Casual relationships in high school?
August 26, 2008 7:35 PM   Subscribe

Casual relationships in high school?

(I originally posted this on Yahoo Answers before realizing that this was far, far beyond the ability of a typical YA denizen to answer.)

I'm starting the next year of my high school this Tuesday. There's a girl who I talked with a lot during the last week of last year, and I think I'd be interested in engaging her in a casual relationship. I don't think I'm ready for a girlfriend, and I don't think she's the person I'd want to have for a permanent girlfriend, but I wish to engage in sexual exploration, and she seems open-minded enough to be willing to participate in that.

(Well, yeah, this basically is a description of a friend-with-benefits.)

This, then, is the question:

How does one introduce a suggestion to engage in a casual relationship? Is there a good, slightly more concise and less rude way to say, "Hi, I like you as a person, but I don't want to have you as a girlfriend, but I would like to explore myself sexually through you, and I think that you'd like to help both of us learn about ourselves."
posted by LSK to Human Relations (39 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There was a question along these lines recently that might help you out in the "tactful approach strategy" way.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 7:46 PM on August 26, 2008

Is there a good, slightly more concise and less rude way to say, "Hi, I like you as a person, but I don't want to have you as a girlfriend, but I would like to explore myself sexually through you, and I think that you'd like to help both of us learn about ourselves."

No. There is no good way to say that. "I would like to explore myself sexually through you"? Come on, that's insane. All you have to say upfront to this girl as you get to know her, I'm not interested in a committed dating relationship right now. What happens then is what happens. Do not, under any circumstances, try to tell her that you "think that she'd like to help both of us learn about yourselves" or any other garbage where you try to convince her that hooking up with you will be a valuable, learning experience. She will laugh so hard in your face it is possible she will vomit.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:00 PM on August 26, 2008 [36 favorites]

I don't think I'm ready for a girlfriend

I think you've got it backwards. A "casual relationship" is emotionally trickier and harder to pull off than a straight up girlfriend. One of the reasons for that is that we humans are all pretty much wired to have Big Feelings about people we have sex with - age and experience can change that to different extents (and maybe that's a little sad, actually) but if you're new to this you can't expect to have some regular "sexual exploration" and not feel anything.... and I'd wager that there's ZERO chance of at least one of you winding up heartbroken. I think that if you like this girl, ask her out. She doesn't have to be your "permanent girlfriend" - but when there's a girl you like talking to and like having sex with, that's pretty much what a girlfriend is, right? And if she's "not the person you want" because you think you should be with someone hotter or more popular or whatever... then leave her alone.
posted by moxiedoll at 8:02 PM on August 26, 2008 [12 favorites]

Is there a good, slightly more concise and less rude way to say, "Hi, I like you as a person, but I don't want to have you as a girlfriend, but I would like to explore myself sexually through you, and I think that you'd like to help both of us learn about ourselves."
No, I don't think there is.
And unless high school has changed *a lot* since I was there, I'd want to ask it from outside swinging distance.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 8:02 PM on August 26, 2008

(zero chance that one of you will NOT be heartbroken).
(probably her, since she's the one who's not good enough to date. don't even try to be her first, seriously).
posted by moxiedoll at 8:04 PM on August 26, 2008

Ha haaa... good luck with this one, buddy.

High school's confusing and embarrassing enough for young women even without having to deal with some dude approaching them like the way you're proposing.

Also, ThePinkSuperhero described just what I would have done (and did do) when presented with that situation as a high-school girl.
posted by Coatlicue at 8:04 PM on August 26, 2008

Sex by it's very nature is a deep, intimate, spiritual experience. There is nothing casual about it. It is certainly never a casual experience for a 15 or 16 year old girl. I know this isn't what you are looking for, but my advice is don't.
posted by allthingsbright at 8:08 PM on August 26, 2008

I tend to agree -- you can't say "hey, let's have sex but not feel anything". Sometimes that just kinda happens, but it's rare (I'll say I was sorta lucky). Point is, just date her! NOTHING lasts in high school anyway. Eventually you will break up (unless something really weird happens and you're together forever and ever...yeah right). So enjoy her presence, get to know her better, take it slow and turn up the heat (as it were). Eventually you'll (maybe) be having sex with someone you enjoy being around-- and as someone already said, isn't that the point of having a girlfriend? She'll be into you, but you WILL also be into her (trust me--and all of us when we tell you that). Once sex enters the equation it's pretty much a big deal. And fun! So have fun.
posted by dmaterialized at 8:14 PM on August 26, 2008

I think you should examine your motivations for choosing this girl. When you say:

"I don't think she's the person I'd want to have for a permanent girlfriend, but I wish to engage in sexual exploration, and she seems open-minded enough to be willing to participate in that."

It really comes across as "I don't like her that much, but I think she'd have sex with me without too much trouble." There's nothing wrong about casual sex, but it should be something both parties are entering into as fully knowledgeable and consenting adults. You want to ask a probable virgin, one whom you don't care very much about, and that is... well, a bad idea for all involved. You seem to be approaching this experience from a very juvenile point of view, and I urge you to reconsider your motivations.

If you decide that you'd like to go ahead anyway, be upfront and honest about your intentions. There are some good examples of how to do that in the previous thread I linked to.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 8:20 PM on August 26, 2008

There's no such thing as a "permanent" high school girlfriend. And there's no nice way to say "I like you enough to have sex with you, but not enough to be there for you emotionally".

If you really want to have casual sex in high school, start going to parties where you'll meet girls who are receptive to the idea. It seems odd to focus on one particular girl when it's unsure whether she'll be interested in a "friends-with-benefits" relationship at all.
posted by arianell at 8:24 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Part of what makes sex "casual" is the take-it-or-leave-it feeling that goes along with it. You can compare it to other sex you've had and you realize that this doesn't have that whatever-it-is magic, — be it love, intellectual connection, or physical chemistry — making that other bonking so mindblowing that you can't think about it without all your pink parts flipping over a bit. What you are attempting to do is going to be new, novel, exciting, emotion-stirring and all sorts of other stuff, regardless of how calm and collected you approach it. There is no casual about it.
posted by iamkimiam at 8:25 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, uh, dude. Just... dude.

Either broaden the list of experiences you're interested in with this girl, or widen your range of girls you're willing to sleep with/ mess around with.

Your search criteria are pretty narrow as-is, and you run a very high risk of getting slapped, punched, or told to go explore your other hand if you present this deal to this girl in any fashion.

That being said, it's entirely possible to set up an open relationship in high school, and date someone with a license to have sex with other people. I know folks who did it long before either the Internet or the general awareness of polyamory, so I'm sure you could manage too.

They also tripped all over it and hurt themselves and their partners, but that's kind of part of the deal when you're a teenager and having sex-- you're going to experience all sorts of intriguing new flavors of pleasure, heavily leavened with all manner of pain.

Just, really, the one pain you don't want is getting slapped in the face so hard your ears ring for a week, and then getting a rep as some sort of would-be Marvin Gaye, proffering sexual healing to the needy. That's not going to get you any dates when you *do* want dates.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 8:28 PM on August 26, 2008

You should bear in mind also that the stakes in your proposed arrangement may be very different for her than they would be for you. Even safer sex carries a risk of disease transmission which may be biased in the guy's favor, and a possibility of being knocked up (which is, uh, greater for her)—and that's before we get to the ridiculous non-parity in how it could affect your respective reputations if your peers knew what was up. Just sayin'.
posted by pullayup at 8:32 PM on August 26, 2008 [3 favorites]

Life's lessons #322:

How to get a reputation as a user.
posted by netbros at 8:42 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

There's a girl who I talked with a lot during the last week of last year, and I think I'd be interested in engaging her in a casual relationship.
Have you not talked to her since last school year?

Casual sex happens all the time in high school. I'm in high school and I'm pretty confident that if I told a girl that I want her to help "explore myself sexually" , she would laugh her ass off. She'd probably tell her friends all about it too.

Invite her to a party or go hang out with some mutual friends. If she's into you, eventually you'll be hooking up. That doesn't mean have sex with her immediately, just see where things lead.

You might find that friends with benefits is not all it's cracked up to be, or you might get attached to the girl and want to ask her out eventually.
posted by rancidchickn at 8:43 PM on August 26, 2008

It's still ultimately "wanna fuck?" no matter what linguistic acrobatics you perform, and you should prepare for the relatively likely case that it will be interpreted as such.
posted by oaf at 8:43 PM on August 26, 2008

Granted, my experience was back in the dark ages (I graduated in 2004), and I went to high school with a lot of prudish sorts, but I'd be really iffy about getting involved in a FWB arrangement. Things were usually socially awkward for people (especially girls) who were known/suspected to be fooling around but not publicly dating. It sends the message that at least one of the parties doesn't see the other as being good enough to date. This arrangement might be fun in bed (in fact, potentially not) but distressing outside of it.
posted by thisjax at 8:48 PM on August 26, 2008

"Hi, I like you as a person, but I don't want to have you as a girlfriend, but I would like to explore myself sexually through you, and I think that you'd like to help both of us learn about ourselves."

Smooth move, Ex-lax. Casual relationships aren't planned - that's what makes them casual. FWB arrangements can be great, but don't try to set one up with a girl you know already has feelings for you.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:58 PM on August 26, 2008

I'd like to know what the YA folks said...
posted by Exchequer at 9:45 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Paraphrase: You talked to her for a week, three months ago. She's not good enough to be your girlfriend, but hey, maybe you could talk her into fucking you.

If you're going to broach this topic (my very forceful suggestion: don't), you have to be honest. Bear in mind that the chance of any remotely positive outcome is very, very low.
posted by booksandlibretti at 9:55 PM on August 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yeah, sorry to be blunt, but casual fucking comes a bit later. When you're in high school you need to be in love forever.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:56 PM on August 26, 2008 [5 favorites]

Masturbate, don't manipulate.
posted by jayder at 10:43 PM on August 26, 2008 [5 favorites]

Seriously, casual sex comes later. Wait your turn like everybody else.
posted by smeater44 at 11:53 PM on August 26, 2008 [2 favorites]

Or what turgid dahlia said.
posted by smeater44 at 12:03 AM on August 27, 2008

Hmm - an excuse to consult the high school sexual relationships map I think.
posted by rongorongo at 4:42 AM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree with jayder. Boys doing this into their early 20s is one thing, but round the teen years we're all fragile animals. You don't know whether, once sex is involved, she will fall for you hard in the way teens can and do.
posted by mippy at 4:55 AM on August 27, 2008

Scarleteen is an excellent resource for exploring these sorts of conundrums, and is designed for young adults in jr. high, high school and college.

It is one t, though. Two ts takes you to a different kind of resource.
posted by kalessin at 5:15 AM on August 27, 2008

I think that way lies madness, especially if you're both virgins. You have no way of knowing how sex is going to affect you emotionally -- and sometimes it really can pack a huge emotional wallop, especially if it's new. I would concentrate more on the innocent parts of emotional connection first -- you say you're not ready for a girlfriend, I would concentrate on garden-variety social experiences and emotionally connecting with people, and with yourself, first.

Sex will come later, you've got time. I didn't have sex until I was 19 and it didn't kill me.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:00 AM on August 27, 2008

I think the people in this thread have it covered. They've given you good advice on how to approach a girl with this kind of proposition and warned you of its pitfalls and general inadvisability.

But I definitely want to congratulate you on the fact that you're prepared to do this honourably. You're not the type of boy who would act like you are interested in someone, sleep with her and then never talk to her again. You're ready to be up front with a girl about the fact that you don't have a relationship in mind and you just want to be friends with privileges. Stand by this modus operendus. Even if you don't succeed in getting laid, it's better not to get laid than to get what you want when it's at the expense of hurting/disappointing someone terribly and having her hate you forever.

I've known men twice your probable age who don't get the importance of this principle, so I admire the fact that your first instinct is to be honest and not take advantage of anyone's hopes.
posted by orange swan at 9:35 AM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Protection. Use it.
posted by freq at 10:14 AM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

This is a stupid idea. I think its pretty hard for a lot of people to separate sex from all the sorts of emotions that come from the act. And I think in High School, it's all the more difficult. No matter how cool and honest and whatever else both of you think you are. Though the drama that results will probably be a very high school experience.
posted by chunking express at 10:16 AM on August 27, 2008

Why not just have a high school girlfriend? A steady high school girlfriend is not your life partner or soul mate by definition.

And as everyone said above, you'll have a much better angle acting like a normal high school boy who likes a girl than some creep who doesn't actually like you, but just wants to sexually explore you.
posted by crunch buttsteak at 2:09 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

high school is for puppy love and heartbreaks
college is for fun

dont screw with her or screw her
posted by phritosan at 3:15 PM on August 27, 2008

If you have so little interest in this girl that she's interchangeable with any other girl that would let you "sexually explore" with her, stay away. Most adults can't navigate this category without hurt feelings and making jerks of themselves.
posted by lacedback at 5:48 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Look, I want to snark at you here, pretty hardcore. It's kind of wishful thinking, selfish and poorly-articulated.

That said, there were plenty of people in my high school circles that managed to pull this off. I wasn't one of them, and I'm trying not to let that color my response. Looking back on it, a lot of the criteria seem absolutely moronic, but that wasn't true at the time.

The folks I knew who pulled this off were in one of two classes: Either they were "cool," meaning that they did some sort of activity well that was valued socially, or they were part of a tight-knit group that was interested in doing stuff like this. Sometimes, both was true.

If you're in the first group, that is, you're a starting athlete in a sport valued by the school (and have a correspondingly attractive body), or you're a musician in a rockin', yet sensitive band, deal desireable drugs, or you're the star or school plays, etc., you'll have these opportunities presented to you, generally at parties. You'll hook up, go somewhere slightly skeevy, and have (generally less than sober) sex.

I see that you have a band (though I didn't bother to read the lyrics or listen to the music), so, yeah, if you play shows, you will have opportunities to "sexually explore."

The second, and arguably more healthy way, that folks pulled this off in high school was by actually being really close friends with the people they were messing around with. Sure, there was more drama than a polyamorous production of The Tempest, but the general sense that because everyone had known each other since they were four years old, they weren't going to just disappear was (I assume) comforting.

These incestuous cliques tended to be kids with artistic bents, in theater (which is how I knew 'em) or in similar tight settings (punk rock scene, poetry club). Look for the girls just getting into the romantic idea of the hedonists—If she likes Gustave Corbet, it's a good sign.

But again, you have to actually be friends with these girls, and you have to treat them well for a long time before hand in order to be someone they want to explore with. Generally, they'll find you. And remember, reputation matters A LOT. If you're a cad once, you'll not be getting any from any of their friends. And another word of, well, I don't want to phrase it as warning, but whatever—the kids I knew who were into this in high school were not specifically hetero, and the guys were expected to not be either. If a guy was only into "exploring" these girls, but freaked out about a dick in his mouth, he'd find himself not invited to any more "exploration" parties.

One final thing: I got told about most of this later on, by multiple parties involved. Apparently, some of the folks involved thought that they were sending me proper signals to join in, but because I was a clueless dork and socially awkward, it wasn't something that I got looped into until after high school (and even then not very much). So, uh, don't be clueless either. Which kind of also involves not being perceived as selfish or exploitative.
posted by klangklangston at 5:53 PM on August 27, 2008 [2 favorites]

From the tone of your post you seem to consider yourself fairly mature (at least for your age), but you really should realize that using language like "sexually explore", even ironically and hypothetically to a group of internet strangers who will never meet you, makes you seem like a misogynistic douchebag.

And I, for one, would punch you if I met you, even if I hated the girl you were trying to "sexually explore". Tone down the attitude a bit, m'kay?

That said, no, there is no graceful way to say "I want to use you for sex". Don't kid yourself, that is essentially what you are asking for from her. Not some form of higher education to attain physical zen. Just sex. If you're really morally okay with abusing the affection of a girl you know to have feelings for you and know will most likely be emotionally invested beyond what you would desire and screw with her anyway, why not just ask her straight out whether she's interested in a FWB relationship?

If you don't think you could handle asking her candidly, maybe consider sticking to the hand for now until you're ready to deal with the responsibility.
posted by Phire at 9:58 PM on August 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's important to point out that by 15 or 16, the age you are now, most girls have already heard it all. You may be trying to find something for the first time, but girls have been turning it away for years already. So there's nothing you can say to try to convince some girl to hookup with you if she doesn't want it herself. We learn too early.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:28 PM on August 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

there was more drama than a polyamorous production of The Tempest

I am so going to use this. Just letting you know.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:07 PM on August 29, 2008

First of all maybe it maybe a little presumptous to assume that she needs help exploring her sexuality because maybe she's been there and done that. So, my suggestion is to tell her in conversation that sexual exploration is something that your trying to do yourself and ask her what she thinks of this herself. That away you get into her mind without actually having to look desperate.
posted by erase24 at 4:21 AM on November 30, 2008

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