Why has Friendship with Benefits become popular nowadays?

Friendship with sexual Benefits has become popular nowadays among people of all ages. Researchers at Wayne State University in Detroit and Michigan State in East Lansing surveyed 125 undergraduates (65 women, 60 men). Sixty percent (40 men, 35 women) said they’d been involved in an FWB relationship, and about one-third were in one when surveyed.

Of the total sample, almost two-thirds (62 percent) said men and women can remain “just friends” while being FWB. The rest said it was impossible, that FWB must soon decide to be friends without sex, or become official lovers. FWB veterans felt more optimistic: 81 percent (34 men, 26 women) said it was quite possible to be happily FWB. (Michael Castleman is the author of Sizzling Sex for Life, and the publisher of GreatSexGuidance.com).

So why do people choose this type of relation? Is it the “freedom of choice” in 21 Century or the “fear of building strong relationships” in the digital world?

The experts in intimate and sexual relationships psychology kindly agreed to answer on Why do Friendship with Benefits has become popular nowadays?

Let’s find out and make our own conclusions.

Melinda DeSeta


Melinda DeSeta – Certified Sex Therapist.

Why has Friendship with Benefits become popular nowadays?

Each generation has come up with a sexy tagline to define “Friends with Benefits”.  This situationship has only become more common in defining a relationship status today. The common question is, “What do friends with benefits even mean?”. Defining this can get emotionally complicated quickly and easily.

Friends with Benefits (FWB) is a sexual relationship without an emotional connection. The foundation is that you desire this person sexually but have no intention to expand the dynamic into an emotionally monogamous relationship.  For many, a Friends with Benefits relationship is a great way to satisfy the libido while living a single life and not having to commit to the time or emotional investment.

The FWB has been developed with the progression of each generation. Let’s go back to the 1950s. The idea of casual dating was a rare concept. Before the war, people who were not married, typically of younger age, dated with the intention to marry. The cultural norm was to marry, have 2.5 children, the dog, and the white picket fence. The idea of FWB was not culturally accepted and stigmatized.

Trying to break from this strict mold, in the 1960s and 1970s gave rise to the “Free Love” movement. Free Love was intended to separate state (marriage, birth control, etc.) from sexual matters. The hope for this movement was to begin societally accepting all types of sexual relationships.

While free love was functional in the short term, people began gravitating back into having some kind of structure, and the Feminist movement of the 1970s was born. We started to see an important societal movement of “sex positivity for women. This was a time when women began to adopt the idea of their own sexuality, sexual freedom, and the importance of sexual pleasure in their overall health. The feminist movement not only helped women gain sexual freedom but also embrace the idea of female independence, taking a step toward women becoming educated and becoming more present in the workplace.

This foundation of free love and self-respect paved the way to more sex in film, more sex on tv, and eventually, the current state of sexual accessibility we experience through all forms of media. Especially social media.

All these pieces come together where social media shows the freedom to sexuality. We have developed a state in our current society that sex is not taken as seriously. It is not as taboo. We are exposed to sex earlier in life and publicly learning the benefits of sex and masturbation.

With the progression of sex into our mainstream lives and conversations, it is easier to justify the idea of creating an FWB relationship. One perk that draws many to desire an FWB is the fact that this relationship dynamic satisfies the libido, with no emotional or time commitments, all while giving them time to focus on themselves and their careers. With each passing generation, society accepts the freedom of sexual expression. This changing mindset allows people to expand their views on sexual relationships.

Mark O’Connell, LCSW.

Mark O’Connell, LCSW-R, is a psychotherapist and author.

Why has Friendship with Benefits become popular nowadays?

Friendships with benefits can be appealing because we get some of the rewards of a committed romantic partnership–sex, companionship–and to go away before things get too challenging.  I find that the most common reason people avoid committed relationships, is that we would often rather not look at ourselves in the mirror for too long, and that’s exactly what happens the more intimately involved we become with another person.  As we are forced to negotiate space–physical, mental, and emotional–we are forced to face our vulnerabilities, our needs, and desires, in order to advocate for them effectively with that other person with whom we’ve become so close.  And most of us would simply rather not do that.  It’s much easier to turn away from the mirror once we’ve gotten what we want from a relationship, without having to think too much about it.  And reserve the right to return again when we feel like it, without the consequence of having to face ourselves, and the conflicts that could potentially arise as we navigate space with that other person, who has needs and desires of their own.  Many of us would simply rather not know about the other person’s vulnerabilities, needs, and desires, fearing that we’ll have to submit to them and lose out on fulfilling our own in the process.  Having friends with benefits is a mutual agreement that explicitly allows both parties to avoid having to go there, to be as vulnerable, mindful as one needs to be in order to cultivate a relationship.

Dr. Geraldine K. Piorkowski


Geraldine K. Piorkowski, Ph.D., author of “BEYOND PIPE DREAMS AND PLATITUDES: Insights on Love, Luck, and Narcissism from a Longtime Psychologist.”

Why has Friendship with Benefits become popular nowadays?

I think: “Friends with Benefits” is an attempt to avoid deep connections.  Sexual Intimacy for many people, women especially, is an attempt to find a meaningful and loving relationship with another person.  It is an opening up, an exposure of one’s vulnerability.  When the experience of sex is truncated and fragmented by design, it lacks the emotional power to move mountains or souls.  It is superficial.

In today’s society where speed and quick fixes represent contemporary norms, “friends with benefits” seems to fit.  But it doesn’t satisfy one’s deepest longings for a permanent connection, characterized by respect, trust, and compassion, to another human being.  As a result, “friends with benefits” is often disappointing, frustrating, and empty.

Susan Pease Gadoua, L.C.S.W.




Susan Pease Gadoua is a licensed therapist based in the northern San Francisco Bay Area with expertise in marriage and divorce. She counsels clients via phone or Skype all over the world as well as running workshops and retreats in northern California. Susan is a sought-out speaker on marriage and divorce. She has appeared on television, radio, and print, including The CBS Early Show and publications such as The Wall Street JournalNewsweekUSA TodayThe Washington Post, Thrive Global, Huffington PostPsychology Today, and Divorce Magazine.

Why has Friendship with Benefits become popular nowadays?

More and more people are questioning the wisdom of the traditional model of marriage, family, and coupling in general, for some very good reasons.

First, marriage has been a one-size-fits-all institution for generations but it has been primarily based around love for the past two hundred or so years. It has been a  way to not only keep social order but to establish inheritance rules, social status, track paternity, and prevent out-of-wedlock births.

These reasons to keep social order make little sense in today’s world given that we have new laws and new science, as well as a more evolved social culture. We can live anywhere we choose,  take any job or pursue any career and we can have many partners in our lifetimes. Because we have so much choice, and we are less bound by social mandates, people are choosing to be less committed. Friends with benefits is a natural result. Why buy the calf  when you can have  it for  free is the old saying (which was meant  to shame esp. women/girls into not “giving themselves away”) but these days, people are more interested in choosing “free.” It is easier to get into and easier to get out of.

In the past generation or so people are catching on that we haven’t needed marriage for any of the reasons we used to so, therefore, the structure is changing and losing its appeal. In turn, having committed relationships is not as critical since we can all live on our own and create whatever kind of family configuration we want (single motherhood has tripled since 1960: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/09/the-mysterious-and-alarming-rise-of-single-parenthood-in-america/279203/).

Also, the high divorce rates in the past forty years or so have made people think twice about making their unions legal (this goes for children of divorced parents as well as those who got married and then got divorced).

Lea Lis, MD

WEBSITE: www.drlealis.com
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PSYCHOLOGY TODAY: The Shameless Psychiatrist

Dr. Lea Lis is the ‘Shameless Psychiatrist.’ She is a double board-certified Adult and Child psychiatrist, and Assistant Clinical Professor at New York Medical College. She has a bustling practice in the Hamptons where she sees patients from all family arrangements.

Her book “No Shame: Real Talk With Your Kids About Sex, Self-Confidence, and Healthy Relationships” helps people pass down intergenerational wisdom, instead of trauma, by using modern psychotherapy techniques which she perfected throughout her many years of experience. She is an expert in the field of psychology and hopes to change the way we speak about sex.

Why has Friendship with Benefits become popular nowadays?

It is often more convenient for single people to have arrangements with friends who they connect with and trust to have a sexual relationship without the confines of a committed relationship. With many young people focusing more on their careers than settling down in a committed relationship and starting families, these arrangements fulfill a sexual need. There have been movies like Friends with Benefits and No Strings Attached that show why these arrangements are becoming more popular.

In my work with adolescents and college coeds, I have seen that young people are disconnecting from the intimate and sensitive feelings and having sex by getting drunk and therefore numbing all of their emotions that might engender feelings of love and connection. Humans are hard-wired and programmed to feel intense love during sexual intercourse. Young men are especially encouraged to hook up and not show their feelings by not seeing women when they are sober or not having sex when sober.

Now, most kids say they are “talking to someone” they are having sex with, and nearly every single one of them say “what is the point?” about being in a relationship. I always say the point is: you are practicing for the most important thing you’ll ever do as an adult – making connections and building relationships. While “friends with benefits” can have a time and place, I don’t think that time is during early adolescence. I always wonder if “friends with benefits” is a real fear about intimacy and relationships, so that is the watch out to be mindful of, regardless of age.

Phillip L. Hammack, Ph.D.


Phillip L. Hammack, Ph.D., is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Dr. Hammack is an expert on gender and sexual identity diversity and diversity in intimate relationships. His current research focuses on the expansive new language of gender and sexual identity and new possibilities for intimacy in the twenty-first century, including the rise in visibility for polyamory, kink/fetish, and asexual intimacy.

Why has Friendship with Benefits become popular nowadays?

I think “friends with benefits” has become more popular this century because the meaning of sex has shifted so dramatically and people are more empowered to be sexual in diverse ways beyond traditional ideas of procreation or within the confines of marriage. The 20th century was a time of heightened regulation of sex — in such domains especially as homosexuality and premarital/extramarital sex for heterosexual people. The big shift came with the emergence of the internet in the late 20th century and then especially with social media in the 21st century. This changed the relationship between sex and sources of authority (doctors, lawyers, teachers, parents). With social media especially, young people can now create their own empowered and more expansive views of sex. This has allowed for communities that practice polyamory and other forms of consensual nonmonogamy to gain exposure, and apps like Tinder and Grindr facilitated the ability for intimacy to expand. With all of this has come greater recognition of the value of “friends with benefits”—the notion that friendship need not be decoupled from sex, that in fact, sex can form a core part of the intimacy we experience in friendship. In short, sex is no longer linked so tightly with procreation or institutionalized forms of relationality like marriage. Sex has value and meaning to people and to relationships beyond old notions that it had to be controlled, regulated, and limited by the state. This is a very empowering experience for individuals.

Steven Ing, MFT

Website: https://stevening.com/

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Steven Ing, MFT is a Marriage and Family Therapist for 30 years, Steven helps people figure out how they too can have healthy sexuality and intimacy. He has literally written the book on human sexual needs, We’re All Like This (2015, Giant Publishing), used in university-level human sexuality classes. His books, articles, and public presentations create conversations about human sexuality that are safe… but not too safe.

Why has Friendship with Benefits become popular nowadays?

The phrase “friends with benefits” is easily understandable as a sexual hook-up with an acquaintance” but is only credible for those who don’t understand what friendship is. Friendship has, at its core, a platonic love, that is, it is free of the animal passions. These so-called “animal passions” refer to our physical appetites. “Friends with benefits” isn’t friendship. We’ve lost this notion of platonic love; the vast majority of men and women are friendless and we suffer isolation and loneliness at epidemic levels. We often live under the illusion that going out drinking together or going to church together somehow makes us friends when really we are only acquainted with one another. If we really had friends we would know the difference between what friends give us and an offered sexual experience from someone who is merely “friendly.” If you want to have sex with a consensual adult partner, have at it—enjoy yourselves! Just don’t call it friendship.

Rob Brooks

I am Scientia Professor of Evolution at UNSW Sydney, where I founded and, from 2007-2019, directed the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre.

My research mostly considers the conflicting evolutionary interests that make sex sizzle and render reproduction complicated. Working on both human and non-human animals, my fabulous research group (the SEX LAB), my collaborators, and I explore the evolutionary and ecological consequences of sexual reproduction. We study evolution because of its power to help us understand both nature and the human condition.

Why has Friendship with Benefits become popular nowadays?

I think a large number of people are more relaxed and mature about sex and sexuality these days. That’s in large part due to the gains of the sexual revolution giving women greater economic power and more control of their fertility. It’s likely that relaxed attitudes to nudity, pornography, and technology have also helped.

Laurie Mintz, Ph.D.


Dr. Laurie Mintz is an author, therapist, and professor whose life’s work has been committed to helping people live more authentic, meaningful, joyful–and sexually satisfied–lives through the art and science of psychology.

Why has Friendship with Benefits become popular nowadays?

I think that the reason friends with benefits has become so popular is because it can combine good sex with the lack of a serious commitment. To explain, we know that hookup sex is notoriously bad sex for women (i.e., a very large orgasm gap) and that repeat sex with the same partner is more likely to be better, perhaps due to getting comfortable with each other’s bodies and being willing to say what one wants.  We also know that relationships entail a great deal of commitment and hard work, something not everyone has the space in their life for.  So, for many, friends with benefits is a perfect balance!


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