September 15, 2011

Friends With Benefits: Notes On Modern Queer Relationships

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Written by: Elie
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friends with benefits

When it comes to relationships, we all have our horror stories. By the age of 25, having waded through the often treacherous waters of queer romance, many of us are left with enough battle scars to last a lifetime. Yes, love can indeed be a battlefield, but the same could be said of friendships.

Queer romance is notoriously plagued with a specific brand of anarchy and confusion. I’m not referring to the standard headache inducing uncertainty spurred by dating jitters. Rather, the difficulties of having to maneuver between friends and lovers when the two often overlap. It’s a unique situation our generation faces and it’s one that frequently leads to sticky scenarios.  (Cheap pun intended.)

While there have been many mediocre romantic comedies depicting every good, bad, and ugly facet of hetero love, us homos have no blueprint to follow and no rules by which our relationships are to be governed. Though spared from pressuring expectations – those hoisted on to us by others, and those we place on ourselves – this liberty can lead to a multitude of questions such as: “Does she like me in that way and do I feel the same? Can we sleep with each other or will feelings get in the way? Is this is a date or are we just hanging out? Can I sleep with his ex or are they still fucking?”

For queers living in the 21st century, questions such as these keep friendships incestuous and relationship statuses obscure. When it can sometimes be impossible to gauge whether someone’s attracted to your personality or just wants to fuck, it seems that sleeping with each other is the preferred method of figuring it all out. The hookup prior to deciding on a label of ‘friend’, ‘lover’, or ‘mistake’ is a pseudo homo audition process, a trial period where both parties actively engage in a method of classification.

As a result, friends turn into lovers, hookups turn into friends, exes turn into frenemies, and frenemies somehow wind up in your bed after one too many visits to the beer tent at Pride. Often all at the same time. It’s the death of monogamy and funerals are being held every Saturday night at your local gay bar.

Beyond the challenge of potentially being attracted to your friends and the effect that can have on your relationships (and your sanity), it can be equally challenging to make gay friends in the first place. In a world where meeting like minded individuals can be difficult – unless you’re militantly social – one is left with avenues such as Grindr or Gay411 to connect with others, which can lead to a multitude of frustrating, offensive, and sometimes hilarious encounters (lest there be secret meetings to which I haven’t been invited, in which case someone please let me know, I’ll bring muffins.)

In a culture focused more on hooking up than on building solid friendships, it becomes increasingly frustrating to have to continuously explain that you may be chatting with someone simply because you happen to think they’re cool rather than wanting to get in their pants. Unless y’all are the same size and decide to share clothes in which case more power to you.

As sleazy as Grindr may be, it often feels like it’s all we’ve got, and it’s sadly a snapshot of the difficulties many face when trying to make friends with other gays. With the primary expectation being sexual, our most obvious avenues for meeting people end up looking more like virtual bathhouses than bookclubs. In saying that, it’s a common stereotype that gay men go through partners faster than a Britney wedding while lesbians have more simultaneous partners than Hugh Hefner, but what isn’t as well understood, is the frequency of which those encounters transition into friendships.

With a pool of options small enough that it can make us feel like we’re six degrees from pretty much everyone, we streamline our friendships into ‘benefits’ territory or phase those benefits out when they’ve run their course. Multiply that by the millions of interconnected relationships that make up my, your, and everyone else’s social circle, and we have what modern queer relationships often look like. A rainbow colored social network where you’re one friend request away from your next best friend or future partner… who may also end up being your future partner’s best friend as well.

Image credits: Unfortunately for The Gaily. Buy these cards in our merch store.  

About the Author

|Toronto Contributor| Laptop hugger, metaphor enthusiast, lover of sandwiches, and writer of greeting cards.



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  1. “while lesbians have more simultaneous partners than Hugh Hefner” – really? aren’t lesbians known for their SUPER monogomous, super duper lovey dovey infatuated relationships?? !!?

  2. Ty

    I love these cards..

    Funny, you’ve raised some interesting points Elie. I think for most of us in our 20s felt like we had to ‘be out there’ and needed to date, hang, or play with every hot guy we could see. Funny though, as we (or I) *grow up* I see only importance in building long lasting relationships with people. Sex is hot.. but rarely does it ever last longer than a one night stand.

    Funny, this also comes after last weekend’s club experience where I stayed out at Unity a little too late and had to witness for the first time in a long time the mad scurry to find that utmost important post-club post-3am lay. I really don’t miss that and actually thought it was kinda silly.

    • Elie

      I completely agree. The pressure to be promiscuous, though often self-imposed or assumed, does die down with age while the longing for something slightly more meaningful takes it’s place.

      Regardless, it’s an interesting aspect of our community and one that I’ve tried to understand for quite some time. From the research that I’ve done, it seems that others feel that way too.

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