Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman in Paramount Pictures' 'No Strings …According to UrbanDictionary.com,"friends with benefits" are defined as friends by day, sex partners by night. The recent movie "No Strings Attached" with Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman explored this concept and asked whether a sex-friends situation can actually work. Well, can it, or does someone inevitably get hurt in the end? Shine spoke with Dr. Logan Levkoff,Sex and Relationship Expert, PerfectMatch.com, to delve deeper into questions we had about this now seemingly mainstream relationship concept. Leave us your best advice on no-strings-attached relationships in the comments and you could win a Blu-ray/DVD copy of the movie, plus a Girls Night In prize pack that includes Sprinkles cupcake mix, tote, socks, and a wine opener.
Shine: Can a "friends with benefits" relationship actually work?
Dr. Logan Levkoff: It can work if everyone is really clear about what they want and really clear if there is a time when what they want changes. I think that often-times people go into this, similar to the way the characters in the movie do, where one person has a very clear set of rules and makes certain assumptions and then life kind of throws a wrench into that and it changes. It is certainly possible to have a relationship that is just based on sex as long as you are willing to be upfront about it if something starts to evolve one way or the other.
Shine: In the movie, Ashton Kutcher's character wants to be more than sex friends, while Natalie Portman initially only wants a sexual relationship. It seems like a role reversal. Do you think one gender is able to maintain this kind of relationship more than the other?
Dr. Levkoff: We have these ideas that traditionally men are capable of separating love and sex and women aren't. That is an old idea. The truth of the matter is both men and women are capable of separating sex from love.
Shine: If you do choose this type of relationship, what are some of the ground rules that need to be established?
Dr. Levkoff: The first thing to establish is that it is going to be something strictly based on sex, and then to be clear that if you or the other person ever feel differently that you will be upfront about it. Often times we don't communicate well, especially when there is sex involved. We start to assume that someone gets us and that they are magically going to get us on a whole host of levels. And really, without communicating your needs, that doesn't happen.
Shine: What about sex on the first date? Can you have a successful relationship after this?
Dr. Levkoff: Yes. I am a big believer that there are no such things as rules when it comes to relationships, as long as we are all clear on what we want and clear about some of these silly expectations people have about women or men that have sex on the first date. As long as you are OK with that and willing to speak up about your own needs, then it really doesn't make a difference.
Shine: Where do these rules come from?
Dr. Levkoff: I think we still make certain assumptions about women specifically who have sex on the first date. It comes from this sad, old double-standard of an unequal playing field for sex when it comes to men and women. That being said, we have made some headway -- we have more media outlets, we have more public stories where women are owning their sexuality and putting out there that "my pleasure is important and that doesn't say anything about my character." A woman wanting to acknowledge that she is a sexual being doesn't make her a bad person.
Shine: What advice would you give to a friend if they asked you whether or not they should pursue this type of relationship?
Dr. Levkoff: First, I would find out if this is someone they're only sexually attracted to or if it's someone they think they may have a connection to. If it's someone they had an emotional connection to, I would say: "Hold off because you might not get what you want from this." If they are strictly into it from a sexual-chemistry perspective, then I would say go for it. But just know what you are getting into and be really clear with your feelings so that you don't get hurt in the end or you don't hurt someone else.
Shine: Does someone always end up getting hurt in the end?
Dr. Levkoff: More often than not someone does get hurt because we start to have this weird idea that if we put sex first that maybe the relationship is going to come afterwards. In our high-tech, fast-paced world we have kind of lost the art of actually talking about our feelings. It seems, on the surface, like it would be much easier to just jump in with your body and then you will find a way to talk about your feelings. Often-times, unfortunately, that backfires if you are going into a friends-with-benefits situation hoping that it might turn into something else.
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