Credit: GG Deputy Photography and Illustrations Manager Dorota Dziki (@drawing_dorota)

Let’s get physical (with our friends?)

By Eleanor Harper

Eleanor Harper considers whether it’s a good idea to climb into bed with your friends.

Many of us have been there: developing a crush on a friend or engaging in a drunken make-out session with the one person you swore was “bestie vibes only”. Often with a little help from a spirited wingman (a reliable Smirnoff, perhaps), we find ourselves sharing intimate moments with people we truly never intended to. We wake up the next morning in no-man’s-land… the floodgates are open, the vibes have shifted, the lines have been blurred. So what happens next? Can the friendship ever be the same? And perhaps more importantly, can it ever really be anything more?

The friends-to-lovers trope is often romanticised, if not exhausted. In rom-coms and teen dramas alike, we watch as the protagonist realises that their best friend has been “the one” all along. The realisation is accompanied by a chorus of I Only Want to be With You by The Tourists, and a montage of passionate dancing, kissing, and cheering. Miraculously, this new relationship always seems to slot perfectly into the pre-existing friend group dynamic. 

Those of us who have engaged in or experienced relationships within friend groups know this is often not the case. Usually, it’s messy. The whole group can struggle to adjust to the new dynamic. There are whispers, and giggles, and awkward moments, and often, hurt feelings as “Friend Group Fridays” become date nights and Galentine’s becomes Valentine’s. Of course, sometimes it’s wonderful: sometimes it can add a whole new emotional depth to the friend group. Plus, you have the bonus of already knowing that your friends love your new partner. At the end of the day, even if it is awkward or surprising at first, most of the time if you’re happy, your friends will be happy.

But what if you’re not happy? What if you’re filled with worry and instant regret? What if one of you catches feelings while the other is wishing it never happened at all? What if a one-time thing turns into a two-time thing turns into a ten-time thing, and next thing you know you’re washing each other’s underwear? What then? 

There’s countless gambles and endless risks involved in getting with friends or engaging in a friends-with-benefits relationship, and we always return to the same old question – is it really worth it? Can casual sex ever really be casual when you see the person all the time and already have at least some form of emotional connection? Surely, this is a recipe for miscommunication, hurt feelings and ultimately, disaster.

Therefore, it seems logical to lay down some ground rules to ensure all parties on the same page so no one gets hurt and vitally, no friendships get destroyed. These individual friends-with-benefits contracts can include rules such as no exclusivity, no sober sex, and no discussions of the relationship in front of other friends. These rules can be discussed, agreed and sworn upon to establish boundaries to ensure friendly flirtations don’t get too serious or too messy. However, despite the objective rationality of this contract style arrangement, is it ever really viable or effective in practice especially, in relation to matters of the heart, which we all know tend to lead to rationality going out the window? 

Often, I think these rules which are created to protect our friendships, and ultimately our feelings, are simply asking to be broken. When the boundary from friends to lovers has already been blurred, it then becomes all too easy to push the limits a little more. To me it seems no matter how hard we try, these rules always seem to end up being broken. This is because, at the end of the day, love isn’t rational and getting with friends certainly isn’t logical – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be thrilling and, at least for a short while, wonderful.

There are endless pros and equally infinite cons to getting intimate with friends. On one hand, it can add a whole new exciting dimension to a relationship with someone you already know and trust. But it can also create the opportunity for heartbreak, division, and loss. For every friends-with-benefits success story, there is a matching disaster story and in truth, no one can predict how each individual tryst will unfold. Intimacy and relationships are hugely diverging, euphoric, and unique – what works for one pair may not work for another, and what can remain effortlessly casual for two friends could breed a destructive emotional hurricane for others. No matter how hard we try, no amount of ground rules and no amount of planning can numb emotion.Therefore, I guess it’s for you to decide. Is the thrill worth the risk? Or is the platonic love just too much to lose? All I know is that love in all forms is truly beautiful and that humans are innately bad at it. I can’t help but find myself wondering if perhaps we all followed our hearts a bit more freely and forgave each other a bit more easily – then perhaps we’d find ourselves having far less to lose and so much more to gain.


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Heather Harper

I love this article – well written, funny and insightful!


I find your use of “no sober sex” slightly terrifying? Implying that the only way to have sex is to have had some drinks – when your inhibitions are lowered and you’re gonna consent under the influence (in a situation were you sober you wouldn’t) . Personally I feel this comes across as predatory and would request this statement be removed from the article. If you’re that in need of sex that you’d be willing to drink or make the other person drink so they’re more likely to say yes…in this day and age when SA’s are finally being brought to light and justice dealt to the assaulters, this is not what I expect to be reading in a university newspaper.


Didn’t read “sober sex” in the same was as the above comment at all, please keep it in. Drunken sex can feel to *mean* less and I think this is why the writer used it. Not all drunken sex is non-consensual.