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Sex Friends: How Real is 'No Strings Attached'?

Well, can they? Image courtesy Paramount Pictures.
Well, can they? Image courtesy Paramount Pictures.

Welcome to the evolution of dating. As human nature moves further away from that of an ape's instinct, our relationship advances follow suit. From the cavemen clubbing an attractive female in the head; to the ancient farmers trading daughters as wives for cattle; to the historic short meet and greets before being married off to a slightly familiar face; and then to the world of the dating pool.

Now it seems that our dating expansions have taken another noticeable step to the realization that sex could just be sex, and your friend is pretty cute, even if he is a total moron who has no cash. An ideal relationship with hand holding, romantic dates and sweet strolls around the neighborhood seems far fetched, but that's not quite what you want right now anyway. Even if it turns into that later, that's okay, right? It works out in the movies from time to time.

“No Strings Attached” features Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman getting it on for simply pleasure purposes, while the upcoming “Friends with Benefits” starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake appears to present the same basic storyline. The recent Hathaway/Gyllenhaal film “Love and Other Drugs” bares all of our formerly innocent Mia Thermopolis to the big screen as the two find sex as a distraction from their miserable lives. The story continues to television every week. Chuck and Blaire of “Gossip Girl” sleep together and promise to forget feelings, and “One Tree Hill” has immersed itself into a myriad of sex friend pairings that one does not stand out from another.

Spoiler Alert: They all end up together. Kunis and Timberlake haven't premiered their film, but pattern proves the point. Each pair spends enough time under the sheets to begin talking. Talking leads to unexpected emotions. Love comes into play, and bam! Welcome to the greatest hoax in 2D entertainment.

“That is rarer in real life and it sets people up for dashed expectations, or overly romantic notions about what's going on,” says Dr. Pepper Schwartz, professor of sociology at the University of Washington, who has written multiple books on relationships and compatibility and appeared on “Oprah” and CNN.  “If you want more, that's not part of the deal. Even if your feelings change, you could feel used and it might interfere with you finding a real relationship.”

Though, Schwartz does not completely write off the idea of a successful friends-with-benefits relationship, “People will talk affectionately about someone they had a sexual relationship with in the past that was fun and warm but that didn't go anywhere. Some of them are still friends with this person.”

So there's a chance at a convivial lifestyle filled with friends by day and pleasure by night, but no fool-proof plan comes through with flying colors without a few rules and regulations along the way.

“For it to work people have to agree not to try to make it any more than it is,” says Schwartz, “No words of love, no expressions of disappointment if someone can't make time for the other person, [and] no inquiries into the other person's sexual life outside the one they have together.”

Writer Jasmine Leigh, a woman's sexuality correspondent for Ask Men, clearly illustrates the steps of casual sex friends in her article: “test the waters,” “set the standard,” and avoid sounding like a sex fiend or God's gift to your preferred sex.

Sometimes even keeping the “friend” out of friends with benefits is the answer. Schwartz says that relationships like these range “from people who barely know each other to people who are genuine friends and who, for some reason, are not going off into the sunset with each other.”

Does this mean if two people, simply interested in sex, approach one another and follow all the rules, they'll reap only the positives? As long as it remains absent of all love-like emotions, it seems to be a resounding “yes.”

There are horror stories all around the web of contracting STD's that scar women and men for the rest of their lives, but stories as such lack the element of trust suggested when taking up a friend with benefits. Schwartz recommends finding someone who has respect when jumping into bed. Made Man's online article includes constant protection in their steps to a casual sex relationship.

“The last thing you want is a baby with a chick like this," says contributing writer Nadine Hartley . "Not to say she's not a good person or wouldn't make a good mother, but there's a reason she is a friend with benefits and not your girlfriend or wife."

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