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Do 'friends with benefits' have safer sex?

Sex buddies may be casual, but they're also careful.

By Kristin Wong Dec 3, 2012 6:14PM

Friends with benefits relationships are known to be ripe with unpleasant possibilities, but a new study has found a silver lining to the casual sex conundrum.

According to a recent poll, friends who engage in no-strings-attached sexual relationships are more likely to use condoms than couples in traditional relationships.

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The poll, which was published in the Nov. 26 issue of the Journal of Sex Research, surveyed 376 people. Most were college-age—in their mid-20s. About half of those polled were in a friends-with-benefits relationship; the other half said they were in a traditional romantic relationship. Subjects in both groups said they'd known their partner for about four years.

Overall, researchers found that friends-with-benefits couples were less sexually satisfied, less likely to communicate about sex and more likely to have multiple sex partners.

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It's not news that this type of relationship comes with its share of risks, but it may be somewhat surprising that casual-sex couples are proactive about managing these risks. They may not be committed, but they're cautious.

Justin Lehmiller, a social psychologist at Harvard University, explains that traditional couples are probably less likely to use condoms because they're more committed to their partner. Traditional couples trust that the relationship is monogamous; thus, they aren't as concerned about the health risks.

Researchers also found that friends-with-benefits relationships are fairly common. They point out that half of college-age students have at least some experience in this arena. Because of this, researchers argue that sex education "should consider explicitly addressing the unique health implications of involvement in these relationships."

Photo: Karen Moskowitz/Getty Images

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Tags: sex
62Comments
Dec 4, 2012 9:54AM
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It is time to to stop being afraid to have sex you need to stop this nonsense you started dying the day you were born you have no control over how or when you are going to die but please believe me you are going to die no matter what you do or not do sex is the only pleasure you are going to have while you wait for death. don't worry be happy have sex every opportunity you get. GET IN WHERE YOU FIT IN. JUST DO IT !!!!!

Dec 4, 2012 8:58AM
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I wonder if this is accurate?  what about casually eating gmo foods is that safe ? ;
Dec 4, 2012 8:31AM
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The answer is HELL No! It is not safer, condoms can be defective,get ripped or can be punctured,and reality check women do not get friends w/benefits because we are not built that way, they may lie and say they want that but eventually emotions get involved, I know I lived it. Men always get the benefits not women. My advice if a man says lets be friends w/benefits run!!!! Safe sex is only in a commited relationship for the most part.......as long as no one is cheating.......Men if you plan on cheating don't, if you think you love someone, maybe you should take your wife on a weekend getaway, she is the one who deals with you warts and all, that other woman only sees the good side and if she sees the real you she will run for the hills. Women if you think he is cheating, confront him your health may be at risk.

Dec 4, 2012 7:50AM
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Condoms don't prevent everything. Like crabs. When people say "safe sex" they mean condom use, but in many ways monogamy is safer, especially since condoms sometimes break. We practice safe sex by having never slept with anyone but each other. 
Dec 4, 2012 7:04AM
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I have very frequent sex with my girlfriend who is also a college student (20's). We have been monogamous for 5 years, and we do not use condoms. She is on the pill, therefore theres no need for a condom. It should be taken into consideration that many monogamous couples are sure about their partner, and do not need to worry about STDs, and instead only about pregnancy, prompting them to use other forms of birth control which do not protect from STDs.
Dec 4, 2012 7:03AM
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If you wanna get it on , on Alderon, the sex on Planet Nine is outta this world. Its a normal bodily function. Stop putting so much into it. A famous Rock dude once sang. A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle, Hey, Stop trying ta throw your arms around the world.Love shack let the rain come down.
Dec 4, 2012 6:51AM
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It makes sense. If you have no future with that person you will use protection.
Dec 4, 2012 6:44AM
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It's simple:  They know it's casual, so they take more precautions. (Which may be a two-edged sword, as it's easy to misuse contraception and end up with very serious consequences.) But what about the emotional fallout? Shouldn't sex be special? Shouldn't it be reserved for someone you love more than life and are totally committed to? Shouldn't the person making love to you be someone who loves you that way too and prizes you above all others? It seems to me that anything else is a perversion of sex and the purpose of sex. People give themselves away too lightly and expect too little for their own happiness...of others and of themselves.
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