Recent trends suggest that friends with benefits (FWB) relationships are prevalent among emerging adults on college campuses. Notably, young women are just as likely to participate in these relationships as young men, a finding that differentiates FWBs from heterosexual hook ups, where women traditionally report less participation. As such, it has been suggested that friends with benefits relationships may provide young women an avenue to explore and achieve sexual agency. Yet, whether emerging adults actually perceive friends with benefits relationships as affording women sexual agency has not been explored explicitly. In this study, we focus on female sexual agency and examine whether college women and men perceive FWB relationships as a means of expressing women’s sexual agency. Based on focus group discussions with 71 women and 35 men at a large public university, this study explores the myriad ways that students make sense of FWB relationships. Focus group discussions focused on the themes of empowerment, control, and safety in FWB relationships; we examine these themes in order to provide a nuanced analysis of FWB relationships as an increasingly widespread sexual behavior among young people on college campuses.

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URL: https://digitalcommons.calpoly.edu/poli_fac/36