Marina Kreminskaya giggled as she sat on the lap of the guy she refers to as her “friend with benefits.”
“With friends with benefits, you still have someone that’s there when you need them,” said the freshman pre-pharmacy major, “but you don’t have to call them all the time and be with them all the time.
“You still have freedom,” she added.
A recent study conducted among students at Michigan State University suggests that unromantic sexual relationships – commonly known as “friends with benefits” – are fairly prevalent among college-age students.
The study found that 60 percent of the students surveyed reported that they were involved in at least one such relationship before, and 36 percent reported they were currently sleeping with someone they considered “just a friend.”
Students surveyed for the study were also asked to reveal what they believed to be the main advantages and disadvantages of being someone’s “friend with benefits.” The top reported advantage was the lack of commitment in these relationships, whereas the most cited disadvantage was the development of romantic feelings.
Amanda Neuber, an academic advisor and adjunct instructor at Temple, who has her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in psychology from St. Joseph’s University, said it is important for those entering “friends with benefits” relationships to know and discuss their personal boundaries, even though the conversation may be awkward.
“If you feel you are mature enough to have a friend with benefits, then you ought to be mature enough to realize you owe it to yourself and the individual to have open, honest communication about what is going on, every step of the way,” Neuber wrote in an e-mail.
She also said that the physical attraction can certainly boost one’s self-esteem, but raised the question of how a person might feel if that aspect of the relationship were to end, or if the “friend with benefits” began to see someone else.
The study also found that students who have not experienced “friends with benefits” relationships tend to say that they are less inclined to become involved in them.
Some Temple students who have no experience with these types of relationships said they would prefer exclusivity.
“Any hookup is great. Any action is great,” senior tourism and hospitality major Rob Szostak said. “I’m a guy – I’m going to be honest.”
Szostak said he has never had a “friend with benefits,” and while he would not mind having one, he would definitely prefer a more exclusive relationship.
Juniors Laura McGuigan said she has never been involved in a “friends with benefits” relationship.
McGuigan, a nursing major, said it is not something she wants.
“I just don’t think it’s healthy,” she said. “If you’re having sex with someone and the emotional support’s not there, you’re going to feel a void and that will have an effect on you, whether you think it will or not.”
Neuber cautioned that “friends with benefits” relationships can potentially become psychologically harmful.
“The longer someone engages in sexual acts with someone they are just friends with, the more likely they will start attributing their actions to actual feelings,” she wrote, “and that can become a slippery slope to heartache.”
Morgan A. Zalot can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org