Dear Margo: It’s Generational

When did “sluts” become “friends with benefits”? Margo Howard’s advice

It’s Generational

Dear Margo: I often see references in your column (and elsewhere) to “friends with benefits.” Where can I find a woman like this? It sounds wonderful. I can have sex and do nothing for her in return. When did this “friends with benefits” start? When I was a young man, we used to call those women sluts. So today we rename the sluts, and they fall for it. I wish I were 30 years younger. I could use a friend with benefits. — John from Essex

Dear John: Thanks for the laugh. Your sly take on this subject is most likely shared by everyone who is middle-aged. My guess is that this new casual approach to what used to be something meaningful is post-sexual revolution, if not post-post-sexual revolution. Somehow the kids went off the rails and decided sex was just something to do … you know, like a video game or playing darts.

The women you call “sluts” I would call “loose,” and they have been around forever. That behavior, however, was not sanctioned, as it is now; there was usually a reputational price to pay, if not a venereal disease. (Those are still possible, by the way!) Around the 1780s, Count Talleyrand observed: “In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.” So you see, dear, the activity has remained the same; only the name has changed. — Margo, historically

Some Bumps on the Career Military Road

Dear Margo: My fiance is in the military, and for the past few years, we’ve been moving around the South. I am a New Englander, so this has been a completely new experience for me. While I’ve appreciated my time here, have learned a lot and have come to love a few things about this area and culture, I am hopelessly heartsick for home. My fiance and I usually make friends easily, but at our current location, we’ve both had a difficult time doing so, which no doubt adds to my misery. I’ve talked to others who’ve been in the military for decades, and they say it was harder to meet people at this base than at any other. So it’s not just us, but that doesn’t make me any less lonely.

I do what I can and try to enjoy the little things. I get home to visit as often as I’m able. I’m lucky enough to have found a great job here, which is not the case for many military spouses. And I know to some extent I am idealizing home. This is all particularly jarring and somewhat disappointing to me as I’ve always been the optimistic, go with the flow, I-can-be-happy-anywhere type. While I hate our location, I like military life in general, and we are in this for the long haul (18 more years). In his field, it is virtually impossible that we will be stationed anywhere near home. There’s a slight chance we could go overseas, which I would love, but most likely, we’ll be bouncing around the South for quite a while. How do I lessen my homesickness and enjoy it more than I do now? — Left My Heart at Home

Dear Left: My position has always been: “It’s the guy, not the place.” While I understand and sympathize with the problems having to do with your particular base and being parked in a different part of the country, I do see some bright spots. You have a job you enjoy, and you get to go home to visit. I can’t exactly figure out why your particular base is tough in terms of finding friends, but I suspect it can be done if you put some effort behind it. There has to be a town near your base, so perhaps through work or an affinity group you could broaden your horizons beyond life at the base. I hope you’ll start humming the song “Accentuate the Positive” and let the lyrics be your guide. I think you’ll be just fine. — Margo, optimistically

* * *

Dear Margo is written by Margo Howard, Ann Landers’ daughter. All letters must be sent via the online form at Due to a high volume of e-mail, not all letters will be answered.


Every Thursday and Friday, you can find “Dear Margo” and her latest words of wisdom on wowOwow

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211 comments so far.

  1. avatar James says:

    When John from Essex was a young man, they also had a term for men who acted the same way; they called them “men.” How about pointing out to him, Margo, that if he did have a FWB he would be every bit as “loose” as she is? However a person feels about casual sexual relationships, in the 21st Century it shouldn’t be acceptable to hold men and women to different standards.

    • avatar Karen Lauer says:

      Seriously!!  I couldn’t believe I read that response on a website dedicated to WOMEN!  Holy cow!!

    • avatar cl1028 says:

      Amen! How unbelievably offensive!

      • avatar Diana Danh says:

        YEAH! Don’t hate the player, hate the game! We are all just animals and sex IS just something we are all programmed to want to do.

      • avatar phanie says:

        As I don’t eat my own feces and I can think for myself, I do not consider myself an animal. But thanks!

      • avatar R Scott says:

        Good to know that you, like most other animals, don’t eat your own feces. Thanks for the info.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        phanie, you have three choices: animal, vegetable or mineral. Assuming that you have a beating heart, indulge in respiration, and are capable of reproducing in the usual mammalian way, you qualify as a mammal, species: homo sapiens.

        Very few animals indulge in coprophagia. Among those that do regularly are chickens, infrequently, canines. Phagia means eating, or swallowing.

        Humans may suffer from coprophilia. It is very rare, but does, indeed, exist.

        “Philia” comes from the Greek for “love” (though not by Aristotle’s definition). Coprolite is fossilized dinosaur feces, from the Greek kopros (dung) and likithos (stone). I leave it to you to define coprophilia for yourself, and to realize the meaning of coprophilia…and that humans are simply highly evolved, but very capricious, animals.

      • avatar Mandy says:

        So are you vegetable or mineral then?

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Well darling, since my small black heart is beating, and I am typing, I’d guess I’m animal. It might have been amusing if it wasn’t such an obvious question. Droll. The query I might ask of you is if you’re a higher or lower animal, but that answer is screamingly clear.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        O, mandy, MANY apologies. My computer showed your reply as being to my comment for the better part of an hour…then, after I replied to you, it reconfigured and shows your reply being in regard to the post from phanie. I am truly, truly sorry…and yes, this has happened on this site before.

        I should have reset before I posted. Again, heartfelt apologies.

      • avatar Mandy says:

        Not a problem. I just looked at the screen like a confused puppy for a second and then read your next comment. :)

    • avatar Mandy says:

      Well said, James!

    • avatar wendykh says:

      I can’t believe it either. FRIENDS btw is a big part of that phrase, the first word even. Try being a good friend to a woman, performing oral sex enthusiasticaly and competently, and believe you me you’ll get plenty of FWB.

  2. avatar MelG says:

    I wouldn’t say that FWB situations are sanctioned so much as simply tolerated these days. Among my group of friends (and we’re all in our early 30s), such a circumstance isn’t seen as a good thing or empowering; truth be told, we all avoid it as much as possible, particularly those of us who have been in that situation because we’d heard it was “fun”. It isn’t. It’s emotionally frustrating, even if you think that you’ve agreed to the terms of the “friendship” with the friend in question. Most of the people I know aren’t too vocal if they have a friend with benefits. They usually don’t talk about it until after the situation has run its course, as it inevitably does. And when the sex stops, so does the friendship.

    An overriding truth I’ve discovered: if someone is truly your friend and you want to keep them as such, don’t sleep with them. And if there are real feelings there, act on them the right way and save yourself the trouble.

    As far as LW1 is concerned, it sounds like he comes from the era when the only standard was a double-standard. It still very much exists today, no matter how sexually empowered and forward-thinking we’d like to believe we are.

    • avatar luna midden says:

      FWB-nothing new, it has always been around, and normally it fails big time. I am older then the FWB age-but I remember the ‘we are good friends and do not have a GF/BF, why can’t we just sleep with each other to satisfy our natural urges until…. (one or both meet someone to have a relationship with). Besides being a Seinfeld episode, (Elaine and Jerry, exes, decided ‘why can’t we have sex’ if we are with anyone else. They made up a long ridiculous set of rules, which got broke and Elaine got jealous when Jerry started flirting with other women.), I remember an advice column over 15 years ago. The LW was in such relationship with her GOOD FRIEND and got upset when he went out and got a new GF. She wanted to know why he would not continue their agreement, at least until he and his new GF started having sex. I forgot some of it, but she was routed out for having feelings for the guy, she was jealous and it would harm, maybe even delay his new relationship when he had her to fall on for ‘booty calls’. I have known a few that tried this sort of thing, it NEVER ends well. Just like Elaine and the LETTER, someone always started to feel comfortable, started having feelings, normally the girl and the guy did not have the same feelings as her. And once you go down that route with someone, very few can go back to being ‘just friends’.

  3. avatar Briana Baran says:

    Because it’s late, and it’s been along day, I’ll keep this relatively brief.

    John claims to have been a “young man” approximately thirty years ago. Now, if one considers one’s twenties as one’s true youth (misspent and lacking in “sluts”, or friends with benefits, poor dear), then John from Essex would be in his fifties. Like myself, who has evolved to the age of fifty-two rather successfully.

    Now, Margo dear, you made the following statement: “Your sly take on this subject is most likely shared by everyone who is middle-aged.” What do you consider “middle aged”? If your definition does indeed include people in their fifties, and I assure you, I have no problem with this, as I intend fully to make it well past the century mark, then your estimation of our take on the subject may be a trifle off. I have never considered women who had lovers who were also friends, and who could manage that balancing act adroitly, “sluts”, even if I never engaged in that sort of thing myself. Nor would I have said that of women with many consecutive lovers, or even more than one lover. Nor are any of these habits necessarily a guarantee of “accidental” inconveniences in the form of unwanted pregnancies, or STD’s (known in those halcyon days of yore, when men were men and loose women were properly known as sluts as venereal or social diseases).

    I don’t think that John from Essex is being sly. I think he’s being an unmitigatedly sexist, foul-minded, lonely, probably sexually inhibited and deprived aging archaeological find of a goat’s, ahem, member. As well as boorishly blatant. And I think that you’re being unusually judgmental, gender-biased, and archaic in your thinking. While “Friends with Benefits” may be an unusually droll way to express the notion of occasionally having a sexual encounter with a friend…it is not a euphemism for promiscuity…nor is it meant to be. Friends with benefits can be male and female, two females, or two males. The term does not refer to *multiple* partners. It is not a matter of being used…women, Margo and John, have sexual urges too, and may wish to act upon them with a trusted partner. That does not make them SLUTS. Nor does not wishing a romantic, or permanent involvement. Or having sex outside of marriage. Or using birth control to prevent pregnancies, or condoms to keep away things even a Lysol douche won’t remove.

    I’ve been reading your column for years, and this is possibly the most defective answer you’ve ever given. Perhaps, as with old Scrooge, it was a bad bit of potato, or some under-cooked turkey. A touch of dyspepsia. I’m not going to stop reading your column, I enjoy you, and it, far too much, and I’m not given to that kind of pettiness. But “loose women”? “Sluts”? Take some Pepto, and sleep it off, please.

    And yes, detractors of the soulless bitch, I ran on longer than I meant to do. Peace to you and yours. Enjoy Black Friday and all of the conspicuous consumption, leftover bird and beer. Don’t get trampled. Blitz out on triptophan.

    Love and a safe weekend.


    • avatar Melissa Taylor says:

      ^ this a thousand times.

      I am in my mid-thirties and friends with benefits has never meant to me or any of my friends that the persons involved are sluts or anything close to promiscuous. Perhaps you have the wrong idea about this term as it is usually used to refer to two people, of any orientation, that are friends that get together once in awhile (or more often if the mood suits) to enjoy each other with out having a coupled relationship. This does not mean they go around sleeping with anything on two legs.

      Melissa, nonjudgementally

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      Thank you. Thank you very much.

      I am fifty three, and I very definitely had sex in non-committed situations in my youth. Indeed, I like to point out to young people, who — like every generation — think they invented sex, that I was young during that vanishingly small window of human history between the discovery of penicillin and the advent of AIDS, back when sex was the safe vice. We all knew drugs could could kill you, but anything you could get from sex, at least that we knew of, we could cure.

      And it wasn’t just me. Most of my female friends were having sex without having some deep, overwhelming commitment. Indeed, it would have been considered a little unusual if someone were not. Why did we do it? For the same reason the men were doing it: We liked sex. Oh, shock, oh, horror!

      There is a real honesty about two people discovering they have sexual chemistry and running with it. What I find questionable is women who see sex as something they parcel out in return for promises and gifts. So far as I’m concerned, if you take material gain into account when deciding who you’ll sleep with, you’re a prostitute, and it doesn’t matter if that gain comes in the form of $100 on the nightstand, or fancy dinners and jewelry.

      And LW1? The reason why you never had such a relationship is that your fundamental contempt for women and our sexuality is clear.

    • avatar Diana Danh says:

      If this were Facebook I’d “Like” it! LOL

    • avatar Carol Palinkas says:

      I planned on responding, but could not have said it better than you just did. Perfect.

  4. avatar Ajen says:

    I agree with Briana’s comment– John from Essex’s letter did not strike me as sly so much as it seemed tedious and misogynistic. I’m not surprised he doesn’t have a “Friend with Benefits”; I’m surprised he’s got any friends at all with such an outdated, hateful attitude.

    This is a website aimed at modern women, yes? Well, in modern times, we call what John’s doing “slut-shaming”, and a great many women are tired of it. If a woman wants to have an active sexual relationship purely for the enjoyment of sex (imagine that!), then power to her. I thought part of feminism was about the freedom to make choices– this includes sexual choices. By assuming that a woman only makes such choices because she’s too dumb to do otherwise is incredibly insulting. Why is it stupid to enjoy sex with no strings attached? Men have been doing it for centuries without being called sluts OR loose. Funny how that works…

    Shrugging off this sexist attitude as a “generational” thing is like saying oh, well, isn’t it droll how people of color don’t want to be referred to by the offensive racial slurs any more. How delightfully generational!

    Unless, of course, by “generational”, you mean “embarrassingly ignorant”, in which case you’re absolutely correct. But a site that celebrates women and changing the world should do better than that, don’t you think?

    P.S. I think it’s pretty damn funny that John comes right out and admits that when he has sex with a woman, the act offers no benefits for her. I don’t doubt he’s right about that, but I suspect we’ve solved the problem about why he can’t find someone with whom to reap such a “benefit”.

  5. avatar Karen Ferguson says:

    To those who feel that people uncomfortable with the idea of FWB are not “modern” or are sexist, I consider myself immune: I really don’t care what anyone else does and so I’m not judging. But I join John of Essex and Margo in their bewilderment. It was the Casey Anthony case that confused me. One of her FWB’s, interviewed by the police, commented that their arrangement was uber casual and that she’d jump up, dress, and go home immediately. He said “I felt like the girl.” (In his own unknowing way he understood and took care of the sexism question.) But then he said “I asked her to take it up to the next level.” Without being a prude or a moralist –just being a realist– I wondered what exactly that next level was. I asked a twenty-something friend, who said the behavior of Casey Anthony and all her friends was absolutely typical. But I persisted: After sex, what’s the next level? What’s above sex? What do you do when you fall into one of those magnificent madnesses to ratchet it up a notch when you’ve already dispensed with sex with the same nonchalence as you toss out used ketchup packets at McDonalds?

    • avatar Ajen says:

      Karen, I’d like to clarify my remarks re: your comment to avoid misunderstandings. It is perfectly okay if people are uncomfortable with the idea of FWBs. That is entirely their right, and this type of relationship is not for everyone. Not being comfortable with it doesn’t make a person sexist.

      But implying that women (not men, only women!) are stupid or lacking in morals for wanting to choose this type of relationship IS sexist. Calling women (not men, only women!) names and trying to shame them for exercising their right to choose to have such a relationship is also sexist.

      John isn’t merely “bewildered”, he’s being deliberately nasty and dismissive toward women. In some circles, this passes as humor, but I’m glad to see that more than one commenter sees it for what it really is.

      As for your questions, I’m not really sure what you’re asking. Wanting to “take something up to the next level” usually refers to a closer degree of intimacy. Given the brief context you provided, it sounded like the witness wished to take the relationship from the level of “no strings attached” to a relationship complete with romantic attachments. In other words, emotional and romantic intimacy in addition to sexual intimacy.

      As for describing a FWB relationship as cold, unfeeling act (i.e. like tossing out used ketchup packets), I think that’s making assumptions about how other people think and feel without actually knowing.

      • avatar mmht says:

        Ajen, you said it perfectly!

      • avatar A R says:

        In my opinion, I’d guess that Margo also saw the comment for what it was. She simply sidestepped his intended nastiness by calling his comment “sly”.

        I read it as I do when I hear someone snarkily say, “Nice move” to someone who flubbed a moment, and the offender replies, “Thank you for noticing.”

        You *know* the person who snipped it meant to be rude, but by refusing to acknowledge it, you take power from them.

        I read Margo’s reply as such.

      • avatar Ajen says:

        That’s a very generous interpretation, but I’m afraid I just don’t see evidence of that.

        Thanking him for the laugh and then saying his opinion “is most likely shared by everyone who is middle-aged”? Describing the newer generation as having “[gone] off the rails” for enjoying recreational sex? Going on to say that what John calls “sluts”, she calls “loose” and that the price for enjoying a sexual relationship is a venereal disease?

        That is not sidestepping, refusing to acknowledge, or taking power away from John’s opinions, A R. That is a direct affirmation of them and then throwing more fuel on the fire to boot.

        When someone says something demeaning and offensive about an entire group of people, acting as if the comment as funny and perfectly acceptable in polite company and then adding some offensive comments of your own is NOT the classy road, it’s the disgraceful one.

      • avatar A R says:

        Well, of course you are welcome to your own take on it. I stand by what I said earlier. IMHO.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      What’s the next level after sex? As a woman who asked her husband out on the first date, largely because I hadn’t been laid in a few months and I found him attractive, I’m qualified to answer this question:

      We had really great sex on that first date. Had that been all, we would have had a few fun weeks, and that would have been it. Instead, we also discovered that we tremendously liked and enjoyed one another, had a deep and inherent affinity. We rapidly found that we couldn’t decide which we wanted to do more, have sex or talk to one another. So we saw one another several times a week, both for sex and just because we wanted to be together. We made opportunities to do things together other than get laid. We ‘came out’ to our group of friends as a couple. While neither of us had been sleeping with anyone else — too busy with one another — we eventually formally agreed that we were sexually exclusive. After 2 1/2 years, we moved in together (and, at the same time, moved away from the city where we had met.) 2 1/2 years after that, we married.

      We are still together after 22 years, 16 of them married. We are still crazy about one another. We are more deeply committed than ever, and our mutual trust, emotional intimacy, and understanding are implicit and profound. This all started with sex, rather than culminating in it.

      I find it odd that people somehow think of sex as the ultimate in intimacy, when we all see people around us who have been sharing beds for years with people from whom they are obviously estranged.

      • avatar Diana Danh says:

        That was a beautiful response. I felt the same way with my husband. The first night I met him I saw fireworks, he was just above and beyond anyone else I had ever met before. Everything he said and did even before we met was right on the mark. I think these slut shaming people are just so jealous, insecure and emotionally cold that they have lost their humanity.

      • avatar Michelles11 says:


      • avatar wendykh says:

        I married my husband of 7 years and two kids because he gave me my first vaginal orgasm, no lie. I had been married and divorced previous, spent many years finding myself sexually, was firmly in the sexually liberated single independent woman camp, very aware I “couldn’t” orgasm from intercourse…. he was my best friend and kind of hot and talked a good game so I decided to give him a go although he was SO not my type, and was younger to boot (I was firmly interested in ONLY men 10-15 years older for serious relationships, as a rule).

        Then we started fornicating like rabbits because he smelled right and I knew how to move right and it became passionate and biologically driven and necessary to be in each other as much as possible, while still firmly insisting we were just friends.

        We married about 18 months after the first time we had sex, 3 months after he finally got me off from the rabid screwing (he’d been doing a good job in other ways prior) and while it’s been a wild stormy ride especially the first few years I know I’ll die in his arms if he doesn’t die in mine first.

    • avatar egg99 says:

      Casey Anthony is not the test case.

      Someone who engages in a FWB relationship doesn’t necessarily “dispense with sex with the same nonchalance as you toss out used ketchup packets at McDonalds.” And yes, Karen, you aren’t judging.

      What’s above sex… Hm….. Oh, I don’t know, maybe deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone. That might be a teensy bit more “next level” than sex. Or perhaps deciding to procreate and raise a family together. Or even the experience of your deepening love and emotional intimacy. Or… nevermind… you’re right. Nothing. It’s all about sex. Nothing in your life or relationship could everrrrr top sex.

      For the record, I’m in a longterm monogamous relationship, and I’ve never been in a FWB relationship. That said, I can obviously conceive of such a relationship, which- I know- may shock people, as many believe this is only a cognitive leap only obtainable by men.

  6. avatar lincer says:

    Hey Margo:  Hope you had a great holiday.

    Re:  Slut/Loose:  In this technical age, I prefer to refer to these people as “User Friendly”

    With  emphasis on the words USER and USED.


    • avatar dcarpend says:

      Is it impossible for you to imagine that the women might be using the men? Why do people assume that sex is something women give and men get? Why is it so hard for people to imagine that the women who sleep with men without a commitment are doing it because, like the men involved, they like sex? Sheesh.

      • avatar Michelles11 says:

        dcarpend…THANK YOU!!!!!!  So glad someone thinks like me.  I honestly don’t get it either.  Women DO like sex, and honestly, I can enjoy sex with someone and not want a commitment from them.  Sheesh.

  7. avatar Cindy Marek says:

    L #1: Margo: “Somehow the kids went off the rails and decided sex was just something to do … you know, like a video game or playing darts.”

    Lol!! Yep. And as we all know, there are far more serious consequences to sleeping around. And regardless of how many more generations pass, men will NEVER respect women who sleep around. Double standards are not fair, but neither is life.

    L #2: I can sort of relate. Moved far away from my home territory; nearly 20 years later I still regret it occasionally. You’ve discovered a surprising thing about yourself: “This is all particularly jarring and somewhat disappointing to me as I’ve always been the optimistic, go with the flow, I-can-be-happy-anywhere type.” I can totally relate to that. So now you’ve admitted this, can cherish happy home memories, continue working towards being happy where you are. And one little mental exercise I frequently do, when homesick blues hit me: Remind myself of what led me to willingly leave home; the negative aspects (weather, unpleasant regional attitudes).

    • avatar percysowner says:

      Double standards CAN change, but only if people confront them and call people out about them. Just blaming women for having a sex drive simply perpetuates the idea that men will never respect women who enjoy sex.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      Really? Men will NEVER respect women who sleep around? Because the man I’ve been married to for 16 years knew that I had a long and active sexual history, and certainly was aware I’d asked him out on the first date because, ur, I liked the way his jeans fit, rather than because I wanted to discuss theology. Yet all these years he’s given every evidence of respecting me deeply.

    • avatar Diana Danh says:

      I for one am tired of hearing the old “venereal disease” excuse for slut shaming. As if people don’t know what condoms are for and how to use one, and yes, they do work very well.

    • avatar butterfly55 says:

      Actually I have never met a real man who not only respected but loved to be around a woman who liked sex and was not afraid to enjoy it.  I was quite happy with both FWB and serious sex until I married, and received more marriage proposals than I wanted, this from men who knew my history.

  8. avatar R Scott says:

    LW1-Why is it so mind boggling to some people that there are adults out there who enjoy clean, healthy sex with each other simply because it’s enjoyabable? And what’s with the double standerd? The LW is my age, or younger and should know better. Every time this bonehead banged a “slut” that made him a guy who bangs “sluts”. Congratulations big man.

    LW2 – I’m hoping the LW was just feeling little down and got it out of her system. She sound’s pretty sensible and is doing the right stuff. Not much to add other than I hope she can make peace with the situation and I’m sure whe will.

  9. avatar sconseter says:

    Oh lighten up, people… John was just making a rather tongue-in-cheek comment on the times….Margo just followed suit…as she should have.

    As a woman approximately the same age (I’m assuming) as John, those professing outrage that the FWB designation shouldn’t be compared with being “loose” or “sluts” are being a bit disingenuous  

    OK, so maybe it doesn’t mean sleeping around/multiple one-night stands, but no self-respecting woman out there really thinks a FWB relationship is particularly healthy or even that desirable.  It’s actually rather shallow…contrary to FWB propopents’ beliefs, there’s everything admirable in wanting to share something as intimate as sex with someone with whom they can see a full future — not just the next hook-up when the mood happens to strike.  

    • avatar carol grzonka says:

      i’m probably older than either you or ‘john'(interesting pseudonym, btw).  names that you bandy around so casually are simply a means of minimizing any woman who owns her own sexuality.  if a woman doesn’t attach her well-being, sexual or otherwise, to a particular man, you have to ‘understand it’ by naming it negatively.  everything doesn’t have to be deep, deep, deep to have value.  by the by, while you’re romanticizing ‘THE BIG RELATIONSHIP’, have you never come in contact with any couple who detested and disrespected each other,  but this is ok because they envision a future together?

      • avatar sconseter says:


      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        What’s the matter, sconseter, literacy challenged this morning? carol’s comment was perfectly rational and coherent…perhaps she ought to have used very small words to reach you.

        Or maybe it’s the concepts that are beyond you. I have excellent sarcasm and irony awareness. John (and yes, what an interesting alias…I wonder if the only women who suffer his attentions are those he must pay for, and if they demand a premium to put up with him) might have thought he was being ironic (o how droll, now sluts are called friends with benefits, who’d have thought it?), but if he considers that a joke, it’s of the same order as the one with the punch line that goes: “Women are just life-support systems for c**ts”. Nice, hmmm? Approve of that one, do you?

        Margo’s reply may have been light-hearted (I think “frivolous” or “trivializing” are words better suited), but it was not amusing either. It was presumptuous (read all of the replies from the “middle-aged”), judgmental, and oddly cruel. If she had been joking, she would have taken a poke at John in her usual manner.

        I’m not choking from apoplexy. Hardly. I even wished a lovely post-Turkey Day-Black Friday-triptophan-filled-blissed-out weekend on everyone. I certainly don’t expect an apology from Margo. For you, I wish an infection of post-Victorian thinking. How many marriages are utterly loveless, and have one or the other party miserably suffering the sexual attentions of the other for years? If you think no “self-respecting woman” should behave in this foul and reprehensible manner, what about self-respecting men” Or should they be allowed to freely follow their penises, and sow their wild oat seeds in as many vessels as necessary to quell their wanton urges (and who are these “vessels”? Must be un-self-respecting-women…or sluts) whilst we self-respecting, repressed, virginal (I don’t know…is masturbation acceptable? Or do we lose Purity Points for having ANY sexual feelings before we find The One? Can one be “intimate” with a vibrator or dildo?) women keep our knees locked together until that someone with whom we clairvoyantly see a full future comes along, complete with Respectable Job, Good Genetics, and Intent of Marriage?

        I do believe that sexual repression causes hysteria, sconseter. They’ve proven that recently…I think it might have been in 1853 or thereabouts. Maybe we ought to go to a physician and have him apply stimulation so that a Thrill can be accomplished to achieve calmness and a return to rational thinking. I prescribe this for you. I hope it helps.

    • avatar mmht says:

      Sorry, Sconseter I think you, Margo’s, and John’s attitude is insulting, ridiculous, and so out of date that I’m surprised you’re even able to function in today’s society. I am a self-respecting woman and I took part in a FWB situation. I’m happily married and this has been many years ago, but at the time that I did it I wasn’t ready for a relationship and didn’t want one. I did, however, still have sexual needs that I wanted to fulfill. We both practiced safe sex, were with no one else sexually during that time, and it was to the mutual benefit of both. We are still friends. It might sound surprising, but mature people are capable of doing that.

    • avatar Ajen says:

      Sconseter writes: “Oh lighten up, people… John was just making a rather tongue-in-cheek comment on the times….Margo just followed suit…as she should have.”

      Calling women sluts and implying they’re stupid because they like having sex is just a light-hearted quip to you? Wow.

      And no, playing along with John was not the right thing to do. Women shouldn’t stand by and let men demean other women.

      “…no self-respecting woman out there really thinks a FWB relationship is particularly healthy or even that desirable.”

      That’s your opinion, not fact. You have no clue what other women might think or want in a relationship, and behaving as if you do is presumptuous.

      There was a time when “no self-respecting women” would be seen wearing make-up, or displaying her ankles, or not wearing a corset. Guess what? Those ideas are behind the times, too.

      “…contrary to FWB propopents’ beliefs, there’s everything admirable in wanting to share something as intimate as sex with someone with whom they can see a full future – not just the next hook-up when the mood happens to strike. ”

      You’re making baseless assumptions again. I think it’s great if people only want to have sex as part of a committed relationship. The difference between us is that I don’t feel the need to insult or demean the people who think differently from me.

      It makes me especially sad when I see women (like you and Margo) condoning attitudes like John’s. Without realizing it or meaning to, you’re both contributing to a horrible, sexist attitude that any women who doesn’t conform to your specific standard (i.e. no sex allowed unless it’s within a committed relationship) is somehow less than human or less worthy.

      It’s this kind of attitude that condones rape and sexual violence toward women. You send the message that it’s okay, even expected, because that’s the punishment for not making the choices you deem appropriate for a “self-respecting” woman.

      After all, they’re just dumb sluts, right?

    • avatar R Scott says:

      I think John made it quite clear that he thinks women who enjoy sex outside of marriage are what he would call sluts. He also made it clear that apparently we wants to get him some. He made it equally clear that he has little respect for women. Apparently, neither do you or Margo.

      Strong, self actualized, authentic women don’t need the promice of marriage, children or protection from a big ol’ man to have a healthy, enjoyable sex life.

      Consenting adults and all that dontcha know. . . .

    • avatar wendykh says:

      The only people who think sex is only special with someone you love are people who are having really crappy sex that is only “good” because it’s with someone they love.

  10. avatar percysowner says:

    Margo, I am deeply disappointed with your answer to John from Essex. His question was misogynistic and sexist. Believe it or not women actually like sex just as much as men do. Having sex with a friend who you know and can trust is sensible and can fulfill a need if someone isn’t in a committed relationship. To imply that women who have sex without a permanent connection are “loose” or “slut” is demeaning and insulting. It does not help change the views on women to placate a sexist jerk. What do you call a man is part of the FWB package? HE isn’t called anything other than lucky.

    BTW, I am in my late 50’s and assuming that accepting that women who have sex are perfectly nice people who are more than who they sleep with is NOT part of how I feel and I am of the same generation. I’m actually insulted that you think because I an middle aged to older woman that I MUST believe that women who have sex are sluts or loose or any other pejorative that you want to use is ageist.

    Fortunately, John from Essex, having told the world that is anyone has sex with you means that they should expect to get nothing positive out of the experience should insulate you from the “sluts” of the world. Hopefully it also will insulate us from you.

  11. avatar marojita says:

    I created an account just to comment on LW1’s inquiry and response – normally I take internet questions and internet answers with grains of salt – the LW and the advisor(s) come with their own unique perspectives and it serves ourselves and our communities well to listen and respond with an open mind as much as possible.

    But it’s very difficult to keep an open mind with this inquiry and response which are both clearly dated and frankly, hurtful, to women (but also men) who can and do have respectful, fun, exciting, delightful sexual relationships outside the confines of traditional structures.

    Clutching your peals as you glibly sigh that kids today have gone off the rails is insulting to a generation of young people who have taken their reproductive and sexual health into their own hands, by taking responsible steps to protect their bodies with birth control, condoms, etc. Not to mention, taking their sexual happiness into their own hands by experimenting and deciding what makes them feel good.

    Further, some advice for Margot along the lines of people in glass houses…not long ago (and even still, which is ridiculous and petty), women who divorced and remarried were often grouped into the “loose” category, no? And John, if you’re so concerned about traditional relationships between men and women, why in your 50s are you looking for a friend with benefits? Why aren’t you married? If you are, what on earth are you doing to respect your wife by looking for a friend with benefits?

    John – Good luck finding such a person in this day and age of women having greater self-respect and knowledge about what they want in the bedroom. I doubt any of my contemporary sisters would put up with your horsesh*t for very long…

    • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

      marojita, I agree 100%!! Except that I don’t think there is any mystery as to why “John” isn’t married. I think his letter says it all!

  12. avatar carol grzonka says:

    margo, SHAME ON YOU!!!  whether this letter is a ‘joke’ or ‘tongue in cheek’, by buying into this attitude, you have insulted many of the women who read you column or that you come into contact with on a daily basis..  reread what you wrote.  your response is every bit as misogynistic as his letter.  better you spend a night with a caring FRIEND than cling to an unloving partner because he’s your RELATIONSHIP.  or have the many letters you receive taught you that little.

  13. avatar sconseter says:

    People, people!!  He was JOKING!!!!  Maybe it’s not all THAT funny…but please, GET A GRIP!!  

    And Margo, please don’t fall into the “ohmygosh-I’ve-offended-my-readers-maybe-they’re-right-” trap and get all apologetic.   

    It was a trying-to-be-funny, lighthearted letter, folks (and by folks, I mean all the women out there who are choking with apoplexy over this). It is MEANINGLESS!!!  Just eat your Thanksgiving leftovers and thank your lucky stars you have nothing more to worry about than a silly little letter in an advice column.

    • avatar mmht says:

      It was neither funny nor lighthearted. It was disgusting and offensive. Someone can’t say destructive hurtful things and then say “Oh, I was joking!” and make it all ok. You need step back into reality!

    • avatar marojita says:

      Let me make sure I understand you, sconseter – in your opinion, the LW was trying to be funny but in doing so offended a lot of people. And we’re supposed to cut him some slack why…? Just because it was maybe intended as a joke? That’s ridiculous. Jokes are supposed to be funny. Why don’t you re-read the comments if you’re still unsure of what happened here.

      Also – this flippant attitude towards women’s sexuality – that anything this side of “too ardent” can all be contained into one neat little word “slut” (or Margo’s questionable attempt to soften the blow “loose”) is not actually meaningless. As another commenter pointed out, we wouldn’t let some crap comedian get away with an insulting racial joke.

      I highly doubt that this post just happened to attract women (and men) with no sense of humor. Probably more likely the comedian sucks (or this was never a joke to begin with)…

    • avatar carol grzonka says:

      men need to learn that jokes like this are equivalent to ‘jokes’ that use the ‘n’ word or antisemitic humor.  no more. if you can’t restrain yourself from them, stay away!!!

    • avatar percysowner says:

      I’m just joking is the international code for “I really meant it, but now people upset, so I’ll pull plausible deniability”. It isn’t just a joke, it is a slur and the only way to put an end to slurs is to label them for exactly what they are, attacks on, in this case, women. It wasn’t funny, it was mean and demeaning. Pretending it was all in good fun only makes John from Essex feel like he can still be offensive and get patted on the head and told he is a good boy.

    • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

      Sconseter, how meaningless is this really if you’ve felt the need to comment three times? What’s YOUR investment in his sexist and hateful attitude?

    • avatar Ajen says:

      Sconseter writes: “It was a trying-to-be-funny, lighthearted letter, folks (and by folks, I mean all the women out there who are choking with apoplexy over this). It is MEANINGLESS!!! Just eat your Thanksgiving leftovers and thank your lucky stars you have nothing more to worry about than a silly little letter in an advice column.”

      It was indeed a very silly (and offensive, and sexist) letter, but it’s about a very serious issue– demeaning women for failing to conform to a specific code of behavior. You might not see it as worthy of your attention, but plenty of people do. You do not get to decide what’s important enough for them to spend their time on.

      But if you like, please feel free to explain why calling women sluts is funny. I’d love to hear it.

  14. avatar mmht says:

    I am utterly appalled by you Margo. Not only for printing John from Essex’s disgusting, sexist letter but for laughing and agreeing with him! Why is it that the woman is a slut but men’s reputation are not in the least bit affected by this? And why is it so wrong to enjoy sex? Its completely natural. Many species engage in sex for fun and they don’t have a monogamous relationship nor do the female members of those species have to endure public ridicule for it. Maybe you and John from Essex can take a time machine back 30 years ago b/c clearly both of you are two judgmental and sexist to live in today’s society.

  15. avatar MizAmazon says:

    wow… Apparently I wasn’t the only one to feel offended by both letter writer #1 and Margo, whose advice I usually agree with. Even when I was a young teenager I was always offended by the double standard that said unmarried women who had sex were sluts, while there was no such moniker for men. In fact, the more sexual conquests a man had, the more “studly” and admired he was. Additionally, I spent my teen years attending a fundamentalist church, where we were told by our pastor that it was up to the girls to say “no” and set the boundaries, because guys couldn’t help themselves once they became aroused. So if sex took place, it was the girl’s fault for letting it happen. God save us from those asinine ideas. In my later teens and twenties, I found myself in the “love the one you’re with” generation. Everybody I knew had casual sex, and there was no stigma attached to it. Nowadays, I don’t see it as a morality issue, but more as an issue of personal safety (consensual sex rather than coerced or forced, proper contraception and protection from STDs), self-esteem issues (making sure the person you’re giving yourself to really cares about you and isn’t just using you) and real feelings of love, caring, and mutual respect for your sexual partner. No one is served by labeling young women as “sluts” for sleeping around. Unfortunately many young women have not been taught to respect themselves, have not been valued enough to develop a healthy sense of self-esteem, and may even have been sexually molested, which can contribute to sleeping around indiscriminately, looking for love, but having no idea what real love is. And many young men are in the same position as well, though young men are still admired for their sexual conquests. The only derogatory term I’ve ever heard applied to a man who sleeps around a lot is a “Himbo” (like bimbo).

    • avatar Lila says:

      MizAmazon, you hit some of the key issues, and self-esteem is a big one. I am very concerned that girls are commercially hypersexualized from a very young age these days, and both they and young boys are conditioned to think that a girl’s primary value is in looking good and putting out. Think of things like padded bikini tops for 7-year-olds, Bratz dolls, music videos, any number of TV shows that place underage female characters in explicit sexual situations.

      I don’t mind if a young woman has sex for her own enjoyment; what bothers me is that 1) a lot of girls put out just because it seems to be expected, not because they like it; and 2) I don’t see a whole lot of approval or glorification of girls / women for being smart, accomplished, creative, strong, etc… only for looking and being sexy.

      • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

        Lila – all those things are problems, but they root from attitudes like Johns. Read his letter again and note how eager he is to get in on what he sees to be a chance to take advantage of women. For him, it is not about women owning their sexuality, its about what he can and can’t get out of a woman. He obviously has his mind set on what he thinks the purpose of a woman is, and it is not stimulating conversation.

      • avatar Lila says:

        John’s letter was so over the top I thought it might be sarcastic… but I am not sure.

      • avatar Ajen says:

        Sadly, Lila, John’s letter and general attitude isn’t that unusual. Lots of men judge women for enjoying sex. The idea that a woman might enjoy sex or have desires of her own and wish to act upon them without first getting the approval of a man is very threatening for some people.

        That’s why we end up with derogatory terms like “slut” and “loose women” for women, while men who engage in the exact same behavior are lauded for their virility and masculinity. It’s a sexist double standard, and I wish more people would recognize such B.S. for what it is.

      • avatar wendykh says:

        John is just pissed these women aren’t “friends” with him. Period.

  16. avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

    I have never felt the need to comment negatively on anything Margo has said here before, and many have already expressed what is wrong with this picture very well, but I can’t help adding to the voices. John has here expressed a hateful and possessive attitude towards women. It is as if he has said “I am upset that I can’t take advantage of women more easily! Since I missed out on the idea of sex being OK, I am going to degrade younger women who are enjoying sex, presume that they will sleep with anything that moves, and toot the horns of young men who are obviously getting to take advantage of every misogynistic fantasy I ever had!” The reply: “Oh yes! Aren’t young women sluts! They have no moral character, but we just accept that now. Don’t they know that sex cannot have any meaning outside of the one relationship structure that our ancestors decided was acceptable? Oh well! Wish I was in the olden days with you, when a man owned a woman and a woman knew her place!” I would be surprised to find that John had any friends, let alone female ones. I don’t see any benefit to anyone from engaging in any sort of relationship with this bitter and hateful man.

  17. avatar Lila says:

    Huh. Recalibrating… Definition of “slut.” ??? If it isn’t someone who sleeps around a lot, or outside her committed relationship… what is it? Is there even such a thing any more?

    Okay, I am officially a stodgy old Victorian, because I agree with those here who observe that FWB relationships generally don’t turn out well. Men and women really do view and feel about sexual relationships differently, in general. While men are more likely to be able to “just have sex” with no emotional attachment to the woman at all, women tend to be more emotionally involved with their sex partners. It is inherently unequal, and for all of the modern push for women to try to equalize themselves with men in ALL ways, including sexual behavior, I believe it just does not work at the most basic emotional level.

    I think there is a biological / evolutionary basis to the differences between “traditional” male and female behavior, understanding always that there are exceptions: in general, historically, women had better reproductive success if they could attract a successful mate and keep him around to 1) father more children, and 2) help protect and provide for those children until they were self-sufficient. Men, on the other hand, had better reproductive success if they could just impregnate as many females as possible. Women are all about attracting a mate, not conquering him. They are emotionally sexually aroused, romanced; it’s psychological. Men are all about conquest, a score, they are visually aroused; it’s often just physical, and for them, it is therefore easy to just leave sex in the purely physical realm. (Again… these are gross generalizations and there are always exceptions.)

    This is why a man, caught in an affair, may defend himself with “but it was just sex.” And they mean it! Of course the wife does not accept that excuse because she thinks of sex in terms of emotional commitment. A woman’s affair is generally NOT “just sex.” It is about an emotional attachment outside her marriage.

    • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

      Lila “Recalibrating… Definition of “slut.” ??? If it isn’t someone who sleeps around a lot, or outside her committed relationship… what is it?”

      Neither of the definitions you presented here fit FWB. You have described promiscuity, and you have described cheating. Although someone could practice FWB and either of those other behaviors, they are not required to go together. Should women who sleep with their partners before they are married (or, heaven forbid, without ever getting married!) have to wear scarlet A’s as well?

      • avatar Lila says:

        Raugiel, so… IS there such a thing as a slut? Is it only an antiquated notion? When does a woman cross the line? And is there such a thing as a slutty man? (I think not, because I can’t think of an equivalent male term for “slut”…)

      • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

        In my opinion, Slut is like a racial slur, a comparison several other commenter have made. Like many racial slurs, some people try to “take the word back”. Other people try to banish it from use. I think it is handy, as someone who is using it is probably too sexist and ignorant to be worth my time, and they have given me a quick clue to that fact. Reading between the lines, “slut” has always meant, “women who defies societal conventions regarding sex to the displeasure of those in charge.” There has never been a clear equivalent for men, as they generally have been “those in charge”. Remember, once we weren’t people, we were property.

      • avatar Sadie BB says:

        Lila – yes there is a term for male slut…Or am I the only person who has heard of man-whores?

    • avatar percysowner says:

      Slut is a loaded term meant to degrade a woman who enjoys sex PERIOD. You are repeating tired old stereotypes that are used to try and make women ashamed of actually being sexual.

      Until 1965 some states outlawed the use of birth control EVEN WITHIN MARRIAGE. Since women are the ones who get pregnant and since men could walk away from the consequences of an unplanned pregnancy, women needed to be in a secure relationship for sex to avoid being impoverished and unable to care for a child. Women chose emotional relationships not because of biology, but because of necessity. Society also told them that they were slutty, slut, sluts if they even considered seeking personal sexual fulfillment. The rise of feminism and the ease of birth control finally ALLOWED women to express their biological urge to have sex and to actually find a partner who satisfies them.

      Evolutionary psychology is not a credible science. It makes claims about men, women and biology only to continue to justify the superiority of men and to try and keep women “in their place”. If you are right about women needing commitment biologically, why are we even having this discussion. We wouldn’t have to pound it into women’s heads that if they enjoy sex and don’t want to make a permanent commitment they MUST be bad people who deserve to be shamed.

      Your “concerns” also devalue a woman’s ability to decide for herself what makes her happy. You are informing us that YOUR WAY is the right way because women are too weak in a biologic way to decide any differently. I prefer to believe that most women know themselves and what they want and are mature enough to make decisions about when, where and why they want to have sex.

      • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

        Amen percysowner!

      • avatar jessica lewis says:

        Preach it, percysowner! Well said!

      • avatar Lila says:

        I speak not of the recent history of the past few thousand years. I speak of evolutionary history of a couple hundred thousand – couple of million years ago.

      • avatar Lila says:

        PS, percysowner… I think you may have misinterpreted my post.

        What is “my way?” I don’t see it in my own post. I also said NOTHING about shame, about keeping women in their place, or anything else of that ilk. I was musing on evolutionary biology (like, before caveman days) and its effect on reproductive success, NOT psychology or societal mores.

        I also intentionally loaded my post with a lot of disclaimers and phrases indicative of opinion… “these are gross generalizations and there are always exceptions”; “I believe”; “in general”; “tend”, etc. When I am musing on unprovable things, I try make clear I am NOT claiming any kind of hard facts.

        Sorry if I touched a nerve, seems like a surprisingly sensitive topic.

        It’s touchy for me too. One of my closest friends is a 20-something who I have known all her life, and she has been very unhappy at times because of the sexual expectations and assumptions of OTHER people. She does what she wants, but she also does what other people want; and I get the IMPRESSION (not based on scientific data) that she is pretty typical for her age.

      • avatar Sadie BB says:

        Lila- sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between nature & circumstance …until circumstances change. Once upon a time sex ( or rather pregnancy) could actually kill you. 1/3 of all women died in childbirth. Naturally women were more cautious about sex…until circumstances changed.
        Even after the advent of decent medical care, sex used to lead pretty directly to pregnancy, but once we had birth control 30% of women failed to become mothers. Ever. Now I hear it’s up to 50% in this country. That’s a heck of a lot of women who have forgotten their evolutionary ‘destiny’. Because it never was destiny, it was circumstance.
        From my own experience – For over half a century people have been telling me what a woman is…and either they’re totally wrong….or I’m a man!

    • avatar Briana Baran says:

      Lila, I agree with most of the things you commented on in your post, which is very thoughtful, as usual. Biologically and anthropologically, you are absolutely correct about males and females.

      However, society has changed drastically. Human females no longer need a man to protect, sustain and nurture them sociologically or culturally (I am speaking of Western culture), and are far more independent. Marriage is not a social necessity, nor is procreation. In fact, reproduction may not even be desirable. Also, biologically, human females are the only mammals (with the exception of bonobos) who do not have a specific heat period when they are capable of sexual arousal, and are the only females who can achieve orgasm…any time, all of the time.

      Given all of that, some women, more than you might think, and not just the very young, seek out sex for pure pleasure. No attachments, no commitment (in fact, I’ve known several women…mature women…who had friends with benefits specifically to avoid the pressure of being asked when they were getting married, etc.). I’m not judging whether or not these relationships work the majority of the time, or whether or not they are “wise” decisions…but they do not equate to promiscuity, infidelity or loose morals or ethics, nor are they limited to the young and foolhardy. A lot of women seek out sex with a trusted friend because it is SAFE…there will be no risk of STD’s, they know each other, neither is going to hurt the other, and the physical risks are minimal.

      Of course the potential for complications is enormous…but not just from the female perspective. Sociologically, men have changed a great deal, and I would guess that just as many men get hurt by these these arrangements as women. I found your comments with regard to infidelity interesting. I’ve known both committed men and women who’ve had affairs, and I’ve yet to hear but one man who cried, “But it was just sex!”. Affairs for men involve more than just arousal and sexual attraction…generally speaking, something is wrong in the relationship…just as is the case for women (and in both cases, some people are just untrustworthy, miserable and incapable of respect or decency). I have known one woman who was a serial cheater…who admitted that she did it “just for kicks”.

      But you ask if there are any “sluts” anymore. I’ve never particularly used that pejorative. I HAVE heard it applied to men…frequently…in three different states I’ve resided in. A slut, as I’ve always thought it defined, is a person who will have sex with anyone, anytime, perhaps with multiple someones simultaneously, for no gain other than the thrill of having sex. Sluts are not picky, have no self-respect, and no respect for anyone else. “Loose woman” is NOT the same as a slut. Loose women may have multiple partners, or have had a lot of consecutive lovers, or even a few marriages under their belts…but they still have at least a modicum of self-respect. So, I would say that yes, there are plenty of sluts still wandering about.

      But friends with benefits in no way whatsoever is meant to convey even more than one partner…much less promiscuity…or slutdom. Whether or not one approves, or if, statistically or anecdotally it is the best of ideas, or if it seems peculiar, or even if one agrees…it is not a commentary on loose morals or ethics, promiscuity, infidelity or a higher risk of STD infection or unplanned pregnancy (in fact, I’d wager that the last two are at a lower risk). I’ve even known two people who referred to their partners as “friends with benefits” until they were ready to announce an engagement (one couple) or that they had quietly gotten married (the other) to avoid harassment from over-bearing family and friends.

      It isn’t that new of a phenomenon…just a slightly wifty, silly name.

      • avatar Lila says:

        Briana, thanks for reading, thinking, and providing a thoughtful reply. I like your brain… and your perspectives on things.

        Who’da thunk this would be such a hot-button topic…?

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Lila, I like the way you think as well, and I recognize and respect your intelligence and thoughtfulness.

        This is a hot-button sort of topic…and it is something I pay attention to closely. I have a fourteen year old son at home, who is turning into a decent, caring, compassionate (and very shy, where the opposite sex is concerned) young man. I see a change coming in the kids his age…a slightly more cautious attitude, more friendliness, less pressure, less of that frantic rush to get THERE. We live in Texas, in the abstinence only based sex education system, in the heart of the Christian Right…but I don’t think that those things are what’s motivating these kids to proceed with a little more respect and care. He certainly hasn’t been raised with religious dogma (Rusty is an atheist, and you know my attitudes), but he is clear on cause and effect, and the vast, life changing consequences of those little rash decisions.

        He respects women. So does his dad. Rusty and I were friends for nine years before we were anything more…and then it was a tsunami. He knew my rather interesting past…all of it…and it didn’t matter a bit to him. Nor does it after 17 years of marriage. I’ve been called a slut, ridiculed for being twice divorced, reviled on this website for being honest. It is tough to be a woman who is open, and has something to be open about. I can honestly say that the pejoratives and vitriol don’t bother me…but what about others? Does it help for a Margo, normally so level-headed, informed and open-minded, to laughingly say, “Well, we called ‘sluts’ ‘loose women'”, and then state, for the record, that these easy (another anachronism) females are doomed to the hell of venereal diseases? I find that sad.

        I rather think that the reaction is more due to the beloved and respected Margo giving such a response, and WoW (purportedly a site dedicated to evolved women) printing it. The latter is certainly no surprise to me.

        I hope your Thanksgiving was lovely. I always wonder where you’re at in the world, and wish you the best.


    • avatar Sadie BB says:

      Well Lila, I give up.

      If women are not inclined to be as sexually active as men, then who are all these desperately horny men sleeping with? Each other?

      • avatar Lila says:

        Ha, Sadie, that is one of those questions no one liked to talk about in the old days! Ask, and watch ’em squirm. Harrumph, of course men will be men, and they are sleeping with “those other women, never our proper and precious dumpling…” Well, I know of some very proper young girls in our family who got “in trouble” way back around 1920 or so. And a very proper friend who got “in trouble” when we were in college in the 1980s. My past-generation relatives had no access to birth control so I can see how that happened… but my friend was educated and had access… why didn’t she protect herself? “Because nice girls don’t do that,” she told me. She was too embarrassed to buy condoms or ask for the pill. Certainly, more openness and less embarrassment about sex is only a good thing.

        Point is, no matter the time period, perfectly nice girls are the ones that the horny men are sleeping with! It just was not acknowledged.

        Oh, and… I did not intend to imply that women are less inclined than men to be sexually active; just that their approach is different. I am not the first to ponder the origins of this, or to suspect that it is at least in part biological, a vestige of how reproductive success was achieved in an ancient and very different world. Nowadays it is much easier to achieve reproductive success, partly due to an advanced civilization that makes our environment much safer and reduces our reliance on each other, and partly due to a current culture that promotes better (but not total) equality for women.

        All just food for thought.

      • avatar Sadie BB says:

        Well Lila, male and female are born in approximately equal numbers so it’s hard to see how the ‘men are promiscuous, women are monogamous’ theory can possibly work. Unless half the men are gay or celibate!
        Probably the preference for monogamy is a preference for one’s MATE to be monogamous.

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        Uh… some of us slept with a whole lot more than one man. We were taking up the slack for the rest of you. ;-P

      • avatar Sadie BB says:

        Dcarpend – or so men would like to imagine!!! My stepbrother recently gave me quite the lecture on how women were naturally better and more pure than men. I’m afraid I laughed rather cruelly.
        How was I to know he had found religion?

      • avatar butterfly55 says:

        Isn’t it odd how religion gets “found”.  Almost like a scavenger hunt. And of course a good woman is chaste and pure, so that back in biblical times men had to marry many of them to be able to satisfy their lust.  No  thanks, FWB is fine with me.

    • avatar Ajen says:

      Lila writes: “Men and women really do view and feel about sexual relationships differently, in general. While men are more likely to be able to “just have sex” with no emotional attachment to the woman at all, women tend to be more emotionally involved with their sex partners. It is inherently unequal, and for all of the modern push for women to try to equalize themselves with men in ALL ways, including sexual behavior, I believe it just does not work at the most basic emotional level.”

      Even if your first sentence is true– which is definitely not a given, as it is a generalization about gender roles– why shouldn’t women push for equality when it comes to sexual behavior? I’m not sure I understand the logic behind your reasoning.

      Talking about biology and the possible biological motivations behind why women might benefit more from monogamy and men don’t has a limited relevance here. As modern humans, we do lots of things that aren’t compatible with maintaining optimal reproductive success: masturbation, birth control, hysterectomies and vasectomies, etc.

      One could also argue that, speaking in purely biological terms, it’s more advantageous for women not to be monogamous, either. There are animal species where it is the norm for the females to mate with not one, but many males– it offers an increased chance of conceiving, and then she has several males to protect and provide. Polygamy for males and monogamy for females is not universal, even in nature.

      But why does that matter when it comes to gender equality? Hint: it doesn’t. We’re not limited to the gender roles that are traditional by evolutionary standards, nor should we be. Using biological and evolutionary science to argue that women shouldn’t strive to be equal with men just doesn’t make any sense.

      After all, we weren’t evolved to fly, either. Does that mean everyone should abandon air travel?

      “This is why a man, caught in an affair, may defend himself with “but it was just sex.” And they mean it! Of course the wife does not accept that excuse because she thinks of sex in terms of emotional commitment. A woman’s affair is generally NOT “just sex.” It is about an emotional attachment outside her marriage.”

      You’ve polled all the men who had affairs and know for certain there was absolutely no emotional component involved? Likewise, you’ve also polled all the women who’ve had affairs to find out that there was no physical aspect to their sexual infidelity?

      Again, when people make sweeping generalizations about gender stereotypes, it runs the high risk of being incorrect. And frankly, when the “scientific reasoning” in question is used to enforce inequalities for women, I’m inclined to dispense with it altogether.

      • avatar Lila says:

        *Sigh* Ajen, Once again, I am not arguing “should” or “shouldn’t.” I care not a whit about “morals” or “enforcement.” I am merely PONDERING “what is” and “what isn’t” and how, perhaps, it got that way.

        YES, for the sake of conceptualizing things, one must generalize somewhat. NO, I did not personally interview all 3.5 billion females on the planet and compile their opinions. I bet no one else has either. One person’s remark that “women are liberated and happy sleeping around” is exactly as sweeping and wrong (or right) as another person’s “women are not the same as men and not as blithe or happy sleeping around, as men are.” This is why I harped so much in my post about exceptions, but it sure didn’t help any.

        And yes, I fully recognize that we no longer live in caves, hunt mastodons, or worry about being carried off by sabertooth tigers, and that Queen Victoria is dead.

        I am not making up these various observations; it comes from a lot of reading. All the ladies here are pretty sharp, and whoever wants to learn more about studies, facts, trends, and statistics can search them out.

      • avatar Ajen says:

        I didn’t say you were making up your observations, Lila. I’m just questioning how applicable they are to modern situations. Arguing that evolutionarily, men/polygamy and women/monogamy leads to better reproductive success is fine and dandy, an academic discussion separate from the pesky issue of morals. But using that reasoning to claim that for men, affairs are just about sex and for women, they’re only about emotional attachment does not follow. Gross generalizations don’t seem very useful in the real-life application.

        Arguing that women striving to be equal with men in sexual behavior “just does not work” based on your observations re: evolutionary science doesn’t necessarily follow, either. As others have pointed out and you seem to agree, we’re not inextricably bound by biology. So why would women automatically fail at sexual equality based on that same fallible biological reasoning?

        “YES, for the sake of conceptualizing things, one must generalize somewhat. NO, I did not personally interview all 3.5 billion females on the planet and compile their opinions. I bet no one else has either. One person’s remark that ‘women are liberated and happy sleeping around’ is exactly as sweeping and wrong (or right) as another person’s ‘women are not the same as men and not as blithe or happy sleeping around, as men are.'”

        Please note: It’s already been said, but it looks like it needs saying again– promiscuity (“sleeping around”) is not necessarily the same thing as a FWB relationship. You can be FWBs with one person. When people mix up the two, it just suggests they’re judging something they don’t fully understand, and that benefits no one in the discussion.

        But I digress. Where has the claim that “women are liberated and happy sleeping around” been made? I am not finding it in the comments and was curious as to where you’re seeing it. If someone said that, then yes, they’re also wrong. Statements that imply ALL women are this or ALL women are that are far too general.

        I certainly recall making no such claims, because as you’ve said, I haven’t interviewed all the females in the world for their opinions. SOME women are liberated and happy sleeping around– that claim is sound enough. There are quite a few people saying that, and the reason why they’re saying it is in reaction to the comments (not yours, I do not think) that NO woman would be happy enjoying sexual relationships.

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        One could also argue that, speaking in purely biological terms, it’s more advantageous for women not to be monogamous, either.

        One could also argue that it’s historically common for women not to be monogamous. Why do you think so many strictures, from chaperones to chastity belts, were put around them? Everyone knew that plenty of children were not biologically those of their “fathers” — their mothers’ husbands. Extramarital affairs are hardly a recent phenomenon. The fact that for centuries marriage was largely an economic construct, with many women having little say in the choice of their husbands, can only have made the idea of having sex outside the marriage, with a man to whom one was actually attracted, more appealing.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Actually, to be fair, the idea of an extra-marital affair must have been equally attractive to a young man hitched for life to a woman he detested. Remember, THEY had no choice either, and in later polite society, especially Victorian, only the most eccentric and notorious of men were allowed the luxury of misbehavior in the form of mistresses.

        Also, something that seems to have passed everyone by, not EVERY man back then, or now, is a malevolent, soulless bastard. Many husbands would forgo sex in order to prevent the death or discomfort of their wives due to too many pregnancies. A few would seek out prostitutes, but this was not considered socially acceptable (not even among men) and woe to the man who caught the pox or the Syph. The Victorian, and Pre-Victorian age is famous for its subtle, covert (because illegal), illicit homosexuality and lesbianism. It is obvious in the art, photography and literature of the time that powerful male-male and female-female bonds were extremely prevalent, and almost formal in nature as “friendships” masking something far more complex.

        By the early 1900’s lesbian relationships were so common, and so accepted in the country that they were colloquially known as Boston or New England Marriages. It was a very different world than most people seem to be aware of, and I think it is ludicrous that people insist on a constant comparison between today’s culture and society and then.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      I’m sorry, but the whole “Women are emotionally aroused” thing rings completely untrue for me. I have, in my life, found many, many men sexually appealing whom I recognized from the very beginning as having no emotional or romantic potential at all — indeed, I had one or two night stands with more than a few of them. I also have met many men whom I found engaging on a personal/emotional level without finding them sexually exciting at all. For the very most part, I didn’t sleep with those, and I regretted it when I did.

      I wonder a bit if the legendary tendency of women to lose sexual interest in their spouses after a few years of marriage and a couple of kids is, at least to a degree, to be blamed on women being taught that “women are interested in the emotional stuff” and deliberately ignoring their own sexual chemistry. Which, in the long run, isn’t fair to either the husband or the wife.

      • avatar Lila says:

        dcarpend, people are different and it does ring true for me. I have never once been turned on by a good-looking hunk of beefcake. Some of my female friends are mystified. “You haven’t got a hormone in your body,” says one. Well, yeah, I do, but they are turned on by more subtle things… the way a guy looks at me, how he talks to me or treats me, his smile. But I think pheromones must also be at work in my case, because some guys like that are attractive to me, but others – meh. Or even… ewww.

        Anyway, the visual just does nothing for me. Might as well be looking at a Ken doll.

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Interesting comment, Lila. Men are more visually stimulated in general (in other words, it is not just a sexual response. Testing has been done on various subjects, including flower types, colors, shapes, designs, facial expressions, infant faces, movement, that proves this) than women. Women and men register different facial features, and different aspects of people they meet.

        I am a very visually oriented person, but then, I was raised by artists (curiously, neither my mother nor my father were like this) and I am an artist, and I am fascinated by people. Because I am bi-sexual, I tend to notice certain people who strike me as attractive, but it isn’t simply a matter of appearance. I don’t have a type. It will be movement, a walk, a turn, carriage, the entire picture that captures my attention.

        However, I have never been inclined to approach a person simply based on physical attraction, nor do I become aroused by, as you said, “a hunk of beefcake”. Arousal for me is a process of learning a person. Very few people do it. I’ve *thought* far too many people did it, which is why sex was so miserable for so very long. I can’t say that it’s emotional in the same sense that most people mean, but it is something. Something that at one time was potentially very dangerous.

        Rusty and I were friends for nine years before we became lovers, and we had to relearn each other. I don’t want anyone else. I’m still highly visual, still see dreams and fantasies, but they’re just something to speculate about, the subject of drawings (when I can) and lazy thought, and luminous, lazy day visions…but not arousal.

        Not every woman, and not every man, for that matter (talk about generalizations!) desires, or is aroused by, or will have sex with, every attractive possibility seen. The permutations of human sexuality are endless.

  18. avatar AnaT says:

    I shall forthwith inform the two delightful blokes (and one very nice lady) with whom I have, basically, FWB relationships that they are filthy sluts. This will probably amuse them. When one of the lads and I were courting, he was very nervous about what all this “meant”–as in, would there be relationship drama, did I want to meet his family and have his children or god knows what, etc. I came up with what I thought was a pretty good insta-cliche . . . “Friends with benefits begins with friends.” In other words–we’re friends. We go to movies, go out dancing, talk for hours on the phone about stupid stuff (Dungeons and Dragons, sci-fi, politics, etc.). And sometimes we have sex. It doesn’t seem that weird to me but then as a flighty young thing of 45, perhaps I just don’t understand how grown-ups do things.

  19. avatar Rain says:

    Weighing in here: I’m middle-aged and do agree with Margo.  When a sexual relationship is described as “friends with benefits” it does project an idea of a recreational pasttime.  P.S.  A slut is someone who is promiscuous just for the sake of promiscuity – they get off on it.

    • avatar R Scott says:

      And as long it is a mutually respected recreational pasttime between consenting adults why would that be a bad thing?

      FWB and promiscuity are not the same things.

    • avatar percysowner says:

      Well, bowling is a recreational pastime but we don’t have pejorative names for people who like to bowl.

      There is nothing wrong with sex for recreation. It’s more fun than raking leaves or cleaning the bathroom. Everyone needs a little recreation in their lives. Labeling one person who is having the recreational pastime as bad while remaining silent on the other person who is recreating is the problem. Sadly, Margo repeated the stereotype that women who enjoy this particular form of recreation should be labeled as less than good. John labeled them in an even more negative manner. I find both to be offensive.

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        Well, and if we’re talking comparative morality, I slept around a LOT in my youth, but I only ever have made marriage vows with one man — and I meant them, and I have kept them. How many times have you been married, Margo?

        The problem with the whole mindset of it only being acceptable for women to have sex in the context of a deep and meaningful committed relationship is that it encourages women to talk themselves into thinking they’re in love with men with whom what they really have is sexual chemistry. In particular, I believe there’s evidence that kids who take “purity pledges” are more likely to marry young, which makes subsequent divorce more likely. And convincing girls that “nice girls” only have sexual feelings in the context of “being in love” only encourages girls to think they’re madly in love with the first arrogant jock who gives them hot pants.

        It is entirely possible to be strongly sexually attracted to someone who simply is not right for you. Talking yourself into believing that your sexual affinity is more is a recipe for divorce. I long suspected that Elizabeth Taylor had convinced herself that she had to marry every man she wanted to boink.

      • avatar R Scott says:

        “Well, bowling is a recreational pastime but we don’t have pejorative names for people who like to bowl.”

        In all fairness we do make fun of their shoes and shirts. Just sayin.  But yeah, good point.   :-)

    • avatar Raugiel Reddel says:

      Isn’t sex recreational whenever it isn’t for procreation? Does that mean that birth control should be out too?

      • avatar jessica lewis says:

        And if recreational sex is out – does that mean that people who choose not to have children, or those who can’t, shouldn’t have sex ever?

      • avatar R Scott says:

        Yep. That’s what that means. So just stop it Jessica! Stop it right now.

      • avatar jessica lewis says:

        omg and to think I’ve been having sex for years and years and I can’t have kids. Shame on me! Sex for pleasure? What a wild and whacky idea.

    • avatar carol grzonka says:

      i thought that was the purpose of recreational sex,   i never used the term fwb, i always referred to them as playmates

      • avatar dcarpend says:

        Back in the day we called them “f*ckbuddies.”

      • avatar Deeliteful says:

        Indeed we did, dcarpend! I had buddies then and have had FWB in the years since. I haven’t wanted an emotional relationship in 20 yrs (since my divorce at 40), but I have enjoyed the company of men (another quaint phrase) on MY terms.

        I agree with all the posters who are offended by John’s letter and Margo’s response. I really have nothing to add, except that I have known men who were “slut-puppies” and/or “whore-dogs” and they felt complimented whenever someone called them that.    

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        I’ve heard men called “sluts”, “whore-dogs”, and “slut-puppies” too, by women and other men, and it was never meant as a compliment, or said with admiration. They were the kind of men who had no respect for anyone, including themselves, just like female “sluts”. The people I called friends back in the day where the polar opposite of prudish, but if they referred to someone, male or female, as a “slut”, you got close at your own risk. “Slut” could be defined, using Occam’s Razor, as someone you absolutely could not trust under any circumstances.

        I’ve had lots of interesting encounters in my life (52 years), and I’ve never called a partner, no matter my feelings or lack of such, a “f**kbuddy”, or a “playtoy” or anything much but “a guy I know”. But then, I was an intensely private person, and this gained me a certain degree of respect, and my sex life was my business, good or bad, legit or not.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      Yes, I’d say that getting off is the point of most sex. Is this a big surprise, somehow?

      • avatar Briana Baran says:

        Mmmm, dcarpend, not exactly. For me, sex is a bit more than just “getting off” a great deal of the time, but probably not in the way you think. My partner and I have been together 17 years, and our sex life IS intimate, and has improved, evolved, grown and developed…not become safe, comfortable and routine. Yes, we can be spontaneous, raucous and not even manage to get shed of our clothing just like a couple of hormonal teenagers…and that is delightful…but there is a lot more than that. So much more.

        And not candles, mood music, diamonds, chocolate and rose petals.

        Your comment was a wee tad specious.

  20. avatar R Scott says:

    Dear Readers,

    Don’t forget that everytime you masturbate God kills a kitten and, everytime you have sex with a friend God kills a puppy.


  21. avatar jessica lewis says:

    I am SHOCKED at this response. This response on a site for women is appalling.

    First, it’s no longer a “venereal disease”. It’s a sexually transmitted disease or infection. STDs can be transmitted by sexual activities other than intercourse. The term “venereal disease” went out in the 1990s.

    Second, why can’t women enjoy their sexuality without being insulted for it? It’s perfectly okay if your choices are to not have casual sex, but what right does that give anyone to judge those who enjoy casual sex, FWB, whatever?

    Third, perhaps you all need to do some reading on this “slut” word. It’s offensive. Google SlutWalk, for starters. Morals are subjective, so you keep your eyes on yours, and I will on mine.

    And before anyone assumes anything – I don’t have casual sex. I’m in my 40s, and know what works for me and what doesn’t. However, it is nowhere near my business what others do.

    I wish John from Essex the best. If he keeps that attitude up, he’ll be alone a long time.

  22. avatar Drew Smith says:

    Oh Margo!

    Seems you really stepped in it today, so uncharacteristic of you.

    I actually believe that you were trying to defuse the repugnant nature of the term slut, by using a cavalier attitude towards the whole matter. In this unfortunately you failed, again, so unlike you.

    While you could light-heartedly acknowledge a generational bias about women who choose to have sex without pursuit of a long-term relationship, you don’t have to agree with it! I, ahem, also wonder what you mean by most middle-aged people? I’ve tended to think of those near 70 and above, past middle age, surely it is the latter part of life for most? But in any case, the point is really, speak for yourself and let’s not generalize.

    I for one am not so sure that recreational sex with someone who is a FRIEND is a bad thing? I’m OK with you thinking it is, that is your moral prerogative. But I’m not OK with your characterizing it in a manner that denigrates women.

    Is there an inherent difference between how men and women view sex that is biologic in nature as an earlier commenter points out? I would tend to agree. But is there an inherently MORAL difference, of that I cannot agree.

    • avatar R Scott says:

      “I actually believe that you were trying to defuse the repugnant nature of the term slut, by using a cavalier attitude towards the whole matter”.

      I applaud your effort to give Margo an out but I just reread John’s letter and Margo’s response and …. nope. I think she meant what she said. If you’re a woman in a FWB arrangement you’re a slut with all the various connotations and definitions that go along with it as far as she is concerned. Ouch.  

      This really surprised and disappointed me. I fully expected her to give him a full on lecture about modern women having control over their lives, bodies and sexuality.  Instead we got, “Yep. You’re right, John”. 

  23. avatar Ajen says:

    As an additional comment for those who are against FWB relationships because they might end badly, please remember– lots of relationships where people are committed both sexually and romantically end badly, too.

    Also remember that for plenty of people, an FWB relationship works out just fine. You might not hear about it thanks to the ugly stigma that people like John (and regrettably, Margo and quite a few commenters here) perpetuate, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

  24. avatar Stepdav says:

    Perhaps  am rather out of touch, but I’m not sure I understand the FWB designation. Is it someone you have no physical attraction to but you sleep with them because you have an itch? Or is it someone you are attracted to physically, but with whom you don’t want a long term emotional, commitment? Is there a difference? I have been attracted to someone, but he was not the person I wanted to commit to. When I found someone who offered the physical as well as the emotional and spiritual attraction, I married him, but there was a time I wasn’t ready for that.  Did that make me a slut or someone comfortable with her own needs and wants?

    • avatar Ajen says:

      I think of FWB as a relationship where the people involved are attracted to one another and decide to engage in a sexual relationship even though they are not necessarily romantically involved.

      Some people regard this as shameful or inferior, but frankly, it’s none of their business what other consenting adults do. :)

      StepDav, it sounds like you made a sensible decision, based on your needs and wants.

    • avatar dcarpend says:

      Perhaps am rather out of touch, but I’m not sure I understand the FWB designation. Is it someone you have no physical attraction to but you sleep with them because you have an itch?

      No, it’s someone you find physically appealing, but are pretty sure you could never be romantically/emotionally serious about, with whom you have sex because sex is fun.

      I’ve found plenty of men hot in my day whom I knew had exactly zero long-term potential. Didn’t change the part about finding them hot.

  25. avatar ashulee786 says:

    This is for Left My Heart at Home –

    I know EXACTLY how you feel! I was a new mil spouse and moved from the north to Hood and it was a surreal experience. I went in young and wanting to make friends, and realized that many people were already jaded. We didn’t have children, were a young couple and were actually happy in our marriage which seemed to be different from everyone we met! However after a year, I was sad to leave and even 4 years later still have good friends from that post. My best advice is this:
    1. Try to get a job on post-you’ll build good relationships and hopefully find some people to hang out with on the off hours
    2. Commit yourself to living where you are. I made the mistake of running home every month and I think in hindsight that prevented me from really letting myself feel at home where I was
    3. Make friends out of convenience until you meet those people that have the same values and personality traits you typically look for
    4. Keep your head above the drama. For the cheaters, the fighters and the liars run away! Look for the positive support system you will need for when your husband is away
    5. Volunteer-its nice to help others and makes yourself feel better

    I really do sympathize with you and I’m praying you end up making a good group of friends! Best of luck to you 😀

    • avatar CanGal says:

      @ashulee786 – I am a military spouse too (26 yrs together and still going strong) and I totally agree with you especially #2. Left My Heart at Home needs to stop thinking of New England as home and start realizing that Home is where the Heart is, and if her heart is still in New England, maybe she is not as in love with her fiance as she thinks she is.