College Students Go Beyond Friend Zone, But Don’t Commit

The concept of friends with benefits is not new, however, it is a concept that college students explore, according to a study by the  Sexual Information and Education Council of the United States(SIECUS).

The SIECUS defines friends with benefits as a relationship that ” involve[s] trust and comfort levels comparable with traditional friendships, while also incorporating the physical intimacy found in romantic encounters.”

The study questioned a total of 215 undergraduate college students at a large Midwestern university. The study was conducted in two study groups. The first 125 students were questioned on the prevalence, characteristics and advantages and disadvantages of friends with benefits relationships. The other 90 students were questioned on the levels of intimacy, passion and commitment and relationship negotiations when it came to friends with benefits relationships.

Sixty percent of the participants in the first study admitted to being in a friends with benefits relationship at a certain time in their lives. Males were more likely than their female counterparts to keep the relationship as just friends. Forty eight percent of students reported that they were uncertain of the nature of their relationship–with most experiencing not knowing how they should label the relationship or if they should remain friends.

Miguel Cruz, 21-year-old Hudson County Community College student, says he actually prefers a friends with benefits relationship. “…[It’s] easier to deal with than a monogamous relationship. In a friends with benefits [relationship] you’re doing it for pleasure, knowing you won’t have anything besides that,” he said.

Yaritza Rodriguez, 19, of New Jersey City University, believes friends with benefits never end well. “I prefer monogamy, I am not morally capable of messing around with more than one person at a time or someone I am not in a committed relationship with,” she said.

Although the study reports males to be more up for the no strings alliance, Carla Cobo, a 20-year-old college student at Hudson County Community College said she prefers a friends with benefits relationship.

But there are more serious matters outside of emotion to take into account. Health issues are of concern as well.

 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,adolescents between the ages of 10 to 19 years old and young adults between the ages of 20 to 24 years old are at the greatest risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease (STD). The Center also reports that within a year, nearly half of the 19 million new STD cases fall between the ages of 15 to 24. In 2009, individuals between the ages of 13-29 account for 39% of the new HIV infections in the United States.

When asked whether she has ever gotten tested for any sexually transmitted diseases, Rodriguez  said, “[I’ve] never gotten tested for STDs but always wanted to go. I was just scared to go alone.”

When asked the same question, Cruz said, “Yes I’ve been tested. It’s important to get tested so you know what you and your sexual partner have to be safe and have precautions.”

 “On my campus, in this generation more people are concerned with getting pregnant than getting STDs. When you get an STD you can try to cure it or prevent it from getting worse unlike if you get pregnant you have to worry about keeping the baby or aborting it,” he continued.

Outside of disease precautions, pregnancy can cause an issue as well.

The number of pregnant teenage girls is the lowest rate in years. Based on a 2011 study, the Center reports, “The teenage birth rate in 2009 was 59 percent lower than the historic high reached in 1957 (96.3).”

In addition, “The birth rate for older teenagers aged 18-19 fell 6 percent from 2008 through 2009, the largest single-year decline since 1971-1972. The 2009 rate, also an historic low at 66.2 per 1,000, was 30 percent lower than in 1991 (94.0).”

The Center assumes that these downward trends are attributed to great efforts made by private and public organizations to help educate adolescents on the importance of contraceptives and abstinence.

Researchers out of Yale University credit these phenomena to adolescent preference for oral sexthan to intercourse. The researchers used 212 tenth-grade students from a suburban New England high school. From this pool, students were asked about their sexual history and the sexual behaviors of their best friends. According to the research, “Adolescents were more likely to report engagement in oral sex than intercourse, report more oral sex partners than intercourse partners and were unlikely to report use of STI protection during oral sex.”

“A lot of teens don’t think that STDs are still going around so, I feel they don’t care enough to protect themselves,” said Cobo.

The Center has posted on their website several quick tips to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. They are:

●      If you are a female age 26 or younger, getting checked for HPV can help to prevent cervical cancer.

●      If you are a sexually active female 25 years or younger, get tested every year for Chlamydia and other STDs.

●      If you are diagnosed with an STD, notify your sex partners so that they also can be tested and receive treatment if necessary. If your sex partner is diagnosed with an STD, it is important for you to be evaluated, tested and treated.

●      The most reliable ways to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases,  including HIV, are to abstain from sexual activity or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. 

●      Latex male and female condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of some sexually transmitted diseases.