First, for the person saying it, the phrase can create an unfortunate and false sense of opening up and making oneself vulnerable: you think that, because you’ve shared this personal desire with others, you’ve been honest with them and revealed something about yourself. However, this is often counterproductive, because whenever someone says to me “I want a (insert relationship term here),” I hardly ever respond with anything of significance. I know that there is nothing I can do to tangibly help them: their request is too vague and complex: and with that, the conversation usually ends and the subject changes. I am not suggesting that in order to avoid this problem, we stop sharing our personal desires: instead, I suggest that, if we’d like to truly understand what it is that we mean by this phrase, we share even more about what we want, be it just with ourselves or with others.
What I mean by this is that we should extend the phrase, and when we say it, be honest about why it is that we are saying it in the first place. Add a “because” to your statement. For instance, “I want a boyfriend . . . because I’m lonely,” or bored, or sexually frustrated, or curious, or insecure, etc. I strongly believe that oftentimes you’ll realize that your “because” doesn’t correspond with your “I want.” Noticing this discrepancy can prevent future disappointment before anyone else becomes involved.
Secondly, by using the phrase at all, you’re turning an individual and unique potential relationship partner into simply a role which any arbitrary person could fill. Instead of knowing a person and appreciating them as a person before labeling them with a broad and socially-constructed term, you are doing the process in reverse. Not only is this unlikely to work out for you and your personal happiness (because people do not come in nice packages which fit your needs and standards perfectly, and there will inevitably need to be communication and compromise), but it is also an injustice to the person filling the role.
All of this holds true even with casual relationships and hooking up. Before you hunt down one of your peers like an animal and try to negotiate a way to satisfy your needs, try to at least appreciate something about them as a human being first. Then use your best Harry Potter pick-up line (“Going to bed? Mind if I Slytherin?”) and they’ll be yours forever . . . or at least until the sun comes up.