Apparently, the practice has become so prevalent that it merits its own movie. Or two.
Today everyone is rushing out to see Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman hook up in “No Strings Attached.”
Soon enough we will be watching Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis hook up in a film called: “Friends with Benefits.”
If this confluence of cinematic endeavor means something, it may mean that the trend of “friends with benefits” is peaking and about to decline.
But, what does it mean to be friends with benefits? When two people who are otherwise friends engage in sexual activity that is, by mutual agreement, meaningless… they are, as I understand it, friends with benefits.
But why was it necessary to choose a term that completely obscures what is going on. “Benefits” is not a word that you would normally associate with libidinous pleasures or orgasmic rapture.
If these young people are so proud of what they are doing, why not call it by a more appropriate name: having sex with your friends.
These arrangements are a subcategory of hook ups, since hook ups refer generally to meaningless sexual acts that are random and anonymous.
As opposed to sex with benefits, hooking up has more power as a visual metaphor. Still, it hides the nature of the acts in question.
While a friends with benefits arrangement does involve hookups, other kinds of hookups do not require that the parties involved be friends, or even acquainted.
However it takes place, hooking up represents a denial that sex has any meaning, on an emotional or a physiological or social level. It is asserting that sex is about pleasure, and nothing but pleasure.
To be clear, it asserts that procreative and non-procreative sexuality are indistinguishable. Young people who hook up or who are friends with benefits are making a political and ideological point; they are asserting that they can have pleasurable sex without there being any relationship involved. Thus they are sacrificing their sexuality to a cause.
Friends with benefits are not involving themselves in a relationship; they are not expressing any emotion for each other; they do not project a future together; and they are not intending to present themselves in public as a couple.
In principle, friends with benefits agree to keep their dalliances a secret. If neither person is committed to the other, then both are looking for a real relationship. Telling the world that you are friends with benefits would not improve your prospects for finding a romantic relationship or commitment.
If the arrangement is a secret, however, public and private selves will be split. These two people will be presenting themselves as one thing in public and acting as something else in private. They will be living a lie.
Of course, we recognize that some couples go from being friends with benefits to being lovers and even spouses. Yet, the truth remains that friends with benefits is a simulated relationship, a sham, if not a scam. If it’s a scam, then the chances are quite good that the woman is the one who is being scammed.
Practices like anonymous hookups and friends with benefits exist within the world of youthful idealism. Under the aegis of certain philosophers, young people learn that pleasure is the only real meaning of sex, and that if two people agree to use each other for sexual pleasure, then they are not really using each other.
As it happens, they are wrong. Your consent to abuse does not make it less abusive. Even if someone has accepted that you use her for your sexual pleasure, that does not mean that you are not really using her. It simply means that she has agreed not to file any grievance you, whether legal or moral.
In other ways, these people are reinventing the wheel. Since they refuse to follow the lessons of the experience of past generations, they seem fated to learn these lessons the hard way.
Eventually, the ruse will out and they discover, in the best of cases, that there is more to a meaningful relationship than having sex with a good friend.