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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » For the most part, maybe men and women can't be 'just friends'

   
Author Topic: For the most part, maybe men and women can't be 'just friends'
Anthonie
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About a decade ago I was chatting with three girls in the downstairs girls' apartment in the college housing where I lived, as I did most days. A new roommate who had moved in about 3 weeks prior entered the room and sat through part of our conversation. Suddenly she blurted, "You're right! Anthonie doesn't like any of you!" I hastened to defend myself, "Yes I do. I like everyone here." She retorted, "No, you don't. You don't LIKE like anyone here." "Well of course not, these girls are all my friends." She went on to explain that wasn't the usual case, and wished there were more men like me. She claimed men *only* spent time with girls in whom they were romantically interested.

I figured she was exaggerating and surely the majority of friendships between men and women were platonic. I didn't understand biological or romantic attraction to women. As a gay male, I have many friendships with men, in fact all my closest friends.

But maybe there is much more to what she said than I thought. According to this pseudo 'study', maybe men especially can't be "just friends".
quote:
These results suggest that men, relative to women, have a particularly hard time being “just friends.” What makes these results particularly interesting is that they were found within particular friendships (remember, each participant was only asked about the specific, platonic, friend with whom they entered the lab). This is not just a bit of confirmation for stereotypes about sex-hungry males and naïve females; it is direct proof that two people can experience the exact same relationship in radically different ways. Men seem to see myriad opportunities for romance in their supposedly platonic opposite-sex friendships. The women in these friendships, however, seem to have a completely different orientation—one that is actually platonic.
This article claims the same phenomenon continues with males of all ages.

Here is a wonderful clip filmed here at USU illustrating this.

So, is it really truly the case?! REALLY? If so, that makes me sorta permanently 1/16 sad, as it seems that would diminish friendship possibilities. I can't imagine how I would feel if all of my friendships with guys consisted of an undercurrent of attraction towards them! I would probably go insane and become a recluse.

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Samprimary
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Hi, I'm just friends with plenty of women. I am aware of this on what I can only expect to be a somewhat greatly self-aware level, and I also recognize to what degree I may be the exception rather than the rule.
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TomDavidson
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When I was younger and single, I was platonic friends with women only when I could not be non-platonic with them.
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Lyrhawn
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I have several long running friendships with women that I don't have a great deal of non-platonic interest in. I mean, I think they're attractive, and if we got drunk one night and something happened that'd be fine, but I'm not pushing to date them.

On the other hand, my two closest friends for the last 15 years are both women, one of whom is an ex-girlfriend, so that's probably not the best example. Every couple years we toy with getting back together in-between our other relationships. The other one I go through cycles with. Every few years I develop feelings for her, repress them, and they go away for awhile, though I know there have been times during our friendship she's had feelings for me as well.

I've never had a friend I only befriended because I was trying to get in her pants. If she's not already someone I want to be friends with, I probably wouldn't want to sleep with her anyway.

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Szymon
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So, Lyrhawn sort of proves you right.

I think there's an instinct in heterosexuals that makes you consider every female as a potential sexual partner. If you see one a lot, you think about it a lot, I guess.

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Orincoro
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
When I was younger and single, I was platonic friends with women only when I could not be non-platonic with them.

This. Which I've found *doesn't* mean I *can't* actually have reasonably good and reasonably healthy friendships with women. Just that I want to be around women I am attracted to in some way. Sometimes that's only how it is at the beginning, and sometimes you really carry a torch for someone, but it doesn't happen for whatever reason, and you sort of get over it.

A further twist, (not a particularly good one), I've found it much, much easier to date girls I actually *wouldn't* be platonic friends with. The rabbit hole of motivations and psychological blocks there is without depth, but the point is, yeah, I don't *only* want to sleep with my female friends. But I often do want to. Unfortunately, the things about female friendship that particularly attract me, like a woman not being overly impressed with me or intimidated by my personality, and the fact that women don't compete with me in the way that men compete with their friends, rather obviates several of the things that probably make a lot of relationships work, at least at the beginning. Ie: a woman actually being impressed by you. A lot of my most "attractive" characteristics are the kinds of things I know my female friends aren't particularly interested in- because I always seem to be friends with women who value very different things than I do. And anyway, the game of life is wanting what you can't have and not valuing what you can get. This does also remind me that I do have ambitions and can get better, and in both arenas, romance and friendship, I have.

It's a strange thing, to be sure. I'm quite sure, for instance, that a very good female friend of mine is aware of my more-than-friends affection for her. I know she keeps it in mind when we talk about our personal lives. We've actually had a few honest talks about it. And in small ways she lets me know it's okay, like telling me she was happy for me when I started dating someone else- but actually highlighting the fact that she *was* happy about it. This kind of relationship can work I think, if you're at least honest with yourself about the way you feel, and you don't try and manipulate the other person into feeling sorry for you or try to interfere with their own happiness. If you don't live only for the hope that that one relationship with somehow change- because it might, but it probably won't.

But I don't know, I'm still relatively young and still willing to make fairly major mistakes in where i place my affections. I know that I couldn't live as some of my male friends *do* live, without these kinds of female friendships because they either get what they want, or forget about it completely. And I'm not so pathetic, or at least I hope I'm not, as to deny any feelings that I have. If she can live with it, and you can, I don't see an issue. But usually one of you can't.

[ November 12, 2012, 07:18 PM: Message edited by: Orincoro ]

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Lyrhawn
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One thing I've found interesting about differences in how men and women view friendships involves an incident a few years back when I was at the beach with my friends (all but one of whom were all women).

We were all out at the beach and for some reason one of the girls got it in her head that all the girls should take their tops off and get a picture of them lying with their stomachs on the ground looking up at the camera. So you couldn't see anything, but they had their tops in front of them so you could tell they were topless. Rather tame really.

During this me and the other guy in our group were having a lot of fun with it and one of the girls commented that she thought it was gross that we were checking them out. She didn't understand how it could be possible that we'd check them out like that, after all, we were friends.

Apparently to her, friends meant first cousins. At some point, men are still men and women are still women, and there's an instinctive, biological response that no amount of social conditioning is going to be able to undo. So yes, I will check out my female friends, and I will find them attractive, and I won't rule out the possibility of sleeping with them, but that doesn't mean I'm going to accost all of them with relationship and sex proposals just because the parts line up.

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Orincoro
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Well, I've sort of started to come around to the point of view that it's actually *women* that exhibit a larger degree of black and white thinking in this regard than men usually do. Or we're the same. But it's funny, because the male stereotype *is* the On/Off switch sexuality thing. In my experience, women are more often of the On/Off variety when it comes to attraction.
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El JT de Spang
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I have a bunch of platonic friends that I'd definitely bone if they wanted to, and a handful that we actually have hooked up on occasion, and a handful where I definitely have no interest.

The sharp line for me is that if I'm friends with a girl and I'm attracted to her, I'd probably hook up with her. Even if I wouldn't date her.

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Stone_Wolf_
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I've suffered a lot from this...before meeting my wife that is...that's why I was so glad that we had a boy and a girl, they would get used to being friends with the other gender.
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Olivet 2.0
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A slightly different perspective on the same study.

In the comments are also interesting.

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Anthonie
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
At some point, men are still men and women are still women, and there's an instinctive, biological response that no amount of social conditioning is going to be able to undo.

Which is why it is preposterous to think that being gay is primarily a result of social conditioning. (As a recent thread seemed to suggest, purporting the idea that socialization has a lot to do with being gay, along with a discussion of the question of whether parents should endorse or encourage such conditioning.) Otherwise, we gay males would have those biological responses to females. I recall the day, the moment, the place when I finally admitted to myself after searching my heart, mind, soul, all things with which I was capable of awareness, I had *never* been attracted to a woman sexually or emotionally-romantically. Clearly all that social conditioning in my life altered my brain biology and made me this way.
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James Tiberius Kirk
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FWIW, I think a link to the journal article is in order.
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Szymon
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SW, precisly. Now it's all hypotetical. Once you're comitted/engaged/married it's even worse. One- you are a friend. Two- you're a non-available friend. Female friends start to treat you like a priest in a confessional.

And you have to suffer in silence.

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Szymon
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If I aren't much mistaken we have a sausage party here.
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Destineer
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
When I was younger and single, I was platonic friends with women only when I could not be non-platonic with them.

Really? What did you do when you met a woman who was cool, but not physically attractive?
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T:man
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
When I was younger and single, I was platonic friends with women only when I could not be non-platonic with them.

Really? What did you do when you met a woman who was cool, but not physically attractive?
Women who are cool are attractive.
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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by T:man:
quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
When I was younger and single, I was platonic friends with women only when I could not be non-platonic with them.

Really? What did you do when you met a woman who was cool, but not physically attractive?
Women who are cool are attractive.
There's a lot of truth to that. But coolness isn't like viewing prospective partners with beer goggles. It can make up for deficiencies.

I have several female friends I'm not even slightly physically attracted to who are all kinds of awesome, but that awesome doesn't generate a sexual spark.

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TomDavidson
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Also: when I was younger and single, I was less picky and simultaneously more shallow. I was far more likely to spend some effort to get to know you -- if "you" were a woman around my age -- if you were someone I found physically attractive. And if you were interested in a little sex, I would almost certainly be willing to give it a shot (since good sex and physical attractiveness do not perfectly correlate.) In practice, of course, certain women friendzoned me almost immediately (while others did not), but that does not mean that my libido gave up on them.
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Samprimary
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I am completely 100% platonic friends with many many women because they, no matter how attractive they might be, make me completely uninterested beyond a shadow of a doubt. It never occurs to me to think 'man maybe if we were drunk i would' or 'if she asked i would' there's just no interest whatsoever and being part of an inclusive and diverse private poly community has left me not at all wanting for any kind of sexual or romantic things. I'm pretty much solidly covered on that rung of maslowe's heirarchy.
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Samprimary
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To note, the "make me completely uninterested" is a part thin-slice, part longer-term analysis of if I sync with them personality wise. If someone doesn't have the spark, it's just not at issue whether or not I'd take an opportunity to have sex with them. They might be totally wonderful people otherwise, but if I'm not feeling it, that's it.
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ambyr
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Looking at the study itself, I think the most interesting thing is that the women seem to know perfectly well what's going on--they report that they estimate their male friends are much more attracted to them than they are to their male friends, and lo and behold, this is true.
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Vigor Miller
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Stephen Colbert commented on this on his show.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/421015/november-08-2012/the-plight-of-platonic-relationships

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kmbboots
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I am 48, stout, and plain. I have tons of male friends who don't want to have sex with me. Some of whom post here. Also, I have friends of all different ages. I am reasonably sure that my 80-something priest friend is not harboring a secret desire for me. Nor are most of my 20-something musician friends.

Seriously. Did they only survey hot 20-30 year olds?

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umberhulk
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I'm friends with some girls and find many of them attractive, but I've decidedly been single my entire life, and there's one person I would seriously entertain entering a sexual relationship with. What are we defining as attraction, the whims of males, or a more long term sort of thing?
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Samprimary
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And I'm around waaaaay plenty hot 20-30 year olds and some of them are way cool drinking buddies and I've even seen some of them naked and yes they're like ... what's the gauche way to put it? Pornstar hot? and sometimes they flirt with me but in terms of if I am at all even remotely interested in them beyond platonic? To put it mildly

FONT SIZE 72 BOLD ITALIC NOPE

god there is like literally no temptation whatsoever

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TomDavidson
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It is sometimes fun to imagine that Sam is posting over stolen Wi-Fi from a stained cardboard box in an alley behind a Starbucks in Hoboken, his paralyzed right leg being slowly eaten away by Spanky, the rabid squirrel whom he long ago in his dementia decided was the only friend he could trust.
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Xavier
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I had three "best friends" in high school, two of them female. Both pretty darn attractive.

I was hopelessly in love with one of them, and eventually we ended up in a relationship. We were a terrible couple, but I think primarily because I had no clue how to be a boyfriend (not having ever been one). We switched back to friends (AKA I got dumped). Later on she wanted to get back together, but the ship had already sailed.

The other friendship stayed strictly platonic, but once she did confess that she was in love with me over the phone when she was drunk. In this case it was me without any romantic interest. I admit that I was sexually attracted to her, but I had no intention of pursuing it for a wide variety of reasons.

Not sure how relevant this is to the subject, but that's my personal experience with male/female close friendships.

I'm not in contact with either of the above because I moved far away from home and eschew social networks.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
It is sometimes fun to imagine that Sam is posting over stolen Wi-Fi from a stained cardboard box in an alley behind a Starbucks in Hoboken, his paralyzed right leg being slowly eaten away by Spanky, the rabid squirrel whom he long ago in his dementia decided was the only friend he could trust.

I only make fun of the angel anti-meteorite protection field because I know it's real and I've seen it. Spanky knows. Additionally, why is it stolen wi-fi if it's clearly trespassing in my box

no but seriously I have a lot of trouble thinking that so few guys can work along these levels, temptation or sexual satiation notwithstanding. That so few people have their brains really, seriously click off to the 'void' position when a girl doesn't inspire feelings of sexual/relationship compatibility.

A perfect example for me would be C, who has over time demonstrating that she has a severe issue with cohab of any sort and really seriously grows short and aggressively incompatible with anyone that she cohabs with, either as a roomate or as a partner. You could guarantee that any relationship with her would be a disaster. yet according to this study even people who are incredibly familiar with how NO she is, they're still driven and pointedly tempted just because she's a girl with girl parts.

Which explains a lot of what happened last year.

But which makes me glad I don't work that way??

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Destineer
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
It is sometimes fun to imagine that Sam is posting over stolen Wi-Fi from a stained cardboard box in an alley behind a Starbucks in Hoboken, his paralyzed right leg being slowly eaten away by Spanky, the rabid squirrel whom he long ago in his dementia decided was the only friend he could trust.

Ha. Has anyone verified for sure that this isn't the case? Now that you've planted the doubt in my mind...
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Destineer
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quote:
A perfect example for me would be C, who has over time demonstrating that she has a severe issue with cohab of any sort and really seriously grows short and aggressively incompatible with anyone that she cohabs with, either as a roomate or as a partner. You could guarantee that any relationship with her would be a disaster. yet according to this study even people who are incredibly familiar with how NO she is, they're still driven and pointedly tempted just because she's a girl with girl parts.
I'm with you in being irredeemably turned off by that sort of messed-upedness, and I am surprised that more guys aren't in the same boat. On the other hand, most of the hot girls I have known (especially since grad school) have also been eminently sane and interesting, and romantically uninterested in me, so I still find myself attracted to platonic friends on a semi-regular basis.
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Tuukka
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Sex, romance and friendship are not black and white issues. It's very hard, almost impossible, to say EXACTLY where one starts and ends. And often they interlap to a great degree.

Men are more attracted to good looks than women. So it's very hard for a hetero man to be close friends with a very beautiful and attractive woman, and never ever have even a slightest sexual thought about her. But even if you have that thought, hell, even if you sometimes masturbate thinking of her, it's STILL a real, genuine friendship. Masturbation and sexual fantasies are normal. We are sexual beings, both men and women. It doesn't make a friendship any less valuable.

Just about all of my close female friends are good looking women, some very beautiful. I don't deny the fact that I first got interested in being in their company due to the combination of their looks and personality.

Some I romanced, then stayed friends. Some I had sex with, then stayed friends. Some were not interested in me either romantically or sexually, but we stayed friends. Sometimes they broke my heart, but after a cooling off period, we stayed friends. Sometimes either me or they were in a relationship, even married, so we just stayed friends and never went further than that.

Sometimes friendship turns to sex. Sometimes it turns to romance. Sometimes to marriage. And all those things can happen the opposite way, too.

But regardless, friendship is always great. If you have close friends of only the same sex, then you are missing out on a lot of really awesome things. Having intimate friendships with the opposite sex opens your eyes to whole new worlds that you might have not even known to exist.

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Aros
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For boys / men, we can have strict platonic female friends. HOWEVER, If they meet our minimum requirements for a relationship (looks, hygiene, attraction, goals, attitude, etc), then they will ALWAYS be a romantic candidate -- unless there's some other reason to exclude them or if there's a state of competition among multiple females.

FURTHERMORE, assuming they only meet the minimum physical attractiveness quotient, if the value of the friendship is less than the value of a one night stand (drunk or otherwise) or reputation loss, we may try to initiate a physical relationship (short-term or FWB). This assumes that a man's worldview and religious / moral values will allow for this type of relationship.

I'm pretty sure you could derive a formula.

I'd reckon that it works the same way for women. Sometimes, however, it just takes more contemplation on her part to be re-categorized from the "friend zone". And they generally place more emphasis on other attributes than physical attractiveness (money, job prospects, values, etc).

Can a woman be "just friends" with a man? Certainly. Assuming there's something wrong with her or no better prospects.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
It is sometimes fun to imagine that Sam is posting over stolen Wi-Fi from a stained cardboard box in an alley behind a Starbucks in Hoboken, his paralyzed right leg being slowly eaten away by Spanky, the rabid squirrel whom he long ago in his dementia decided was the only friend he could trust.

Ha. Has anyone verified for sure that this isn't the case? Now that you've planted the doubt in my mind...
So begins the witchhunt!

Good news guys, we figured out that parkour I MEAN SAM is actually a poor hobo virgin actually sexually attracted to all women

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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
I'm with you in being irredeemably turned off by that sort of messed-upedness, and I am surprised that more guys aren't in the same boat. On the other hand, most of the hot girls I have known (especially since grad school) have also been eminently sane and interesting, and romantically uninterested in me, so I still find myself attracted to platonic friends on a semi-regular basis.

I have the suspicion that between individual experiences the critical variable is whether or not one is having sexually related needs met; if someone is generally satisfied in their condition, through any means, the pool of women into which they can have legitimate platonic friendship without any desires or temptations otherwise increases handily. The more that rung of their needs is not fulfilled, the pool (presumably) decreases to a vanishing point that looks oddly ladder theory.

/edit - which means that the most important variable to be considered in determining to what extent a person can likely actually 'just be friends' would be something like if they are married/partnered and how do they rate the quality of their marriage and their satisfaction in the relationship, sexual and otherwise.

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