Feb 152011
 
Authors: Rachel Childs

Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman’s romantic comedy, “No Strings Attached,” is a movie in which friends take their relationship to the next level. They start out as simply “friends with benefits,” but as the plot develops, their relationship shifts from playful sex into something greater.

But according to a study set to appear in the next issue of the “Journal of Sex Research,” this transition is far from typical, and these seemingly carefree relationships can actually be hazardous to people’s health.

The study, conducted by CSU assistant professor of psychology Justin Lehmiller, sampled 411 adults. Those sampled were college-aged, parents and grandparents, with little in common other than having been in a “friends with benefits” relationship at some point in their lives.

“We define them as relationships where two friends are sexually, but not romantically, involved with one another. In other words, these are relationships where two friends are having sex but are avoiding the traditional labels and commitments that go along with a romance,” Lehmiller said in an e-mail to the Collegian.

Despite how easy and carefree these relationships sound, according to Lehmiller, they are also plagued with danger.

“People in these relationships may think they do not need to use protection because they are involved with a friend and that this person is ‘safe’,” Lehmiller said. “However, by making this assumption they may be putting themselves at great risk, especially if their partner is not monogamous.”

The study found that having multiple partners exists due to a lack of commitment from either friend involved. About a quarter of the men sampled described having multiple casual sexual friendships at one time.

Portman’s character initiates the idea of casual sex with Kutcher. This scenario is not far from the truth, according to Lehmiller. Women actually reported that they begin the relationship out of a desire for sex.

“I have no problem with it,” said sophomore biology major Alina Black, who has not been in a FWB relationship. “It’s like dating without all the drama of having to date.”

But unlike Portman’s unemotional attitude toward her sexual partner, Lehmiller said most of the women in the study sought a more romantic connection with their friends. Meanwhile, the men were content with keeping the relationship casual.

“It’s beneficial for a while until one of them wants to get serious,” said undeclared freshman Ryan Nguyen.

According to Lehmiller, women tend to be judged more harshly when engaging in these sex-driven relationships, but if there is emotion involved, the stigma is less harsh.

“The emotional involvement inherent in a friends-with-benefits relationship may make it seem more legitimate than a one-night stand,” he said.

Staff writer Rachel Childs can be reached at news@collegian.com.

The facts about friends-with-benefits relationships

A study conducted by Justin Lehmiller, a CSU assistant professor of psychology, found the following:

  • Having multiple partners exists due to lack of commitment from either friend involved.
  • About a quarter of men surveyed described having multiple casual friendships at one time.
  • Women in the study sought a more romantic connection with their friends while men were content with keeping the relationship casual.
  • Women tend to be judged more harshly when engaging in sex-driven relationships. If there is emotion involved, the stigma is less harsh.
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