Ambiguity; Negotiating the Constructs of Gay Friends With Benefits

By Andrew A. Clokey


Sleeping with your EX

Imagine two gay men their mid-twenties, sitting together in a studio apartment. The room is filled with tension and uncertainty.  Michael at 22, who goes to a nearby technical college, and James at 25, is currently working for his father’s business, dated for almost 3 years, separated six months ago, and have started suddenly reconnecting. They just recently started to sleep together but they are unsure of what next steps are in their situation and are also unsure as to what would be deemed appropriate while you are sleeping with your ex. Many gay couples like them can find it difficult to understand the emotions, goals, and fun of a friend with benefits.

Though not all relationships or breakups are the same, especially when trying to create a friendship after a parting, it is a common occurrence for individuals to become friends with benefits. Navigating the confines of this notion can be difficult, to say the least. According to Psychology Today “more than 60% of university age individuals between 18 and 29 reports having at least one friend with benefits at some point during their college career”.1 The question we ask ourselves is, whether my friend or friend with benefits how does one gain clarity when it comes to conventions and expectations with this phenomenon within the constructs of the gay community?

Benefiting From a Friend or Having a Friend with Benefits?

With the current stereotypes about the gay community, it can hard to unpack the notion of a friend with benefits.  There is a general preconceived understanding of the gay community that it is extraordinary to find gay men who are friends and have not been romantically or sexually involved at some point. It is a stereotype, gay friends for solely companionship sake does not exist, though it could be deemed rare based on the rate of occurrence. If we narrow focus in on pairs like Michael and James and their circumstances, we can understand the thoughts and communication that will define their relationship. Having just rekindled some sort of connection, and whether revamping an old relationship or meeting on a dating app and deciding it’s best to leave it to sex, it is difficult to speak about and establish a similar understanding. For example, the thoughts that would go through one’s mind could include;

..are we dating, was it just sex, or are we in love?

Hammering out these details are essential to creating a similar platform for both individuals to stand on when conjecturing exactly what two individuals contact entails. Similarly, learning what to expect and what is appropriate can also hard to engineer. Communication plays an essential role when it comes to delivery of any relationship. In the context of a coming from a past relationship can be challenging to differentiate past experiences with the future and current standing. How to know the level of intimacy in an FWB standpoint is a variable that James and Michael must recognize  This issue if undefined can lead to an experience known as;

“Catching Feelings”

This idea, comprised of many internal sensations, can lead to a certain amount of attachment, jealousy, and misunderstanding. If you are rekindling an old relationship there is more chance for jealousy and misconception. Though, either way, whether old or new relations the chances of a growing attachment depend on the individual. Trending the line between lover and friend with benefits can be crucial, sex means different things to different people. Some individuals see sex as an act of love, and others see it as a more cardinal instinctive act that natural can be often with many people and is removed from romance.  

One's understanding of sex can be derived from many experiences and our internal makeup. Speaking fluidly and often about what you are comfortable with is key to a safe and comfortable sexual relationship. This can be sketched as transparency and according to the article written by Douglas LaBier the Huffington Post, is “the way in which we relate to our partner and review our inner self, true and true experience. This means exposing one's vulnerabilities, fears, and as well desires and points of view”.3 Whether it is me, you or Michael and James, articulation is a major pillar of any relationship. It is with this emotional and relational clarity that we find our standing, deem what is appropriate and maneuver the joint affair of a friend with benefits.