The trouble with benefits: How do you mix friends and sex?


File photo. File photo.

A few weeks ago I saw a play at Four County Players called I Love You Because, a cute modern day romantic musical comedy and got a good giggle from a song titled, “Just Friends.” The song summarizes the rather contemporary notion of having friendships in which you engage in regular sexual activity. Here are a few lyrics:

Diana: Friends are like an old shirt, that always makes you smile.
Jeff: It makes you feel all fuzzy inside, but it gets dirty once in a while.
Diana: A friends does to you what you do onto them, like Jesus recommends.
Both: And we want to be good boys and girls, and that’s why we’re just friends… with benefits.
Diana: We each do our own thing, cause we’re not dating and that’s fine.
Jeff: But every couple of evenings, our things will intertwine.

As a divorced by choice, single mother, who couldn’t afford a gigolo if I wanted one, I certainly understand the advantages of this concept. In fact, an acquaintance summed it up rather nicely once when she described the type of dating website she wished existed—one where you could pick a man from a lineup of hotties to come over on weekends while the kids are away, have him fix things around the house, engage in great sex, then leave so you can have time to read the latest best selling romance novel undisturbed. All the good stuff without the dirty socks on the floor and the fights over housework.

But even Hollywood recognizes that regular sexual activity between people who like each other often yields an emotional response. There are no less than two films and one television series titled “Friends With Benefits,” all with the premiss that the couples in question start out as friends who begin a no-strings-attached physical relationship then fall in love. Remember Monica and Chandler and what happened to them? Even the two characters that sang the aforementioned song in the play fell in love in the end. Is the entertainment world saying that it is just knee-slapping funny that these people can’t keep a lid on their feelings  or is the message more aligned with the concept that people are just stupid to think that they can have sex without getting emotionally involved?

I am not judging here. I believe that two mutually consenting adults should behave in any manner they agree upon concerning their bodies. As for me, I like to have an emotional connection to go along with the physical one—otherwise I feel like something is missing. Sort of like having icing without the cupcake or fries without the steak.

It also seems a bit awkward if one is seeking a long-term committed relationship outside of one’s friends-with-benefits relationship. If the sexual space is already filled in your life, then how does a new person fit in? (Excuse the pun). Which begs the question, how to bring up your f#$% buddy with potential date material. On the third date or so, does one casually mention between the main course and dessert, “Oh by the way, I am sexually active right now but the person in question is just a friend. So when we are ready to take our relationship to the next level, I would appreciate you letting me know a few days in advance so I can give them notice that their services are no longer needed”?

Too bad there isn’t a play that includes that moment set to music.

Mary Burruss is a freelance writer and blogger who thinks moving to Charlottesville was one of the best decisions she ever made. She writes about art and culture for pubs like Art Times, US Airways Magazine and Virginia Living, and blogs on and Salsa dancing is the latest in a long string of her passions.

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