What Millennials Really Think About Friends with Benefits

I have had two “friends with benefits” in the last six years of my life. Both ended poorly, as some of you may have guessed. The term often elicits groans from millennials, because we live in what older generations call a “hookup culture.” But what are friends with benefits? Is it a good thing, a bad thing, or somewhere in between?

Friends with benefits can take a lot of different forms and end with a huge range of results, both positive and negative. Either way, the experiences that go along with any type of relationship are never black and white. There are pros and cons and a lot of feelings intermixed.

All of this craziness can leave people with loads of questions. Can friends with benefits work out? Is FWB different than a hookup? Does it matter? How many hookups/FWBs are normal for college-aged people? How does this all fit into the supposed “hookup culture” we live in today?

I asked five college students these questions and more. Keep reading to get the lowdown on friends with benefits.


How many friends with benefits have you had? One.

What is the definition of FWB? Two people in the same social circle that hang out as friends but also have sex.

Is it different than a hookup? It’s murky. Hookup as a verb is a one-time thing and hook up as a noun is a longer-term physical relationship, where anything past making out happens.

Can FWB work? One time hookups work fine but it gets messier as you go on.

Do millennials have a “hookup culture?” Yes.



How many friends with benefits have you had? Two.

What is the definition of FWB? Friends that bang sometimes.

Is it different than a hookup? A hookup is someone that you don’t really consider a friend, but will be there if you are horny.

How does it usually start? You hookup drunk one time then keep doing it.

Can FWB work? Yes.

Do millennials have a “hookup culture?” Absolutely.



How many friends with benefits have you had? Zero.

What is the definition of FWB? Hooking up with someone with the shared expectation that you will not date.

Is it different than a hookup? Yes, a hookup is a one-time thing and a friend with benefits is a longer term relationship.

Can FWB work? I don’t think it can work long term.



How many friends with benefits have you had? One.

What is the definition of FWB? Someone that is more than an acquaintance that you hook up with regularly.

Is it different than a hookup? Yes, a hookup is usually a one-time thing where you make out or do more.

Can FWB work? It usually doesn’t because someone catches feelings.



How many friends with benefits have you had? Two.

What is the definition of FWB? Someone that I hang out with, make out with, and maybe do more with.

Is it different than a hookup? Nope.

How does it usually start? Two words: Drunk. Tinder.

Can FWB work? I’ve seen it work before, but usually it gets messy. So in general, no.

Do we have a “hookup culture?” Yes, but I don’t think it’s our generation that came up with it, people are just horny and in this new college environment away from home, so it happens.

It isn’t hard to see that opinions on hookups and friends with benefits among college students vary. The definition of the term is murky at best, and no one can really agree on whether or not trying it out is worth the time. With help from the five students listed above, though, we can start a discussion.

First and foremost, it is important to note that friends with benefits and hookups are only cool if they are consensual. If you don’t want to do something or feel uncomfortable trying something new, communicate that with your partner. Consensual hookups are the best hookups!

Now let’s get down and dirty. What is a friend with benefits? From my research, I was able to gather that a generic definition of a friend with benefits is someone that you know well enough to call a friend and someone that you also touch sometimes. Whether that be touching lips or other things, there is touching and friendship involved. Sounds pretty neat.

But wait, it isn’t all that easy. Everyone I talked to about FWBs has known at least one person, if not many more, that has found his or herself in quite a chaotic situation because of a hookup.

For instance, Garth’s high school hookup caught feelings for him when he just wanted to stay friends. Then, when they started hooking up again four months later, he started to like her as more than a friend. Long story short, there was a fallout and they didn’t speak for several months.

In both of Dana’s experiences with friends with benefits, the boys she was hooking up with broke off the relationship because they thought she had feelings for them, which she swears she didn’t.

Is it even possible to hook up with someone without one of the two participating parties catching the feels? Tommy thinks it’s possible but has never seen it in person. He adds that it is particularly messy when your hookup isn’t exclusive.

“If a person in the relationship is forced to choose between competing interests, then it just gets messy,“ Tommy said.

Joey also noted that as you continue to hook up and spend time with your friend with benefits, you will get more and more invested. “I think when you hook up with someone for enough time that you are going to develop feelings and expectations, so it won’t work out for long,” he said.

Echoing Joey’s point, Tommy said “the more you go on, the more you invest in people and the more you care. Then it is all the more hurtful to see them pick someone else over you.”

The consensus among the interviewed students seemed to be that as long as you keep the relationship relatively short, a hookup can be a great thing. “I’ve known people who have tried friends with benefits and they decided to go back to friends and it didn’t change the dynamic because they didn’t get to the point where it was too far to go back,” said Dana.

Are these fleeting, physical relationships superficial, though? Should we avoid them for fear that we are falling into the dreaded “hookup culture” that older generations gripe about so often? Absolutely not.

For one thing, safely exploring our sexuality while we are young and free is super healthy. Knowing who we like, what we like, and how we like it will only benefit us in the future. As long as we are practicing safe sex, getting tested, and staying in touch with our wants, needs, and emotions, then we are truly killing the game.

Another important point to note is that millennials are extremely busy for a multitude of reasons. We have the most stress and the least relief of all generations. We have higher expectations placed on us than any generation before, and our college years are time for us to focus on our passions and our future careers.

“People are too busy to invest themselves in a relationship, so it’s easier,” Kasey said of hookups and friends with benefits.

Tommy thinks that the ever-changing nature of this time in our lives is a factor in the rise of hookup culture, too. “We understand that everything is kind of impermanent, especially at this age. I don’t know where I’m going and I can’t have someone depending on me,” he said.

So we aren’t just the horniest, most reckless generation to ever be. We are smart, ambitious, and curious young people exploring what the world has to offer us. No matter what older generations say about us, we are finding our footing just like they did at our age. For some of us, that means committing to a relationship. If that doesn’t sound like you, though, friends with benefits might be worth a try.

McKenna Moore

Editorial Contributor, Syracuse University Major: Newspaper and Online Journalism Her heart belongs to: the color black, her laptop, lipstick, and Rihanna Her guilty pleasures: Ben & Jerry's, 6 hour naps, and the musical stylings of Soulja Boy

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