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Friends with benefits (FWB) has morphed into a taboo subject for many collegiettes. When you’re home on holiday break or just talking to your mom on the phone, potential significant others always seem to sneak their way into the conversation. That hot guy or girl from all the Facebook photos? Out of embarrassment or another cringe-worthy emotion, you’re forced to tell a fib. “We’re just friends.” Yes, that much is true, but there’s added advantages that come with being friends with the hot guy or girl from all the Facebook photos. Despite the small details you’ll probably have to keep from the family (unless you’re super close), FWB can be more than just regular hookups. The non-sexual benefits can help you learn about yourself and improve your day-to-day life, given the relationship’s relaxed nature.

1. Gain experience without the emotional complications

We all come into college with different levels of sexual experience. Some of us lost our virginity in high school, while some of us still dream of our first kiss with a Liam Hemsworth or Gigi Hadid look-alike. Whatever your sexual experience is, FWB offers a unique solution to those of you who’d like to learn a thing or two without the emotional baggage. Erica*, a freshman at Temple University, believes that “FWB is a good first-hand experience to know what different things feel like. You can watch a sex scene in a movie or read about in a book, but if you’ve never had sex, it’s hard to fully understand your friends when they talk about it.”

If your younger sister had sex before you, or your friends all talk about sex and you stay silent, it’s only natural that your inexperience will weigh heavier on your shoulders. As long as you’re okay with no-strings-attached sex, FWB can act as a learning experience. Especially if your partner is older or simply more experienced, they can teach you a thing or two before you get involved in a real relationship. You’ll feel more confident when the big time comes. If you’re a virgin and trying FWB for the first time, please be aware that you might become emotionally invested. Sometimes your brain and heart don’t agree.  

2. Work around busy schedules

It’s possible you haven’t had a full eight hours of sleep in a while. Writing essays, finishing problem sets, and last-minute cramming have become ingrained in everyday life. Even though you’re not stuck in high school for seven hours straight anymore, it seems like learning to function in college takes twice as much effort and energy. If you’re one of the many who doesn’t have time for a full-time relationship, FWB might be the perfect solution. Rachel Petty, a graduate of James Madison University, says, “Sometimes having a FWB can be a lot of fun! You get the perks of a hookup without any commitment. If you’re okay with it not turning into something more, there’s no reason not to. Just make sure you’re both on the same page!” To avoid any miscommunication or unrealistic expectations, listen to Rachel’s advice and make sure you and your FWB understand one another. If they’re not around and you want to meet up multiple times a week, some problems may arise.

3. Fill the physical affection void

No matter how hot your cardboard cutout of your favorite movie star may be, he or she isn’t going to be very comfortable to cuddle with at night. College is a strange place for physical affection. Sometimes you can go for weeks at a time without a hug (especially in the beginning) or you can become a permanent chair for your bestie. It all depends on how touchy feely you are and how close you are with the people around you. Even if you’re the type of person who needs a constant five-foot radius of personal space, there’s always a night when you crave intimacy of some sort. Anna*, a sophomore at Stanford University, says, “From first hand experience, I know that being single can be tough if you’re having a particularly stressful day. Yes, a hug from a friend can help or a phone call home, but there’s something about having a FWB on speed dial that’s exhilarating and comforting at the same time.” Instead of ordering a pizza, order a steamy session with your FWB.

Related: 5 Signs Your Friends-With-Benefits Relationship Isn’t Working

4. Learn about sexual likes and dislikes

Although FWB can be a way for inexperienced collegiettes to get the gist of all things sexual, it can also be a way to experiment. If you want to go Fifty Shades of Grey-style, find someone who’d fulfill that fantasy! There’s no limit to what you can try out. In past relationships, your partner may have set sexual boundaries, while you wanted to go further. Use FWB as a means of expanding your skillset, like discovering how to have fantastic oral sex. Scarlett*, a freshman at Georgia Tech, explains, “FWB is a good way to figure out what you want in a non-serious setting. It’s an easygoing environment through which you can really experiment with things and find what you’re comfortable with, what you like, and what’s definitely off the table.” Remember, your sexual pleasure and health are the most important. It’s totally okay to be selfish in this situation—just make sure you have consent first.

5. Strengthen a previously platonic friendship

Even though FWB is typically known to mess up or make friendships awkward, it can also have the adverse effect. Think about it—if both of you are clear with one another, mutual understanding is at an all time high. Paige*, a junior at Stanford University, says, “It’s funny because my FWB and I started out just talking to one another. We both had very similar interests and one night I was feeling particularly stressed while doing homework in his room. He offered to lay with me and it soon turned steamy. We both agreed before having sex that it was just sex, nothing more. The trust between us has definitely gotten stronger because we promised to let each other know when we’re interested romantically in someone else.” For the relationship to work smoothly, a certain level of maturity has to be present.

If you’ve watched a number of Hollywood blockbusters depicting the crash-and-burn reputation of FWB, we’re suggesting you keep an open mind. It’s true that FWB isn’t for everyone and sometimes friendships end up ruined, but it’s a chance to explore another type of relationship. Whether you’re the the president of every club and don’t have time for a commitment or you’re a virgin and want to know what sex is all about, FWB offers the flexibility and versatility you might want. You’ll never know if it’s a good option if you don’t give it a chance.

Emily Schmidt

Stanford '20

Emily Schmidt is a junior at Stanford University, studying English and Spanish. Originally from the suburbs of Philadelphia, she quickly fell in love with the Californian sunshine and warm winter temperatures. Emily writes a hodgepodge of pieces from satiric articles for The Stanford Daily to free-verse poetry to historical fiction. Just like her writing repertoire, her collection of hobbies are widely scattered from speed-crocheting to Irish dancing to practicing calligraphy. When she is not writing or reading, Emily can also be found jamming out to Phil Collins or watching her favorite film, 'Belle.'