How 'Sleeping With Other People' Conveys Societal Beliefs on Sex and Love

Updated on March 7, 2019

We can learn a lot about societal beliefs and expectations about relationships through the way they are conveyed in film. One film that I believe is exploding with stereotypes for romantic and sexual relationships is the film Sleeping with Other People. This film features a woman named Lainey, who has the status of a serial cheater, and a man named Jake, who cannot commit to the ideal of monogamy and thus lives comfortably within ‘no strings attached’ relationships. The two meet at a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting. They instantly become friends, but agree to keep their relationship platonic, as sex seems to ruin all their previous relationships. This whole film has various stereotypes laced within it, many that deal with sexual beliefs/expectations of society and culture, and few deal with the idea of platonic relationships and what that truly entails. Today I will touch on two major ideas; the neediness of women after sex, and men and women not being able to be just friends.

Women and Their Attachment to Males After Sex

The first stereotype or societal belief is that women can’t have sex without getting an attachment to the male. In several cases throughout the film, women catch feelings for the men they have slept with. They expect, or at least, desire a relationship. The idea that every single woman who has a (consensual ) sexual encounter will decide they want a relationship afterwards is a common belief. That is not likely to be accurate in all cases. What is interesting is how the film conveys this. Several women are shown getting attached after sex, except for the main character, who despite having had an attachment at one point, has had many sexual encounters without any emotional connection involved. This outlet of media tends to focus on the obsessed women and less on the instances where sex has occurred and a woman has not been attached. Thus feeding into the stereotype.

Males and Females Can’t Just Be Friends

Another common stereotype in this film is the question of whether males and females (who are attracted to the opposite sex) can ever just be friends? This question is addressed throughout the entirety of the film. Lainey and Jake are very close friends, and the people around them notice how strange their relationship is. However, there is evident, and even blatantly announced, tension between them. I feel like it is very difficult to stay on the purely platonic side of things, even if there is just one small thing that makes this so. I have never known a case of a friendship where at least one person did not feel at the very least a small amount of attraction to the other. Sometimes one friend may be interested in the other, an instance of unrequited love. Sometimes both are interested in each other. We choose people we want to be around as our friends, so it is most likely ingrained in our mind to look for potential partners in people we like enough to have around. When I say that I believe males and females can’t be friends, what I really mean is that they can, but for both parties to feel completely, one hundred and ten percent platonically about each other, that seems incredibly unlikely. Especially if sex plays a part. Then it is almost as if every aspect of a relationship is fulfilled just in your friendship. (However, in this film, the fact that Lainey and Jake are not sleeping together means more than it would, if they did sleep together). So in sum, believing that males and females can’t be friends is a very tricky, but valid belief that many people in society stand by. I believe that has become such a prevalent one because in some shape or form, many have experienced it first hand and have asked the question to themselves. So again, it is not impossible to just remain friends, but to never question, or desire the other, even in the slightest, for a short period of time, seems highly unprecedented. This film speaks on the theory that males and females, truly cannot just be friends.


Due to the analysis of this film, it is clear that I believe that these expectations and beliefs differ by individuals who experience these kinds of situations. It is easy for people to formulate opinions, and many people get influenced by other people’s opinions, or situations spread from word of mouth. However, people do not only have one objective belief for everything, and not all stereotypes are true. The diversity of beliefs largely, belong to those who have first-hand experience with these matters. This movie covered several other stereotypes that went unmentioned, such as a males being considered a jerk if he only wants sex, and the idea that sex ruins friendships as well. The majority of society seems to believe these things like a male is a jerk if he only wants sex, sex ruins friendships, women get attached after sex, and that males and females can't just be friends. There are different opinions on all of these subjects (in the film as well), however, each one has a specific societal standard. One thing that we need to remember is that word of mouth is not always accurate, and that the only way that we should believe something is based on our own empirical experience. All of the answers to these are subjective to each individual, but also testable based on an accumulation of all those who have experienced these things. There may not be just one answer, and this is where the different norms and beliefs of different groups come into play. Not everyone believes these things, and the film was a great platform to show these diversified opinions. The film also shows that there are societal beliefs and they are prevalent nevertheless.

© 2019 Riah Marie


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