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Friends with Benefits a Bum Deal?

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Sexologist Yvonne K. Fulbright (FNC)

Want easy sex without feeling like, umm … you’re easy?

You may want to think twice before asking a friend. For years now, we’ve been hearing the supposedly sexually liberated generations X and Y hail the casual hook up, namely that of friends with benefits or FWB in so-called text-messaging, IM lingo.

Offering more action than the casual fling, FWBs require little time investment, near zero seduction effort, minimal emotional responsibility, and no maintenance or commitment, so the notion goes. It also offers sex with somebody you actually know and like. All you need is five minutes, your sexiest sweats, protection, and you’re good to go.

Or are you?

Contrary to popular belief, having a friend with benefits may not be all it’s cracked up to be.

According to the New York Times, a Michigan State study released earlier this year found that these booty call relationships only appear to offer less stress. Sure, you get more action than the casual fling, but you still have to deal with the same fears often experienced by those in “real” romantic relationships, like the fear of unreciprocated affection.

Worse yet, the open communication once cherished by two buddies, now FWBs, breaks down. Any talk beyond the titillating becomes taboo, with lovers often afraid or unable to talk about the relationship itself.

Suddenly, bearing the scarlet letter of a one-night stand doesn’t sound so bad, especially if “doing it without drama” has been your mantra as of late. Turns out that, despite the conveniences of FWBs, temporary sexual gratification comes at a price — the chance at real romance.

The Michigan State study found that friends with benefit relationships often reach the point where one friend starts to develop feelings for the other, but only one-tenth of these arrangements actually end in a full-scale romance and unreciprocated feelings can lead to the demise of the friendship.

As many as one in four FWB arrangements ultimately result in friendless and sexless situations, researchers said. The findings indicate that putting out for a pal ultimately can become anything but passion-inducing.

Preferring Pals to Porn – Not So Fast

Online playtime has taken an unexpected turn — young people are preferring pals over porn when surfing the ‘Net.

According to an October 2007 study conducted by Web-analytic company Hitwise, adult entertainment sites are losing ground with Generation Y, who would rather spend their time chatting with friends on social networking sites than surfing adult Web sites.

With visits to porn sites down 33 percent in the United States in the last two years, social-networking sites, like Facebook and MySpace, have become the primary playground and, quite likely the key to cheap thrills for 18- to 24 year-olds.

While Hitwise would have you think that Gen Y is somewhat more sophisticated than generations before when it comes to online pastime pursuits, let’s not forget that we are talking about a group raised during the rise of “raunch” culture. With media headlines regularly calling attention to the pervasiveness of porn amongst today’s youth, could it be that Gen Y isn’t looking at less porn, but willing to make more of it?

Case in point: Consider what can be found on a typical social networking profile. Armed with Webcams, some young people have been known to do more than shock. Emulating anyone from a panty-less Paris Hilton to the scantily-clad Pussycat Dolls to powerhouse adult entertainment star Jenna Jameson, social networking sites are havens for those seeking girl-next-door exhibitionists, intoxicated girl on girl action, personal blogs detailing sexcapades and sexual desires, and gateways to seeing more Girls Gone Wild-style porn and amateur strippers.

With soft-core visuals for your viewing pleasure available for free on a number of scintillating social networking pages, it’s a stretch to claim that 18- to 24 year-olds are much more “vanilla” in their online habits. They could quite simply prefer posting their own homemade porn to paying for it. They’ve also learned from their pop cultural roots that trading sexual favors for social standing can make you quite popular. And who doesn’t want a lot of online friends?

Dr. Yvonne Kristín Fulbright is a sex educator, relationship expert, columnist and founder of Sexuality Source Inc. She is the author of several books including, "Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots."