At a first glance, the question above seems like a fairly straightforward one.
Looking at it more closely, it is a bit less so. To start with, what is actually meant by “no-strings”?
The chances are, if you are reading this, you have engaged in some sort of casual sexual activity at some point in your life; by which I mean sex that didn’t really mean much, but that was probably enjoyable enough because it was sex. Now, in my opinion, casual sex can absolutely be, “no-strings” attached. You see someone, you fancy them, they fancy you, you fuck them, you both walk away – no questions asked, no expectation of commitment; simply, if you are fortunate, a mutually sexually gratifying experience. If the experience was particularly enjoyable/satisfying, you might even choose to repeat it, but ultimately that’s as far as it goes.
The contradiction at the heart of the above question is “no-strings” and “relationship”; can this exist?
I’m going to define “sexual relationship” as one where the people involved are engaging in sexual activity on a fairly regular/frequent basis. The definition of “sexual activity” I will leave to the reader. Are there any “strings”?
Let’s break it down a bit.
By “strings”, do we mean feelings?
Well, the chances are, if we are continuing to have sex with someone over a longer term, there must be something about the sex with that person that is particularly enjoyable. There must be something about it that makes us feel good, that makes us want to have sex with that person again and again. On some level, conscious or otherwise, the sex must meet some sort of need. To move from the casual/one-nighter to a “relationship”, there has to be something more than just the initial sexual attraction, the thing that made us want to fuck in the first place and makes us want to keep fucking each other.
Not only that, but sexual attraction itself can be hard to define. In the initial phase I suspect it is primarily physical. The chances are that we won’t really want to have sex with someone we aren’t actually attracted to (beware the beer-glasses). Attraction can, however, also be deeper; it can be intellectual, it can be emotional. In truth, longer lasting attraction is a combination of all of the above.
So are we talking emotions?
Let’s be honest, sex is a pretty emotional experience. Granted, from my own male perspective (and I don’t claim to speak for anyone else), at the point of orgasm, all I am thinking about is my own orgasm. I like to think of myself as a caring, unselfish partner, but in those final few moments I am not thinking about the person whose body I am inside; I am thinking about how good it feels, how long I can hold back. I am not thinking about the person I am having sex with. The brutal truth is that in those final exquisite moments, that person beneath me, or on top of me, or on their knees before me, could be absolutely anyone.
Having said that though, the emotional connection with my partner has contributed to me arriving at that particular moment, so it’s not that they are irrelevant. Through foreplay and arousal, through the sexual acts we’ve performed together, they have brought me to this point; I wouldn’t be having the particular orgasm in question without them. However, at the point of orgasm, my most basic, primal, animal brain takes over and I am simply fucking. Not fucking any one person in particular; just fucking.
So are we talking love?
Now that’s the biggie, and for some people, I suspect, the crux of this question. To me, love is an emotion just like any other. It comes in different forms. There is the love you have for your family, the love you have for your friends, the love you have for your significant other/soul-mate. Love and sex however, certainly for me, have never been synonymous. I have not had sex with everyone I have loved and I have not loved everyone I have had sex with.
I also have a kind of “Golden Rule”; namely that I don’t fuck my friends.
This is, of course, an oversimplification. I have had a number of, what might be called, “Friends with Benefits” relationships. In every case however, the “with Benefits” bit came first and the “Friends” grew out of that. In the main, these friendships have continued even after the “benefits” came to an end.What I have never done, however, is moved someone the other way.
So, given that I can form friendships with people I have sex with, is this a string?
I have had casual sex, I have had friends with benefits sex and I have had loving/soul-mate sex. The latter two have always been more enjoyable than the former, largely because there is some sort of connection between me and the person I’m having sex with. Having said that, I wouldn’t rate the sex I’ve had in the “loving” sense as being better than the sex I’ve had in the “friendly” sense so, for me at least, love isn’t the determining factor.
So what about commitment?
Now that, for me, finally, may be the difference. When you are having sex with someone in a “committed” relationship, there are certain “responsibilities” that go with it. Unless your relationship is open/poly, there is often an expected commitment of exclusiveness; the whole “forsaking all others unto thee…” bit. Understandable because the whole love/sexual jealousy thing can be a very powerful emotional cocktail in humans. For me, this is where “Friends with Benefits” differs from the life-mate/soul-mate sexual relationship; it is the ability to detach that “requirement” for exclusivity, it is the ability to recognise that while we enjoy the sex that we have together, we are also free to explore and enjoy sex with other people. We can do this because sex, far from being the ultimate sign of commitment to each other, is just one of the myriad experiences that humans enjoy.
In my own “Friends with Benefits” relationships, I/we have even been able to talk openly about the sex we have with others, because we’ve recognised that sex is something that we enjoy doing simply because we enjoy doing it, and not because we have to do it just with each other.
So, in a very long-winded way, my answer to the original question is “Yes”; yes it is possible for “no-strings” sexual relationships to exist. The key is to identify what the particular relationship actual means to the people in it.