Can Men And Women Be “Just” Friends?

One of the longest running debates amongst men and women is the question of whether or not straight men and women1 can ever be “just” friends – that is to say, can a friendship exist without sexual or romantic attraction “ruining” the relationship.

A recent article in Scientific American drew the conclusion that no, no they couldn’t, based on a pair of studies of 88 couples in mixed-gender platonic relationships. The conclusions from the study found that – amongst college students – the male partners in the relationships were far more likely to be attracted to the women than vice-versa and that the men would also overestimate the level of attraction that the women felt for them.

“Oh yeah. She wants me. I can tell.”

Now, arguments could and have been made about the article’s interpretation of the data (which varies from the stated purpose of the study), the way the study was conducted, the potential problems with the sample pool or the statistical conclusions that can be drawn from a 1 point difference in estimated levels of attraction (on a 9 point scale). I’m not about to try to wrangle with the data, but there were aspects that I took issue with.

To start with: the fact that the man may be attracted to a woman – or believe that she’s attracted to him – automatically disqualifies a friendship implies that ultimately it is his and only his view that defines “just friends”2

For another, the idea that just being attracted to somebody means that the relationship isn’t “just” a friendship carries the implication that there is a magical dividing line between romantic or sexual attraction and friendship.

Despite the obsession with the idea that men’s libidos somehow make them unable to be friends with someone they find attractive, I believe that not only can men and women be “just” platonic friends… it’s the obsession with the question that’s the problem.

Why Is This Still A Question?

It’s a sexy topic, rife with stereotypes and joking-but-not-really stereotypes about men and women and teasing the idea that your supposedly platonic friend is actually harboring a secret crush on you and whether this is a good or bad thing for the relationship. People who believe that yes, men and women can be friends without sex becoming a wedge will talk about their plethora of male or female friends with whom they share no romantic entanglements3, while those who believe that they can’t will cast aspersions on the male half of the pairing (and it’s always the men who are supposedly the weak link in this equation) and insisting that they would gladly bone the hell out of their girl friends if given half a chance.

We love the idea that there’s some sort of impossible wall between men and women and ascribe all sorts of motivations to it – that men only are friends with women because they want to sleep with them or that women know that their male friends want them and string them along because they enjoy the ego boost or because they get their jollies over the power they wield.

Part of what keeps the topic alive is the way that pop-culture seems to thrive on the idea that beneath any platonic mixed-gender friendship bubbles a simmering brew of frustrated sexual desire and sublimated romantic dreams just waiting to boil over and cause all sorts of delicious drama.

Side note: And it’s always mixed-gender relationships. Hetero/homo relationships are apparently automatically presumed to be a case of unrequited desire. Heteronormativity, ya’ll!

Music, films and television constantly sell us the idea that there’s always someone in our lives harboring a secret crush and wishing in their heart of hearts that we would just notice them as more than “just a friend“. Just off the top of my head, there’s Friends, The X-Files, CastleHow I Met Your Mother, Frasier, Smallville, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Skins, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along-Blog, Gossip Girl, Teen Wolf,  Twilight, The Ugly Truth, American Pie 2, Slumdog Millionaire, Friends With Kids, French Kiss, Chasing Amy, He’s Just Not Into You, Some Kind of Wonderful, Pretty In Pink and 1/3rd of the career of Taylor Swift.

It’s a Hollywood trope: if we see a man and a woman who aren’t related (and sometimes even then) having any sort of relationship – even if they hate each other – we are trained to believe that this will inevitably turn into fireworks of passion before the third reel.

“Feeling it yet?” “Nope. You?” “Mostly I just have to sneeze.”

It’s not surprising really. Unrequited love (or at least, horniness) makes for great drama. A love that runs smoothly is ultimately a lousy story; the more barriers you can put up between them, the better and few barriers are as universally relatable as being stuck in The Friend Zone. It’s hard to weave a narrative out of “Well, we get along great and we have a lot in common, but we know it wouldn’t work out, so we’re happy as we are.” Platonic friends are for supporting characters, the ones who’re cheering on the protagonists to get together… and even they usually end up with a “pair-the-spares” b-plot running in the background.

There’s More Than One Kind of Love

Another issue is that culturally, we have a problem with the idea of love that doesn’t conform to romance or familial relationships. We are acculturated to believe that love has two definitions when it comes to relationships; one for family and for everybody else.

Men especially, who are socialized away from acknowledging or expressing their emotions, have a hard time accepting that one can have love for his friends that doesn’t have a romantic or sexual tinge to it. Men can refer to their friends of long-standing as “brother”, but telling a friend – especially a male friend – that he loves them… that’s a big time social faux pas. The drunk overly emotional “I love you, man!” guy is a comedy staple – his gushing profession of manly affection is supposed to be awkward and embarrassing, something that should never be openly acknowledged.

“Jack? Where are ya man? I want everybody to know you’re like - hic – my best friend and I love you! I love you! Not in a gay way – hic – although that’s cool too…”

 

Even movies about platonic male friendships are almost always played out in romantic terms; you have the meet up, the burgeoning friendship, moments of jealousy, the big fight, then the make-up and reconciliation at the end. One of the central conflicts of the movie Chasing Amy, for example is that Holden can’t conceive that his friend Banky may love him without actually wanting to sleep with him.

This inability to come to grips with the idea of a love that doesn’t automatically mean hearts and flowers is part of what perpetuates the idea that men and women can never be emotionally intimate without sex or romance being thrown into the mix. Defining love as having two meanings – one for family, one for everyone else – limits the ways in which we perceive the world.

The ancient Greeks on the other hand, acknowledged many different kinds of love. There was eros - sexual attraction and infatuation while romantic love and affection was entirely seperate as agape; the feeling of contentment and emotional fulfillment that comes from a romantic relationship was thought to be entirely separate from sex. Philia on the other hand, was a dispassionate, more “virtuous” love, the platonic4 affection and loyalty felt between friends. It was a love of the mind, not the heart or the loins.

The Myth of Male Powerlessness (Before Their Boners)

It’s a long-running – and frankly rather insulting – trope that men are powerless before their own sexuality. We are so at the mercy of our hard-ons that the merest hint of sex is enough to reduce us to cavemen, incapable of anything other than the fulfillment of our immediate desires.

The idea that sex inevitably becomes an issue between cross-gender (or, again, cross-orientation) friendships is a long-standing one, and one that’s reinforced regularly by pop culture. To be a man, so we’re told over and over again, is to be unable to compartmentalize our sexuality from our daily lives.

One of the most famous examples – especially with relation to friendships – comes from the movie When Harry Met Sally:

The issue here is the underlying assumption that the fact that an attraction exists somehow means that men feel as though they must act on it. They are powerless to resist!

The power of boners compels you! The power of boners compels you!

It’s a popular idea. We – men included – are always making jokes about our penises having minds of their own or the blood draining from our brains in order to fuel our erections, laughing in that “ha ha, no but seriously…” way that we do when we want to bring up uncomfortable truths. And yet the idea that men are ultimately controlled by their libidos is an insulting one; it implies that we have no free will once sex is in the picture, that we are nothing but erections with legs, compelled to plunge ourselves into whatever orifice will receive us.

The idea that men are incapable of controlling their desire is an infantilization of male sexuality; it implies that men are baser and less-evolved than women and as a result, women are the de-facto gatekeepers of sex. Men are unable to control themselves, therefor their every motive should be considered suspect.

Sex Doesn’t Ruin Friendships

Just as we have a complicated relationship with the idea of “love”, we have a similarly complicated one with “sex”. Our culture is so tied up with mixed messages about sex and sexuality that we can’t keep them all straight. Sex is dirty and wrong and only bad people have it… so save it for marriage kiddos. Sex is awesome and we should be having it all the time… but someone, especially a woman, who likes sex too much has something wrong with them. The only way for women to be valued is to be sexy, but being sexy or sexualdeliberately is a cause for scorn and shame.

The idea that sexual desire can exist independently from an emotional relationship is one that a lot of people have issues wrapping their heads around. Sexual desire is of the body while affection – romantic or otherwise – is of the mind. Sex is peanut butter and love is chocolate – they go together amazingly well, but one can have one without the other or without mixing the two together. Some people are great at compartmentalization while others are not… but this doesn’t mean that the existence of sexual interest in one friend or the other spells the doom of the friendship.

The idea that men and women can’t be “just” friends presumes that the fact that an attraction means that it is automatically unacknowledged… or that it will inevitably be enacted upon. Yet in the real world, friends can acknowledge an attraction – whether one-sided or mutual – without destroying things. It’s entirely possible for a couple to say “Yeah, we know it would never work out and we don’t want to risk ruining our friendship with an ugly break-up”. Men (or women) are quite capable of being attracted to someone and keeping that attraction to the realm of fantasy or “it would be fun if…” without actively trying to pursue it.

It’s when one or the other has an agenda that attraction ultimately ruins a friendship. When somebody enters into a friendship under false pretenses – attempting the Platonic Friend Back Door Gambit - they are using the guise of friendship in selfish hope of getting what they want. If you’re only maintaining friendships with people you’re attracted to in the hopes of someday getting together with them or wearing them down – what I call the Big Lie From A “Nice” Guy – then you’re not actually their friend, you’re just an asshole.

Friendship – real friendship – can encompass sex or love without being “ruined”, so long as everybody is honest with one another and willing to act like adults.

  1. and by extension, mixed heterosexual and homosexual friendships – especially between men []
  2. And thanks to Amanda Marcotte for pointing that out. []
  3. although I always feel the need in the name of intellectual honesty to point out that anecdotes are not data []
  4. see what I did there? []

Comments

  1. Let's see. Right now I've got…what, seven friends-with-benefits? Granted, most of them are currently scattered around the country, but we'd happily bone each other when we're in the same city (or state), and we maintain equally happy friendships in the meantime. And if the sexytimes stops through decreasing lack of attraction or other commitments coming into play, it doesn't decrease the quality of the friendship (in fact, this has already happened in a few cases). We truly do value each other as *people* over valuing each other as sexy receptacles.

    I know this is a bit of a tangent to the original topic, which was platonic friendship, but I guess I'm saying that sexual attraction + friendship can be expressed in a lot of different ways – and if you're with a group of mature, thoughtful people, it's less likely to be expressed as the repression and resentment everyone else thinks it should be.

  2. It's interesting, but I (a woman) find that I'm actually more open with my guy bestie than my girl one. We chat about everything, up to and including our sex lives and partners. Even when I'm halfway through a story that would make my ma'ma faint, at no time do I feel judged, shamed, sexualized, objectified or diminished. In fact, quite often conversations with him make me feel empowered and accepted as a both an intelligent and sexually active woman. I respect few people (girl or guy) like I do him, and even when we're cracking dirty jokes I feel the respect in return.

    • I've had the same experience as far as opening up to my male friends about risque topics more than to my female friends – wonder why that is?

      By the way, love the chocolate and peanut butter analogy, Doc. Well played.

  3. I think men and women CAN "just be friends," but oddly, I think sex helps. That is, there may be a natural reaction to wonder "what if" when a man and woman first form a relationship. Even if there's no romance/sex involved, they both might wonder about it, dwell on it, fantasize about it, etc. Perhaps acting on it is the best way to put that wondering to rest and move on. I've got several male friends now that I think of almost like brothers; we're very close and it's comfortable and platonic, but there was a time, way back when we first met, where we fooled around. Sometimes sex was involved, sometimes it was just a lot of making out, but either way, I think we sort of got it out of our systems and decided we worked better as friends, and once the sex-part was out of the way, it was easier to make that transition.

    I think it's when the sexual attraction is /never/ acted upon that it becomes more potent and distracting. There's always that "what if" in the back of your minds. It's easier to build that possibility, make you wonder if he/she could be "the one." Then all that second-guessing crops up–could sex ruin our friendship, will we ever be the same afterwards, yadda yadda. It's so much easier if you don't have to wonder. Get it out of the way and move on. Friendship is so much easier when the question of sex has been answered.

    • But surely you're not sexually attracted to every guy you meet and enjoy hanging out with? I'd imagine there are plenty of mixed gender (and mixed orientation) friendships where exploring sex wouldn't improve anything, because one or both parties isn't suppressing an attraction, they just don't have one to begin with. Or where sex has to be off the table even if there is an attraction, because one or both people is in a committed monogamous relationship with someone else. So your suggestion is kind of limited in applicability.

      • Commonly known as X says:

        There is a range of responses as well – you can have casual sexual thoughts or interests in a friend you might not actually want to sleep with given the chance. But I think Guest has a point in acting out in the sense that even a bit of light flirtation can help clear the air. Maybe if its out there its clear that the sexual attraction is pretty tenuous, but if you repress everything it seems more significant.

      • Juuuuuulia says:

        Ooh, yep! Both things have happened to me. I've met people who I never thought about in a romantic/sexual way and then I went "Wait! What if maybe I am attracted to them?! This never crossed my mind! Gasp!" and then I monitored our interactions for a bit and realized I'm not attracted to them after all.

    • I think your making the assumption that everyone is like you. I know a lot of people who wouldn't be able to separate sex and friendship in the clinical manner you have just described. I think having a friendship and then moving onto sex is likely to result in a very intimate relationship for at least one of the couple. If someone is your friend it probably means you like their personality and if they are attracted to them also then why wouldn't you have deeper feelings for this person? Having gathered that the likelihood of deeper feelings is rather high you might argue that the break up will not result in the fairy tale ending of 'back to being friends'.

      • "why wouldn't you have deeper feelings for this person?"

        Because friend-feelings are different from romantic feelings are different from sexual feelings, and some people can separate them out and find different combinations of the three in different people (sexy friends, asexual romances, one night stands without the friendship or the romance, sexy romances without the friendship).

        Undoubtedly there are people for whom sexual and romantic feelings are forever entwined. Undoubtedly society also encourages this heavily, especially in women, such that the idea of friends with benefits gets contested hotly every time it gets brought up. (Along with the strands of society that posit friend-feelings are inseparable from romantic/sexual feelings for someone of the sex you're attracted to.) They get conflated a lot, but that doesn't mean they /should/ necessarily be mashed together so much.

        • nonny mouse says:

          Not everyone is like you. It’s not society that tells me I want to be monogamous. Some animals mate for life… and with humans, it’s a choice, I believe.

    • I, as a male, have similarly made such a transition with a female friend. Lots of sex and emotional intimacy, sating our mutual lonelinesses, but eventually separately coming to the conclusion that we don't have much in common, and that if we actually were a monogamous couple, we'd soon by clawing each other. But it took us a while to get here, and it was not by any means a smooth ride, so I am likewise skeptical that this model of friendship-development is something that can be self-consciously adopted by any but a tiny minority of people.

  4. Peter Guilherme says:

    I always found the “women and men can’t just be friends” thing to be bullshit. Anyone advancing this argument has probably never hung out with women. I know a lot of women (a function of being at a university predominantly attended by women) and if I was attracted to all of them, it would get a little exhausting. They’re all cute girls, but they’re my friends and that’s all they’re going to be.

    Now, it’s possible that the nature of my relationship with these people (we’re all in crew, meaning we’ve spent most nights, all of spring break, and several road trips together) has resulted in a much more familial bond than your regular friendship. That said, “men and women can’t be just friends” is wrong.

  5. I'd be very interested to see the results of a study of adult opposite-sex friendships. It's unfotunate that so much psychological research is done only on college students. They're the most willing guinea pigs, but I don't think they're a good stand in for the general population, especially when things like sex and relationships are involved.

    My totally unscientific annecdotal experience is that it's perfectly possible for men and women to be friends, even if there is attraction or even sex, but that it's more likely to work out if there's a longstanding bond over past experiences that makes it worth dealing with a little occasional discomfort, and that it's even easier if both people have social lives beyond their friendship and preferably some other romantic options. A group of students who've met within the last couple years and who might be spending most of their time together on campus in a little clique? That's a lot more difficult to manage.

    • Coming from someone in the midst of it, a lot of college students still haven't grown out of that caddy high school BS mentality yet and probably won't until the real world startssmacking most of those ideals they had out of their head.

  6. Hailed Mary says:

    Yes men and women can just be friends! The funny thing about it is that everyone else seems to NOT believe it possible except for the two people who are actually involved in it! My college seatmate and I have been friends for 2 decades now and that's all there is to it. We're both straight, and we're not attracted to each other, much as every other friend we have seem to think otherwise *insert facepalm here*. We're strictly platonic…and at one time he even told me that if we ever had a big falling out that he was going to have me "assassinated" because I knew too much about him. Some of our old classmates go "Why aren't you and Josh together?" To which I give them a look that says "Erm…should we be?" We're both married…to different people! Unfortunately his wife still gives me the evil eye of sorts from time to time when we're around each other. And his Dad thought we were dating in the first few years we were buddies, LOL. I should just carry a sign around my neck when we hang out "Not Together. Never was, never will be. Stop the looks already."

    • Juuuuuulia says:

      I'm worried about this because my little brother has a female friend right now and people are doing the same thing! Like, assuming they're dating and teasing them and stuff! Jerks. T_T

      I'm worried that other gossipy middle-schoolers will do more to "ruin the friendship" than anything else ever could.

      • Gentleman Johnny says:

        It never ends. At a club I frequent there's a small back room that people sometimes use for private conversations. Technically its staff only but its sort of staff, invited friends and various and sundry others. Any two mixed gender people back will have someone theorizing that they're having sex regardless of relationship status and the fact that the room is monitored by a security camera..

      • Hailed Mary says:

        Goodness I know how THAT felt like. It's ridiculous! I even joked to my friend one time "Maybe we should tell them I liked girls so they leave us alone."

  7. Can men and women be friends? Yes, obviously.

    Would a whole lot of guys totally be down with having sexytimes with their female friends? Yep.

    Do a whole lot of women not realize that their guy friends would like to have sex with them? That certainly seems to be the case.

    The issue seems to be in those last two things. There seem to be plenty of instances where women will be like, "Haha, of course me and my guy friend aren't attracted to each other!" and the guys will be like "I actually am attracted to her, I just haven't acted on it for whatever reason." I'm not sure why this happens (probably societal pressures, or something), but it definitely happens. Which is weird, because, if this blog is to be believed, men and women both want fun sexytimes in about equal amounts.

    • I think you'd probably hear guys saying that a lot more often than women partly because it's much more acceptable for guys to show an interest in sex, especially casual sex. There are probably plenty of women who've had some sexual attraction to a guy who was just a friend but didn't act on it for a variety of reasons, but if they're not willing to act on it, I'd imagine they'd be a lot less comfortable admitting to feeling it. Or else after they decided they weren't going to act on it, they trained themselves not to think of the friend that way and so don't really feel it anymore.

    • Commonly known as X says:

      I think there is a lot of social training that teaches women to suppress or deny any casual sexual thoughts about male friends or noticing their male friends have any interest in them. It comes down to social mixed messages again.

      While it is good to be attractive, it is also seen as disrespecting of women to have sexual thoughts about them (the Madonna/Whore complex). Men can't respect your intellectual powers if they notice your tits. Women want to think their male friends respect them. Also, it is vain and presumptuous, and possibly slutty, to acknowledge (even to yourself) that men find you attractive. Thinking of your male friends naked is definitely slutty. Etc.

      I am really cheered up that this all seems to be dying out. High school kids around here definitely hang out in mixed groups a lot more than they used to, and they seem to joke about sex quite a lot without much embarrassment. I like to think they will have much less screwed-up sex lives than my generation.

    • I think sometimes that interaction is a bit of a defense mechanism on the woman's part, at least in cases only one person is attracted. Like Commonly known as X said, there's a lot of pressure on women to ignore the interest of their male friends. There's a strong cultural narrative that women with male friends are heartless teases leading nice guys on and basking in undeserved attention. The usual suggested remedies are to either stop dating bad boys and fall for your friend or to end the friendship. I think that leads women whose friends only seem to be slightly attracted to characterize the relationship as purely platonic, rather than acknowledging that there might be some attraction but that it's not problematic.

      As relationships where the girl is sexually attracted and the guy is not? Those definitely exist. I think that guys just generally tend to keep quiet on the issue or use the excuse of a relationship to shut down the conversation. I have one male friend who I know for a fact is not sexually attracted to me at all, and he just doesn't bring it up. I don't think there's the same sort of pressure to pretend things are platonic, and I also think guys might have some pressure to seem l ike they're up for having casual sex with any willing woman who isn't entirely hideous.

  8. Obligatory: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_lh5fR4DMA

    Sucks when a battering ram crashes into the fortress of pretty lies we tell ourselves…

    • Juuuuuulia says:

      That's all-or-nothing thinking again! The video assumes that being friends and wanting to hook up are mutually exclusive. I have plenty of guy friends that I would hook up with if THEY said they wanted to, but I'm not their friend JUST because I'm waiting around for that to happen. I also acknowledge that many of them are just not attracted to me, but I haven't completely ditched them because they're fun to hang out with and stuff.

      • "The video assumes that being friends and wanting to hook up are mutually exclusive."

        For the vast majority of men, that assumption happens to be true, though. Most guys are never going to be good friends with girls that they have a strong sexual attraction to (and, yes, they're highly likely to be sexually attracted to most of their female fiends) . This unrequited attraction will almost always create a social distance between people eventually. It's just not very pleasant to spend a lot of time around somebody you want to bang and know it will never happen. So most people, guys especially, will never be that close to a girl if they know that's the case.

        • Dr_NerdLove says:

          “For the vast majority of men, that assumption happens to be true, though.”Took a poll, did you?

          • Unfortunately, as a man, I'm unable to do the type of research necessary to test my hypothesis. Why not encourage your female readers to run the experiment described below?

          • How the ever living fuck does being a man prevent you from taking a poll?

            0/10 F-

            Give up.

        • So you believe that the "vast majority" of men feel a "strong sexual attraction" to most of the women they meet–so strong that they can't put it aside even if the woman isn't interested or they themselves are otherwise attached? You're basically just feeding into the stereotype that men are walking penises who will sleep with anyone who has a vagina. It's kind of sad that you think so little of your own gender.

        • I'm getting this vibe that, at least for you and the guys you know, sex is better than friendship. Before I say anything else, I just want to check whether or not I'm right about you believing that.

        • When I was reading Freud he said similar things— people are obsessed with sex and want to bang their parents, everyone is dreaming about sex and he could tell his clients wanted to bang him and ohhh sex sex sex sex sex!

          I didn't really think Freud was right about his theories on sex Vic… I thought Freud mistook his own tendencies for the universal nature of humanity. Humanity is diverse, and this rant says more about you than anything.

      • You have two ladders.

        Men only have one.
        http://www.laddertheory.com/

        • Gentleman Johnny says:

          Its funny, when you say something like "men have one" or "gravity acts on all matter", you need only one exception to disprove the rule.

          So here's the deal, one I mentioned in a previous comment section. I have several friends, including one currently, who are female, who I am attracted to and with whom I maintain a friendship anyway without any thought of a relationship. In fact, I am currently in a committed, monogamous relationship and still see one of these female friends regularly for coffee and conversation. We've each at one time or another admitted being attracted to the other. Its just that one of us or the other always had prior commitments. Each time the conversation came up it lasted two minutes or so before we went back to our normal conversation and friendship.

        • That was a joke, right?

          "most guys know that women dig guys with money. Would Donald Trump be fucking models if he wasn't rich? That question is rhetorical. Now I don't even believe this is wrong, I think it is just nature. But I also think women who are this way (and it is almost all of you) should be honest and admit that they are basically whores, and stop saying bad things about the so-called "actual whores" who are just trying to earn an honest living." -www.laddertheory.com

          Mysoginistic jerk. Whoever wrote this website has been burned a few too many times and got a little crazy with their cynicism. "Extended field research" my ass…

          • I'd quibble with some of the suppositions they make. Here they conflate money with status. Money is often a marker of status, but rarely it's direct cause (in terms of sexual relations).

          • Read the rest of the site:" A note for guys: if your friends girl offers you a piece you should hit that shit, because he shouldn't be laying up with no ho. Ideally you should tape it also, because most guys will believe the person they're fucking."

            It's trash all around.

    • Dr_NerdLove says:

      Yup, there's nothing more convincing than a selectively edited video by a couple of dudes with something to prove.

      • Um, sure. The answers they got were totally the opposite, then they selectively edited them to be exactly what everyone expects and knows to be true. Do you really believe that, DNL?

        How about you challenge your female readers to an experiment:

        Invite your straight male "friends" over to watch a movie, just the two of you. Excuse yourself at some point, and come back completely naked. Then ask this dude, who just wants to be firends, if he wants to go bang in your bedroom. Report back your success/failure rate.

        • Dr_NerdLove says:

          No, I'm saying this has the same journalistic integrity and veracity as the Pizza Hut commercials where diners in a restaurant are shocked to find out their entrees came from a fast food joint.

          • Are you quibbling with the methodology, or arguing against the conclusion?

          • There's not a stated methodology. It's a video with a bunch of cuts. There's no way of knowing how people were selected, whether any responses were left out of the YouTube video, or even in most cases what question was asked.

          • I love that the argument has devolved to "Well, it does not reinforce my worldview, so they must have faked everything."

          • I wouldn't believe any poll, whether it reinforced my worldview or not, if it didn't reveal information about its sampling methods. The video's creators didn't make any attempt to demonstrate it was a randomly polled sample and that all results were aired, and I doubt that was their intent – it's a humorous video on YouTube.

            The study DNR referred to is a much better example of something indicating it's difficult for men and women to be friends.

          • There are several people here in the comments saying they are men who have female friends, or women who have male friends, and that sexual attraction is not a problem for them. There are no people here other than you saying it's not possible. Unless you think DNL is deleting comments that don't agree with his article (which seems unlikely, considering he's letting through yours), that's an unbiased sample.

            Why are the voices of several people here less proof than the several people (out of an unknown number of people actually talked to) in that video?

          • " Women, too, were blind to the mindset of their opposite-sex friends; because females generally were not attracted to their male friends, they assumed that this lack of attraction was mutual. "

            He's totally just a platonic friend, guys!

          • So DNL, LeeEsq, Peter, and Jay, who are all men, are unaware of the fact that they're not really friends with the female friends they say they have?

          • Margins exist on the edges of every bell curve. That doesn't mean the bell curve does not exist. Exceptions that prove the rule, etc.

            There are basically three reasons a man will not want to get it on with one of his female friends.

            1. He's not attracted to her physically AT ALL. This usually means she's ugly. But the vast majority of men won't hang around closely with ugly women for very long, as the social cost will be very high. (Because most people assume he wants to sleep with her.) Put bluntly, doing so will be to the detriment of his ability to attract better looking women later.

            2. He's currently getting plenty of sex from better looking women. Related to the first. The ordinal to the first's binary.

            3. He's gay.

            I'm sure there are situations that those don't apply to, but they are few and far between.

          • You don't seem to have any respect for yourself as a man. That makes me sad.

            I have lots of friends and colleagues I don't want to have sex with.
            I have a few friends I had attraction to, but knew it wasn't a good idea so, being a rational being in control of myself and not a mindless animal, I locked those feelings down and got over it. Now, it is over and not an issue…and I wouldn't have sex with them even if they showed up naked.

            Now, I'm sure you'll just say, "the exception proves the rule"–here is the problem with that statement…you have done nothing to establish "men and women can't be friends" is a rule in the first place. I could just as easily say that the rule is that men and women can be friends, and you are the exception that proves my rule. A person would have to determine what is the rule before exceptions can prove it.

            Up thread you said that you couldn't do that work because you are a man…I counter you can't do that work because you aren't a social scientist and have no idea how to do proper scholarship.

            In the real world, people are friends with people of their preferred gender all the time without there being problems.

          • @Trooper6

            This reminds me of that movie He's Just Not That Into You, or any crappy rom-com with a bunch of dolts going on about some unwritten arbitrary "rules" when it comes to dating, and they spend the whole movie trying to be "that one special exception"….or the FLUKE, when you get right down to it.

            Other than it being aggressively annoying, you're right. Those attitudes are self-limiting and counterproductive to your life. It's like you're putting yourself in some sort of imaginary pecking order and unless you do This This And This to fit the "prototypical persona" that "society" has deemed correct, then you're shit out of luck. Or worse, you use said "rules" as an EXCUSE for your own detrimental behavior and going like 'Hey! This is what SOCIETY says, so get with the program looooosers!"

            Which is where the irony kicks in, because it's society's job TO create a fantasy illusion for you. The fanciful idealized Wonderland where you're the Czar of Awesome and the world is YOUR oyster, begging at your every beck and whim. Where you can NEVER be wrong despite reality trying to mercilessly drag you out of it so you don't crash and burn when you finally wake up…

          • I second what Trooper6 pointed out. You haven't given any proof (other than a 3 minute video with accounts from approximately a dozen people, which as many of us have pointed out, says nothing about the general population because obviously the video-makers only included the people they filmed who best supported their argument) that your bell curve does actually exist the way you say it does. Or that the many guys commenting here saying they are able to have friends with non-ugly women even when there is some attraction and/or they aren't with another woman are part of a "margin". Here in this *unedited* discussion, you definitely appear to be the exception, not the other way around.

        • There's three minutes of footage there. They could have shot hours. It's hardly surprising that out of the hundreds of people they could have talked to, they could find a dozen who said things that supported their argument. How do you know they didn't talk to, say, twenty other guys who all said men and women could be friends, and twenty other women who said they had guy friends they knew had no interest in sleeping with them?

          And I wouldn't take your test, because I'm pretty sure it would mean I'd lose all my male friends–because if I did, they'd think I'd gone mad and get out of there as fast as they could. Because they all happen to be happily married, and they wouldn't cheat on their wives, and they've be offended if I tried to get them too. Unless you think men are incapable of being faithful to someone they've made a commitment to?

          Do no gay men have male friends? Do bisexual men have no friends at all? I'm just following your logic through here.

          • "And I wouldn't take your test, because I'm pretty sure it would mean I'd lose all my male friends"

            Of course. You won't do the experiment because you're afraid of what it might tell you about your male "friends."

          • You ignored every point I made and every question I raised in order to tell me I'm lying about what I think my friends would do. Apparently you don't understand how this thing called a discussion works.

            Let me repeat for you:

            Re the video: How do you know they didn't talk to, say, twenty other guys who all said men and women could be friends, and twenty other women who said they had guy friends they knew had no interest in sleeping with them?

            Do you think men are incapable of being faithful to someone they've made a commitment to?

            Do no gay men have male friends? Do bisexual men have no friends at all?

        • Oh, and the other problem with your "experiment"–even if both people are single, you're assuming that just because someone would be happy to accept something that's offered, they're incapable of being happy if it's not offered. If someone came by right now and offered me a chocolate brownie, I would happily take it and eat it. But that doesn't mean I can't be content with my life in this moment unless I have a chocolate brownie.

          In other words, even if a guy *would* have sex with a female friend if she offered, that doesn't mean he's incapable of being content not having sex with her.

          • bearcatbanana says:

            Agreed. I'm single. Most of my male friends are single. All would be offended if I pulled that stunt on them. My best male friend might cover me up and ask me why I'm acting so strange. I mean, that kind of behavior reeks of desperation and loneliness so I could see him being concerned.

        • Actually, I've done this (the Naked Man, classic.) And I failed hardcore. So, does that mean I am officially part of the Man Club?

          • As I said, the bell curve always has margins. There are going to be guys with neuroses or hang ups here and there. Think of it like counting cards in blackjack. It's not going to make you win every hand, but do it enough, and you quickly start to see predictive patterns emerge.

          • Except your own comment then just invalidated your point. If "certain" guys have hang-ups or neuroses or whatever and don't want to sleep with a female friend because of them, that means men and women CAN just be friends.

            So…. thanks for proving Dr. Nerdlove's point?

          • Sometimes things are true often enough to be generalizable, even when not true in each and every case. That there are sometimes people born without a limb does not invalidate the statement that human beings are born with four.

          • Except you have given no evidence, actual evidence, that your idea is the general fact. None of us here have that as our general experience. All of us, except for you, have as our general experience that men and women can be and are friends.

            In the media, sure men and women can't be friends…but the media says a lot of things aren't true in real life…shocking, I know! When Harry Met Sally isn't real life.

          • BritterSweet says:

            Cars never start immediately when you need them to the most, no one says "bye" before hanging up the phone, you can fall out of a plane in just a life raft unharmed, a machine gun can shoot continuously for minutes at a time with just one belt of bullets, high school students are in their mid-20s, and men and women can't ever be friends.

            Movie Land taught me so.

        • Gentleman Johnny says:

          There's a distinct difference between "would have sex with you in a perfect world where the opportunity came up" and "am only interested in being friends on the off chance that sex will one day be on the table". Sort of like how you can be friends with someone who's much wealthier than you without being motivated by mooching. Yeah, if your rich friend wants to buy you a car, you'll probably accept but its not the reason for your friendship.

    • God I hate that stupid video….so of COURSE the catalyst of the shitstorm would be some dolt posting it.

      You DO realize you're just making men sound like stupid, mouthbreathing Neanderthals that are incapable of controlling their little boy parts…right?

      "OOO OOO ME MAN! ME ONLY TALK TO LADEY CUZ ME WANNA STICK P3NOR INTO VAGINA! ME NO HAVE JUST FRIENDS WITH LADEY CUZ ME ALWAYS HORNY! OOO OOO!"

      That's quite pathetic that that's how you view yourself. That you are SO helpless to your boner that you find it impossible to be a fucking adult and have perfectly normal conversations and bond perfectly normal friendships with someone because you just CANNOT HELP but to get hypnotized by teh boobies and vagoo-goo. That makes YOU look bad, dude. It's astonishing how badly you're talking about both genders with these asinine assertions.

      Forget misogyny (which is well established that you are one with your stupid "list"); this is borderline misanthropic shit you're spewing. You find BOTH genders to be objects; all a male is capable of is is to find a female hole to stick his dick in, who's job it is to just shut up and take it lest she be called an ugly lesbian feminist. You don't think ANYBODY is capable of a perfectly normal friendship because of stupid belief systems pulled out of your ass that stem from your own immaturity (lack of personal responsibility and self-control. And you know, thinking about OTHER STUFF in the world behind sexy sextimes with someone of the opposite gender).

      But no…I'm sure YOUR belief system is serving you just fine, right? Deez womeenz isn't gonna outsmart you and they're gonna fall for your false "friend" routine everytime before you bag em and tag em, amirite amirtite amirite? You know what, I take back everything I said….YOU should take over this blog and help us poor souls develop healthy human relationships =)

  9. 90% of my friends are male. While I'm aware that some of them find me attractive (because we've talked about it), I never have and never will get together with them sexually. And you know what? We're still friends. It's not awkward. Because you can indeed be attracted to someone and choose not to act on it and not be tortured by it and not have things be awkward.

    That's part of being an adult: recognizing that not everything you want is a good idea, possible, or something that would actually make you happy even if you got it, and getting over that. Just as I can have fulfilling, respectful relationships with people with whom I disagree politically or religiously, I can have fulfilling relationships with people with whom there's a level of attraction. It just means that there are some areas of one's life that aren't shared with that person, and there's a certain level of sensitivity required on the part of both people. (For example, while I jokingly flirt with some of my friends, I don't do it with my male friends who've expressed attraction to me.)

    As an adult, you can be hungry and walk past a restaurant without grabbing food off strangers' plates. And as an adult, you can feel attraction to someone and put it aside.

    And I'm pretty sure every guy has women who, for whatever reason, he's not interested in sleeping with. There's no reason why every guy has to be harboring a secret attraction to any woman he spends time with.

    • Cheers to being a respectful adult!! I rather prefer grown-upness in people.

      "While I jokingly flirt with some of my friends, I don't do it with my male friends who've expressed attraction to me." This (for attracted friends of any gender) should be in the book of contemporary friendship ethics, although I know enough people who do like the flirty attention regardless. I'm sensitive, I guess, and it feels like a cruel power trip when people do this.

      I think the majority of my cross-gender friendships (and maybe a couple with bi/lesbian women) have involved some level of attraction on one of our parts, and not rarely, a shared chemistry of some sort. I think I generally have an easier time post-discussion- of- interest-where-guy-has-a-reason-not-to-get-involved staying friends with said guys than vice versa, though. I've lost a couple of amazing guy friends whose romantic love-affection I did not return, even though I did love them. It's been easier to stay casual friends with attracted guys whose hook-up lead-in I didn't take them up on due to circumstances of the moment. The only guy I couldn't maintain a friendship was a mesmerizing guy who kept up the intense sexual and romantic tension all the while talking about how into other women he was and regularly flaking on me when we made plans to hang out, or when I flirted back, which was just too mind-f***-y for sensitive me. In comparison, another guy who had kept up the sexual banter after assuring me he just liked me as a friend squelched it after I'd asked him to, and I was able to stay friends without weirdness with him despite my earlier passionate zeal.

      • I’ve been in the same situation. A guy told me he wasn’t interested sexually, then would frequently go on about how great I was, say things about how great our last names sounded together, randomly leave me Facebook messages telling me how much he wished other people were like me–it got confusing. And then yeah, he would flake out all the time, and flirt with other girls, but then rant about how “bad” these girls were for having boyfriends or not being into him. I’d’ve been able to get over him much quicker and without the awkwardness if he hadn’t appeared to be leading me somewhere. We’d also probably still be friends.

  10. Does anybody else find the idea that men and women can't just be friends kind of stupid? Most of the women in my life are either relatives, friends (without benefits) or colleagues. There are many women in my life that I'm friends with but have absolutely no lust for. There have been women I've despised as people but thought were hot and would have liked to sleep with even though the sex would have been kind of destructive.

    • Agreed! True, my two closest guy friends and I met because they liked me, but now I am the ultimate wingman at bars. They know it'll never happen and our friendship is more than their initial crush on me. I also have a friends with benefits that I really would never date and barely consider a friend and have dumped a friend because his crush on me ruined our relationship. It *so* depends on the person.

  11. I absolutely believe men and women can be just friends (have bunches of them myself.) But I also get kinda "Huh" when I see a guy and a girl friend who are very emotionally close and who have also fooled around. It's sort of like," Okay so you're emotionally into each other, and physically into each other, and you're not dating…. why?"

    Perhaps I just think it's playing with fire to have friends in which you are both physically and emotionally attracted, because it makes relationships for either much more complicated.

    • Well, "physically" does not always mean "sexually". The two people who are physically and emotionally into each other might not be sexually into each other and this might mean they either consciously decide to continue being friends as they are or they simply lack the motivation to change the status of their relationship.

      That said, I'm not surprised that such a relationship would look weird and be (almost) incomprehensible to an outsider.

      • It could also be that the two people recognize that despite emotional and sexual attraction, there's no point pursuing a serious long term relationship for any number of reasons (one person wants kids eventually, the other definitely doesn't; one person works so much the other knows they'd feel neglected if they were an actual romantic partner; one of them wants monogamy and the other is polyamorous, just to name a few). So they're better off staying friends and romantically pursuing other people who are more totally compatible.

    • I know some friend pairs like that, and I think I might actually be part of one. I slept with one of my close male friends a few times, though I'd consider that to be more of a past thing. The reason we're not dating is that our emotional closeness isn't of the type that's very well-suited to relationships. It's more of an old war buddy dynamic – we went to school together, suffered through a punishing job at the same company, and were laid off around the same time. We understand each other on a pretty deep level, but that doesn't mean we're well-suited to meet each other's emotional needs.

      Add in that the physical attraction seems to be pretty mild on both sides (I'm going to be really blunt here: he generally dates women who are more attractive than I am) and requires some alcohol to get going, and dating has never really come up.

    • "Perhaps I just think it's playing with fire to have friends in which you are both physically and emotionally attracted, because it makes relationships for either much more complicated."

      Exactly. One of them (almost always the guy) is going to get tired of constant blue balls, and start putting emotional/social/physical distance between them. I.E. "Men and women cannot be (real) firends."

      • Um, I meant more that potential romantic partners might get scared off or suspicious of the pairing, whether or not the guy is getting sex. I know quite a few friend-pairings who bone when single and then are just platonic best friends (with sexy underpinnings) when coupled, and it seems to risk a big ol' Emotional Flustercluck. So, nope, nothing to do with blue balls.

  12. …there really should be an edit button hurr. Kthanx Doc bai

  13. Artimaeus says:

    When the people aren't sexually attracted to each other, it's pretty easy. However, when there is some sort of chemistry and attraction, maintaining a healthy friendship requires a lot of maturity. Both people have to have a good idea of what they are want out of a partner/their lives, know what they and their platonic friend have to offer, and remember what they know when the chemistry is most intense.

  14. One of my best girl friends is someone who I feel very attracted to. How couldn't I? She's beautiful, sexy and has tons of confidence. She also knows it for a long time, "yet" we're still best friends for over 16 years. Would I have sex with her had I the chance? Of course. Have I tried? No doubt . Do I feel frustrated for not having sex with her? Of course not, sex would only be a small increase in how much her friendship means to me.

    How can some guys withhold on friendships due solely because of feeling a little aroused, I cannot understand.

  15. I think it's safe to say that the Scientific American article that DNL references may prove that men and women who are college students can't be platonic friends. It doesn't prove that men and women who are middle-aged can't be friends. It doesn't prove that men and women who are old can't be friends. Just college students. Maybe lazy social scientists should quit using the nearest available bodies (ie college students) for studies that are meant to be extrapolated to the entire population. Would everyone think their studies were valid for all age groups if they did all their studies in retirement homes?

    • Also, I have to say that Scientific American has been putting out a lot of really questionable gender stuff recently with really questionable methodology. I'm afraid that it is not longer a source I can take very seriously.

    • Commonly known as X says:

      I don’t think it proved that at all though, even for college students. All it showed is that there was some level of physical attraction also, particularly from the men. That is hardly surprising when most college men are at the age when they will have their highest libido.

      It’s a fault in the framing that suggests any level of sexual attraction equals no friendship. Rather I would think that it’s a proof that people can consider each other friends despite sexual attraction, acted on or not. And that should hardly be a surprise. Practically everyone is really good friends with their long-term sexual partners; after a few years it is loving friendship and not sex that keeps people together. (Well sometimes inertia, co-dependency and abuse, but for most couples it’s friendship.)

  16. Even though I don't have any "true" female friends (like someone who you meet all the time, share stories etc.) – I do have a few "casual" female friends that I know from college and that I get to see from time to time. Do I find some of them physically attractive? Yes. Do I want to be more than friends with them? No, because we simply don't mesh well in my opinion (different interest zones, etc.). Do I feel like I can't be friends with them because of it? No, because I am an adult capable of controlling myself and realizing that yes, I am a man that gets aroused from women but I do not want to bone all of them just because of that fact. For example, last year I met this attractive girl in my class and we became friends and studied together for the final exam (I even brought her to my home to study – first time in my life I brought a girl to my house LOL) but even though I felt a physical attraction – I did not want to act upon it for many reasons – she was almost through with her studies and in a different part of her life, we didn't have much in common besides college stuff, the fact that she already had a boyfriend and got engaged to him shortly after we met etc.

    Another fantastic example is the Salsa dance group that I joined recently – there are PLENTY of women there that I find attractive and even though they aren't really friends of mine (with most of them I have casual chats here and there) I still don't find myself wanting to have sex with EACH AND EVERYONE OF THEM – that's simply ridiculous. In this group, I actually learned A LOT about how to enjoy yourself around attractive women without feeling the pressure of sex being forced on the interaction itself.

  17. My best friend is a guy, he's amazing, and I had a huge crush on him when I first met him. That was about ten years ago, and now, that's the furthest thing from my mind. We never had sex, it never went anywhere sexual, and it could have. We're just friends, and I'm almost entirely sure we always will be.

  18. I have to wonder why are people still asking this question… It seems so absurd to me.
    When I was 7, I was literally the only girl in my class. I am still friends with most of the boys from back then. I have travelled with them, watched movies, went to parties, even slept on the same bed with some of them. I find most of them pretty attractive, and would sleep with them given the chance. But that doesn't mean anything in our current relationship. I don't even know if they find ME attractive (probably not?). They are awesome to hang out as friends, but a relationship would probably be hell. Also, they all have girlfriends. ;)
    I have absolutely no reason to believe their friendship is less honest than mine. Or more, considering I'm the one who finds them attractive….
    People who cannot be friends with women frighten me a little….

    • If I were single, one of my criteria for dating would be if you were incapable of having female friends, we would not be dating. I mean, you don't have to have a huge bevy of them, but some would be nice. And anyone who smugly tells me men and women can never be friends would be right out..
      My own life experience tells me that's not true. I've had male friends all my life and I can tell you that only a tiny percentage were actually actively attracted to me, and I'm not ugly. How do I know this? Well, they dated other women and would ask me for advice about them! If they harbored secret painful crushes on me, why would they talk relationships with me?

      • Yeah… I am single, and would NOT date anyone who believes man and women cannot be friends.
        First: because it reveals that he has a problem seeing women as people. We are not sexual objects, and we are not aliens!
        And second: because I believe any relationship that is not a one-night-stand has to have a base of friendship and interest in the other person. Sex is not enough to keep two people together (though it is an important part in most relationships)…

        • I am with both of you. I'd never date a person who believed men and women couldn't be friends. That is a serious sign of un an unhealthy mentality. I also wouldn't date a woman who follow The Rules, or any of that dumb advice from Cosmo on how to "snag a man."

          All of that crap is bad.

  19. This is one I've never quite understood. Are men that incapable of reigning in their libido? Is this one of those things that leads to "bi people don't exist"? I mean, really here. I'm bi. I have a number of female friends I consider really attractive. They know I would happily fool around with or date them. They (for various reasons) are uninterested. So I don't hit on them, and enjoy all the things that make them great friends. I also have a number of guy friends I find attractive. And a number of my guy friends find me attractive. Even when there's mutual attraction, sometimes you just know your dating styles won't work out, so you don't go there. When it's unbalanced, you drop it and move on.

    Recognizing that someone is attractive doesn't have to kill the friendship. This is the thing that drives me most nuts about the study. It claims that because men find their female friends attractive, they can't be friends. Why not? None of the sources reporting on this have answered that. And in fact that the subjects could say "yes, I find my friend attractive" while they are still friends, without the study itself saying "and therefore these men are actually just secretly pining away" actually suggests that men and women are better at being friends even when attractiveness is recognized than any of the news sources have reported.

    Also, they studied 176 college students. That's a really small and limited sample size. 88 men and 88 women between the ages of 18 and 22 who can afford higher education. TINY. ONLY NEWSWORTHY BECAUSE IT REINFORCES STEREOTYPES.

    • Ainuvande says:

      Ok, so I just skimmed the study (it's two in the morning here, I should be going to bed, not reading psychological studies) and I noticed two things. First: Men are not that much more attracted to their female friends than women are to their male friends. The averages of these numbers were also not all that high, averaging more into the "I have no strong opinion" category than the "actively attracted to them" category. So according to the study it's not a matter of one side desperately trying to get into the other side's pants so much as it is guys are slightly more likely to see women friends as attractive than women are to see their guy friends as attractive.

      Second: I was wrong. They did a second study involving people in their thirties and forties as well. Aside from the fact that you have fewer friends when you're out in the real world than you do in college (also, water is wet); they found that both genders were significantly less interested in their opposite-sex friends as they got older. This was especially true if one or more parties was in a serious, committed relationship. So it went from "meh…well, maybe" to "erm…probably not." You could as easily say from this information that college students (of both genders) are thinking a lot more about sex than people with the stresses of the adult world.

      Really, the media tempest is way too big for the teacup study they're trying to hold it in.

    • Yeah, the study is really reaching with the conclusions the authors are drawing from their results. I agree, attraction doesn't mean you can't be friends–or even that you necessary would want to be more than friends.

      I think the guys who buy into the whole "all men are ruled by their libidos and that's just their nature" idea often buy into it not because it makes much sense but because it absolves them of responsibility for their sexual wants and behavior. Pretended to be friends with a girl and then ditched her when she wouldn't sleep with him? Not his fault, she should have known a guy only hangs around a woman for sex. Cheated on his girlfriend/wife? Not his fault, no man can resist an attractive woman coming on to him. Etc. It lets them be selfish sexist jerks without feeling guilty about it.

  20. Straight people are weird.

  21. Whoas!
    My boyfriend is co-writing a review for a sex and sociology book that sounds a lot like this. His argument is that these sorts of studies assume the perspective of only the heteronormative male…and his review is mostly asking why we stress so much on that perspective and how we continue to enforce it/confirm it….and accept it as a universal and do not often question it as a trend.

    Neat!
    I have been pretty disappointed with a handful of things I have read from SA in recent years.
    They present very interesting articles but the presentation of the studies seem more persuasive than inquisitive. It is one of the many things that drive me a bit crazy in science communication and the media. Magazines don't show people how to pose questions, they often spoon feed oversimplified answers to poorly constructed questions….an article like this raises far more questions than it provides answers. IMHO, that is how the article should be written – "This study says college men often pursue friendships with women out of a sexual agenda. But is that enough to confirm that men and women cannot be just friends? What else must be considered?"
    Any article on a qualitative study should not be providing a solid "yes" or "no" about anything so general.

    • Hugh Myron says:

      Because by definition, the "heteronormative male" is half the relationship. It takes two to tango!

      And often, the male tries to deliberately remove any tells of his sexual intentions. He may be successful or not, but it doesn't matter. On one hand, you have sexual desire on the part of the male. On the other, you have ignorance on the female's part as to the male's true intentions.

      Or worse, she knows that he wants sex, and she deliberately uses that as a tool to manipulate him into doing things such as fixing her computer (the "orbiter" phenomenon).

      Forget sexuality, no true friendship is based on deceit or manipulation.

  22. opon reading this every memory of every so called female friend i had walking away to never be seen again. the one main factor was them getting boyfriends i am sure of that, so can males and females be friends (before puberty yes going forward after puberty with no prior personal history with said person not really) with the exception of being blind, being a unich, a ghost, being gay, being a emotionless robot, etc.

    • Dr_NerdLove says:

      Not to throw water all over your memories, but have you considered that this is the way most friendships go, regardless of gender? We all naturally drift away from people without necessarily meaning to; friendships lasting decades or lifetimes are rare and precious.

  23. Hugh Myron says:

    It depends on your definition of "friend."

    Men and women can totally be acquaintances without anything being a problem.

    But when I think of a "friend," I think of someone more important than that. Someone who I can share things about myself with. Some who will reciprocate my platonic friendship with them. Someone who will not judge me for who I am.

    A female cannot do that. The element of sexuality will invariably pervert the relationship. In the end, either the parties will have sex, or live in resentment, hatred, and uneasiness.

    If a girl ever wants to be a platonic friend, I would just stop talking to her. Unless, of course, you can use her to get into parties or clubs to meet hotter women, then keep her.

    • BritterSweet says:

      "A female cannot do that."

      I think the correct way to phrase that would be: "I cannot do that with a female." Because there are many other sets of mixed gender circles of friends without sexual tension-induced resentment. They hang out with each other because…they like each other, and not necessarily as in "like-like."

    • *sigh* Again with the "I'm a slave to my libido" mentality.

      I find it funny how you say that you want someone who will reciprocate your platonic friendship, and then say that if a girl tried to do so, you'd cut her out. Self-fulfilling prophecy much?

    • LazieLizzie says:

      I'm a straight woman who hangs out almost entirely with guys. About 85% of my friends and acquaintances are male, and there aren't any women I hang out with on a regular basis. I have never, ever in my entire life felt any kind of romantic or sexual attraction to a male friend. This includes my absolute best friend in the whole world, who is also male.

      Your complete lack of understanding of the female psyche–and your apparent willingness to use "normal" women to get "better" women–is incredibly insulting and, quite frankly, pretty disgusting.

      • Hugh Myron says:

        Ok, you don't feel any sexual attraction towards them. But they'd probably bone you if they got the chance. I would bone any of my female acquaintances if I got half the chance.

        Personally, I'd rather not have to deal with my feeling towards a woman, because that would totally mess up the friendship. That's why I don't have female friends, I merely tolerate them and try to use them as means to other ends.

        • The fact that *you* would happily "bone" every woman you're acquainted with, and don't want to deal with being friends with them if you can't, isn't proof that all or even most guys feel that way. It's only proof that you as an individual feel incapable of being friends with women. Unless you think that every guy feels the same about every topic as you do, and you're all a single-minded conglomerate like the Borg? (Which I'm pretty sure many guys here would disagree with you about…)

        • I'm not sure whether to pity you for having no self-discipline when it comes to your sex drive or brandish a silver cross in response to your final sentence.

        • x_Sangiune_8 says:

          "I…try to use [women] as a means to other ends."
          Presumably the "other ends" is boning other women, based on your previous posts.

          Ladies: can you _believe_ that this guy is single?? (/sarcasm)
          Gents: don't be like Hugh. Nobody likes being used as a means to an end, then thrown away.

    • Wow. You don't deserve female friends, clearly.

    • Damnit! It really sucks that I can't share things with my female friends anymore… I'll have to let them know that some dude on the internet declared that we can't share feelings without the 'element of sexuality [. . .] pervert[ing] the relationship.'

      Have you ever actually tried talking to a woman, as an equal, without trying to sleep with her? You do realize that you have complete control over yourself, and you're not actually at the mercy of your dick.

  24. I have had a few female acquiantances throughout my life, where its strictly platonic, but we do discuss our dating lives.

  25. x_Sanguine_8 says:

    er, Hugh… how do you think women think define "friend"? it's the exact same thing. The question really is: why do you fear being judged by women so much that you cannot open up to any of them??

    • Hugh Myron says:

      I don't fear being judged by them, I just don't want to deal with the whole sex issue underlying everything that happens. I'd rather get yucky with the boys.

  26. I have some specific circumstances where I can't be friends with a woman – if I'm attracted to her and want to date her and she's turned me down. This gets worse if she's previously shown interest (or at least I thought she did).

    It has nothing to do with being ruled by libido – it has everything to do with being ruled by my depression. Seeing her and talking to her just reminds me of my own failure, and dashed hopes.

    • I think that's reasonable and a little different than not being able to be friends with members of the opposite sex in general. If you think you're likely to get a bad case of oneitis over the person, or if you very seriously want them as a romantic partner rather than just having experienced some sexual attraction, it can be a lot harder to focus on the things that are valuable about the friendship.

      • I have a number of female friends who were taken when I met them, so I filed them under "sexually irrelevant".

        Also, there's a sense of how showing interest in me and then telling me they're not interested is a bit cruel, and I really can get over the feeling that they intentionally toyed with me (even if intellectually I know that's not true).

        • Tacky replying to myself, but whatever.

          There's one woman I'm friends with that I went out with, only later to learn that she didn't consider it a date, and definitely didn't want to date me. The only reason we're friends is that she absolutely would not leave me alone. Even with that, there's still a good deal of bitterness I feel towards her for leading me on, and if she ever talks about her dating life, I shut her down immediately.

          • x_Sanguine_8 says:

            But she didn't sound like she was leading you on (unless she's actually confessed doing it to you). You felt she was leading you on. She thought it was a nice night out with a friend. Obviously she likes hanging around with you (she stuck around after, didn't she?). Have you talked directly to her about this at all? This is feeling all very second-hand info.

          • Yes, I've spoken to her. She said she figured out about halfway through that I thought it was a date. Doesn't matter that I know she wasn't doing this intentionally (until she figured it out, in which case she didn't know a good way to handle it) – my gut doesn't care about facts.

          • That you know she wasn't leading you on, yet you blame her for leading you on anyway, just because you were hurt…and also because you couldn't communicate that you wanted to go on a date clearly in the first place, is not cool.

            You have bitterness and anger towards a person who didn't do anything to you. Not cool.

          • Unless this happened very recently or you had a severe case of oneitis for her, it seems a little unusual to be dwelling on half a date's worth of mistaken intentions.

            Even if you feel like you were led on, I think it might be helpful to characterize the situation as a misunderstanding when you think about it. It sounds like that's closer to what happened, and it might eventually make it easier to accept.

          • Sometimes you have to let your mind overrule your gut.

          • Why on earth do you think she was leading you on? It sounds like she wanted to be friends, and was trying to do normal friend stuff with you. Don't blame her for your assumptions, unless you specifically asked her if it was a date and she said yes (or she kissed you or made some other overtly sexual gesture). Your assumptions are not her fault.

  27. SarahGryph says:

    I've always believed men and women could be friends; and I've had and still have many platonic friendships with men, and with bi and lesbian women. I wonder if part of it isn't self fulfilling – when you think you can't be friends, you tend to act in ways that prevent that from happening? I've also been on different sides of it; some where there was mild attraction and we casually fooled around a bit, those that there was some attraction but we both never felt the need to act on it, and some where I'm as sure as one can be that there just wasn't the sexual/romantic attraction there at all. Given some cooldown time, I've also maintained some awesome friendships after one or the other of us had feelings the other didn't share. I wonder if part of the reason I don't question it is because I grew up close to my brother; and while I understand "that's different, he's your brother" I know plenty of people who are NOT friends with their siblings. And he and I certainly didn't hang out bc of attraction.

    • I think you're on to something there. The people who I know in person who are the most vocal about thinking men and women can't be friends also don't seem to have tried to be friends with anyone of the opposite sex, or formed their opinions after having tried to be friends with people they actually wanted to date.

      • Additionally, the people I know who think men and women can't be friends also don't tend to see the opposite sex as actual human beings. People who buy into this bogus notion that men are from Mars and women from Venus (hint: we are both from Earth), also tend to not think friendship is possible. Which makes sense, on a basic level you can be friends with someone you don't respect.

        This, goes both ways: those women who've read and internalized The Rules as much as men who've read and internalized The Game. I don't recommend dating either of those two groups. Maybe they could date each other? But no, because they want opposite things.

        • SarahGryph says:

          After I posted this I also realized that I do know both men and women who aren't very *good* at being friends with the opposite sex (and I don't say that as an insult); so I could also see if you personally are not good at it and/or most of your friends aren't…well, some people may just assume it can't be done. That's flawed logic though. To use a random example; just because I'm not good at playing baseball and don't really enjoy it, doesn't mean no one could possibly be good at it or enjoy it, nor does it mean it's impossible for me to ever get any better if I decide it's something I would enjoy.

          I very much agree that "not seeing the opposite sex as actual human beings" is an issue as well. I know too many people of either gender who really don't seem to, and of course then they see no benefit or reason in being friends.

      • ABSOLUTELY A gazillion times this: "….formed their opinions after having tried to be friends with people they actually wanted to date."

        I've been on both sides of that mental divide. Until I REALLY got over my oneitis (and I mean truly, deep down, got over her — we are still good friends now but boy there were some rocky/odd patches), I used to believe men and women couldn't "just be friends". It was my own personal experience, since all the women I'd ever been real friends with (okay, the ONE WOMAN I'D BECOME REAL FRIENDS WITH AT THE TIME) I fell in love with and wanted to date. Now I've actually had the experience of being friends with women, even ones I find attractive (but for whatever reason don't want to date), the idea that men and women can't be friends just seems obviously nonsense.

        • (continued)
          So, can men & women be friends? Absolutely. I think the question when asked really means "Can a person who's in love with someone and desperately wants to date them have an honest friendship with that person, where the friendship isn't awkward and everything is fine, especially when that other person finds a partner?"

          What I will add to this: people need to get over the idea that finding the other attractive is 'wrong'. Attraction is not bad and does not ruin friendships or somehow make them dishonest. Unrequited love is not equal to attraction.

  28. In recent years I've made female friends as readily as male friends, and I do find a significant proportion of the women I'm friends with attractive. That's just because I find a lot of women physically attractive, and most of the non-physical things I find attractive in women are the same things that make it easy for me to be friends with someone. It doesn't mean they're any less my friends, though. With some of them I have told them and the feeling is not reciprocated, but you move on from that and it's not a reason to stop being friends. I've even had dating advice conversations with friends where this is the situation. (Actually, sometimes this has helped me get over my attraction – I realise their attitude to relationships is incompatible with mine somehow.)

    Where people make trouble for themselves is when they spend a lot of time around 'friends' who are people they find physically attractive, but who are otherwise incompatible and not people they'd want to hang out with. She didn't put you in the friend zone, you put yourself there.

  29. I'm pleased this topic got brought up, as its something that has always irritated me. I have a quite a few good male friends, and I share a house with two of them. However, there is absolutely zero attraction between us, the thought of it actually makes me slightly ill- and my closest male friend is like a brother to me. I think the idea that men and women can't be friends is usually brought up by people who have almost no close opposite gender friends, and click better friends wise with their own gender- which is totally fine. However it does mean that they might not understand the idea that you can feel great affection and even love for someone without jumping into bed.

  30. Thortok2000 says:

    I know for myself personally, I have difficulty being 'just' friends with women I'm attracted to. Ironically, since what attracts me in friends is also what attracts me in women, women I'm attracted to are who I usually seek out to be friends with. =P

    I don't intend to have a secret agenda, in fact I try to be quite open and honest about any agenda I do have. The problem comes when there's someone I'm attracted to but can't have, it tends to get me depressed, especially being single myself and lonely. I'm getting better with practice, but growing up, the habit that formed was avoidance, or, in short, not being friends with women I'm attracted to but can't have. So that's the habit I have to overcome.

  31. I have no problems just being friends with women I don't find attractive – hey, they could have hot friends right?

  32. Man… this argument just gets me every time. It makes me so, so sad when someone tells me that "men and women can't be friends".

    Anecdote time!

    I had it happen to me recently, by a guy who I consider a friend. I've known him since grade school, and although we haven't always been close I thought we were pretty good friends. He told me that the only friends he had who were girls were just girlfriends of his friends. I'm currently dating a friend of his, but like I said, I've known him forever so I didn't consider myself part of that. Apparently I am.

    This led to a discussion about men and women being friends, to which he said, it's impossible. Apparently, every male friend I have is either a friend of my boyfriend, or is sexually attracted to me. Or is possibly gay. All of my friends but three are men.

    It's one thing to claim that opposite genders can't be friends, but surely he must have realized what that would mean to me… It's just like in the above video. Obviously when a man says to a woman that men and women can't be friends, she's going to respond by saying that she does have male friends. And the response to that is always "well, they're not really your friends". As a woman, you're being told that people you trust and love platonically are really just lusting after you or hanging out with you due to obligation to a friend (our boyfriend).

    It hurt me so much to have someone I consider a friend say to me, essentially, that I have no real friends. He said this with no malicious intent, like it was just a fact of life.

    So keep that in mind, ladies. Any male friend you have is really, in fact, not your friend. Feels good, doesn't it?

    • Totally, It's insulting for the reasons you said, but also because it tells women "You have nothing to offer in a friendship but your body. No one cares if you're awesome, fun to be around, a good person, can have a brilliant conversation: NOTHING!"

      I too have lots of male friends and I too have been told by many a man (usually not one of my friends) that these men are only my friends for 1 reason. I think it says more about how the man saying that views women than it says about my actual friendships, though.

  33. I'm a feminist, and I found this article really sexy. I love hearing a dude claim that the "slave to my boner" cliche is "downright insulting". My eyes are opened… guys who hate gender cliches and feel control over their minds and bodies? Kinda f%ing hot.

  34. I can only be friends with a woman if she is a relationship with someone else or I am not attracted to them. My feelings would be hurt if a single attractive woman was not sexual interested in me and I could never just be friends. All my life I have been a little dishonest with the single women that I was attracted to. My strict religious upbringing made me shy and it has always been difficult to directly ask out women.

    There are a few attractive women friends that I have know but they are all married so I have no problem dancing, hanging out with them even though I find some of them sexually attractive since they are married I can ignore any of those feelings which surprises me but something about a single attractive women and my emotions would never let me just be friends, either I pursue a relationship or move on.

  35. I only become friends with guys who I have a lot in common with (and if there is attraction and I spend a lot of time with them) I will inevitably fall for the person and want a relationship. If I'm not attracted to the guy and don't feel we have similar interests/personalities, then I'm unlikely to become friends with him.

    So I think it's natural for a lot of relationships to have started as a friendship and then developed to something more.

  36. Hi, I appreciate this article. I love the last part. Its hard for men to be my friends and when they act like they want to be platonic its because they want some, one day. I have no problem being friends with a guy wether they are single or not, and I don't have a problem working with them either. But all the men I meet pretend to be my friend and will try to sleep with me. One guy I knew that reconnected with from my past, I thought we were friends, he was single, so I thought, only because of what he said, and I have valid proof. 10 years ago the timing was bad, then 10 years later, we met again through devine intervention and to make a login story short we were together. The only reason why i was with him, is because i thought he was single but he knew i was untouched and he went for it. When was the next time he was going to come across a woman that hadnt been with anyone, not in this life time again. I'm no victim! I wanted to be with him, This person got me to do the one thing i said I would never do. and then i never saw him again, then he wants to tell me about his marriage and his extra kid and so forth. I learned my lesson.

  37. adamhunter1223 says:

    This societal trope has always made me angry. I'm a guy, yes. I meet attractive women from time to time in college, yes. Sometimes I even end up talking to them as a part of the class, sure. Does that mean I'm going to pursue anything? No, I don't have the time to have the kind of relationship I want (I want a long-term relationship, but I'm going to college and working ~30 hours/week so any relationship I did have would be a distant third, and that's not fair to either person involved), so I don't try to initiate anything. Just because I'm a guy doesn't mean my genitalia controls my mind. I am not an ambulatory phallus.

  38. Jammalena says:

    I have never been able to have a male as my best friend until recently. The man I am friend with now has never met me face to face, and is stationed abroad in the military. He seems to be content with being just friends. We have been chatting over the phone and via text for over a year now. I normally date on-line and although I post pictures of myself, the guys seem to like me and are interested and seem to be okay with the prospect of just being friends without benefits….that's until we meet face to face. It becomes a different story. I met several guys who would look me up and down from head to toe. Then next thing I know the guy want to touch me, maybe placing his hands on the small of my back or hold hands. If I am attracted to the guy then yes I am okay with the attractions that he has for me, but if I am not attracted than the whole entire ordeal normally freak me out and I never contact the guy again once I am aware that he is interested in being more than just a friend.

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  2. [...] overweight, awkward as hell, I had no sense of style to speak of and I was still convinced that Platonic Friendship Backdoor Gambit was a completely legitimate way of getting a girlfriend. I annoyed the ever-loving fuck out of my [...]

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