This is the crucial moment where most pairs fuck it up and ruin what they once had. If you are unable to talk about difficult emotions/sexual issues and don’t want to lose a friend, please never engage in Sex With Friends in the first place. Because you will fuck it up. And you will never stop regretting being such a royal fuckup. In your defense, most people are just like you. Not many are evolved or open-minded enough. So don’t even go there; you can’t handle it. Just keep it in your pants and fantasies, where it belongs.
I maintain the benefits of Sex With Friends. As a more experienced adult, I can maturely decide on the potential for fun or fallout. Unlike college, I am now much more proficient. Since joining the real world, I’ve played the game a number of times, and had plenty of fun winning. Mostly chosen for pure enjoyment, once for the solace of distraction, I discerned the value of each worthwhile. They were fun while we played, each ended amicably, and they are still in my life as good friends.
And in a city where we are all racing about our hectic professions and lives with rarely a minute to spare for groceries or the gym, let alone the effort and mess of dating… Well, enhancing your aptitude for Sex With Friends can easily make your life that much more fulfilled. If you can handle it.
Self-judgment is an ugly feeling. It’s always so much easier to play the comforter to friends, listening to their woes and validating their decisions. The fallout zone always seems so much more frightening when it’s in your own life. Foremost among many 20-somethings’ sexual concerns is their Number.
The ‘modern woman’ has been struggling with this for decades, since the sexual revolution really took hold and broadened social norms to allow some wiggle room on the whole pre-marital sex deal. It’s rarely ever ‘boy-meets-girl, love at first sight, and get married for the 2.5 kids with a white picket fence’ anymore. Chastity belts have been traded in for liberty, exploration, and more frequent free-condom-raids to the local Planned Parenthood.
My mother taught me to test drive a car before you buy it, and I hold to that wisdom. [Hey, even if you don’t make the purchase, the test drive can still be a whirlwind of fun!] Adventuring isn’t without its risks, though. (It wouldn’t be an adventure if it were totally safe, now would it?) Those Planned Parenthood trips aren’t only for condoms, and haven’t always been stress-free jaunts with girlfriends. Sometimes, they’re there for moral support as pregnancy tests are processed… and that’s somehow the least of the worries. This is a frightening new world we’ve been born to. Sex isn’t just fun—it can kill you.
It still is tough when the casualty is something like your heart,rather than your health. Sometimes I think that the stronger women hurt deeper. Everyone likes to treat us like we’re indestructible. They can throw anything they want our way, and we’ll keep trucking with barely a cold glance thrown their way. Hey, the higher you fly from hurt, the harder you fall, right? But more than anything, it’s likely just your bruised pride. [It’s total bullshit anyway, of course, to think my ego is more important than some vapid girl’s. A hurt girl is a hurt girl, bottom line.]
What I’ve always struggled with is the disconnect between my mind and my heart. I can examine, rationalize, and excuse an entire situation from beginning to end, but no degree of intellectual understanding will ease the emotional havoc surging through my veins. That I liked a guy, but never planned on committing because that spark wasn’t entirely there. I’m too young to settle down. He isn’t what I’m looking for. All those reasoned practicalities I figure out as I’m dating someone, they all go out the window when rejection walks through the door. Especially when it comes from a guy that slept with you, and turned around the next week with “I met someone else and want to try and see where it goes with her”. Via text. What a douche.
Even more so when at one point that night, when skirting around the question of what our Numbers are, he laughed and said, “well, not nearly enough to have to make a New Year’s Resolution about not sleeping with people, like you did”. Or something to that effect. I didn’t write it down, so don’t quote me word-for-word.
Yes, I had told him on date two that I wouldn’t sleep with him because I barely knew him. That only 24 hours from meeting, I wouldn’t be with someone past the PG-13 degrees of PDA. When pressed, I joked that it was a NYE resolution. After he said this the night that I did [perhaps mistakenly] sleep with him, I jerked up and set him straight. No, my number isn’t astronomical—it’s actually entirely average for my age. The need for a resolution isn’t a sexual one, it’s an emotional one. I went through a very dark time two years ago when I dealt with far more death, divorce, abandonment, and entirely life breakdown than a lot of people will experience in much of their lives. Even though I shouldn’t have needed to defend myself, I told him that my friends and I pulled through that year by any means necessary—and yes, sex was a key coping mechanism. But I’m not entirely back to how free I was at that time, because sexual liberation is still linked to mourning in my head. The emotions are a bit tangled, so I need to work on it a bit.
Not that it’s much of his business, to be honest. He didn’t comment much else on the topic, and I let it go, thinking it was just a moment of honesty in a conversation with a potentially consistent new guy. With my nifty 20/20 hindsight now, I wonder if that translated wrong to him. And by wrong, I mean that HIS perception is off, not my past. Because I damn well don’t regret my life and how I’ve survived grief—anyone that thinks I should feel ashamed can bite me and piss off.
And that’s the sexual long and short of it: women are shamed; men are acclaimed.
We have to do battle with the double-standard of sex. Among other gender inequities, women bear the humiliation while men get the benefits. Have you ever heard someone looking at a hungover guy walking home on a college campus at 7am laugh and comment on his Walk of Shame? No—because that’s something GIRLS do. Right? Today’s modern girl has to balance the empowerment of ‘I can explore my sexuality the same as any guy’ with the internalized repression that ‘girls who give it up are sluts’.
So where’s the trade-off? How do guys ‘get laid’, while girls ‘get trashy’ by committing the same act? Guys grow in each other’s esteem after sharing the news of another conquest, yet those girls’ stock plummets. They are lesser. Suddenly, they’re ‘undateable’. She’s now the kind of girl you meet at a bar or party to get drunk with and make stupid decisions. She’s never the girl to take to the movies, or meet for dinner. Which is amusing to me, because many guys have told me the reason they wouldn’t casually date me is because I’m the kind of girl you make your girlfriend. [Even if that’s not what I want at that time.]
I’m still figuring out where this unbalance happens, and how they [such men] could possibly think it’s just. I guess we’re all still trying to puzzle this one out, taking each obstacle as it comes. Yes, I struggle against my society and the internalized repression it still has instilled in me. Sure, I fight against the judgment of others for my sexual life. All I know is that for the most part, my Number is just right for me and my life, and I sure as hell won’t let anyone take that hard-earned knowledge from me. Because I know that with each of those numbers, I’ve climbed mountain after mountain of self-understanding that have taught me who I am. And I’m not done adding to that Number, or climbing those mountains. The rest of the world can just settle themselves down and mind their own fucking business.
Though I’m not genuinely this bitter, I can’t help laughing at dedicating this as a farewell to the Stealth Hippie:
I am the proud and vocal veteran of four Vagina Monologue casts. In college and since, I have learned my most valuable lessons as a VDAY girl about sexuality, love, relationships, and self-esteem. And yet, men still surprise me. It’s a mystery that I’ll never fully understand; I’m okay with that.
The next clue to tip me off that Stealth Hippie isn’t your average 20-something guy: his intuition in bed. Not only is he surprisingly dominant, but after the first time sleeping together, he boldly asked about my side of things.
I don’t think I’ve had a guy openly ask, “Do you orgasm?” with the knowledge that there are women out there that actually don’t. Guys know that women don’t always, but when I laughed a little and said of course I do, he countered with, “Well, I know some women don’t. Since you didn’t just now, I wanted to know.”
If that didn’t blow me away, the next bit would.
“So, what gets you over the edge, then?”
Not only did he notice I hadn’t orgasmed the first time we had sex, but he was both comfortable and knowledgeable enough to broach the topic? Curiousier and curiousier!
The most disturbing part was that I didn’t know how to respond. As a Vagina Monologue girl, I know a lot about sex, exploration, and the female body. It goes with the territory. I know all about sex toys, though I’ve never had the money to actually invest in one for myself [I know… it’s next on my list, once I get a real job and can comfortably afford rent]. I’ve read articles, advice columns, and journals regarding sexology. My women’s studies and sociology classes explored sexuality openly. As a card-carrying geek, I intellectually know all of this.
But that doesn’t exactly prepare you for real life. I might have a solid number of past partners, but they were all too transient to learn much about myself. One relationship of six months is about all I have in the way of genuine introspection into what works for me. In that way, I’m still pretty new at this and need to figure things out.
So I responded that yes, women are all wired differently. Some orgasm easily, some not at all, and others take a little work. I tend to fall in the last category—it’s happened before, but not every time. He asked, when I do orgasm, if it’s really intense. Nodding, I laughed a little, commenting on his intuition. He chalks it up to being a younger child in a family of females. He says younger kids pay attention and pick up things, while older children are assertive and get things done. Without saying anything, I laughed again and confirmed that yes, I am an older sibling and definitely the bossy one of my brood.
Then he asked again what it takes, and went on to ask about masturbation, toys, and positions. The guy was blowing me away, with the calm way he was discussing what I’ve always seen as a female issue. Talking about this kind of topic can make you feel pretty vulnerable. To be honest, though, this is the kind of exposure I appreciate—it’s a sensitive subject, and he wanted to know. He wanted to know ME.
I ended up saying that variety has always served me well, and definitely intensity. Feeling like I’m entirely consumed by the connection, stimulated by everything in him. It’s all about the experience for me, not the biology. If I’m fascinated, that means my entire mind and body’s attention will be focused enough to click. What works for me is someone who can match my passion, offering as much as he’s taking. Assertive personalities tend to fit the best. Not only rough, though I do lean in that direction more often. But just that. Intense.
Yes, all men should concern themselves with the satisfaction of their sex partners. My male friends all claim to be dedicated to it, including the ones I’ve slept with. [And yes, I’ve actually never really been disappointed with my choice of partner. Several of them would discuss or even ask questions, since they knew I’m open about it.] For the most part, though, they would talk a lot of talk, and I knew from conversations with their partners that their walk needed a bit of work. It’s mostly pride and not enough proof. But this was somehow different.
It was genuine. Intense. I still have a lot to learn about myself and my body, but that didn’t seem to put him off. I’m cautious to say that he might be along for the ride. Much like his controlled vibe, this focus made me shiver. And I’m fascinated.
Sex gives a whole new meaning to the classic 80’s song. Originally the Clash’s version of romantic angst, it always pops into my head when struggling with the decision to take it to the next level with a guy or not.
It’s never asked to him, because I know what his answer will always be—a resounding ‘Yes!’ It’s more like a mildly schizophrenic internal discussion. ‘Should I let him stay, or not?’ I’ve been out with this one guy a few times, genuinely like being around him, and definitely like the kissing activities. But to be honest, that could be chalked up along with a lot of guys I date—this one simply intrigues me enough.
For me, it’s all about the experiences. Your youth is the time to explore, and I’m not trying to squander my life by worrying too much. I worry just enough for myself, and the rest is history. There have been times when amazing chances slipped out of my fingers in the past, and I’m not about to let it happen any more.
Carpe diem 2012! Right?
I believe this Exploration Era should be applied to sexuality and dating, too; in fact, that should be a huge chunk of your self-examination. How can you expect to meet Mr. Rest-of-Your-Life if you haven’t fully expanded into who you’re meant to be? So try new things, figure out what [and who] you like, and the rest will fall into place.
That’s why this guy is so fascinating. Let’s call him ‘Stealth Hippie’, for a codename. He’s one of those guys that listen to Phish, go to music festivals, have trippy tapestries on the walls, and then wake up bright and early Monday morning to go to the office in suit-and-tie. It’s probably one of my favorite social typecasts, this balance of hippie and yuppie that realized they’re no longer in college and actually grew up a little. It’s an amazing mix
So, my Stealth Hippie. First date was a great start. We met for some beers at a favorite spot of mine, talked about everything from work to travel, all the usuals. He seemed like a cute, DC corporate-newbie, until I mentioned music festivals and he perked up with the name of my favorite one. I haven’t been caught off-guard by a Stealth Hippie in awhile, but it was a great surprise. I’m pretty sure that’s where the friendly atmosphere shifted to genuine interest for both of us. He drove me home after, in a mix of gallantry because it was raining, feigning the need to play this band he’d been telling me about, and most-likely just figuring out a situation that ended in a good-night kiss.
The band was incredible, it had been awhile since I’ve been in a car besides a cab, and I ended up thinking his uncertainty for a kiss was adorable enough to just lean forward and initiate it myself. It was a solid decision. He had this sort of controlled intensity that piqued my curiosity even more.
The next night, he kept in touch while I was at work and managed to meet up with some of my restaurant friends at a bar we hit on Thursdays for drinks, my favorite salsa band, and to shoot pool. His roommate came with, and they both seemed to have fun checking a new place out. I figured they would head home together, but the friend ducked out after awhile to leave us the pool table to ourselves. On the bus that goes to both our houses, he asked if I wanted to keep hanging out. Laughing, I asked if he meant in general, or continue that night?
So he came over to listen to music. Hey now! I made sure to detour him to an ATM to get cab fare home, since the last bus had already run. I insisted that knowing a guy 24 hours does not get a sleep-over invitation… But that doesn’t mean we didn’t make-out to Pink Floyd like I haven’t done since I was in high school. And this Stealth Hippie had one more card to play—that controlled intensity raised a mental flag for a reason. At one point, I laughed and said he had an interesting style. When he responded with, ‘What, sexually?’, I nodded. He said he likes to be dominant. I asked why, wondering if he consciously knows what he likes.
“I like to be in control.”
Ohh… what an unusual hippie… A Dominant one? I’m utterly fascinated. I did manage to keep my shit together enough to scoot him out the door around 2am, instead of caving. It wasn’t about upping my number in itself, I just won’t add someone to the list just for a one-night stand deal. He quietly said ‘I don’t think we have to worry about it being like that’. As much as I hoped that meant what I wanted it to, I let it lie and opted to repeat myself from earlier. Like I said, I had only known him since the night before, so it wasn’t going any further than PG-13 on the second night.
When he asked why, I said I didn’t know him yet. ‘Well, what do you want to know?’ Laughing, I said ‘everything’, but that would have to wait for another night. He was ready to go away for the long weekend, and I wanted to see if he was actually genuinely interested.
The interest apparently held strong over the weekend. We met up again last night, and it was pretty memorable on all accounts.