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Friends With Benefits at 50+

When is it OK to become 'casually yours'?

Further evidence of Roving Eye Syndrome came from a study of sexuality in the United States commissioned by AARP in 2009: It found that 6 percent to 8 percent of singles age 50 and up were dating more than one person at a time. The same study revealed 11 percent of survey respondents were in a sexual relationship that did not involve cohabitation.

What do you have to lose?

Can a casual sexual relationship exact an emotional toll? For sure, people who associate intimacy with commitment are ill-suited to sex that's as meaningful as a summer breeze; for them, the FWB arrangement would be a bad idea.

That doesn't mean all casual lovers feel emotionally bereft in the wake of a purely physical rendezvous, mind you. Many say they're getting exactly what they want and need. Is that a deplorably manipulative state of affairs? Possibly — until you stop to consider how many of us are comfortable with being unpartnered but how few of us are willing to remain untouched.

Sixty-something sexologist Joan Price, for one, endorses "gray hookups," but with a couple of strong caveats: The people involved must be emotionally capable of handling their status as noncommitted bed partners, and they must protect themselves against sexually transmitted diseases.

In a national study conducted in 2012, the Center for Sexual Health Promotion found sex partners over 50 twice as likely to use a condom when they regarded a sexual encounter as casual rather than as part of an ongoing relationship. Mature sex partners do not have the best track record when it comes to using condoms, but at least they're likelier to use them when they know very little about a partner's sexual past — or present!

Personally, I think it all comes down to a very simple choice at any age: Is enduring loneliness, celibacy and extreme horniness really a better option than exchanging a few "simple gifts" between friends?

Dr. Pepper Schwartz answers your sex, relationships and dating questions in her blog.

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