Can you ever really ‘just’ have casual sex with friends? FJ readers weigh in


Cunnilingus with friends.

It should come as no surprise that my favourite rom-com is the 2011 Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake banger, Friends With Benefits. After moving away from home, I spent a good part of my early twenties making friends – with a number of those new friendships ending in various degrees of romantic and sexual ‘entanglement‘.

Once, the ‘friendship’ (for me) was eclipsed by a big fat crush (BFC). While I’d always thought this person was cute, I suppressed my BFC and told myself there was no way they were interested in me. We were friends! Well, we were until we drunkenly slept together one night, I confessed to my crush and our relationship was never the same.

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While it was easy enough for Mila and Justin to tell themselves they ‘wouldn’t get attached’, it wasn’t as simple in practice (and spoiler alert: they get together in the end, so they were never really just friends). At the same time, I’ve also experienced some casual friendship sex success stories, in which we boinked and remained wonderfully platonic mates. So is it situationally successful, or are we all just in post-coital-awkwardness denial? To find out, I asked five of our readers.

Lucia, 21, she/her

When I was fresh out of high school, I was living in a relatively small town – which meant my sexual partner pool was limited. I resorted to sleeping with guy friends, mainly after nights of drinking. I thought it was empowering and no big deal. For the most part, it was.

With a lot of them, I was able to compartmentalise and separate the sex and the friendships. I didn’t see any of them as potential partners, so that made it easier. It’s now a few years later and I don’t really think of it the same way. A lot of the time, my guy friends seemed to expect things from me. It makes me wonder: are purely platonic friendships with young guys even possible? I’m still trying to work that one out.

Sage, 28, she/her

I’ve had sex with a handful of friends over the years. Sometimes it’s been a mutually agreeable, easy situation, but more often than not one of us had feelings from the get-go or developed them over the course of sleeping together. I do think you can sometimes separate sex and friendship, but it really does differ from situation to situation. I have two good male friends and I used to have casual sex with both of them (and briefly dated one of them, too) and while there was an awkward period after both those situations ended, we’ve remained friends and I honestly never really think about the fact that we used to bump uglies.

There were definitely a few months of weirdness with the friend I dated where I could tell he felt uncomfortable around me (he was the one who ended it because he had feelings for someone else), and I had to really work at emphasising the fact that I just wanted to be his friend. I think men have this tendency to assume that if you have sex/date them once, then you’ll always be into them in some capacity – which obviously isn’t true. With some clear communication and honesty though, our friendship was salvaged and we are close mates to this day.

I would honestly feel fine with my partner having slept with some of their friends. I looked around my friend group a while back and realised that were at least four or five of us who had at some point had sex/casually dated each other. There’s no awkwardness or hang-ups around this – it’s just part of life.

A good friendship can be the basis for great sex, and potentially a great relationship, so I think it makes perfect sense that has sex with our friends. Obviously, it can complicate things and the older I get the less inclined I feel to jeopardise friendships by dating/having sex with them. It would have to be a pretty strong energy/feeling between me and a friend for me to want to explore it.

Rose, 23, she/her

I don’t think sex with friends really works. I think it can work out okay if they’re a new friend and you cut it off before anyone gets feelings, but otherwise, I think things get too messy and you definitely risk losing the friendship. I’ve done it before with people who I had been friends with for a few weeks, but honestly once we stopped having sex we weren’t very close. I think a lot of the attraction to them as a friend came from sexual attraction, realistically.

Harry, 23, he/him

When I first started seeing my girlfriend she introduced me to a wide social circle, and many of those people are good friends today (years on). A few weeks into our relationship, she nervously told me that she’d had casual sex with two of the male friends she had introduced me to.

Now I would usually consider myself a jealous person, and maybe these were extraordinary circumstances, but I actually really got along with two guys she had slept with, and they both seemed to be comfortable in a platonic friendship with my partner after the fact. So much so, that when she told me, I wasn’t pressed at all, and I thought that being able to stay friends after casual sex is kind of admirable, especially seeing as these friends were now my friends too.

Hank, 25, he/him

I’m the biggest proponent of not sleeping with your friends. I am a campaigner, a zealot, a monk at the altar of completely platonic friendship. I scream it from the rooftops. To be anything else, to me, is insane.

I, and most people, think of their friends as their second family. The closest thing you can get to siblings without being related. So, logically, I don’t want to fuck my siblings. Duh. But there are other reasons for my stance than incest.

Platonic relationships to me, especially between opposite genders, are a powerful thing. I keep a staunch platonic overcurrent with my female friends as proof that I truly only value them for their personhood. To allow someone to interact with you without the pretence that you are judging their sexual viability is to give them the space to really be themselves. To discuss the grosser parts of their lives, to not look their best, to simply allow their body to be a vessel that holds a personality. I think a certain level of distance actually creates more intimacy. Not less.

Thirdly, it allows romantic partners to be more comfortable. I like to have lone afternoons and outings with my friends, and I think a partner who would feel uncomfortable about me doing those things with someone who’s seen what I look like cumming, would be justified in their discomfort. They wouldn’t be ‘right’ but I wouldn’t be able to argue with the logic as much as I could if they felt uncomfortable with me going to a movie with a friend who I’d had no history with. I want my friendships to be airtight.

All that being said, I’ve softened a bit on this crusade. I still believe in it, but I don’t hold the banner as high anymore. I understand that life doesn’t always allow you to sleep with someone and eject them from your life. I understand that, sometimes, the sex is so sterile and austere, that to use it as a reason you can’t be friends anymore would be illogical. I also understand that, especially for women, finding someone safe and normal to have sex with often means choosing from a group of people you already know.

I will relent that it can’t always be black and white. Especially in your twenties. That being said, I still do think that sex does have a potency and a weight to it. Even in our more sex-positive society, to act like seeing someone naked and panting and orgasming won’t affect the trajectory of your lives together is naïve to me. All I’m encouraging is for people to consider the advantages of keeping some people off-limits. To relegate them to complete sexlessness. It’s a beautiful thing.

Francesca, 29, she/her

I can’t quite remember how I started having casual sex with my friend Ben. I think it was probably a drunken night out and it felt easy, so we just kept up that part of the relationship. He was in the early stages of seeing someone, but I assumed that was also casual and everyone was aware of the situation. I’m not sure if she ever really knew. Eventually, that other relationship fizzled out and our friends-with-benefits situation became something more akin to a situationship.

We weren’t ever boyfriend and girlfriend, and that’s not something I ever wanted with him. Although, in retrospect, I can see he did want something more. I think it’s definitely possible for friends to have casual sex, as long as everyone is on the same page, and there’s clear communication and mutual respect for the situation. That was clearly lacking in my case, so take it as a guidebook on what not to do.

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