“Friends with benefits” means nothing
The ‘friends’ part is unnecessary. The ‘benefits’ part is disappointing.
I fucking blame Mila Kunis, I really do.
The first time I watched her and Justin Timberlake ‘star’ in Friends with Benefits, something about it just made my skin crawl. Maybe it was the assumption that in order to qualify for casual sex one must be a part-time swimwear model with Wii tennis expertise and a husky voice. Perhaps it was the idea that for those of us who do have cinematic rooftop-stalking personal crises, a ‘friend with benefits’ is a viable solution.
Then again, it was probably my ex-boyfriend looking deeply into my eyes and tenderly telling me how much more fun it would be if we could just throw in our long term relationship for something more casual. Cute.
So what exactly is this cult relationship status of ‘Friend with Benefits’, of FWB? The Urban Dictionary definition reads:
Two friends who have a sexual relationship without being emotionally involved. Typically two good friends who have casual sex without a monogamous relationship or any kind of commitment.
However, featured synonyms include ‘Fuck Buddy’, ‘Booty Call’, and Hook Up’, which seem far from this modern day love story of friends by day, sexual partners by night. This isn’t a Lemonade-style take down of the entire concept of casual arrangments: sex is important, it doesn’t require commitment, and no, it doesn’t make you a slut.
Calling it ‘friends with benefits’ might just appear to be a generic sugar-coating for the sake of semi-respectable conversation, but I think it’s actually a fucking awful and utterly misleading description.
Firstly, it makes us apologise for wanting to have a completely natural and acceptable no-strings-attached situation. Between lectures, seminars and trying to learn how to cook without a microwave, committed relationships can seem kind of inconvenient. There’s no need to hide behind a title which implies that friendship came first and the ‘benefits’ are an add-on, as if your arrangement was somehow accidental.
Secondly, maintaining that such arrangements have some kind of inherent friendship built into them can lead to a real naivety surrounding the ‘ins and outs’ (pun in-fucking-tended) of hook ups.
Fortunately I managed to avoid any sentimentality when it came to my previous situation, but the problem was I was so busy feeling like a strong, independent woman that I didn’t even notice a much more damaging and unfair issue emerging: I was being treated like a piece of shit.
Yes, a FWB situation seems like a great idea in theory because of this false definition of genial respect – Justin and Mila shared genuine concern for one another as well as a bed, and the banter was always flowing, right? But SURPRISE, that’s a film and we’re all less attractive.
By calling someone I only saw at night a ‘friend’ when we barely knew each other, I let an awful lot of disrespect fly because I was too wrapped up in this idea that we were primarily pals, and therefore any unacceptable behaviour was ‘banter’. It was because I was trying to live up to this ideal whereby the occasional orgasm + occasional joke combo seemed more important than my own welfare.
You guys are fucking great. If you’re spending your nights with someone who criticises your appearance, or makes you walk home alone at 2am, or tries to give you a timetable of when is and isn’t convenient for them then GET THE HELL OUT. I let all of these things happen to me and somehow forgot that I was worth more, because I excused it as ‘friendship’.
Remember, there’s a difference between being screwed and being screwed over.
Fortunately, I wriggled my way out of what was becoming an incredibly unpleasant experience and realised that I already had a ton of literal friends with benefits, who are equally as good at spooning.
Someone who buys you milk from Sainsbury’s when you’re being lazy, stops you making bad decisions in Fez, or tells you when you’re being a little bitch and need to grow up? Those are the people I would define as Friends with Benefits, and none of them will use the pretence of friendship to commodify your body and kick you out when they’re done.
The sex/ friendship idea isn’t totally utopian, but it’s not necessary. Have casual sex, but don’t pressure yourself to call them a friend – it kind of defeats the casual part. Ironically, they’ll probably treat you better without a title which excuses harmful behaviour.