It's time to reconsider what we mean by friends with benefits. Hours after getting married, Evan Seplow, a 29-year-old mortgage broker from Long Island, hit a strip club with a close buddy. Seplow paid for several drinks and lap dances, and then the two retreated to the VIP room so his friend could get a private dance that was, Seplow says, "the whole nine." The next day, when Seplow told his new bride about his escapades, she wasn't angry or jealous, merely bemused. Seplow's friend was Jen (not her real name), a woman who dates women—a fact that made all the difference to Seplow's wife, as well as to Seplow. "That was pretty crazy—it might not be for the average person," he says. "Then again, not many average guys have lesbian friends anyway."
Skin shows aside, Seplow has loads of fun with Jen and they have a lot in common—because of, not despite, her sexuality. Men like Seplow are lesbros—pronounced and sometimes spelled LEZ-bros—straight guys who like, but don't like like, lesbians. And while he may seem similar on paper to the much-maligned "fag hag," the lesbro is a real bro: a guy whose other interests are likely to include beer, partying, football, and breasts.
For a lesbro, the company of Sapphic sisters offers something he just can't find in his straight friends of either gender. Sometimes it's testosterone-free talk; other times, an insightful appreciation of the fairer sex; still others, a get-out-of-jail-free card. When Eli Kulp, a married 31-year-old chef in New York City, goes out with a thirtysomething lesbian couple he knows, they usually wind up at a dive bar, drinking and shooting the shit until well past midnight. Kulp tells his wife where he's going and who he's going with, and because of his companions' orientation, she has "no issue" with his choice of company.
For some lesbros, the foundation of a platonic friendship is the shared sexual attraction. "When you hang out with a lesbian, you have this thing in common: women," says Matt Gross, a travel writer who counts numerous gay women among his close friends. "I have a harder time discussing relationships with straight guys. You want to seem tougher, more manly. With lesbians you have the ear of a woman who understands exactly what you're talking about." As with all bro-banter, it's not exclusively G-rated. "You can say, 'She's clearly a hottie. How do I talk to her?' and a lesbian will get it," says Dan Levitan, a 26-year-old publicist from Brooklyn.
The unfiltered sharing often flows in both directions. "I can talk to a straight guy about sex in a way I can't with lesbians," says Dina, a lesbian who often hangs out with lesbro pals at New York City bars like Cubby Hole. "If I say, 'That girl's got great tits!' They'll say, 'Yeah, she does!' but lots of lesbians have hang-ups, and get mad at me for objectifying women."