I can’t turn on my TV lately without seeing Ashton Kutcher soaping up Natalie Portman in the No Strings Attached trailer, and it occurs to me that Hollywood seems to be obsessed with friends with benefits, or as my friends in the UK call them, ‘shag buddies’. I wrote a column a while back for The Independent about SBs, in which I described a recurring dream about being a judge on Pop Idol. Only instead of auditioning potential pop stars, I was playing the Simon Cowell role to potential flings.
I scrutinised nervous-looking naked men and said things like, “It’s all wrong, too much back hair,” or “You claim to have eight inches – are you sure you’re not using the metric system?”
Finding the perfect partner a sexual set-up that is high on nakedness and low on emotional expectations is a daunting prospect. Some scientists suggest that women have a harder time detaching sex from love because we’re chemically programmed to pair-bond, though I’ve also met men who pined for women who only wanted to drunk dial them then ditch them.
Ultimately I did want a committed relationship, but until then I was looking for the sexual equivalent of Switzerland: someone who was safe, fun and not too emotionally draining.
A lot of my girlfriends prefer SBs to one night stands. SBs are safer than picking up a random guy in a bar, and provide a comfort level that makes it easier to let go and have better orgasms. And, unlike in the movie, I don’t think it’s true that someone ALWAYS wants more from the relationship. Sure, there are caveats, and you have to check in with yourself. It’s all about honest communication, and setting boundaries.
I know that I’m biased. Because when I was lonely and in between relationships, I had a best friend who was funny, kind, sexy and amazing in bed. He was my sexual soulmate, but NOT my boyfriend.
To protect the friendship, I made my own rules to navigate the situation. There were nights when I wondered, mainly because I was lonely and not dating anyone else, if we would end up getting married when we both turned 40 and hadn’t found anyone else yet. After all he was nice, friendly, adored me and was good in bed.
With SBs I had two rules, the WEREWOLF RULE and the NAKED GIRL RULE: I made sure that we only got naked about once or twice a month (or about as often as a full moon), and only after dark. Otherwise, it would feel too much like dating. And I would imagine seeing him naked with another woman – would it bother me? If the answer was yes, it was time to back off.
This was just my quirk, but I think it’s important to be honest with yourself, and not be holding out hope that the guy is going to declare his love. It’s much more common to go from Girlfriend to Shag Buddy.
The other way around usually only happens in Hollywood.