The myth of Friends with Benefits

It was supposed to be simple.  It was supposed to be easy.  After all, even my best friend thought I was looking for the most obvious thing in the world.  “Sex is the easiest thing to find. If that’s all you’re looking for”, she had exclaimed after I told her that my online dating profile stated “No strings attached” in the relationship type.

Turns out it’s not that simple, easy or obvious.  A 40-something-year-old woman looking only for sex may seem like a cliché but finding someone to fulfill this need is anything but.

After 12 years together, my ex-husband had simply decided he no longer wanted to be part of our family and moved away to another continent, leaving me alone to raise our then two-year-old daughter.  I was devastated.  I cried, I bargained, I yelled, I cursed and then I accepted.   I didn’t want to spend a lifetime mourning a relationship that simply wasn’t meant to go on everlastingly and so weeks after making our separation official, I was on a dating site answering questions about my views on relationships, sex, and politics.  

I wasn’t looking for another partner.  I was building my life back up.  I was trying to find a balance between being a solo mom and returning to work full-time.  I simply didn’t need someone witnessing the chaos that my life was at the time.  But I have a strong libido.  Sex is something that has always been important to me and that I thoroughly enjoy.  I was yearning to feel that sexual connection again and my vibrator just wasn’t doing it for me anymore.  I selfishly didn’t want to deprive myself any longer and needed a lover.   Someone who would take care of my needs but wouldn’t expect to be part of my weekend plans.  

I didn’t want to meet random men for one-night-stands either, rather I naively thought I could find someone who would be at ease with developing a friendship-with-benefits type of relationship with me.  You know, we would meet under the false pretense of watching a movie on Netflix, drink wine, talk about work and naturally fall into bed before the end credits.  I wanted what Mila and Justin had in the movie “Friends With Benefits” minus the falling-in-love part and the big dance number at the end of the movie.  I thought it was possible for two grown-ass adults to get along and respectfully take care of each other’s sexual needs.

I was wrong.

Turns out that even in 2019, despite women burning bras and the rise of feminism, men are still uncomfortable with women being unapologetically explicit about their sexual needs.  I’ve seen men, countless times, dictate to women to “swipe left if all you’re looking for is sex because I’m looking for something real”.  As if there is nothing real about the very intimate act of sex.  Meanwhile, it’s still acceptable for men to state in their profile that they are not looking for anything serious.

From my own interactions with men, I noticed that they just couldn’t accept me for who I was.  They either tried to make my intentions purer then what they were: “You think you’re looking for sex only but what you really need is someone who will be there for you and support you and love you for all that you have to offer”.  Or, on the opposite, I was reduced to a vessel, created only for a man’s pleasure.  If I wasn’t asked if I liked sucking c*cks, I was told on a regular basis how I was going to “be f*cked in the as*” or have cum all over my big tits – true story!  First, my butt hole in an exit-only door and, sorry to disappoint you, but I have very average-size breasts. 

A few men thought they were at ease with what I was looking for and even welcomed the challenge of taking care of my needs.  Well, on paper, anyways.  There was B, in his mid-forties, good-looking, tall, industrial designer, with a talent for conveying his thoughts into beautifully worded phrases.  I immediately liked his charming confidence.  We messaged for a couple of weeks before moving to phone conversations.  The first time we spoke on the phone, there was no awkwardness, I felt like I was talking to an old friend.  We talked about past relationships factually, we exchanged parenting tips, when I confessed my love for everything vintage, he surprised me by giving me a list of online stores that were sure to please me.  Simply put, we clicked.  The following days, he sent me random flirtatious texts.  I responded with my usual candid humour which, he told me, he found refreshing. 

We met a couple of weeks after our initial phone conversation.  I immediately liked everything about him.  The way he smiled at me from across the bookstore when he saw me, to how he waltzed his way to me and confidently kissed and hugged me.  B never once felt like a stranger to me.  We headed to a local bar for drinks.  The conversations between us were flirtatious, funny and sometimes intimate.  When I told him about the moment I realized that my marriage was over, he leaned in and sweetly kissed me on the cheek, close to my lips, just like a friend who wants to sleep with me would. 

I felt confident, as I walked back to my car, at the end of our date, that I was going to see more of him – hopefully with fewer clothes.  He texted me that he had a great time and couldn’t wait to see me again.  We made plans by text to possibly check out a show.  But we never did. 

A few weeks after our first and only date, we finally had a conversation where he told me that he was confused about us.  He felt like he could easily fall in love with me but at the same time, he was very aware that I wasn’t looking for anything committed and that he just didn’t want to risk getting attached or hurt unnecessarily.  I didn’t argue with him.  I didn’t tell him that in life there are no guarantees.  Sometimes you fall in love, other times you fall out of love. Sometimes, you get hurt, partners leave without explanations, then you meet people who make you smile without even saying a word. If you’re fortunate, they stay in your life forever or their presence lasts just a fleeting moment.  Love doesn’t always last forever.  Neither does pain or hurt.  That’s what is so amazing about being human, it’s our ability to have various emotions and experiences, which makes life real. 

I didn’t tell him any of this because I have always felt like this is something I shouldn’t have to put into words for someone who is meant to share my life, no matter how casual or committed our relationship is.  I want to share my time with someone who just gets it and is unafraid of the realities of relationships and life. 

There was also the string of men who didn’t want to meet in public and expected me to just show up at their residence and have sex with them.  Or the men who didn’t understand why I felt offended when they told me that they had always fantasized about f*cking a Black chick or a voluptuous woman. 

What I gather from my interactions with men is that, as a woman who is looking for a NSA relationship, I’m not entitled to the same respect and quality of interaction that a woman who is looking for something serious might get.  I’m not entitled to have a man take a chance on me.  It feels ironic to me that in an era where we’re supposed to be so “woke” or sex-positive, wanting a relationship that is purely platonic is unsettling for most. 

I wish I could tell you that there was a happy ending to my (mis)adventures into the dating world but alas, no.  A couple of years in and I have yet to make a connection with anyone.  On odd days, I feel like there is something wrong with me.  That I’m not as pretty, charming, intelligent or easy-going as I think I am.  I feel like my openness about sexuality is a deterrent to start anything genuine with men. That I scare men away with my needs. On other days, I can clearly see the impacts that our social disconnect has on us and our human experiences.  I feel that we are slowly losing our abilities to let relationships of any type develop organically. 

And on my optimistic days, I tell myself that this is life’s way of naturally filtering out men for me so that eventually I get to the one who just understands and accepts me the way I am.  No unnecessary questioning. 

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