Ethos Education

Friends With Benefits: Is sex just a physical act, with no emotional complications?

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Learning Objectives:

  • Understanding of a Christian view of what sex is and what it is for.
  • Awareness of different Christian views about pre-marital sex.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Reflect upon the implications of ignoring one part of a recipe.
  • Evaluate the merits and disadvantages of treating sex solely as a physical act, without reference to emotions or commitment.
  • Analyse Bible passages to determine Christian understandings of the relationship between sex and marriage.
  • Synthesise learning by writing a series of emails explaining a Christian perspective on sex.


Ask the students to make a list of all the things that they would need if they were going to make a pizza, and list them on the board as they are suggested. Once they have finished, ask what would happen if you were to try to make the pizza if you took out the dough (if, as is quite possible, nobody thought to suggest dough or some kind of alternative base, then this illustration will work even more effectively). Point out that all the toppings would dissolve into a gooey mess on the bottom of the oven, the pizza would be impossible to eat and all the tasty toppings would be wasted. If you want to reinforce the concept, you could break the class into small groups, giving each group the task of thinking of something else (not necessarily edible) which fails to work if you take out one essential ingredient. If you use the group work, allow the groups to feed back and make sure that you reinforce the main point of the exercise as they do so.

Explain that in this lesson you are going to be thinking about sex (there’s probably a joke in here about teenage boys, but we are far too classy to mention it). Explain that Christians believe that sex without both love and marriage is a bit like the baseless pizza – a horrible mess that falls a long way short of the ideal, and which makes it impossible for people to enjoy things the way they are meant to.


Introduce the first clip from the film Friends With Benefits (Sony, 2011, certificate 15). Click here to buy the DVD from Amazon.

Explain that Dylan (Justin Timberlake) and Jamie (Mila Kunis) become friends after Jamie – a corporate head-hunter – recruits Dylan for a prestigious art editor job at GQ magazine. Both of them have previously expressed irritation at the demands that their ex-partners have put on them in relationships. In this scene, they hit upon a way of being able to enjoy sex without the hassle of a relationship. Ask the students to pay attention to the arguments put forward in this scene and to assess the pros and cons of the argument.

  • Start time:       0.23.20 (in chapter 5 of the DVD)
  • End time:         0.28.13
  • Clip length:      4 minutes and 53 seconds

The clip starts with Dylan and Jamie watching a romantic film together. The first line is the woman in the film saying, ‘I can’t do this anymore’. The clip ends after Dylan and Jamie have sworn an oath on Jamie’s Bible app. The last line is Dylan saying ‘okay’. Stop the film before Dylan suggests that they go and play tennis.

Remind the students of Dylan’s comparison of sex with tennis. Do the students agree, or is there more to sex than just the physical act? Is it possible to shake hands afterwards and simply walk away with no consequences?

What do the students see as the pluses and minuses of the agreement that Dylan and Jamie have made?

Encourage the students to see the pitfalls and disadvantages of the arrangement, and explain that the theory can only work if sex is seen as a physical act with no direct connection to emotions or to commitment. Point out that many professional health workers would have a difficulty in separating the physical and the emotional connection inherent in the sexual act.

Explain to the class that this is a subject where Christians, even within individual denominations, will hold a variety of views. Nevertheless, the traditional Christian perspective goes further (so to speak) than many others with regard to sexual behaviour. Not content with seeing sex as belonging within committed relationships, traditionally Christians have seen the proper home of sex to be within a marriage. Certainly, most Christians would agree that marriage represents God’s ideal context for sex, and the development of Christians endorsing sexual activity outside of marriage is a relatively recent one, historically speaking. The key to understanding the Christian point of view is wrapped up in the teaching that when a man and woman unite sexually they become ‘one flesh’. That is to say, Christians believe that there is a bonding that takes place in sexual union which is permanent, and which is designed to only occur within a committed, life-long exclusive relationship. This is described in the Old Testament (Genesis 1: 28) and is then restated by both Jesus (Matthew 19:4-6; Mark 10:6-9) and Paul (1 Corinthians 6:16; Ephesians 5:30-32). Christians believe that the purpose of this one flesh relationship is to promote the benefit of both partners.

Remind the students of the film clip, where Jamie made Dylan swear on her Bible app. Point out that if, instead, she had used the Bible app to see what the Bible said about sex, she might have discovered a different perspective to make her think again about her agreement with Dylan. Give out Bibles and read through 1 Corinthians 6:12-7:12 with the class (or have them read it for themselves). Split the class into small groups and ask each group to work together to draw out from the passage reasons to support the Christian belief that sex should be exclusively carried out within marriage.


Ask the students to write a series of emails between either Dylan or Jamie and one of their friends, who happens to be a committed Christian. The emails should discuss the arrangement that Dylan and Jamie have come to, and provide a Christian perspective on the subject of sex.


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