Featured Image: An accidental photo of a Pac Man machine that I like to call “Mixed Messages”
I’ve thought about opposite-sex friendships a lot over the years because of the issues I have had with them.
Of all the close friendships I’ve had with men, very few have not propositioned sex or a relationship. I can think of VERY few, less than 5. Can I blame that on their biology or their social conditioning? Do I just have bad luck or a bad judge of character? Am I too attractive (humble brag)?
It is something I am extremely wary of when becoming friends with men. Are they friends with me because I am worthy of companionship or because of the potential that I may sleep with them?
But even if men are attracted to their female friends or vice versa, does the intentional avoidance of “making a move” absolve them of falling outside the platonic zone. Meaning, if they never act on their attraction, is it still platonic?
Even so, does being an attractive person mean that you will never be seen as… unfuckable? Are unattractive people more likely to be able to uphold platonic relationships? Those that say they have no issues with platonic friendships, is it because their friends aren’t attracted to them? Is it because their friends are withholding information about their attraction? Or is it that they are neither attracted nor unattracted to them? A neutral zone, or “sibling” zone, if you will.
And can relationships be platonic post-romantic? If you had a romantic or sexual partnership with someone but ended it and you decided to become friends, does that count as pure platonic? Can a platonic, then sexual, then platonic relationship be possible when you’ve seen their orgasm face?
Being bisexual, I have had plenty of platonic friendships with women. It’s the guy friends who always seem to make it complicated. They either make a move on me, tell me they have feelings for me, or don’t tell me they have feelings for me but somehow make me feel guilty about not reciprocating those feelings by telling their friends I’m the reason they didn’t go to commencement ball even though they never asked me (was that too specific?)
It only becomes an issue when those feelings are unrequited. The ability to maintain a friendship after unrequited feelings is fairly essential if you want them to know that you value them as a person and as a friend. If you go into a friendship with the intention of pursuing them after you gain their trust and then end the friendship when they deny your advances, then I think that’s scummy.
We do have to remember, though, that platonic friendships often grow into romantic relationships naturally. You become friends, you get to know them, and romantic feelings emerge. It happens all the time, and realistically is be the best way to form a relationship. I mean, how else (besides online dating) are you supposed to meet someone if not through friendships?
I found a study that talks about this called “Can men and women be friends?”¹. The researchers interviewed 400 college-age men and women and asked them to rate the “benefits” and “costs” of same-sex and opposite-sex relationships.
One of their proven hypotheses was that men perceived the potential for sex with their female friends as more beneficial than did women and were more likely than women to pursue sex and to be denied sex. Men who were not attracted to their female friends, but the female friend was attracted to them, were more likely to sleep with them anyway (weird flex but ok). One of the top 10 benefits listed by women was the LACK of potential for a relationship, and one of the top 10 benefits for men was the POTENTIAL of a relationship.
Of the “costs” found, women were more likely to be worried about not being able to reciprocate attraction, while men were more likely to be worried about their own attraction not being reciprocated.
Even with some research saying that men are more likely to pursue sex or relationships within a friendship, I think the answer is: it’s complicated. No situation is the same. Some people can have sex with their friends and there’s no dramatic shift in the dynamic of their friendship. Some people have sex with their friends and then never talk again. Some people marry their best friend. Some people have never once thought about sleeping with their friends. Some people think about sleeping with their friends, but they don’t act on it.
As I say about all relationships, it’s best to solidify boundaries and intentions early on and let the person know if that changes. And, as always, be respectful.
¹Bleske AL, Buss DM. Can men and women be friends? Personal Relationships. 2000.
From my Instagram/Facebook poll: “Do you think it’s difficult to have platonic friendships with the opposite gender or gender you’re attracted to?”
Male: “Difficult? No, but sometimes complicated”
Male: “No, I have a friend of the opposite gender”
Male: “It’s one of life’s tasks that test people. A difficult one but absolutely necessary.”
Male: “Nope! Most of my best friends fall in that category”
Male: “I don’t think it’s impossible, it makes it difficult though… I do have a lot of male friends that aren’t capable of keeping platonic female friends… they are probably the majority, tbh. I have a stronger resolve… I have some friends that are the same way as I am”
Male: “I don’t think it’s difficult. But there is always unspoken sexual attraction between the two”
Male: “I have a bunch of female friends” (extended answer-was flirty with one, had a crush on one, but all ended platonically)
Male: “I guess the simplest way to put it is that there will always be intimate/sexual tension between two people of the opposite gender… aren’t we on Earth to be intimate and reproduce?”
Male: “Depends on the people, but in general I will say probably yes [it’s difficult]”
Male: “No [it’s not difficult]”
Female: “2/3 of my closest friends are guys! I almost prefer that lol”
Female: (summarized) It’s complicated.
Female: “At some point, at least one involved party thinks about taking it further. Then, something happens and it’ll make one or the other realize that they can definitely only be friends or that there’s a possibility for more.”
Female: (summarized) I have many best friends that I think of as siblings. Any friendships that lean towards becoming sexual are thought of as more of “acquaintances”
Female: “Since gender doesn’t really affect my romantic interests…yes, it’s absolutely possible to have healthy platonic friendships with people who are of the gender you are attracted to, and I’ve never found that difficult. If it weren’t, I’d literally have no friends.”