09 November 2010

QotD: Can a man and a woman really be platonic friends?

This month I've decided to post every day. Since I don't have enough original things to write about (hence the desertish nature of my blog lately), I've decided to ask a new question every day this month and hope that I get answers. I have questions; you have answers.

There are lots of people who believe that a man and a woman can't really be friends. I'm not talking about a gay man and a straight woman. I'm talking about a straight man and a straight woman having a true platonic friendship.

I've heard it said that men and women can't really be friends because the man always thinks about sex and it interferes with true friendship. (I dunno about that, 'cause I'm a gurrl.) Or that sex is the ultimate goal of most men in a relationship with a woman, and the friendship is just the precursor. Or maybe it's because men and women have ultimately different goals for friendship (whatever the hell that means) or that men and women don't have too much in common. Or that cross-sex friendship only works if one person is gay. Whatever.

Two of my dearest friends are men, so obviously I believe that cross-sex friendship between a man and a woman is possible, even without the specter of sex looming over the relationship. I've been friends with one of these men since the first week of freshman year in college. I've never been interested in anything other than friendship, and I am sure that he feels the same. I met the other guy friend when I was 30. While he was great boyfriend material, we instantly fell into older sister-younger brother mode, even though he's a couple of years older than I am (I am an older sister, and he is a younger brother, so that wasn't a stretch). He's really annoying. (Fine, I'm just kidding. But he is.) Anyway, my friendship with both of these guys is real, deep, and totally platonic. I will admit that each of these guys is married to one of my best friends, but my friendships with the guys predates their relationships with their wives, so I refuse to count that as a reason.

Do you agree that cross-sex friendship is possible? If not, why?


vince said...

There's an early NCIS episode where Kate asks Abby to tell Tony that men and women can just be friends. Abby agrees with Kate. "Without having sex?" Tony asks. Abby responds "Oh no, they'll have sex."

And, of course, there's the beginning of "When Harry Met Sally:"

Harry Burns: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally Albright: Why not?
Harry Burns: What I'm saying is - and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form - is that men and women can't be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally Albright: That's not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry Burns: No you don't.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: No you don't.
Sally Albright: Yes I do.
Harry Burns: You only think you do.
Sally Albright: You say I'm having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry Burns: No, what I'm saying is they all WANT to have sex with you.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: They do not.
Harry Burns: Do too.
Sally Albright: How do you know?
Harry Burns: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally Albright: So, you're saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry Burns: No. You pretty much want to nail 'em too.

As with all aspects of human relationships, it's dangerous to make blanket statements. But certainly some men and women can be platonic friends as we normally understand "platonic." I can and do, which is good, because most of my friends are women.

But I also think that there are more types of male/female relationships than the three basic most people would articulate (family, friend, lover.)

Random Michelle K said...

Since many of my very good friends are male, I will of course agree with you. And I've become friends with their wives (assuming they have wives) and their wives have no problems with us hanging out together.

Of course, the fact that most guys tend to see me as an annoying sister probably helps me out there.

Jeri said...

I have many close male friends, so I'd say yes, men & women can be friends.

I'd also add that I much prefer for romantic relationship to be based on really solid friendship - the level of trust and communication is so much better that way.

ExpatMom said...

I pretty much have to say "yes", eh? Even though you are talking about your other husband...

neurondoc said...

@Claudia -- yes, but he's a platonic husband. And lives with you on a different continent. :-)

ExpatMom said...

I'm working on the continent issue.

Anonymous said...

I'm with the "yes" group here.

Danny G said...

3 things:
1. Younger brothers are not necessarily annoying. Many are quite charming.
2. I believe there is undeniably a social/cultural tension between men and women that often makes for strange non-bedfellows. (Obviously not all the time).
3. I'm so glad I'm gay, because i find women to be so much more interesting.

neurondoc said...

Younger brothers are fine things to have, but they can be quite annoying.

Anonymous said...

So can younger sisters! (I have 2.) :)

WendyB_09 said...

Yes. Probably having dinner Sunday night with my closest friend of the male persuasion.

In the 14+ years we've known each other we've been friends, drinking buddies roommates, travel buddies, co-workers, roomies again, and I've worked for him twice. We still try to get together as regularly as our schedules permit.

Yup. Works for us.