After a mental, busy week, I’ve had some downtime this weekend. I watched two films pretty much back to back – both with the same theme. ‘No Strings Attached’ with Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher, and ‘Friends With Benefits’ starring Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.
Friends with Benefits was much better than No Strings Attached, but the premise was the same. Two friends decide to embark on a relationship where they use each other purely for sex. No emotion, no demands, just fun between the sheets. The only variation was that in No Strings Attached it was Natalie Portman’s character who was ’emotionally unavailable’ whereas in Friends with Benefits, it was the more traditional portrayal of the guy (Justin Timberlake) being the commitment-phobe. Of course, the inevitable happened. Something happened to make one of the ‘couple’ want more, a fall-out ensued and then they both realised they were the loves of each others lives. Yada, yada, yada – so far, so Hollywood. But it did get me thinking. Can a Friend with Benefits situation ever really work?
Call it what you want. FWB’s, fuck buddies, throw downs, booty call – the rules are the same. It’s purely about the physical. This, for me, is where it all falls down. I dipped my toe in the friend with bens water earlier this year but, thankfully, it died a death before it could ever get started. And, I say thankfully because I’m not sure I’d be able to sustain it for a proper length of time.
It’s a cliche that girls can’t separate emotion from sex, but actually, it works in reverse too. Anyone can have a one night stand or have sex and not allow themselves to really feel emotions for the person they’re sleeping with, but I think it only works in the short term. Think about it, in a normal relationship, the first few weeks or months are fun. You’re getting to know each other (I only mean in the physical sense here), what you both like/dislike, the sex is phenomonal (if it’s not then you might as well give up now). This is par for the course. Both NSA and FWB (I can’t be bothered to write the film titles out every time) portrayed this well with a lengthy montage showing both couples getting it on in every which way and place possible.
But, in a normal relationship, once the initial buzz wears off, things change. Emotions begin to play a part in what you’re doing. Instead of banging like rabbits all the time, the slow, sensual times start to creep in. So why think it would be any different in a FWB situation? Again, both films showed this. There’d be a scene where there’s way too much eye gazing than is necessary for the ‘casual’ relationship, and they would actually ‘make love’ (ugh. I hate that phrase) instead of getting it on like porn stars. Oh, and there’d usually be a case of one watching the other sleep too. In a casual, no commitment scenario, this is bad, bad news.
So you’ve woken up to see your no strings lover gazing at you. Or maybe you’ve realised their bouts of jealousy when you mentioned that you had a date the other night. Whatever it is, the boat has been rocked. That agreement you had to just have sex, with no emotion, no ties? Gone out the window. Hollywood would have us believe that you’ll both eventually realise you love each other to bits and then live happily ever after. But this isn’t Hollywood. It’s real life. It’s not a crime that one of you has realised you like the other more than you initially thought. That’s sex for you. In singular bouts, it’s not too bad but if you’re having regular naughty time with someone, of course you’re going to start thinking ‘what if’. After all, this person was your friend to start with so, by definition, you like each other. The problem is that we allow ourselves to believe the Hollywood hype. Sure, these people in Laa-Laa Land made it work and, yeah okay, they fell out at one point but, hey look – they’re a proper couple now. And we switch over the TV or close the book we’re reading and think that we can apply this to our own lives.
Get real. You can have one-off sex with a friend and not have your friendship ruined. You were both drunk, stoned, the world was about to end – whatever – but I honestly don’t believe you can have a sustained sexual relationship without someone getting hurt. We’re programmed to bond during sex – hormones are released, you feel close to the person you’re with and no matter how explicit your agreement was, one or the other is bound to at least toy with the idea of more in their head.
You know what I’d like? I’d like for there to be a film, or a book, which shows a much more realistic ending. One of the reasons I liked ‘The Break Up’ with Vince Vaughn and the queen of the romcom, Jennifer Aniston, is because there was no happy ending. After a very long term relationship, two people actually went their separate ways. There was no tear inducing reunion. So why can’t there be a film where two people start a no strings relationship, one of them plays their hand and everything goes south, resulting in a lost friendship. That to me is more realistic than a guy using flash mobs in grand central station to proclaim his love for his ex fuck buddy. And I am, as always, a realist.