By Georgina Whelan
March 13, 2012

Are you a Friend with Benefits? An FwB? Are you a person who has sex while not being romantically involved with the person you’re having sex with? Does it work for you?

Popular opinion on FwB relationships falls into two camps: those who agree that it can be done successfully and those who don’t. The latter group believes that sex will damage their friendship, or that one party will become romantically involved with the other, thus promoting the relationship out of FwB status.

Personally I fall into the second camp, and have avoided the FwB in favour of the Fuck Buddy (a casual sex partner with little ongoing friendship, intimacy or companionship). At first this appeared to be the less complicated way to get sex. However, recent research suggests that I may be missing out.

Kylie McCardle, a PHD psychology student at Deakin University, surveyed 30 FwBs and suggested that FwB relationships are largely positive. Not only do they boost personal relationship and sexual confidence, but they’re also good for self-esteem.

Other positive outcomes outlined by McCardle were the regular availability of sex, sexual exploration, not feeling as sexually inhibited as one might in a new serious relationship and not having to look after a partner if they were sick or had to attend a family function. Negatives included delaying a more serious relationship and uncertainty in situations where the rules of the relationship had not been discussed.

Contrary to popular assumptions McCardle also found that many people in FwB relationships remain friends. Furthermore, they did not experience a big falling out or the emotional turmoil that frequently occurs when a serious relationship ends (2). These findings support earlier research on American college students, which demonstrated that the majority of FwBs either continued having sex (28.35%) or maintained their friendship but stopped having sex (35.8%). Only 9.8% of FwBs became romantically involved and 25.9% of friendships ended (1).

It also seems that women and men enjoy FwB relationships equally (1, 2).  However young and older adults prefer FwBs for different reasons. Young adults view FwBs as a way to experiment sexually and have fun with someone they know and trust while keeping their options open, while older adults seem to want companionship and sexual intimacy (2).

In the light of these facts I wonder if FwBs are not a bad idea after all. Perhaps they are a sophisticated, respectful type of casual sexual relationship that requires individuals to negotiate sex honestly and without ego or deceit. Perhaps FwBs are a sign that we are evolving as sexual beings.

Kylie McCardle is pursuing her initial findings with a second study. To participate in the study go to

  1. Mcardle (2010)
  2. Bisson,M.,  Levin, T. (2010). Archives of Sexual Behaviour, 38: 66-73.

Friends With Benefits