The Big Question aims to answer those queries that students find themselves asking everyday- the big and the small; the serious and the silly. Stuck at an impossible crossroads? Let Impact help you make an informed decision.

“Surely repeatedly sleeping with someone who you know, respect and get on with is better than sleeping with people you meet in clubs and can hardly remember.”- Emily argues YES.

On a hot July afternoon, two of my very closest friends, John and Luisa, were coming to the end of a fiery, competitive and sweaty game of tennis. Afterwards, she offered him the use of her shower. He cordially accepted, although for some reason when Luisa finished showing him which nozzles did what, he invited her to join him. Here started a glorious summer of what we would call a ‘friendship with benefits’.

She mentioned that she’d started seeing someone so their activities had to go back to a less intimate version of tennis.

Despite initial awkwardness, when it became clear that neither of them expected anything else from one another, they were more than happy to repeat the mindless fun. It ended as casually as it started too: during one game of tennis, she mentioned that she’d started seeing someone so their activities had to go back to a less intimate version of tennis.

This type of scenario doesn’t work for everyone, and it’s not always so Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis; in a study conducted by the University of Michigan in 2011, it was found that 26% of friends with benefits situations ended in a ruined friendship. Luisa and John’s situation could have very easily turned sour and ended a fantastic friendship. But what about the other 74%? That’s a significant amount of happy, no strings attached activity.

 Although jealousy and attachment are valid fears, they can easily be avoided with careful consideration before starting the ‘fling’.

Of course there are many plausible arguments against this type of relationship: jealousy, unintended attachment, and the anxiety of being considered ‘damaged goods’ afterwards. Although jealousy and attachment are valid fears, they can easily be avoided with careful consideration before starting the fling. Additionally, 72% of students who took an Impact online poll actually said they wouldn’t be put off from having a relationship with someone who had been in a friends with benefits situation in the past. We should also consider one night stands: surely repeatedly sleeping with someone who you know, respect and get on with is better than sleeping with people you meet in clubs and can hardly remember.

All in all, friends with benefits can be great if you choose the right partner in the right circumstances. It’s fun, light-hearted and easy – an option that doesn’t need to be overthought.

Emily Reay

“At least one side of the (strictly non)couple is going to get hurt.”- Phoebe argues NO.

‘Friends with benefits’ seems to be quite a popular option amongst students, with one in three young people according to OnePlusOne dabbling in this no strings sex arrangement.

Put simply, a friends with benefits relationship is a sexualised, strictly no-romance-allowed friendship, as glamourised by Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake in the movie hit aptly named Friends with Benefits. During the film, the two protagonists attempt to convince each other and maybe even themselves that they are totally fine with non-committal sex, only to end up walking off into the sunset together. A happy ending- it is a RomCom after all.

However, the outcome of a seemingly exciting and no ties ‘contract’ isn’t always as rosy, bringing with it many complications. Is it then actually possible to have a sexual relationship with someone you know on a semi-personal level (i.e not just a one night stand) and not develop emotional ties?

 The outcome of a seemingly exciting and no ties ‘contract’ isn’t sometimes as rosy.

Statistics suggest not; 53% of 16-24 year olds who were involved in OnePlusOne’s survey and have been in a friends with benefits scenario said they secretly harboured a hope that non-committal sex would develop into something more serious. Friends with benefits can then seem like a recipe for a disastrous, ugly meltdown of a friendship. The chances are that both individuals involved -apparently agreeing to simple, no ties sex- will have entirely different agendas. The statistic above would certainly suggest then that at least one side of the (strictly non)couple is going to get hurt, leading to potential feelings of guilt or confusion for the other.

The chances are that both individuals involved will have entirely different agendas.

Clearly then, the concept of friends with benefits is something young people are unsure of. As put by Emma Rubach, Head of Editorial at YouthNet: “For some people [friends with benefits works] absolutely fine but it can be fraught with confusion and end in hurt for others.” Freshers’ term and living away from home for the first time often brings with it more liberal attitudes to casual sex and the opportunity to experiment with a friends with benefits relationship- but it can carry an emotional risk.

I would then suggest that the right type of character that can remain “absolutely fine” is perhaps someone who has had the time to develop more sexual or emotional experience. Those who enter a friends with benefits situation and are unclear on what they truly want, or are not 100% sure that they don’t secretly harbour hope for more than sexual benefits, may be privy to a more sour and awkward fallout.

Phoebe Swinburn

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