Stay Thirsty: The Science Behind Friends With Benefits Says It’s A Disaster

It’s a common dilemma. Many women now are spending significant portions of their adult lives single, as the age of first marriage seems to increase each year, and it seems ridiculous to wait on sex just because we haven’t yet found Mr. Right. So, if you have a wonderful, sexy male friend in the same situation, it’s a no-brainer, right? Friends with benefits, or having sex with a friend with no strings attached, seems like an ideal solution, right? Wrong.

There’s something called “drive reduction theory” that shows that when we have an increasing physical need — like sex — then our motivation to meet that need, through socially acceptable means, also rises. So if we are feeling amorous, we might be motivated to get up off the couch, wash our hair, shave our legs and put on a sexy outfit and hang out someplace where sexy masculine men who smell good might go. In other words, seek a mate. One that might lead somewhere.

But if that thirst has already been quenched by lots of sex with our friend, then our drive is very diminished. We’re not driven to meet Mr. Romeo. It becomes much too easy to spend our nights eating pizza in front of the television until we get that late-night text from our benefit boy. And that’s fine and dandy, but it means that the inclination to find Mr. Right will be prolonged, indefinitely.

According to Relevant Magazine, they agree. The situation in which you give without knowing what you will receive sets you up for some major disappointment.

What do nice girls do in 2015? Yes, sexist as it may sound, this is still studied. And the answer is: they please. Studies show that where Nice Girls used to wait for sex, now they hook up with male friends who offer no commitment; it’s actually more common than dating. Hooking up, even with a friend, not only may send your heart into a deep-freeze, studies show you’re not even likely to orgasm as you would with a committed partner. So why are women doing this, again?

Our bodies actually produce chemicals, called endorphins, in anticipation of and in response to sex. These are feel good hormones, including oxytocin, vasopressin, and norepinephrine. These hormones have an “add up” response — the more times you sleep with a particular person, the more attached you will feel. Aha! The science behind why friends with benefits usually falls flat. Men don’t have this intense biochemical response, says Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., the author of Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do.

“And if you don’t use a condom, you’re getting a two-fer. About 97% of what’s in semen isn’t sperm, it’s biochemical warfare. It gets you uber-hooked on him, but he’s still free to experiment with other women sexually, while you’re stuck on him.”

Here’s what is know for sure: Many studies find that women usually get more attached to a man post-sex — and most men get detached under the exact same circumstances. That’s a deadly combination for a friendship. Occasionally, of course, it will be the man who becomes attached, and the woman stays detached, or happily, both fall for each other and live happily ever after. But don’t count on that.

FWB tends to be a huge time-and-emotion suck. It doesn’t provide what we know most women really want: a genuine love relationship. And it does put you at risk of falling for a guy who doesn’t return the feeling, but who does waste your energy, and may break your heart, too.