No strings attached

Dec. 31, 1969, 7 p.m. | By Elizabeth Packer | 51 years, 1 month ago

Blazers experience the benefits and drawbacks of commitment-free hook-up

Samantha Baker sits across from her longtime crush Jake Ryan, their faces lit by the candles glowing on the birthday cake in-between them. This scene from the classic 1980s movie Sixteen Candles ends with Jake asking Samantha out after the two share a kiss.

Oh, the simple days, when romance ruled, and friends were just friends. At Blair, where "going out," "hooking-up" and "friends with benefits" are common, the dating lines have been blurred and romance is no longer required for physical intimacy. While many Blazers still choose committed relationships, friendships that include sexual hook-ups are becoming increasingly common.

Friends-with-benefits is not only a rising trend at Blair, but among teens nationwide. An informal Silver Chips poll of 100 Blair students on Sept. 9 found that 58 percent of Blazers had been in a friends-with-benefits relationship, while a 2002 survey of 505 15-to 17-year-olds conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 34 percent of teens reported having done "something sexual in a casual relationship." Though simple in concept—friends who hook up with each other but who aren't dating—friends-with-benefits relationships are not as straightforward as they seem.

Attractive set-up

Junior Carletta Byrd, who has experimented with friends-with-benefits before, describes a typical set-up: "A guy will ask you, ‘What's your name; what's your number?' Once they have your number, they'll call and ask, ‘Are you looking for a friend?'"

Other Blazers have different approaches when taking a friendship to the next level. "If there's a girl I'm interested in, I'll say something like, ‘Want to go see a movie?' which actually means, ‘We should hook up sometime,'" junior Dan Donnelly says.

Dr. Charles Miron, a certified sex therapist and clinical psychologist, explains the allure of these relationships. "Some people want the sexual experience without the emotional entanglement. Friends with benefits allow teens to explore their sexuality, a sort of dress rehearsal for the real thing later on," he says.

Junior Joel Popkin enjoys the independence and laid-back feel of friends-with-benefits. "It's easier than actually going out with someone. You don't have to go on dates; you don't have to worry about jealousy or cheating, so there's less emotional responsibility. There's no worries," he explains.

Heartache ahead

Friends-with-benefits relationships don't always work according to plan, however.

"There's always the possibility that one person ends up wanting more, maybe expecting it to turn into a romantic relationship. People think they're in it just for physical attraction but subconsciously they grow attached," explains Susan Yudt, editor of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America's web site for young people seeking information about sexual health.

Senior Phuson Hulamm's experiences with friends-with-benefits confirm Yudt's theory. "I've been in a friends-with-benefits relationship where I ended up wanting more," he says. "I was holding my soul in the palm of my hands, and what does she do? She slaps my hand, and my heart and soul fall to the ground. I felt like I was used the whole time."
Hulamm's situation, in which one-sided emotions develop, is common, according to Amy Miron, a certified sex therapist. "People go into these relationships thinking they're on the same page, while really they both want different things, which often causes someone to feel used," she says.

Another emotional risk: friends-with-benefits often causes remorse once the relationship ends. "You're more likely to do something you might regret later on than if you were in an actual relationship," explains junior Clare Marshall. "It's a lot easier to get caught up in the moment in friends-with benefits; it can be way too much too fast."

Friends-with-benefits also complicates relationships once the hooking up is over. "It truly ruins friendships. Things get awkward and people are confused. It pushes the line too much in between the territory of friends and dating," says senior Lisa Howe.

Acknowledging the complexity of these relationships, which leave some satisfied and others broken-hearted, Dr. Charles Miron explains, "It's like a two-sided coin—on the one side, you're getting sexual pleasure without any commitment, but on the other you're not getting an emotional connection. You're missing the benefit of the best friend you get from a real relationship."

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Elizabeth Packer. Elizabeth is a senior. She drinks a can of pineapple juice a day and absolutely loves playing the name game. She is on her way to greater things, most notably college. More »

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