Sexuality & Culture

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 157–171 | Cite as

Third Wave Feminism and Emerging Adult Sexuality: Friends with Benefits Relationships

  • Jean Calterone WilliamsEmail author
  • Jasna Jovanovic
Original Paper


Using U.S. third wave feminism as the cultural backdrop, this study examines emerging adults’ participation in heterosexual “friends with benefits” (FWB) relationships. We investigate both the role of gender and feminism in FWB relationships at a United States college, and ask whether identification with feminist ideology impacts students’ motivations and assessments of their relationships. Through the use of an anonymous survey, our research explores whether and how young women and men engage in FWB relationships, the degree to which they find such relationships fulfilling, and the presence of social stigma or acceptance related to this sexual behavior. While we find some gender differences in motives for and satisfaction with FWB relationships, we also suggest that the association between sexual agency and participation in a friends with benefits relationship is complicated and requires further research and exploration.


Friends with benefits relationships Sexuality Third wave feminism 



The data for this study were collected as part of an undergraduate senior project, completed by Olivia Giorgi, under the supervision of the coauthors. We thank Olivia for her efforts. We'd also like to thank Nikki Lanshaw for her assistance on this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Political Science DepartmentCalifornia Polytechnic State UniversitySan Luis ObispoUSA
  2. 2.Psychology and Child Development DepartmentCalifornia Polytechnic State UniversitySan Luis ObispoUSA

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