You really like someone. Then you date them. Now you’re in love. Then you’re madly in love. You get attached. Then you break up. So what’s the next logical thing to do? Obviously keep sleeping with them.
Most of us know this as friends with benefits, hereon referred to as FWB. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, people will be looking for love—or lust—in all the wrong places.
Granted, I know the college scene is all about hook-ups. You go to a party, meet a handsome guy and say “why not.” Though I’m not a proponent of this culture either, that’s not what I’m talking about.
I’m talking about people who have a continual pattern of hooking-up with a member of the opposite sex strictly as friends, with no “emotional” involvement or commitment attached. Especially when they have dated them already and are now broken up, supposedly for good. Sounds great, right? Free from the stress of maintaining a relationship but reaping all the benefits of a sex life? Here’s the hold up.
There is bound to be attachment. Here’s why: It’s a little thing called human physiology. When you have sex, your pituitary gland releases a hormone called oxytocin. This is the same hormone that stimulates labor contractions. It also stimulates lactation and helps in maternal infant bonding.
But back to you and your friend. When you have sex, oxytocin works like a type of invisible emotional super glue. Your intentions were never to get attached. Well, that’s good and fine, but your intentions don’t matter when your emotions and hormones say “hit the road.” And the men out there who say this won’t happen to them? Yes, by the stereotype men are more about sex and women are more about emotion and women get so attached and so on and so forth. But you’re not immune from the powerful hold of oxytocin either, boys.
Specifically in regard to the FWB practitioners who have just broken up from a relationship with each other, just don’t do it. There are already probably a lot of feelings there no matter how much you convince yourself and others you don’t care anymore.
I don’t believe it’s possible to be devoid of all emotion for someone simply because you formally end things. Being sexually involved is just putting you on the road to further heartbreak, confusion and the possibility that you could lose any chance of a positive relationship together—friendly or romantic.
So save yourself the trouble, ladies and gents. Don’t fool yourself into thinking sleeping with the same person over and over with “no strings attached” is a ticket to endless, uncomplicated pleasure. Don’t give yourself the stress.
If oxytocin’s power in causing emotional compromise isn’t enough to deter you from FWB, maybe its power to induce labor contractions in delivery of your FWB baby will do the trick.
There are so many things wrong with this article that need further clarification and research on your part Rachel. First off while not all people can engage in what you call “emotionless sex” some do. However friends with benefits is anything but “emotionless sex.” While you are correct in your assertion that sex is the “super glue” between people, it also binds us intimately with those we care about, that includes friend that we as people may sleep with. The problem is people have such an emphasis that sex is for couples, people in love, married, etc. However, like anything this is only partly true. Sex is a release for any animal. It is something animals need. When done with friends it brings us closer to those we care about and if that party can shake the taboos and “american thinking” on sex, it can be an experience that is quite rewarding. As primates it is perfectly within our nature to have sex with friends without forming a romantic attraction towards them. And from a standpoint of “hooking up” or “cruising” it is far safer to have intercourse with a person you know, trust, and have love for, than a complete stranger. The rewards are far higher and it binds people together.
After knowing, and studying both friends with benefits, and human/primate sexuality for over two years now, the evidence does not support your argument. Friends with benefits does not lead to destruction. The only times it leads to hurting a friendship is when we allow the most negative aspects of societies taboo on sex take control on our minds.
Chris, you make very interesting points. Are you a Ferris student? What is your major?
The difference is I don’t see people as primates, and much of my views and opinions come from my spiritual beliefs as well. Since this is an opinion, I am free to incorporate those beliefs into my work. But in this case, the biochemistry I discussed in the role of oxytocin is simply science. Is every single friends with benefits pair doomed to eternal emotional compromise and pain? No. And I don’t believe that I implied that. I am simply speaking generally from the standpoint of a woman who believes that sex is best for committed couples in love, specifically in marriage because of my beliefs. And I am well aware that this goes VERY against the grain of our modern secular society. I am most likely a minority in my thinking in this area on this campus as well. Do I condemn others for engaging in sexual activities with whoever, whenever, under whatever circumstances? Of course not. We all must choose what is right for our own individuals lives and live as we see allows us to flourish and grow as a human being. You are right in that we are human and that the sex is something engrained in our genes and being and needs. I’m simply stating my belief from the proven chemistry of oxytocin and my personal experiences and knowledge of the emotional distress between friendships that friends with benefits CAN have, not that it will ALWAYS have. Thank you for your comments. As I said to the comment above, I truly do appreciate the discussion and welcome it. Thank you for reading!!!
Friends with Benefits doesn’t have to be strictly intercourse. It can be any kind of sexual with a person, so the whole oxytocin through sex is not all encompassing. Not to mention, oxytocin’s effect only lasts about two hours, so it doesn’t “super glue” you to the person. Not to mention, the sex negative “you’ll get pregnant”. You assume too much. Like that the two people engaged in the sex are not using contraceptives. Friends with Benefits can be rewarding in some cases. While there are plenty of cases where attraction does happen and someone ends up feeling more than the other person, it’s not your place to define “the right way” for other people to be sexual.
Everyone has different opinions on friends with benefits, and I don’t mean to say that its universally wrong. To each his own of course, and my opinions are never to condemn anyone. They are simply my opinion on the matter and the way I view a certain topic. As to the pregnancy comment, I was certainly not implying that people are not having responsible, protected sex. Just making a joke more than anything by using the multiple roles of oxytocin. Thank you for your comments and readership. It’s nice to have feedback on my articles; I don’t get it a lot because my topics are usually fairly non-controversial, so it’s nice to have discussion and hear others views!
Also if you’d like to do some more reading about oxytocin there are plenty of studies out there! There are tons on pubmed; set the filter for meta-analysis, systemic review, and randomized controlled trials as those are the highest levels of evidence. Here’s one…
Oxytocin and social affiliation in humans by Ruth Feldman
It discusses the prolonged role of oxytocin in couples engaging sexual activity for months; not simply for two hours; though you are correct in stating that it peaks during actual periods of sexual activity.