Do 'friends with benefits' have safer sex?
Sex buddies may be casual, but they're also careful.
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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