Friends with ‘benefits’

“Hooking up” — a no-strings sexual encounter that may range from kissing to oral sex to intercourse — is more common than dating for affluent suburban teen-agers, according to a New York Times Magazine story. Girls in eighth or ninth grade perform oral sex on boys. Kids don’t like commitment. Some go to online sites where they can “post profiles, exchange e-mail and arrange to hook up” with strangers.

The trend toward ”hooking up” and ”friends with benefits” (basically, friends you hook up with regularly) has trickled down from campuses into high schools and junior highs — and not just in large urban centers. Cellphones and the Internet, which offer teenagers an unparalleled level of privacy, make hooking up that much easier, whether they live in New York City or Boise.

. . . It’s not that teenagers have given up on love altogether. Most of the high-school students I spent time with said they expected to meet the right person, fall in love and marry — eventually. It’s just that high school, many insist, isn’t the place to worry about that. High school is about keeping your options open. Relationships are about closing them. As these teenagers see it, marriage and monogamy will seamlessly replace their youthful hookup careers sometime in their mid- to late 20’s — or, as one high-school boy from Rhode Island told me online, when ”we turn 30 and no one hot wants us anymore.”

Brian, a 16-year-old friend of Jesse’s, put it this way: ”Being in a real relationship just complicates everything. You feel obligated to be all, like, couply. And that gets really boring after a while. When you’re friends with benefits, you go over, hook up, then play video games or something. It rocks.”

According to a National Institute of Child Health and Development survey, “more suburban 12th graders than urban ones have had sex outside of a romantic relationship (43 percent, compared with 39 percent).”

Fewer teens are having sexual intercourse, but more are having oral sex, says the story. Which they don’t consider “sex.”

The story ends with a funny discussion of the base system:

The two got to only first base (kissing), which is about the only base that anyone can agree on anymore. ”I don’t understand the base system at all,” Jesse said, lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling. ”If making out is first base, what’s second base?”

”We need to establish an international base system,” Brian said. ”Because right now, frankly, no one knows what’s up with the bases. And that’s a problem.”

Jesse nodded in agreement. ”First base is obviously kissing,” Brian said.

”Obviously,” Jesse said.

”But here’s the twist,” Brian said. ”Historically, second base was breasts. But I don’t think second base is breasts anymore. I think that’s just a given part of first base. I mean, how can you make out without copping a feel?”

”True,” Jesse said. ”And if third base is oral, what’s second base?”

”How does this work for girls?” asked Ashley, the 17-year-old junior. ”I mean, are the bases what’s been done to you, or what you’ve done?”

”If it’s what base you’ve gone to with a girl, you go by whoever had more done,” Jesse told her.

”But we’re girls,” Ashley said. ”So we’ve got on bases with guys?”

”Right, but it doesn’t matter,” Jesse said. ”It’s not what base you’ve had done to you, it’s what bases you get to.”

Kate shook her head. ”I’m totally lost.”

No kidding.

About Joanne


  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    That article was creepy. If you read the entire article, you discover that hooking up is when the girl gives her male friend a blowjob. These kids are not in any kind of romantic relationship– she just sometimes gives him blowjobs.

    I see the attraction of this from the boy’s point of view, but what’s in it for the girls? What doormats those girls are. Get some self-respect, girls. Pathetic.

  2. But it’s [b]empowering[/b], Cardinal Fang.

    That’s sure as hell the bullshit most of my female colleagues believe.

  3. And I see we are all jealous.

    Admit it. Don’t you wish our generation had been soo sexually liberal. That we had the freedoms this generation has.

    And then I go on to my own personal feeling of sex and morallity. naked people and sex is only a commodity because it is repressed and frowned upon. If it was acceptable human behavior as it should be then it would have no monetary worth. repression has done nothing but to put a dollar amount to a natural function.

  4. Hey IXLNXS, do you have a 13 year old daughter you could set me up with?

  5. slimedog says:

    Base, indeed.

  6. Richard Nieporent says:

    Fewer teens are having sexual intercourse, but more are having oral sex, says the story. Which they don’t consider “sex.”

    I wonder where in the world they could have gotten this strange idea from?

  7. I never even made it into the batting order when I was in high school and I still don’t see this as an improvement.

  8. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Hey, I never even understood going steady.

  9. As a woman, I am really disturbed by how girls now view themselves and their sexuality. So much for sex ed. Do they realize that they are nothing but recepticles for these young men? The only “power” I see them getting from this is economic – if they charged. Or, is there some badge of honor for blowing the captain of the football team?

    These girls are going to need alot of psychologic help in the not so near future.

    I just keep thinking of those old cigarette ads “You’ve come a long way baby….”

  10. superdestroyer says:

    One idea I have seen on this is that women now surpass men in many pursuits. Most college are majority women and most AP classes in high school are majority female.

    This puts the college and high school males in an new situaiton. One where women cannot be as choosy about romance and sex. The men do not have to “court” or romance since there are fewer of them than of the women in the same social or economic class.

  11. tom scott says:

    I was a correctional officer in Alaska and worked at a facilty that had a sex offender treatment program. I’ve seen a lot of inmates pass through the program that had oral sex with younger girls. The charge they were imprisoned for was SAM (Sexual Abuse of a Minor). If oral sex is not sex then have these people been wrongfully imprisoned? And yes, I said that to anyone defending Clinton’s saying it’s not sex.

  12. Sex is intercourse when it means intercourse. If you ask a teenager if he or she has had sex, the answer will involve intercourse, and not heavy petting, fondling, rubbing the clitoris, fellatio, cunnilingus, or dry humping. Blowjobs aren’t “sex”. Sexual intercourse is “sex”. That is the answer to the confusion.

    If you ask a teenager if he or she has done anything sexual or engaged in sexual activity, all those things would be included. But “sex” is intercourse. It was when I was a teenager, and it is now. And Bill Clinton didn’t invent this distinction, he just made it that much more confusing to those who are easily outraged.

  13. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Some of us are easily outraged because there is a DI doing 25 years hard time for something Bill walked on.

  14. I’m outraged that someone is doing 25 for what can only be called consensual sex with an adult woman. Sounds ridiculously harsh.

  15. Mark Odell says:

    Walter E. Wallis wrote: Some of us are easily outraged because there is a DI doing 25 years hard time for something Bill walked on.

    There’s a DI doing 25 years hard time for perjury & obstruction of justice?

  16. Walter E. Wallis says:

    for consensual sex with a subordinate.

  17. I guess Bush can’t have sex with anyone since everyone ranks below Commander-in-Chief.

    Monica was an adult. Bill wasn’t her boss. She had to find excuses to bring him things, remember? I don’t think she packed her “Presidential kneepads” so she could pick up his paper clips. What happened between them was consensual. (Or is the spelling “consentual”? When the subject is sex, either spelling may do.) It was smarmy and unseemly, but hardly an abuse of authority. For that, look to the women who didn’t pursue Clinton. Monica wasn’t among them.

  18. Superdestroyer says:


    If you look at the federal law, President Clinton committed sexual harassment under the Quid Pro Quo and the hostile workplace. Monica was a subordinate (she was a government employee) and she had sex with the boss. After having sex with the boss, she was given a promotion. Other interns did not have sex with the boss. They did not get a government job. Thus, the other interns worked in a hostile work environment (put out or they did not get a job). Monica put out and got a job (Quid Pro Quo).
    Look the civil rights regulations up and you will find both terms.

  19. Walter E. Wallis says:

    And the DI is still inside.
    But then he is black and the girls were white, so I guess it is O.K.

  20. “The harasser’s conduct must be unwelcome.”–

    Super D, where’s the Quid Pro Quo? Did she get another rockin’ unpaid internship in another department of the government? Is her designer handbag company a covert government enterprise? Is there a well-funded lovechild that was born with a tobacco leaf placenta? Her parents’ money could be a more provable factor in her Washington career trajectory than any skanky behavior. Her quasi-employment status was always a nebulous thing. What do White House interns do? It’s not a set job description. Surely she didn’t do just her job, but that’s not proof of a hostile workplace being created for the other interns.

    And Mr. Wallis, military justice isn’t the same as that for the civilian world. It’s often worse, which is one of the many reasons I never chose to serve.

  21. Walter E. Wallis says:

    A subordinant can not consent to sex with a superior. You can’t have it both ways. The D.I. was an idiot, as were his “victims” but a Clinton with class would have let him off with a BCD.

  22. These kids are told, by parents, teachers, and other kids, “don’t get married, don’t get pregnant, and sexual intercourse is very risky.” They are probably adjusting to the later age of marriage. Whereas any number of women in my mother’s generation married after high school, or dropped out of college to get married, these kids are told to plan to go to college, work, and then, maybe, get married.

    They don’t seem frightened of sexual contact, but they do seem frightened of emotional intimacy. In that, they may also mirror the current adult environment.

  23. superdestroyer says:


    remember, Monica got a GS-9 job in the DUSD(PA) office. That is were Monica met Linda Tripp. How soon they forget! The intern that started at the same time as Monica went back to school. Thus, sex=job to Monica.

  24. I have to wonder about the parents of these teenage girls.

    When I had “the talk” with my now 14 year old daughter, I gave an entire speech on self-worth and sex.

    Am I the only one who keeps my kid on a short leash? (Figuratively speaking, of course)

  25. Michele:


    And you have to remember, this stuff is in the newspaper because it’s considered newsworthy. If all the kids really were doing this, it wouldn’t be.

  26. Excellent, if blunt (i.e., NSFW: language), column on this topic here.

  27. Michele,

    I have a 14-year-old daughter and we keep her on a short leash, too.

    I found that story in the NYT Magazine profoundly depressing. Boys using girls like toilets or kleenex, that’s all it is, what could be more degrading, for both parties?

  28. Monica’s GS-9 job wasn’t a promotion (unless all government jobs start with an internship), it was a real job. That another intern went back to school isn’t proof that sex=job. Did the other intern want a government job right then? Did that other intern even apply for anything? And what school did that other intern get into? Evidence of a QPQ is scant. But enough of Smarmy Bill and back to the real story.

    Much has been said about girls being used for sex, but even after reading the article, I don’t see it that way. Girls want to have sex. Not always for the best of reasons, or in the best of relationships (or even in relationships), but they want to have sex. Boys, too, want sex. But not all girls having sex with boys make for exploitative relationships. If anything, they’re mutually exploitative, since neither the boy nor the girl is able to handle the intricacies of physical relationships. But that’s not to say they don’t want to try it out.

    But, the old fashioned stigmas are still out there. Women’s pleasure is not widely discussed in junior high and high school. For a girl to suggest that she enjoys sex is to admit to being some sort of sexual freak. It’s the old double standard, but it’s mostly there for show. These girls are enjoying both the sex and the attention it gets, but can only admit to enjoying the attention.

    I keep my thirteen-year-old daughter on a short leash not to save her from the evil, nasty, exploitative boys out there, but to save her from herself. She’s too young to make wise decisions, but if she acts stupidly, chances are it’s her fault. All the talk about respecting herself, knowing her limits, and being safe isn’t going to mean squat if she really, really wants to have a sexual relationship. Likewise, if she wants to try drugs, I am sure it will be because she wanted to try them. I hope she doesn’t and have given her that talk too. But it’s all up to her desires in the end.

  29. Jon, of course girls want to have sex. But hopefully what they want is something at least mutually gratifying. Why girls would want to perform bj’s on boys and get nothing back is a good question.

  30. I bet they are getting something back. But they can’t admit it, because they would be admitting to enjoying sex. So they play the victim, which allows them to be tough, alienated, and remain “good” girls.

    In a similar vein, if caught with drugs they’ll blame “peer pressure”, since that’s what they expect you to expect them to say. And it allows their own bad decisions to be somewhat excused by the actions of those evil drug pushers. Unfortunately, it works incredibly well. After all, everyone raises their children to be good. And no good parent would have a child who actually wanted to try drugs. Or sex.

  31. My daughters are 17 and 12 (and my son is 14). I have very plainly told the 17 year old that in her age bracket, girls generally get very little pleasure out of a sexual relationship. Boys don’t have a clue what they’re doing and they really don’t care whether she’s enjoying it or not. Luckily, she hasn’t asked me how I know so much about this topic. I’ve also given my son the big talk, multiple times, about respecting girls and keeping his hands off them. My daughter hasn’t dated at all, mainly because she’s incredibly choosy. My son had a girlfriend briefly but broke up with her because she wasn’t very smart. Thank goodness the little one just wants to skateboard.

  32. “But they can’t admit it, because they would be admitting to enjoying sex. So they play the victim….”

    I really don’t think this is happening here. Why would a girl be willing to do THAT to a boy, and be coy and missish about admitting to enjoying sex? What we have here is not repression, IMO. It’s something, all right, but not repression.

  33. Cardinal Fang says:

    Jon, your theory is that the girls get sexual gratification from giving blow jobs and not getting any sexual attention in return?

    And you believe that because…? Because you know lots of adult women who like to give blow jobs and never get any reciprocity of any kind at all? Do the women you are involved with act that way? I don’t know any women who would agree with you, but perhaps my friends are not representative.

  34. Jon, you sound like a cynical, miserable person and I worry about your thirteen-year-old daughter.

    I recall that I was also uninterested in “emotional intimacy” and “commitment” when I was in high school. That was because I was still a kid, not an adult. I was not only not under any obligation to form intimate relations with a member of the opposite sex, I didn’t want to. So I didn’t date, and certainly did not have sex — which blow jobs are. (I’m sorry to disabuse jon of his notion that they are not because no “intercourse” was involved — well what do you call his part being inside one of her orifices if not intercourse?)

  35. Walter E. Wallis says:

    There are some who claim that penis-vaginal isn’t intercourse until ejaculation.
    And some claim babies are found under cabbage leafs.

  36. Jon – hmm, where to start? It simply doesn’t follow that because girls “want to have sex” (indeed they do), that they are therefore not being hurt and exploited by the sexual culture described in the article in question. Believing that it does follow is based on a profoundly false assumption – that female sexuality is exactly the same as male sexuality, that girls at that age feel about sex exactly the way boys at that age feel about it. You don’t have to posit actively nasty, exploitative boys to end up in a situation where boys get what they want, and girls are treated badly. And you certainly don’t have to posit a culture in denial about female sexual desire. We don’t live in a culture where it’s taboo for a girl or woman to admit that she enjoys sex. Sorry, that’s just a nutty assertion. Your underlying theory here is being strained to the breaking point.

    What is apparently taboo, however, (at least among this lot) is thinking and teaching about sex in a way that doesn’t show complete contempt for very real, normal female sexual emotions and desires – which are not satisfied at all by the behaviors described. (I don’t think your belief that girls get sexual satisfaction out of one-way blow-job provision needs further comment.)

  37. Does no one remember just what horny teenage boys are like? What do both the boys and girls get out of hooking up? The boy gets relief and the girl gets someone who is close to “normal” for awhile, who can relate to her as a person and not only as a potential sex partner. (A short digression: “What’s the definition of PMS? That’s the time of month a woman behaves the way a man does all the time!”) As the story had it, “When you’re friends with benefits, you go over, hook up, then play video games or something. It rocks.”

    Does the explanation need to be more complicated than this?

  38. Texas teacher says:

    As I told a class a couple of years ago in the context of a discussion of the Clinton/Lewinski fiasco, it aint’t called “oral not sex” and your mamma isn’t going to walk in on you and your partner and say “Thank God you’re not having sex.”

    And Jon, one of my friends was working in the White House in the same program as Monica at the same time. She got no presidential phone calls to aid with her job search, and none of the other perks that special services for the “head” of state got form Monica

  39. I guess I was a weird teenage boy who actually tried (not always with great skill, but to be fair, the girls weren’t exactly up to adult standards) to please those who pleased me. Must have ruined me for adulthood. I guess no one can relate to my generally happy sexual upbringing.

    And no, I wasn’t saying that fellatio caused the girls immense sexual pleasure. And no, I wasn’t saying that oral sex isn’t sex. I was saying that if you ask someone if they have sex, they think you are asking if they have sexual intercourse. Oral sex is a form of sex. Yes it is. Clinton lied when he said he wasn’t having sexual relations. He was. Duh.

    And girls have miserable sexual experiences all the time. So do boys. I never said there’s no harm or stupidity involved, far from it. I just said that these girls play the semi-victim card, boys play the stud card, and both are generally liars.

    Clinton gave Monica favors. Big deal. I think a grown man and a grown woman (or any combination of sexes) can do each other favors all they want. But it takes actual evidence of bias against others to call an instance of favoritism a hostile work environment. So far, what’s been mentioned is that one intern went back to school (which was probably the plan all along) and others didn’t get phone calls on their behalf. Not exactly tragic circumstances.

    As for me being cynical, yes. Miserable? No. As for worries about my daughter, I do that enough for all of us. But thanks.

  40. This article, together with a recent book on sororities (reviewed in the current; for subscribers) paint a disturbing picture: girls and young women, when first given a taste of freedom and autonomy, will use it to debase themselves. But what’s so new about that? Judging from my own college experience, so will boys and young men. Or at least some of them.

    Without getting too pseudo-psychological, my general thought is that youthful energy, when not channelled in a creative direction, will flow in a destructive direction. And in the absence of anything else to destroy, destroying yourself will do.

    Don’t get me wrong: I have no objection to unreciprocated oral sex on occasion. Far from it. But habitually subjugating your own desires in favor of other people’s — and believing that this is normal — will eventually involve some deterioration of self worth.

  41. Walter E. Wallis says:

    As near as I can remember, I liked sex, too, but we need to work on a system where one man gets 25 years for what another gets a book deal for.

  42. Both were smarmy acts with willing participants, but there’s an easy case to make for why the Drill Instructor gets a harsher sentence: favoritism can get people killed in his line of work. 25 years is ridiculous. I think he shouldn’t be a DI, but he could do something else–at a lower rank and not involving the training of others.

    As for Bill’s book deal, it’s not a Quid Pro Quo for sex with Monica (I’m being facetious with Mr. Wallis’ argument), though it’s probably not going to have enough sex to satisfy those who think of Clinton as nothing but a guy who couldn’t keep it in his pants. Remember, he was the President and all.

  43. Mad Scientist says:

    If the CEO of any US corporation did what Bill did with any employee, he’d be thrown out of office.

    Alas, poor me. I “came of age” between the two sexual revolutions.

  44. Eric Pobirs says:

    These people who try to break various sexual activities into categories of ‘sex’ and ‘sexual but not sex’ (the STDs don’t care which orifice they’re offered) remind me of a woman I once knew who had no real job but was performing various kinds of sexual favors for people like her landlord and others who showered her with gifts. She insisted she wasn’t a prostitute because she’s never been given cash as a reward. I countered that it’s known as the World’s Oldest Proffession and thus predates money.

  45. Walter: I think 25 years is excessive, but there’s a huge difference between that DI in boot camp and Clinton’s relations with Monica Lewinsky or Paula Jones. A DI has nearly total power over the trainees in boot camp; a woman who told him no was risking a lot worse than losing a job, so under the circumstances sex is more like rape than consensual. (And if the DI and one woman were really in love, they could have just waited a few weeks until she was someone else’s subordinate.) Jones may have felt she was risking her job when she said no, but no worse than that, and in fact she doesn’t seem to have had any trouble on her job. Lewinsky got some kind of kick out her affair, then got help with her job search later, by something approaching blackmail. The potential for blackmail is one good reason for banning office affairs, but the penalty shouldn’t be anything like that for near-rape.

    One other thing: most trainees in boot camp are straight out of high school. Lewinsky was a few years older, with a college education, and certainly capable of making decisions about sex for herself.

  46. Prehaps Andrea no one was interested in dating you? This could prehaps explain your lack of interest in dating in H.S.?

    I guess my school was the only one in which kids in my grade were interested in sex.

  47. Jay, that was an idiotic personal attack on a person. I think “prehaps” you should avoid using computers until you learn to spell, or in the very least have your homeroom teacher look over your middle school insults before you click “Post”.

  48. Walter E. Wallis says:

    While I was a drill instructor for only 6 weeks, and none of my recruits were female, all of them were made aware right from the start that they could take any complaint against me to the Inspector General with no fear of retribution. The females in this instance were buying special treatment with their body. Presidents can give bigger favors than DIs. There have been instances when women changed their mind and sued companies for big bucks when their bargain turned sour. Laws about sexual harassment should be unambiguous. 25 should be 25 for everyone or no one.

  49. Mark Odell says:

    jon wrote: Both were smarmy acts with willing participants, but there’s an easy case to make for why the Drill Instructor gets a harsher sentence: favoritism can get people killed in his line of work.

    Something tells me that favoritism can get people killed in the President’s line of work too (see: aspirin factory in the Sudan).

  50. i find this article very true. i, in fact, am a 16 year old female with a friend with benefits. he and i are very close and know the rules and boundaries we have set for one another. The second he breaks one of my rules, i’m outta there. Of course, he has yet to break a rule. allow me to pose a scenario for all of the skeptics out there. would you rather have your child off screwing some random stranger they meet, or would you rather have them being with someone they know in a manner they prefer. This may seem a bit crude to you, but it is in fact the best thing to happen to America’s youth. It has given us freedom and a place in the world of the evolution of sex. you may say that it is in fact degrading for a woman to act in such a manner. if you choose your partner right, there is nothing to worry about. sure you can’t expect him the act like a real boyfriend becuase he is not. Do not expect committment. People that have friends with benefits do so to escape committment. Partners must have a mutual respect for one another. I am a feminist and would never get involved with a partner who would undermine my values, not respect me as an individual, or disobey my rules. With most freedoms, come guidelines and rules. Friends with benefits is no exception. There are rules that must be followed. You must be responsible. you must be respectful. If anything, friends with benefits teaches America’s youth more about themselves than anything…


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