Friends With Benefits : The Lowdown on Keeping it on the Down Low (Part 1)

This is part one of a series adapted from our Horny Asians & Other Tales panel discussion held on June 26th, 2021. Hosted by Malaysian Sex Positive Advocate Jasmine King, Jangan Malu June was a series of virtual talks and workshops celebrating self and sexual empowerment.

Whenever I bring up the subject friends with benefits or casual sex amongst my friends, the first question I get is:

“Why are you doing it??” (usually uttered in a tone of disdain/confusion)

Then it’s followed up with:

“Don’t you feel unsafe? What if he’s a serial killer or secretly records you?”

“How do you keep sex and feelings separate?”

“Aren’t you worried about what people will say? STIs?”

”Don’t you feel dirty? What will your future spouse think?”

When the dust settles though, these sentiments emerge as the clear winner of the discussion:

“So…how do you actually do it?”

“How can I ask someone for casual sex?”

While casual sex is physical intimacy and sexual activity with partner/s outside of a committed romantic relationship, the term ‘casual’ is a misnomer.

Casual sex doesn’t mean easy sex.

Hold up, what do you mean it’s not easy? It’s just no-strings attached sex isn’t it? There’s no actual investment compared to dating and getting into an actual relationship. Why wouldn’t it be effortless?

Due to the nature of casual sex with relative strangers, it is considered a high risk activity that may be a more palatable concept to those with a higher tolerance for risk and uncertainty. That’s why some people can’t imagine engaging in casual relations, while others see it as part and parcel of dating in the world of Tinder and hook-ups.

Even within casual sex, there’s a broad spectrum that a situation-ship can fall under depending on the emotional connection and commitment involved and the frequency of meeting. The de facto scenario that society equates casual sex with would be the ‘one night stand’ that’s relatively straightforward as the name suggests. Then others often get used interchangeable like ‘fuck buddies’ and ‘friends with benefits’ (FWB).

When asked how would you differentiate the two, my default filter is can I imagine myself having a cup of coffee and conversation with them outside of the bedroom? If the answer is yes, you’re looking at a FWB set-up.

Think casual sex is a modern concept? You might have missed the memo on old-school mistresses and lovers where there’s definitely long-term emotional connection involved, just without the official title of Husband/Wife.

There’s nothing inherently good or bad about casual sex and as de rigueur on the blog, this is a judgement-free zone and we aim to provide the information you’ll need to decide. Based on personal experience and research, these are guidelines for you to shape what a casual sex arrangement will mean for you so you can mitigate the risks involved.


Before we actually get into the ‘How’ of getting it on the down low, let’s dive into the first and most important factor: Self-awareness.

Self Awareness, or “Know Thyself” as ancient Greeks define it (and who can argue with thousands of years of philosophy?), can be broken down into four different aspects when it comes to casual sex.

1. Intention

2. Attachment Style

3. Desires vs Reality

4. Morality & Societal Conditioning

1.Self-Awareness: Intention

Ironically, the first question brought up at the start of this article “Why are you doing it?” isn’t actually a bad one, although we could do away with the judgmental tone of course!

In a similar vein, we propose you ask yourself honestly with “Why do I want to have casual sex in this scenario?”

“Well duh, I’m horny!” is the obvious response. You may be in between relationships and healing from a break-up. Or simply not looking for a serious romance because of work or other life commitments. You could also be exploring your sexuality or checking off the proverbial ‘sex bucket list’ which was my personal reason for channeling Sex and The City’s Samantha in my 20’s in New York.

However, there are some reasons that may be slightly tricky just because they can be self-sabotaging if you’re not careful. They may sound like these:

• “Well because my friends are…”

• “It seems to be the norm in the dating world. I feel like a loser if I don’t”

• “My ex is already sleeping around. I just want to get over him…”

• “ Actually I really like them and want more. But they just want sex so maybe I can slowly win them over and make them fall in love with me if I do it….”

Sounds familiar? Don’t worry, you’re in good company as I’ve been guilty of a couple myself! Does it mean that’s an automatic No when going for a hook-up? Not necessarily, it just means that if you decide to go ahead and give casual sex a try, just take note that you might feel uneasy or doubtful as your intentions don’t align with your values in the long term.

2. Self-Awareness: Attachment Style

If I had a dollar each time I get asked “So how do you NOT catch feelings?”, I’ll living the life on my private island sipping a mojito and being fanned by gorgeous pool boys – who I’ll still probably end up catching feelings for!

Short answer: You don’t.

Long answer: You know your attachment style well enough to mitigate this. But you’re not a robot and you can never predict what the next 24 hours will bring.

We won’t dive too much into the actual attachment styles as there’s a ton of great literature and quizzes that determine whether you’re someone who leans towards anxious or avoidant attachment. Similar to the point made above, just because you’re someone who creates emotional bonds quickly and falls in love easily, it doesn’t mean that you can’t find a friend to exchange mutual benefits with. Instead, you do have to take the additional precaution of understanding and recognize your personal signs and triggers that you’re potentially emotionally bonding beyond keeping it casual.

For example, if I find myself checking my phone every 10 mins to see if I got a text from an FWB, that would mean I’m in the danger zone of investing more emotionally than our initial agreed relationship. That means I’ll either have to: regulate my actions (e.g. preoccupy myself with non-sexy distractions), watch my thoughts (e.g. not sink into the whirlpool of ‘forever alone’ despair) or actually sit down and examine if I do like them and want to explore getting into an actual romantic committed relationship with them.

3. Self-Awareness: Desires v.s Reality

The question “You can dish it but can you take it?” is one to also consider when you’re about to embark into a discreet affair. In other words, ask yourself “Does what I want ALIGN with what I can accept?” Unfortunately this is an aspect that you won’t actually know about yourself unless you’re thick in the midst or have experienced casual sex before.

A relatively common issue is jealousy. We’re all humans after all and while it may feel perfectly acceptable for you to be exploring carnal relations with various partners, do you expect your partners to be exclusive or will you get jealous and possessive to know they’re playing the same field too? It may seem counterintuitive and rather hypocritical but trust us, we’ve encountered partners who weren’t too happy if our schedule wasn’t free because of other adventures!

Another issue you may encounter is the exchange between giving and receiving pleasure. If you expect to receive blowjobs during each session but can’t bring yourself to go down on her? That’s definitely not going to work out in the long-term as the idea of casual sex is still mutual pleasure for both parties. Without the emotional expectations in a traditional romantic relationship, being a generous and open-minded lover is pretty much the only prerequisite in engaging a FWB relationship. Even if one has limited sexual experience and the intention behind engaging in casual sex is to build experience, having a respectful and reciprocal attitude is key in ensuring the term ‘benefits’ stays alive in a FWB.

An aspect that can prove tricky in casual sex too is when one has a negative body image as it can acerbate certain insecurities especially if your partner doesn’t have emotional connection or empathy. ‘Spectatoring’ is the term used when the act of having sexual interactions is focusing on the self rather than the sensory experiences of the sex act. It means that during sex, it feels like you’re a spectator/performer instead of being present and mindful in the moment to enjoy the sensations and physical pleasure.

How do you know when you’re spectatoring? It can range from riding your partner on the top and worrying how the belly rolls look to him, to thrusting into her doggy style and wondering what’s the next position to tick off your checklist. In both examples, you’re actually stuck in a headspace of insecurities and inner dialogue instead of focusing on the verbal and non-verbal cues from your partner who could be enjoying it or may be unfortunately be in the same spectatoring headspace. How would you know which experience they’re having unless you’re in the moment and bouncing (pun intended) off their energy too?

4.Self-Awareness: Morality & Societal Conditioning

We can’t wrap up self-awareness as a factor without touching upon morality and societal conditioning. This is a really fancy way of just saying:
“Be prepared to be slut (or fuck-boi) – shamed”

As a straight cis-woman who’s on a mission to normalize taboo topics, admitting that I love sex and hedonistic pleasures gets me flack and disappointed looks on a good day. On a bad day, it gets me sexual harassment and “But what would your family and society say? You’re so highly educated, what a waste!”

I can choose to be defensive and flippant by responding : “At least I’m getting laid.”

Or be the bigger person and take ownership over my desires and choices.

While you don’t have to go to the extreme and have an orgy, it simply means that you have to be aware that some of the guilt and shame that may actually be a behavioral response because of society’s conditioning or your own upbringing. If you’ve been telling a child that’s chocolate terrible and only bad people eat chocolate, you wouldn’t fault that child when he takes his first bite of chocolate as a teenager and immediately fear imminent death from a milky bar? Sure, we’ll admit chocolate doesn’t come with the risk of STIs or physical danger but the analogy still stands.

If you know your own personality, behavioural patterns, triggers and why you want a fuck buddy, it can and should be as straightforward as you find them ridiculously attractive and just want to have a good time. Don’t overthink it.

We’re definitely aware of the irony that we’ve managed to make casual sex sound rather ‘unsexy’ and academic in this article. However we assure you that once you have Self-awareness down, the other factors like Risk Awareness and Communication & Transparency will be a breeze!

Join us in the next part of Friends With Benefits : The Lowdown on Keeping it on the Down Low.

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