Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Friends With Benefits

Friends with benefits is a relatively new concept in the annals of relationships and is getting to be fairly commonplace. In the on-line world, things are possibly much worse - there is no friendship involved in this type of short-term contact for sexual gratification. I find these ideas curious for several reasons and wonder what there might be in it for the woman.

Based on the sheer volume of literature and advice on the subject of how to find a man of your dreams, reel him in and get him to walk down the aisle, it seems like she is not getting a lot besides the "benefits" in the average relationship. When a man plays the field he is a player or a stud but a woman in similar circumstances is usually a slut. This is not to say any one characterization is better or worse that the other - but they are distinctly different.

If a woman is angling to catch a man and get married to him (and God forbid have his babies), she is way too needy and clingy but when a man turns his thoughts to marriage he is just a serious and sensitive guy that any woman should be overjoyed to have in her life. There are bridezillas but no equivalent term for grooms - apparently marriage still means a great deal more to women than it does to men. In short, this is not a gender-neutral issue.

If there is literature around how to find the woman of your dreams, more likely than not it is replete with wisdom on pick-up strategies that are most likely to succeed. In such books, a man will likely find advice on stalling techniques when being pursued by a woman determined to become his wife. At any rate, this whole friends with benefits business just makes things official so women can stop whining about their less than satisfactory state of affairs.

Is this then a way for her to avoid being hurt and betrayed by preempting the man's refusal to gratify her emotional needs. In calling a relationship "friendship with benefits" she is making sure that she has a friend past the expiration of the beneficial relationship - something that does not usually happen in the more traditional romantic involvement. A breakup is the end of both friendship and benefits at the same time.

This way she does not have to lose everything even after the man has moved on. For the man there is a huge advantage. Whereas he would at least be expected to provide some amount of emotional support in the relationship to enjoy the benefits, he is completely off the hook now. He gets everything he was getting before minus the obligation to be there for the woman emotionally. It is the best of both worlds as far as he is concerned.

It seems to me that women dig themselves into deeper and bigger holes as they go forth liberating themselves from the shackles of traditional gender stereotypes; in their misbegotten efforts at gender equality in relationships. Through their over-zealous efforts at parity with men, they end up ceding the real gains made by the gender over many generations in less "progressive" times.

Ironically (even if not directly related to the topic at hand), today's women are apparently
unhappier than ever.The first step in achieving any form of "equality" might be to stop thinking about how to get a man and keep him. As long as that is even a premise, all talk of equality is moot.

1 comment:

Priyamvada_K said...

HC,
In earlier times people in general:

a) embraced inter-dependence and made required sacrifices for it.

b) accepted that one cannot be or get everything.

Our root unhappiness post-women's-lib is that women are getting mixed messages. The messages being:

1. a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.
2. Success is everything. To be a success, one has to have it all: family (husband, kids), a great job, high material status (house and possessions). A man's success is wealth and how many women he can "land".

1&2 are inherently contradictory. Premise 1 has encouraged men to be irresponsible and takers in relationships (but not givers). Premise 1 created by extreme feminists is fallacious because:

a) men and women need each other biologically and otherwise.
b) alternative stable support systems have not evolved for families and individuals - friends are there but could drop off after a move or marriage.

Premise 2 is a bit more sane but combined with Premise 1 somehow ensures that women have to be the pursuers when it comes to matrimony. Taken together the premises imply that having a family is not so important to men but somehow crucial for a woman.

Also as long as a biological clock exists there is no true equality.

Priya.