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Author Topic: Boyfriend or hookup?
evesforeva
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I am very much a fan of this site, but I've noticed that a lot of the advice in the articles about sexual relationships seems to imply that we should avoid hookups, i.e. relationships that comprise of little more than sex. I would be shocked if you took an absolute stance on it, but I am curious about why the articles often mention that a good sexual relationship has a foundation outside of sex or that sex should be about intimacy rather than horniness. Do you have some concerns specific to hookups?

I've had hookups in the past that I thought were successful, and I think we both enjoyed it. I am, however, curious about what having an actual boyfriend would feel like. My curiosity stems from wanting to understand why everyone single wants to have a significant other, but everyone with SOs constantly complain about their partners. (Well, not everyone. But it often feels that way.) What is all the hype about?

I've had friends with benefits before, but it never seems to work out. I'm wondering if my experiences with them might be an indicator of whether a romantic relationship is something I should pursue. What differences does a SO have from a FwB? Are there activities that separate the two or is it more of a mindset? Is it one of those "different for different people" things?

Asking all these various questions because I've been thinking about asking my friend out. I think he's very attractive, and I've wanted to screw him since we met. But if I'm not really the type of person who would want to have an SO, then it doesn't make sense to ruin the friendship. He's a wonderful friend, and there are plenty of attractive men out there. (Gives me more time to learn how to masturbate I guess.)

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Robin Lee
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Hi evesforeva,

I think these are some really salient questions.

The bottom line, I think, is that what works for any one person isn't going to be the same thing that works for any other person. Further complicating things is, what works for someone at one point in their lives won't necessarily work for them at another point, or what works for them with one partner (whatever kind of partner) won't work for them with another.

That said, I don't think there are kinds of people for whom one type of relationship will or won't work. There's most likely nothing about you, in particular, that makes you the kind of person who wouldn't want to have a significant other.

In regards to asking your friend out, what do you feel you want out of this? Do you want an exclusive commitment with him? Do you want things to basically remain the same except that you and he date and have sex sometimes? Do you have any sense for what his views on relationships are? Is a friends-with-b benefits set-up something you'd prefer to have with him?


Sometimes a type of relationship doesn't work out because it's just not going to work for one or more people in the relationship. Sometimes, though, it has more to do with how the people in the relationship (whatever kind of relationship it is, communicate their needs and wants about the relationship to each other.

Have you seen this article on relationship models? The material in here applies to a sexual or romantic relationship, meaning that we know that not all relationships will be romantic. I think you'd find some of the considerations in this piece to be a good starting place for figuring out what you might want right now.

Supermodel: Creating & Nurturing Your Own Best Relationship Models

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Robin

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Heather
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Hey, evesforeva: I'd be pretty upset (with myself) if our articles, as a whole, did say any one kind of relationship was better than another or say people should "avoid hookups" in any broad way. So, do you mind pointing me to articles you feel are giving those messages?

Because that's really not in alignment with our values as an organization, and as the primary writer of all the content here, it also certainly isn't in line with my own thoughts, feelings and life experience.

Of course, it'd actually be hard to have a relationship that's about absolutely nothing but sex unless it only lasted and existed during one sexual session. In other words, even with relationships that are primarily sexual in nature, we have to communicate in ways that aren't just sexual (as in, communicate in ways beyond sexual touching). Even casual sexual relationships usually have something else going on, like a friendship of some kind, even if it's also a light or casual one.

As well, I'm not sure we can pit lust against intimacy, or make them two totally separate things. Especially since feeling of lust or horniness, as you put it, are personal feelings, whereas intimacy is something people -- and not just people engaging in sex together -- create together, so they're not really similar things, if you follow me.

Lastly, I would say that in things like advice columns, we tend to hear much more from users in hookup situations, or with that as a possibility, who are saying or making clear that that just isn't what they want, or voicing things that make it clear to us, or me, that it probably wouldn't be a good choice for them based on what information they've given me about what they feel able to handle and manage, what their assertiveness and communication skills and levels are like, etc. So, my sense is that in that area of the site, we do see less in the yay-hookup arena and more of the a-different-scenrio-would-probably-be-better or more wanted group.

But anyway, again, if you wouldn't mind taking some time to show me where you're reading that message from us, I'd really appreciate it. Thanks!

[ 05-16-2013, 10:38 AM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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evesforeva
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Thank you both for your speedy replies! I haven’t had access to a keyboard until the 27th (when you guys were offline) so I couldn’t reply until now. I did have access to the internet through my cellphone, so I was able to read your replies and act on them.

Robin, your advice to ask him about his preferred relationship style was fantastic. It seems so duh after you say it. Based on his response, I don’t think asking him out would be worth it. (I don’t think I was even on his radar.)

I’m still trying to figure out the boyfriend thing in general. It seems like you’re saying SO vs FwB is a “different for different people” thing. That makes it more complicated to figure out. I’m still curious about what having a boyfriend would feel like, but I guess I have to change that interest to what having a boyfriend would feel like for me.

Is there a general way the majority or plurality of people distinguish an FwB from an SO? I understand the “normal” way is not the “right” way, but it would probably be a good starting point. It’s kinda like when you advise girls to try clitoral stimulation to get an orgasm because of the 70% likelihood it’ll work. Doesn’t mean it’s The One True Way™, but it’s a good place to start. I just need a starting point, and the definition most people use might be a good one for me.

I don’t think exclusivity makes a relationship a dating relationship because that would preclude polyamorous people by definition. I don’t need exclusivity to figure out what having a boyfriend would feel like. I’m pretty monogamous myself (and finding one boyfriend is hard enough) but I wouldn’t mind being in a poly-mono dating relationship.

I have no interest in an FwB at this point in my life. The friendship always dies, and I’ve never been able to get it back without ending the sexual part of the relationship. They don’t work for me [Frown]

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evesforeva
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Heather, I didn’t mean to make it sound like I thought you were condemning hookups as the ultimate evil. You do a very good job of not expressing value judgments on any relationship style that is consensual. It just seemed kinda interesting that some of your advice would exclude hookups. I was wondering if it was something like when you cautioned against having a much older boyfriend, not to judge people in relationships with a large age-difference, but to express concerns about unhealthy things that tend to be more prevalent in such relationships. Considering how many teens and young adults here are looking to make their relationships less about sex, it makes sense that some of the advice would be on how to avoid a relationship situation they most likely don’t want. I don’t think anyone felt judged about it though; I certainly didn’t.

The vast majority of your advice is applicable to hookups, and some of it seems even more applicable. For example, the stuff on safer sex is less important to a more serious exclusive relationship if people are honest and don’t have any STIs. (But good information in case a relationship model changes to a less exclusive one or if they don’t want children.) Condoms are a MUST with hookups. All that advice about good communication skills is always more important the further your relationship style strays from the “normal.” You can get away with a lot more assumptions and silence when you’re in a monogamous heterosexual relationship on the marriage track. (Still ill-advised, but less likely to blow up in your face.) So thank you for being a terrific resource! Your overarching theme of non-judgment trumps what seemed very much like an unintentional implication.

I wasn’t trying to pit lust against intimacy. It just seemed like you often said stuff along the lines of lust without the desire for intimacy means you should masturbate rather than have sex because sex is for when you want to share your sexuality with another person. I kinda saw it as similar to writing in a diary vs writing a letter. You write in a diary when you want to express yourself; you write a letter when you want to share your feelings with another person. Can’t have sexual intimacy without lust, so they’re not totally separate things.

I can’t really view hookups as intimate because we don’t really know each other outside of sex. Very little talking that doesn’t have to do with sex takes place. They feel more like acquaintances. Like that one person you know from that one place cus you both like to do that one thing. Except the location is a bedroom, and the activity is sex.

You asked for examples of what articles have negative implications for hookups. There are little snippets in most of the ones I’ve read. For example, the one Robin linked to mentions “But healthy, beneficial sex and quality sexual and/or romantic relationships happen… with… a basis of friendship,” and later “a solid friendship is the basis for any kind of healthy relationship.” Really the only things I’ve seen that appear to be against hookups are cautions against sexual relationships that don’t have a basis in friendship and cautions against having sex when you’re merely horny without the added intimacy part. Hookups (or at least mine) don’t really have a friendship element and are more about being willing to be someone’s human sex toy (in exchange for them being yours).

I think the advice to have relationships with a basis in friendship was to encourage people to value friendship equally to romantic relationships and value friendship within romantic relationships. I think the advice to have intimate sex was to encourage consensual relationships and a value of consent. Friendship is valuable, and consent is valuable. Sound advice as far as I’m concerned.

I definitely make maintaining my friendships a higher priority than hooking up. “Bros before hos and chicks before dicks” as the (pretty crude) saying goes. No ditching friends to go have sex with someone I barely know. Consent is paramount in a hookup experience. There is the same amount of negotiating time, place, who brings condoms (everybody!), desires, hard limits, soft limits, painful intercourse (thanks again on that one!), what went right, what went weird, what to try next time, etc. as in a romantic relationship as well as consenting to having the relationship itself be just a hookup rather than a romantic relationship.

Really, the non-judging thing holds far more weight than the implied don’t have hookups message. More quotes from the same article:

“When you’re thinking about entering into a sexual or romantic relationship it’s time to think and talk about what’s probably going to work best for you and yours, and for each of you to define, create and refine what that is to one another. There is no one model -- or type -- of relationship that is best for everyone or that everyone assumes as a default; no one label, no one set of rules and regulations, wants and needs that fits all.” (First paragraph. Way to set a tone! [Smile] )

“But healthy, beneficial sex and quality sexual and/or romantic relationships happen not in one specific way, but in an environment… that is tailored uniquely to fit the people involved, not anyone else's ideas of what is best.” (The meat of the sentence quoted earlier.)

“please know that there really, truly is no one right relationship model for everyone” (emphasis in original)

“if whatever relationship model you create with someone else has you both feeling fulfilled, harmonious and happy most of the time it really is all good.”

“know that no matter what model you mutually create that is best for you… if you both nurture it, keep talking, and keep adapting… you'll have something that's likely to benefit both of you for all of your lives”

What I did not get from that article (or any of the articles) was that hookups are the one wrong way to have a relationship. Rather, I took from it that any consensual relationship is a good relationship, and there are billions of ways to have a consensual relationship. I think that’s a pretty wonderful message [Big Grin]

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Heather
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You know, I once had this amazing experience on an airplane. (Bear with me, it'll make sense, I promise.)

I was flying to the UK in college in 1990, at a time when the first Gulf "War" was just starting. I had been doing a ton of protecting. I was also a Blake scholar at the time.

As it turned out, I was seated next to an Iraqi poetry professor for the 8-hour flight. During that flight, he and I had some of the most amazing, personal, rich conversations. So rich and intimate, that at the end of the flight, we each gave each other something we felt was incredibly valuable. To this day, the gold ring ha gave me gets kept in a very special place.

None of that exchange was romantic or sexual, and this was before email, internet, so it was, effectively, the platonic version of a one-night stand. A really great one night stand. [Smile]

I say all of that to say that I don't think that a one-night-stand, the sexual kind, or a hookup means people can't be intimate. In fact, I think much of the time people want to be, that's a big part of the reason why they're seeking sex with someone else, rather than masturbating. After all, that's the real difference: sex with someone else offers us companionship and the possibility of intimacy with another person.

Like any kind of relationship or intreraction though, quality is going to vary, and I don't really think that's about hooking up/casual sex vs. an ongoing sexual relationship. Especially since either can be amazing and rich, and either can be shallow and sucky, you know?

So, it's sounding to me like some of the disconnect we might be having here is perhaps about not having experienced hookups with any richness or depth or connection: you say that, for you, it's been about being like someone's toy. That can be how that goes, but it also doesn't have to be how that goes. I told you the story I did up there as an example instead of a sexual version because, you know, boundaries. [Smile] But suffice it to say, something like that can happen with casual sex, too, and I've certainly had plenty of those experience myself. No more or less, I'd say, than in ongoing relationships.

Make sense? Am I heading in the right direction per what you're looking for here and having trouble finding?

P.S. The older I get -- and this might well be personal versus universal, I suspect, like most things, it is -- the more I find that distinguishing between what a "friend with benefits" is, when there truly is a friendship, not when that's just a way of pretending a relationship or interaction has more depth or meaning to both people than it does, and what a "significant other" is gets mushier and mushier. Especially since over time, healthy, beneficial sexual relationships that do wind up being long-term, like romantic relationships, tend to all boil down to having friendship at their core.

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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I should have probably added that really, based on what we know, via study and anecdotally from people, people who tend to do well with casual sex, who find they feel it's been something enriching, at feels good for them emotionally over time? Usually, those aren't the folks saying they've felt like a sex toy during those interactions (just like people who feel that way per the sexual dynamics in ongoing relationships, or otherwise committed relationships don't tend to report feeling very good about that).

And really, that's the stuff where we talk about choosing between sex with someone else and masturbating, and why we do. If we don't really want to deal with and acknowledge another person as a whole person, a real person, not an object, being sexual with them -- instead of just by ourselves -- just often isn't a good idea, because it's what is less likely to result in everyone involved feeling great, physically and emotionally, versus shorter-term interactions which may be casual, or based on mostly, or entirely, engaging in sex, but where everyone is still recognizing the whole personhood of someone else and wanting to connect with another person vs. using their body parts like toys, in a word.

And we can all do that, whether a sexual relationship lasts for years or only hours.

Make sense?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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evesforeva
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This seems like either a "different strokes for different folks" thing or a "same word, different definitions" thing. It makes sense that your advice would preclude the type of hookups I have, rather than hookups in general if you view/define hookups as intimate short-term sexual relationships.

I think my hookups are fun. They're actually semi-long term: one lasted 7 months; another lasted 3 months, but is still kinda ongoing long distance.

I have had some intimate platonic one-night-stands before. (Aren't they great! [Smile] ) They're part of what makes me say that the hookups I have aren't intimate. I've felt closer to people I've known for less time.

I would say my hookups are quality, but on a different scale. They're not very intimate, but they are fun. (With the assumption that intimate relationships are fun as well, otherwise why would you even.) I come to them seeking fun. But I get my intimacy from my friends who I actually know.

I do set boundaries. (And honor the ones set by my hookups.) As I mentioned earlier, consent is very important to my hookups. If someone doesn't want to or doesn't want to do that one thing or wants to stop early for whatever reason, then that's the final word on it. No hard feelings, nothing personal. (Why would it be?) I really value consent, and I only hookup with people who do too.

Bit of a story on the sort of consent I don't tolerate: My first sexual relationship was an FwB thing that made me miserable. He was the type of person who would not allow anyone to disagree with him about anything. You had to like the movies he liked, otherwise he'd make you watch them over and over again. You had to like the food he liked, otherwise he'd badger you with a hundred questions on how it could possibly be that you don't like the most awesome thing ever. And on and on. He'd get so frustrated the few times I stuck to my guns and refused to answer anymore questions and this thing or do that thing yet another time.

It sorta carried on into sex. He wouldn't do anything I didn't consent to, but I could see on his face and in his demeanor that he was so angry that I didn't want to do thing X at time Y. It seemed kinda like he was just following The Rule that you can't pressure people when it comes to sex. And he hated The Rule.

When I say I value consent, I mean that I think it is one of the most important factors that will make a sexual experience good. It's not The Rule that keeps you from having fun because *something* *something* rape is illegal *mumble* *grumble*. It is the fun. (At least part of the fun.) "I can't tonight" doesn't hinder sex; it saves you from inevitably crappy sex you wouldn't want anyway. I only hookup with people who more or less agree with that sentiment.

Even though my FwB was a pretty close friend for two years beforehand, I still enjoyed sex with my hookups much more. More accurately, I actually enjoyed sex with my hookups (a lot!) but I deeply regretted sex with my FwB.

I don't feel used even though I kinda was a tool. I just feel like I had fun. Maybe the folks who said they felt like an object were expecting intimacy. If something doesn't meet your expectations, then of course it'd be a letdown. Sex (and sex overtime) would magnify the intensity of those feelings of dissatisfaction. But if the expectations of those in the study was just to have a lot of fun, and they had a lot of fun, but later felt crappy about it, then that would be something I'd worry about.

I've kinda felt that the whole objectification problem (at least in a sexual setting) was about not seeing the "object" as something whose consent mattered. (You don't have to get the consent of a chair to sit on it, right?) I thought you could see someone any way you want as long as you see them as worthy of autonomy. (Well, sorta. There's also stuff about power dynamics and human rights that are way outside the scope of what I'm talking about.)

So I guess I defined/viewed hookups as consensual sexual relationships between strangers/acquaintances that are too much about just having fun sex to be intimate. Your anecdote about the Iraqi poetry professor has made me think about it some more. Despite having platonic experiences like the one you described, it never really dawned on me that you could have that with a short-term sexual experience or that that sort of thing was the platonic version of a one-night-stand. I'm going to generalize my definition/view to be consensual sexual relationships between strangers/acquaintances.

P.S. Sounds like you're saying the difference between an SO and an FwB is mindset. So I guess if I actually have a healthy FwB relationship (third time's a charm?) or a casual bf, then I will be able to figure out what about romantic relationships has got people going crazy. Makes it easier/harder/different-er, I guess. I'm a reading you correctly?

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evesforeva
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Or is a mindset for most people because it's also different for different people.
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Heather
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If you're saying that however you're going about casual sex works for you and yours, it's all win.

I think people who say that feeling like a toy is something negative for them are, as I was trying to explain, having an experience where they don't feel like another person was treating them like a person, but like a thing, which is what a toy is. I don't think that's just a matter of people thinking they wanted intimacy and not finding it: I think more often those folks WERE treated like objects. In a word, like someone was masturbating on or to them, but not really interacting with them as if they WERE people.

Consent doesn't matter with objects, after all: so even when real consent is a real issue everyone takes seriously? We can know that no one is being treated like an object. If someone feels like the thought of being a "toy" is fun and exciting and enjoyable for them, they get to think that way, but if they and their partners are all making things like consent and mutual pleasure meaningful, we can know that, in reality, people aren't being treated like objects, but like people.

What I hear with what you're wondering around your friend -- correct me if I'm wrong -- is a concern this would be something that could wind up ongoing, and ongoing isn't what you want? Or something that could involve bigger feelings than say, sex with a stranger or a one-night-stand where you didn't know someone well, and that's not something you want to be open to right now?

--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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evesforeva
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Huh? Which friend? The friend I mentioned in the first post (Friend A) is a different friend from the friend I mentioned in the last post (Friend B). I guess I was kinda confusing about that.

I haven't had any sort of sexual relationship with Friend A. I just wanted to ask him out. I didn't ask Friend A out because he said he was only interested in serious relationships.

I was in a friends-with-benefits relationship with Friend B, but it wasn't working. I already ended the sexual part of my relationship with Friend B two years ago.

So the friends thing with specific Friend A and Friend B is squared away. Sorry about the confusion.

I think we did have a "same word, different definition" thing going a bit. I think calling it a hookup makes it sound like a one-night-stand when it's more like a couple-months-stand. I like ongoing casual relationships like the ones I've had with my hookups. I use the term "booty call" tongue-in-cheek with my friends. I'm still kinda interested in a casual romantic relationship or another booty call, whichever comes my way first.

I'm not afraid of "bigger feelings" whatever those are. I don't think I'm the sort of person who needs to have that in place to enjoy a sexual relationship, which is why booty calls work so well for me. But I think it'd be fine to have bigger feelings with a sexual partner. (Won't know til it happens though.) I already feel pretty big feelings with my friends and family, so I (maybe naively) feel prepared.

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Heather
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I was responding to this:
quote:
I've been thinking about asking my friend out. I think he's very attractive, and I've wanted to screw him since we met. But if I'm not really the type of person who would want to have an SO, then it doesn't make sense to ruin the friendship. He's a wonderful friend, and there are plenty of attractive men out there.


--------------------
Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Heather
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I think with the language, the tricky thing is that "hookup" is usually a word I'd say people use, when they use it, to describe an experience or interaction versus any kind of ongoing relationship.

IOW, "hookup" is a thing people can do, rather than a way people might describe something ongoing as a relationship. Of course, that term, altogether, tends to mean all sorts of different things to different people: http://www.scarleteen.com/node/3198

Mind, shorthand for any ongoing interaction or relationship with someone is always pretty confusing unless all we're trying to communicate is something incredibly simple.

[ 06-03-2013, 04:58 PM: Message edited by: Heather ]

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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