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Can men and women be friends? An essay and a website launch.

February 5, 2013: Thanks for all the cool comments and discussion, but I can’t keep up with the moderation demands right now. Comments on this entry are now closed.

Yesterday I saw this TweetThe piece linked there asks the question: “Can married women have straight male friends?” and suggests that friendships between straight men and straight women can be very difficult, partially based on a study about how some men and women might view their friendships differently:

Recently a study published in Scientific American stated that women are much more likely to be able to keep male friends platonic, while men have a harder time. The article states that these friendships are masked by a cover-up of sexual impulses by one of the parties. It said that men were far more attracted to their female friends and assumed their female friends felt the same, when they didn’t. Females were far less attracted to their male friends, and they, too, assumed that the male friends felt the same as they did. So, when it comes to male/female relationships, there are a lot of mixed signals going on from both sides.

First order of business: Studies like the one linked in the article are descriptive, not prescriptive. “This happens sometimes” does not mean “This happens sometimes, and therefore you should ______,” though they are nearly always presented that way by headline writers. “This happens sometimes. Scientists studied it in a way that fits into my preconceptions and anxieties. Therefore you should ____.” ==>A trend piece is born.

Sometimes, inevitably, we become attracted to our friends. They are awesome people, we are awesome people, and like attracts like. I do not see why this is a gendered issue. Attraction causes tensions in straight-lady/gay-lady friendships, too, right? And straight-man/gay-man friendships?

Should you become attracted to your friend of any gender, ask yourself:

  • Is this person in a committed relationship that does not include room for me?
  • Do I want to speak up about my feelings and see if they are returned?

If your friend is single or might be interested in you, and you want to speak up and see what happens, say “Friend, would you maybe like to try dating and see if we’d be good at it?” and see what they say. Real friendships are not irrevocably ruined by such honesty. I swear.

If your friend is happily committed elsewhere, and/or you don’t think it’s a good idea to act on an attraction for whatever reason, having the attraction does not have to doom your friendship. Having an attraction does not mean you have to do anything or say anything about it. Someone else’s attraction (or possible attraction) to you does not obligate you to do or feel anything in return. Even if such attraction is rare for you, you’re not the only two members of your species. Go ahead and have your secret PANTSFEELINGS. Then, when you see your friend, do not mention these feelings, hint at them, Firth them, probe for or exacerbate cracks in their current relationship, send FEELINGSMAIL, or give weird extra-long hugs where you smell their necks.

We talk a lot here about boundary-setting; this is a case for boundary-having. Feel whatever you feel! Then set boundaries with yourself about how you behave towards your friends. You could even say “I need to take a little break from hanging out to work out some weird feelings I’m having, sorry to make it weird, I’ll see you in a month or two” if you had to, and your friends would understand. Survive the temporary awkwardness, and stop imagining “attraction” as this mystical force that exists outside of human decisionmaking.

I am also confused as to why the writer seems to equate male friendships with “male attention.” This is one of the saddest sentences I’ve read in a while:

I find it easier to get my other needs met from my girlfriends and the male attention I get outside of that is restricted to the few men that still try to pick up on me in the grocery store.

Even if you buy the frankly terrible assumption that “male attention” is some kind of abstract need that women have in the first place, all “male attention” is not created equal.

My best friend from film school is named Zach. Zach is the kind of talented that means that someday you will all line up to buy tickets to the opening nights of his movies and talk about them in breathless, excited tones the way you now discuss your fondest artistic heroes. He is also fiercely loyal, honest, sensitive and considerate, a great listener, a generous collaborator, and effing hilarious. He moved away about a year ago, and I miss him pretty much daily.

I do not think that my friendship with Zach has ever included the kind of “male attention” one finds in grocery stores or, say, riding the Chicago Transit Authority. Full attraction disclosure: Once I walked into a show where his band was playing and thought “Whoa, that bass player is really ho-….I mean, my friend Zach is really good at playing bass!” If he ever had a similar passing thought of “Whoa, that disheveled teacher is really ho- I mean, my friend Jennifer is very good at explaining stuff” I do not know. If he did he sensibly kept that shit to himself like a grownup.

For anyone to try to tell me that one of the best and most productive and rewarding relationships I have ever had with a human being could possibly live or die by some pseudo-science about misplaced pantsfeelings, or put it in the highly dubious “ego-feeding” category of grocery store flirtations is beyond insulting. What a sad and reductive view of what human beings are to each other.

The author’s anxieties and choices about who to be friends with are obviously her own to have. But I don’t respect this way of forming the question and am so tired of seeing it asked. Advice about how to be friends, find love, and have sex that relies on gender essentialism is so very, very bad for us.

When I was growing up, my mom fell into this trap, big time even though she is an amazing, driven, brilliant, career-minded feminist who brooks no crap from anyone. She was hyper-vigilant and worried about any time I spent with boys. Even though I played on a nearly all-male soccer team. Even though men made up more than half our family, not to mention being half of everyone on the planet so, not actually avoidable. I was not allowed to invite male friends over, or go to their houses, and the question was always “Will there be boys there?” She would say “It’s not that I don’t trust you, I just don’t trust them,” or “You never know what might happen” or “You don’t want to get a reputation.” I wanted to know – WHAT? WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN? I know that she was very afraid that I would get pregnant and derail my plans for education and career stuff, but beyond that she would never be specific, there was just this generalized fear and I had to live with it. When I mentioned any boy comma friend, there was a lot of probing to see if he was a boynocommaorspacefriend and sudden restrictions on where I could go. The weirdest thing is, it was also coupled with a lot of advice on how I could make myself prettier – gift subscriptions to Seventeen and Vogue, admonishments to wear more makeup and stop stealing my dad’s flannel shirts and wearing unfeminine stompy shoes. Message: Be pretty, or at least, prettier! So boys will like you and ask you to proms! But be very afraid of them and don’t spend time with them unless a parent is in-the-room supervising you!

Content note: Brief discussion of long-ago sexual assault below cut. If you want to skip that and go directly to a definitive answer about whether men and women can be friends, click here.

My freshman year in college, my mom’s worst fears about “what might happen” manifested, and a man raped me.

But you know who came to find me that night that I was drunk and had gotten separated from our group by someone sketchy? My guy friends.

You know who took me to the hospital and held my hand after a rape exam where the doctor invited a bunch of medical students into observe what collecting a rape kit is like without asking me if that was okay? Guy friends.

You know who always walked me home and made sure I got home okay after that night? Guy friends.

You know who lent me their class notes and studied with me and made sure I didn’t fall behind in my classes? Guy friends.

You know who hugged me and made me laugh and feel normal and like I could trust people again? Guy friends. One gave me his favorite Yoda action figure so I would always have someone to consult for wisdom and comfort. I carried Yoda in my pocket for the next three years and if I hadn’t lost him in a tragic pocket-lining-hole incident on the Czech-Polish border in 1995, I’d carry him still.

My ladies had my back too, don’t get me wrong. Both men and women made me a lot of sandwiches that year. BOTH men AND women, i.e. HUMAN BEINGS, took care of me and no one had to be afraid of each other or secretly in love.

My mom has esteemed colleagues, but I don’t know that she has any men besides my dad and her brother who she is emotionally close to. I think she came by her fears and views honestly as a reasonable byproduct of the upbringing she had in the 1950s and 1960s where it really was more usual for girls to be friends with girls and boys to be friends with boys (and LGBTQ people were totally invisible). I think next time we hang out I am going to ask her about friends, and friendship, and what she thinks about this stuff, but until then I will assume she’s happy with her choices.

As I am happy not living in the 1950s, or with 1950s expectations about who I am allowed to be friends with.

So my question, or I guess my frustration is: Who are these “Men are like ___, Women are like ____, you should probably worry” articles serving? Who are they targeted at? Who profits when we frame things like this, argue caution and worry, and cut ourselves off from each other? What possible end could be met or good created? Why are people invested in acting as if men and women are so radically different from each other, or so fragile, or that there is no benefit beyond sexual interest or “attention” (ugh) underlying our interactions? Why do people assume that attraction (and in this case, once again it’s male attraction that’s presented as being the important, insurmountable kind) is some powerful, mysterious force that automatically trumps everything about two people and their feelings and choices?

My life would be so much poorer if I bought into those anxieties. Wouldn’t yours? As one of my fellow “WTF?” Twitter brigade said yesterday,”To throw away the love and friendship of people based solely on their gender seems like a lonely way to go through life.”

In the hopes of fighting this particular strain of ignorance, I have created a new website, called CanMenandWomenBeFriends.com, dedicated to answering this question so that future generations can have a lasting, permanent answer to this question. Thank you for reading.

291 comments
  1. Oh, Captain. I do so love the sense you talk.

    Human beings are, as you say, human beings. You’re expressing very clearly what I’ve thought for years: there’s no reason why reproductive plumbing should be in any way relevant to friendship. My three best friends are all male, and all awesome in their very different ways.

    Now I’m going to go and look at your new website and probably squee my socks off and link the ever-loving heck out of it. :-)

  2. Love the new website.

    • JenniferP said:

      Best part: It will require no updates or moderation!

      • MisMis said:

        Great! :-)

        May I suggest making the font slightly larger? As in “people, get this into your skull”-large?

        • JenniferP said:

          For now I am enjoying the faintly dismissive tiny font, but soon there will be an additional sparkly .gif.

          • M said:

            LOL.

            That was you? :-)

      • rosi5 said:

        I really like the simplicity of it. Whenever someone types ‘can men and women be friends’ into Google they’ll get a simple ‘yes’. The simplicity reinforces the idea that it’s just not a big deal being friends with someone not of the same gender is you!

    • Pelusa said:

      Me too. It’s awesome.

    • sonamib said:

      I shall link to it whenever someone on the internetz asks that stupid question.

    • animaytey said:

      Touché! :D

  3. …OK, have just looked. Definitely simple and to the point, though it mightn’t hurt to add a few relevant links! :-)

  4. Puck said:

    Thank you for this. It’s one of the things that has bugged me most throughout my life. At one point, I was having a huge sleepover party for a large group of my friends and my mom specifically asked me to separate the boys and girls when making sleeping arrangements. And I was just, “What the hell do you think will happen? That we’re all going to have one giant orgy?” and then I put people in rooms with the people they wanted to talk with into the night. And no one had sex. Because we were in high school and it wasn’t that kind of a party.

    And it’s weird that mom still had those concerns just with boys and girls because I’d come out to her as into more than just one gender the year prior to that.

    This was before I started identifying as genderqueer, so I didn’t even get the problematic nature of *that* aspect of the boy/girl divide.

    • Bunny said:

      My mum is incredibly cool about a lot of things, sexual stuff included. When I came out to her as being not-straight (exact identity has shifted over the years), her response was “Yeah I know, I saw your porn. Cup of tea? Here you go. Are you and your bestie dating? No? That’s a shame, you and her are really close. Sandwich?”

      She was one of very, very few parents in my social group who knew that most of my friends were also gay, bi or exploring, and knew who was, and was the go-to parent for honest, queer-friendly sex advice.

      And yet. And yet knowing I liked the dudes and the ladies, she still had massive anxiety and QUESTIONS about me being around boys overnight – even with groups of friends. Even after she knew I wasn’t a virgin*. Even though she had no problems with me staying overnight unsupervised with my also-not-straight, same-sex best friend, who many of our friends, and even my mum had assumed I was dating and was convinced would eventually end up with.

      I hate to say it, but I can’t help but wonder if, in spite of all her awesome, she still somehow saw sex between two women as somehow less-than.

      *Somehow. Magically. She was having lunch with me and casually said “so you and [SECRET EX-BOYFRIEND] finally had sex, then?” She even knew when I, shortly after breaking up with [SECRET EX] had regrettable sex with another ex that I hadn’t been sexually active with before. GAAH!

      • Tosca said:

        I wonder if it’s pregnancy, or its possibility, that scares the beejeezus out of parents. Contraceptives can fail and sometimes kids make bone-headed mistakes about using it (or not). I’m mom to a son, and I consider myself pretty progressive in attitude, but even I have flashes of panic about my 13 year old niece and boys. Like, dear glob, PLEASE don’t let her get pregnant and have to scrap all her dreams!

        • I think it helps reduce worry about teenage pregnancy if you don’t think about it as a tragedy and end of dreams. No doubt parenthood comes with a lot of extra responsibility and Western cultures on the whole put a lot of stigma on young parenthood, but with a supportive environment young people with children can achieve as much as non-parents.

          I’m not advocating that people are sloppy about contraceptives and safer sex (in fact I think sex education needs a lot of tightening so people are more aware of their options, including non-penetrative mutually satisying sexual activity), but stigma and anxiety aren’t going to help. The person who runs http://prymface.yolasite.com/ has completely transformed how I see young parenthood (motherhood in particular) and it might be useful for others to consider these anxieties.

          I just want to add this isn’t a criticism of your panic, just a suggestion that you might find interesting.

        • When I came out to my dad, one of the first things he said was “At least I don’t have to worry about you getting pregnant!” like it was a consolation prize or something? Joke was on him, of course, because I was coming out as bi and he jumped the gun a bit. :-)

        • Beth said:

          For me as the mom of a bi teen, it’s part pregnancy and part the-other-kid’s-parents. I know that, haha, many parents are not as sex-positive as I am. If it even occurs to them what the boys are doing, then either they’re cool or there’s a “my kid is queer” flip-out in the offing, and I can deal with that. But I live in quiet terror of some girl’s dad showing up on my doorstep demanding a shotgun wedding.

          It’s irrational I KNOW and I try not to express it (especially as I was a teen parent and, as geekyisgood points out upthread this is NOT the end of the world), but the fear is there. I think once he’s an independent adult it will go away, but these sexually-active-teen years are FRAUGHT.

      • GirlBob said:

        Could her concern have been possibly more about non-consensual sex? There is often a physical strength difference that you don’t have to worry so much about with female friends… (That being said? My mother? Definitely wouldn’t have wanted me staying with a male friend even though I’m gay, simply because it was Inappropriate. But then, she was always hoping/assuming it was a phase I would grow out of, and that if I was too open about it in the interim it would Ruin My Life later, when I got back to being straight. I stayed gay, and it doesn’t seem to have ruined my life yet… But that attitude still disturbs me when I think back on it.)

        • Pat said:

          Men are stronger than women on average, yes.
          But when talking about specific people, “on average” is kind of meaningless.

        • Silverthorns said:

          The worry about non-consensual sex was my first thought, too. I’m a lesbian who came out to my mom as a teenager, and my mom was fine with it, but despite knowing I was gay she still didn’t like me sleeping over at male friends’ houses without adult supervision unless she knew the guy I was staying with really, really well. She straight-up told me it was because she was afraid of me getting raped, and that she thought I could “fight off” a woman who tried to force me but worried I wouldn’t be able to get away from a male attacker.

          I’m not saying this is the most enlightened viewpoint ever, and I know whether or not someone gets raped is a lot more complicated than whether or not they could fight off their rapist. But it was what was on my mother’s mind, and it is different from seeing same-sex sexual activity as “less than”.

        • cassandrakitty said:

          That was my first thought too, that she might be worried about rape and not want to scare her daughter by saying so. Totally explains the “I trust you but not them” part.

          My mum was incredibly sex-positive and happy for me to be friends with men, and my dad less willing to talk about that kind of thing but not at all conservative or judgy. But the first time I wanted to stay at the flat of one of my male besties alone (aged 17), Dad was pretty worried, and it was clear that it wasn’t that he was worried that I’d willingly have sex with bestie, because Dad knew I thought of him as a brother. It took actually spending some time with bestie for Dad to calm down and decide that he was a safe person for me to be around.

      • Theamander said:

        My parents were the same way with me, I think because all their vague horrible fears of ways I might be hurt or led astray or make questionable choices crystallized around this very specific preventable thing. Maybe there’s some element of magical thinking in the assumption that parents can somehow protect their little ones from the big bad world by keeping out the boys.

      • Bunny said:

        I could see pregnancy and rape being concerns, but it still always seemed like a strange disconnect to me. Because if you acknowledge that a kid’s friend group could contain rapists (a valid fear), then surely other scenarios where they might be at risk would be relevant. For example, she had no problem with me going to goth nightclubs with all my friends and coming home at 2am, so long as she knew I was going out and had a phone with me.

        Somehow, a party at a friend’s house, with a discreet parental presence, seems like such a safe environment.

        I dunno, maybe I just find it daft because the end result was that – when I did want to have sex with someone – we ended up sneaking around and doing it in any areas we could find. The broken sheds behind the sixth form building included.

    • BayTree said:

      I grew up in a house where “no mixed gender sleepovers” was the rule, but only after the parents actually caught a pair of guests In flagrante delicto on the sofa. So I guess that was fair.

      On the other hand, one of my friend’s mom flipped out after a (all girls) high school sleepover when she found out we had been sleeping in the same futon. Clothed. About five of us. Why? “Because that’s what LESBIANS do!”

      • staranise said:

        That is far more exciting lesbianism than I am used to!

        Or far less, what with all the clothes.

        Hm, this requires further investigation. For… science.

        • Jinian said:

          Science is important. Count me in!

        • Corvus said:

          FOR SCIENCE!!!1elevently!!1

          Ahem. I mean. This sounds like an engaging and fascinating experiment.

  5. Elle said:

    Interesting. I’m a woman. I’ve found my female friends to be (1) more progressive (2) more understanding of rape culture and less likely to derail with Nice Guying (3) less likely to drop me for romantic partners.

    I have 90% female friends and I think I’m generally only really comfortable dating men who have a reasonable number of male friends. I am generally not happy if I am the only girl around in a group.

    • emmych said:

      I feel the same way, and it’s also why I’m functionally a lesbian (but bi all the way) — I just can’t deal with dudebros, and I don’t feel like hunting down non-dudebros in the sea of douches.

      I just have very little patience for ignorance and all the “BUT WHYYYYYY’s” and the general Man Vision. I have a few men in my life (like…my dad and few buddies) that I still hang with, and I’m open to hanging with chill dudes, but I just find I don’t have the energy to constantly defend my femininity, or my fear, or my female experience, so most dudes are kept at arms length. I like hanging with other women and other queers since they just kinda get it already, and I don’t have to spend hours explaining myself until I’m crying and want to vomit and bluh bluh bluh.

      (Note: this is not me saying “MEN R DUMB”, it’s me saying I don’t have the energy or patience in my life to deal with educating people when I just want to hang out and play games or drink)

      • Ellen Fremedon said:

        I don’t have the energy or patience in my life to deal with educating people when I just want to hang out and play games or drink

        Yeah. I dropped out of my Ph.D. program because I never wanted to teach again. And that includes teaching feminism 101.

    • I’m also a woman, and I usually find myself exceedingly bored when I’m hanging around too many straight* cis** women at once. We always end up talking about boys, or other people generally, and when I try to talk about cool new things I’ve learned they listen politely for a few minutes and then change the subject right back to boys.

      Maybe I’m hanging out with the wrong chicks. Chicks who are not My People, that is, not chicks who are objectively wrong. Okay, as a girl who has trouble making friends with girls–how do I talk to girls?!

      Anyway. I think the people who write articles like this are people like you, except that they can’t understand that other people might not be like them. Girls who can’t be friends with boys (or don’t like being friends with boys) exist! There’s lots of ‘em! Boys who don’t like being friends with girls, too! But there’s also people like me. Because people are not monolith. Which is basically why “People are this way!” articles are uniformly stupid.

      *Conversations with girls about their girlfriends often turn into into politics, so it’s different.

      **I think most of my problem is a cultural trap where, when presented with a woman, I don’t know what else to talk about besides gossip and boys, and trans women don’t confuse me like that. Even if they 100% pass. I dunno. It’s stupid and I’m working on it.

      • Pelusa said:

        Oof I feel your pain. I’ve realized I’m a lot more comfortable hanging out with people one on one or in small groups anyway and that makes it much easier to direct the conversation. Also, making individual friendships makes it easier to figure out “Does this person like talking about the same stuff as me?” As for talking to girls, I would say just, you know, talk about what you like talking about! If they’re into it, then you discover they’re your people, if they’re not, keep moving. Also, if you’re in a group and say something about some random, cool stuff, I think it is a worthwhile risk, because a couple other women might be into it and keep your topic going and you can find like-minded women that way, too. In other words, you are doing right, maybe you just need to look for new friends!

      • staranise said:

        I mostly get this problem because I am a giant geek and sometimes it’s hard for me to talk to someone who only watches The Office and hockey, as I watch neither. So while it’s easy to find other geeky women (often through Meetup, if nothing else) I’m left struggling if we don’t share interests. Because of course you want to talk about the thing that interests YOU, and they want to talk about the thing that interests THEM, so both of you just kind of change the topic according to your own wishes and the conversation turns into an unsatisfying seesaw.

        More and more, I find the art of the mild bitchfest to be a benefit. It’s just where people contribute relevant but not emotionally loaded personal frustrations and enjoyments in a way that lets them find common ground; then you can seize upon something someone has said that interests you, and ask about it.

  6. fonzette said:

    Also, this study only included college students. Who are, at least in my experience, way more focused on “Who can I get to have sex with me RIGHT NOW?” than the rest of the world. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. :)
    I am 44 & a woman & I’ve had male friends my whole life, with a variety of (sometimes fluctuating) feelings involved on both sides. Whatever.
    I guess what I’m saying is I’m tired of this stupid question because everything and everyone in my life (admittedly an even smaller sample) says DUH.

    • JenniferP said:

      Talk about your non-diverse research pool – aside from any attitudes about sex, what are the side effects of having such a homogenous pool class-wise, age-wise, education-wise and trying to apply their experiences to the general population? I thought a lot of stuff when I was 18 and in college that I don’t think now. BE SKEPTICAL.

    • Xenophile said:

      There’s a lot of psych research out there that’s assumed to be universally applicable, but it’s all based on the responses of university students just because they’re accessible to academics. It’s called the Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) population set, and it’s amazing how much it skews research findings.

    • Simone Lovelace said:

      I didn’t have close male friends until post-college. I’m now in my mid-twenties, and have several whom I love very much.

      Just another data point. ^_^

      • dawnofthenerds said:

        I’m relieved to hear that. I only have one guy I’m really close to, mainly because since becoming a conscious feminist, I’ve realized a lot of the dudes I thought I was close to were enormous asshats. I’m glad to know there’s plenty more good guys to look forward to :D

        • Simone Lovelace said:

          There are lots of good men, I promise!

          What changed for me was that I moved from a women’s college to a male-dominated STEM department, so I just had more (smart, articulate, interesting) guys in my immediate orbit. Fate did the rest. XD

        • boutet said:

          Yes! Larger awareness led to a lot of friendships fading out. I have a lot of trouble hanging out with my brothers now for the same reasons. They were so much better than the people I went to highschool with so they stood out as pretty fantastic… when there was noone else. Now, meeting more people and reading more, learning more, developing new ways of thinking… they’re starting to look more and more like the same old thing, just a bit less horrible.

  7. But how will you manage to update *two* blogs at once… oh never mind, I can’t keep that false concern going.

    A whole lot of people still drink from the gender essentialist bucket, unfortunately, and I think the articles and books and tweets and all that are to serve them. Make them feel better and safer and justified for having their opinions.

    These ideas cause terrible suffering for all genders, young and old. It’s awful. It’s the Safe Known Power Structure.

    They’re also crazy insidious, slipping secretly into our anxieties, screwing us all over. And really, most people are flattered and interested when someone attractive is all “WOW YOU ARE SO INTERESTING AND AWESOME!” and sometimes it gets near sexytimes! If you think that people can’t make choices in the face of that, or you feel threatened by the idea of your partner having those thoughts or feels, whatever they do, then you’re going to sign right up for the gender essentialist line. “Follow these rules, and things will work out” is one of the lies it offers. Stay away from even the possibility of having pantsfeels for a friend! It’s too dangerous! The risk is real when you believe that people can actually sort of accidentally have a kiss or sort of without meaning to have sex. It just happened!

    It’s like, you have to be able to reject so much of this crap, just to be able to get on well with others. Then you get burned when you realized that someone is only friendly with you because you don’t actually fit their category of Woman, like you’re unfuckable so you’re an Honorary Guy.

    So… yeah, men and women can be just friends, even if one of them is married, and it is a totally dumb fucking question. But it also really helps if they’re feminist or at least feministish.

    (And also, I am sorry to read you had that happen to you, but I am really very happy to read about your friends who stuck by you. Go Team Past-You!)

    • JenniferP said:

      I wish that the whole (past) thing had never happened, but when it did, people bowled me over with their kindness and I will carry that always as much as I carry anything else.

      And thanks for this excellent analysis of where this stuff comes from.

    • Pat said:

      Arguably, being feminists really helps pretty much everything.

  8. Stephanie said:

    Best website ever!

  9. Virginia said:

    I would like to send Retrospective Bonus Points, High Fives, and Beaming Smiles of Admiration to your friend you gave you his Yoda figure.

    • nonnymouse said:

      100% agreed. I may have become a wee bit verklempt at that anecdote.

      • I won’t lie – there were sobs in front of my monitor thanks to Yoda.

  10. sonamib said:

    Men and women, friends with each other? But they’re, like, totally different species, one hailing from Venus, the other from Mars! Let me explain why friendships between men and women are DOOMED:

    cavemen biological imperative spreading the seed nice guys just can’t catch a break I can rotate 3D objects in my head you can’t women are more emotional boys will be boys the 50s are the true ideal of human society we can only aspire to replicate those feminazis are trying to force us down an unnatural path

    I hope everything is clear now.

    • Muse142 said:

      Are you OK? I think you may have gotten hacked by a Bingo machine. :3

  11. Thanks for linking me! And aside from this whole post being spot on, thanks for pointing out the descriptive/prescriptive study details, which I completely ignored. I’m still just shaking my head at the original article.

  12. rutilant said:

    Extremely queer lady here. If I couldn’t sustain healthy friendships with people of a gender that I could maybe, possibly, ever be attracted to, I wouldn’t be able to be friends with anyone at all. (Or, being poly, I would somehow gather a legion of sexyfriends around me, and then presumably my head would explode from the complexity of it all and I would retreat to the mountains to become a hermit out of sheer self defence.)

    Like others have mentioned, I also had a mother who would allow me to have girl comma friends sleep over but not boy comma friends. I would loudly protest to her that I was pansexual and that she was NOT LOGICAL but obviously this didn’t work. I took a (boy comma) friend (who was dating a girl comma friend) out to go clothes shopping once, and my mother was utterly horrified. “Does his girlfriend know that you’re spending time with her boyfriend? What if you trip and land on his cock???” Okay, so those weren’t her exact words, but that was the gist of it. I am now comfortable in the knowledge that my mother is a proud member of the Pantsfeelings Police.

    Captain, this is my first comment here, so I just wanted to add that you are amazing and this site is amazing and your friendly battalion of commenters are just brain-meltingly fabulous.

    • hlwest said:

      Completely LOL’d at the “…what if you trip and land on his cock???”, and then had to carefully not really answer why to my kids. :D

      I have the same issue, really. My best friend is female, and I have a huge crush on her, and if she weren’t married, and I weren’t married I would totally have to say something just to see if she might return my feelings (even though I’m 96% sure she’s straight). BUT, since we’re both in committed relationships, I just enjoy the hell out of her company in a purely platonic way without weird long hugs where I smell her neck. There’s no weirdness, and it’s really just because we are both competent adults who know where the lines are drawn and are OK with staying on our sides.

      And, since I tend to be attracted to people based on their awesomeness rather than what they’re keeping in their pants, that would rule out having any awesome friends. And that would completely suck.

      • Xenophile said:

        “And, since I tend to be attracted to people based on their awesomeness rather than what they’re keeping in their pants, that would rule out having any awesome friends. And that would completely suck.”

        Oh, man, especially for people who are attracted to more than one gender. No being around awesome people, ever, unless both of you are both asexual and aromantic. Damn, that sounds really lonely.

        • Britt said:

          That was my first thought! I generally identify as bisexual, tend towards girly in most cases, but also have worked in two very male dominated industries now and have one “typically” male hobby that eats up most of my time about half the year, so… basically I’m not allowed to have friends who I like and share interests with ever, by the rules of this article. Good to know!

          • Xenophile said:

            What happens if the hypothetical inevitable attraction is only one-way? Let’s say a straight man and a gay man are friends, or a straight woman and a gay woman. OBVIOUSLY the gays can’t control their hormones in this logic, but since the straights aren’t attracted to them back, there will be no sexytimes. Does that make it okay? Is it the sex or the attraction that’s supposed to be threatening?

            And what about people whose orientation is flexible? I’m dating a man but strongly prefer women. Who’s a bigger threat? I’m not attracted to OTHER men, and sometimes get pantsfeelings for women. Who should my boyfriend feel threatened by?

            My head, it hurts.

    • I had that same thought too – if I wasn’t allowed to be friends with anyone I could become attracted to, my friends group would be tiny. It’s interesting (or mostly just depressing) how these sorts of articles and discussion about Wacky Sex Differences entirely ignore the wide world of non-straight, non-cis people.

    • I think in the essentialist model of the world where you existed, you would just be sleeping with everyone. You wouldn’t have platonic friends, though, unless they were straight women you were trying to seduce, and gay men who you go shopping with and secretly try to convert, except maybe not really, because you like antiquing too much and nobody else would tell you the truth about those shoes.

    • I do have one point about sleepovers with someone you might be interested in. My youngest niece is now 13 and has a girlfriend. They’ve been having sleepovers for at least year. My sister’s comment on that is “well, I don’t see the problem, it’s not as if they’ll get pregnant”. Which strikes me as a very pragmatic and sensible way to look at it – the problem isn’t whether they do “anything”, it’s what the impact of doing “anything” might be.

      On the other hand, when I first went for a sleepover at my boyfriend’s (he lived about 300 kms away; we’d met on our summer holiday), my mother was apparently ambivalent. She both talked to his parents about not letting me sleep in my boyfriend’s room, and she made sure I was on birth control. (Spoiler: where I *slept* made no difference, since what happened happened while we were awake…)

      • Mary said:

        Heh, yeah, I remember that from when I was a teenager. We had sex in a field during a free period, on the floor of the back room at work after most people had gone home, in my bedroom just before teatime with music on, staying downstairs after my parents had gone to bed … I always thought the “but he can’t sleep in your room!” showed an astonishing lack of imagination on my parents’ part.

        And OH MY GOD, I don’t miss those days. I do love being a grown-up and doing it in a bed!

        • Emmers said:

          I didn’t start having sex until college, so for me, it’s less “in a bed” and more “in a bed that can fit the two of us without acrobatics and complicated roommate timing.” :-D

      • When I was 18 I would often stay over at my then-boyfriend’s place. His parents would make us sleep in separate rooms, but (curiously) didn’t say anything about us being in his room with the door locked for hours at a time…as long as it was during daylight hours.

      • Epiphyta said:

        With The Acorn and his partner, her parents (both medical professionals) and The Brom and I agreed that we’d rather have them safe while they were figuring all of this out, and only checked to make sure that both of them were using birth control (and had Plan B on hand, just in case) and that they gave us a heads-up on sleepovers.

        Our parents lost their collective shit, but I sent mine off with “my house, my rules” and a reminder that I was familiar with the circumstances of my own conception and wanted better sexytimes for my kid than that, thanks.

      • UnsuckableButtercup said:

        Hm… I don’t know if the only possible bad consequence for my kid having sexytimes would be pregnancy… but having calm, informed parents who don’t freak out about inconsequentials is a great way to help prevent some of the worst of those.

  13. THIS. ALL THE THIS.

    You know, I think this whole debate (or, well, question anyway – who’s really debating this?) lines up rather conspicuously with the “wear makeup so boys like you/ be very very afraid if boys like you” conundrum.

    It’s like, “Can men and women ever be platonic friends? Apparently not! That’s terrible!” but if women and men do end up being platonic friends, it’s suddenly all “Friendzoned, loser!! Lololol”

    Seriously. What. The fuck.

    Also, love the website. I was planning to comment along, but I don’t think I need to. :)

    • Hazel said:

      You know what? I never thought of it that way. That’s very astute.

    • Alex said:

      It does sort of make sense, though (in a completely nonsensical way). In both cases the men are presumed to have pantsfeelings for the women, it’s just that in the first one the women are also presumed to have them and therefore THREAT TO THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE OR WHATEVER

      Men could definitely never be the ones *not* harboring sexual attraction, and there could never not be any sexual attraction at all! That’s stupid and impossible!

  14. anadelis said:

    Love! I love you, Captain. That is all.

  15. slimlove said:

    Thank you for this. I had similar teenage experiences – my mom always said “I don’t mind you hanging out in mixed company, but I don’t want you to be the mixer.” Hanging out with girls? Do whatever! Hanging out with guys? Suddenly it’s “where are you going what are you doing don’t go into any bedrooms will you be the only girl will there be parents OMG OMG OMG.”

    No matter how many times I explained, I could never get her to understand that aside from a couple I dated, these guys unilaterally considered me a beloved younger sister, and that my biggest problem with them was that they tended to be overprotective. I continually got that same “I trust you, just not them” from her. It always made me wonder what she’d have done if I’d been a lesbian.

    As an adult, I’ve continued to have straight male friends (along with lots of other kinds of friends!). I have plenty I would never consider dating, even were one or either of us free and interested. I’ve moved from friends to lovers without causing the world to end; I even managed to have a completely disastrous relationship with one of them and we are still friends. But, essentially, they are friends just like any other friend of whatever gender or sexuality: they are people I like, who like me, and we like to hang out together and talk about stuff.

    And yet I do still get the question, or implication, from people, frequently phrased as “Wait until you’re married, then you’ll see. No one wants their spouse hanging out with another man/woman/person they might be attracted to.” Which, thanks, I really appreciate you telling me how my hypothetical future relationships will be defined by old school gender assumptions. How about I just get to be friends with the people I am friends with, and you get to STFU about it?

    So, yeah, thanks Cap’n. Way to bring on the common sense!

    • rutilant said:

      “It always made me wonder what she’d have done if I’d been a lesbian.”

      Super good point.

      After I told my parents I was queer, they still did their very best to stop me from hanging out with boys, or having boys over… and then they totally lost their shit when I started dating a lady. I was like, well, what did you expect?!

      • Hahaha that is an awesome point!

      • aliaras said:

        Mine did almost the opposite — in a “completely unrelated” turn of events, I was forbidden from being alone in private space with other girls. My intimacy with friends suffered as a result.

    • Ve said:

      “I continually got that same “I trust you, just not them” from her. It always made me wonder what she’d have done if I’d been a lesbian.”

      My parents are extremely conservative Christians, I’ve had this exact same thought.

      • JenniferP said:

        Rent “But I’m a Cheerleader!” Pretty good picture of what it might have looked like for you. :)

        • Ve said:

          Ha, I’ve actually seen that movie on LOGO! I’m super feminine, have quite a few queer friends, and am very much into social justice issues, I felt like it was a must-see movie for me lololol ;-)

    • Denzi said:

      Hmm, well, I suppose I have “waited until I’m married.” And…drumroll, please…about half my friends are still men. Does my husband freak out when I hang out with my guy friends without him? No. Does my husband freak out when I hang out with our lesbian next-door neighbor to whom I am also quite attracted? No. Does he freak out if I am hanging out with just one of them, unsupervised? No. If I hang out with one of them at our apartment, unsupervised? No.

      Weird how trust works that way.

      • Same here! I got assimilated into my now-husband-then-boyfriend’s mostly male friend group my first day of college and now they are my closest friends. Full disclosure: I am attracted to one of them, but not enough to risk my marriage over it. Because that would be silly. Hubby has female friends, because even though he’s a STEM major, ResLife at our school is mostly female and we’re both very involved. It really comes down to trust. If your partner doesn’t trust you to be around other people (who you may or may not be attracted to), you’ve got bigger issues.

    • Elodie Rose said:

      I wonder if parents just use their own experience to make these calls, and since in my case at least, my mom is straight, the threat of *boys* is real and something she remembers, but she doesn’t recall ever having had a queer girl pressure her for sex so that’s not a threat she perceives. I also remember my mother telli my brother his girlfriend couldn’t stay over, because she felt she was responsible for what went on in her home, and she wasn’t comfortable being that responsible for this other teenage child’s sexual health, lest she get pregnant and her parents blamed my mom.
      I’m could definitely see myself (howeve illogically) going down the same path in my parenting, simply because I remember plenty of instances when boys crossed my boundaries, pressured me or pretended consent wasn’t a thing that mattered from my high school years, but despite having queer girlfriends, I can’t recall any similar instances from them. Not to say this is a universal experience, because I knew lots of decent guys, and I don’t doubt there are assholes lurking in the queer community too, but that’s e experience I had, and my moms was similar.
      I’m still inclined today to be more mistrusting of new straight men I meet, where as I also don’t recall being as wary ever when meeting a queer woman for the first time.

      Maybe e solution for parents is to invest time in teaching kids to recognise signs if manipulation, red flags for possible abuse and green flags for respectful, safe behaviour as it manifests in any person of any gender or orientation, and then trust our kids to make decisions about who is safe to hang out with given those tools of perception…like I could have saved myself a lot of drama had I had been a better judge of character as a teenager

  16. I’ve been getting this question literally since I was in fourth grade and found it easier to be friends with the boys in my classes [I’m a cis-het woman] because all the girls rejected me (I was a new kid and I was an awkward tomboy, so I found a group of fellow outcasts who also happened to be boys). Other students would tease me and my best friend, asking if we liiiiiiked each other. In fourth grade. 9/10 years old. Ridiculous.

    Related: can we put a moratorium on asking people when they’re going to couple up? I’m not a fictional character you can ship with someone else and it’s REALLY CREEPY when you do.

    For example, I run a Tumblr-blog with a male friend of mine who is wonderful and a truly great friend. This week, we got an anon question asking “when are you two getting together? I see how you flirt all the time…” and we were both like, “Well. That’s creepy and awkward and invasive.” And it made me really self-conscious about how I act around him and that is NOT OKAY.

    • Muse142 said:

      Oh god, the “fandoms” where Tumblr-folk ship real people together? ARE REALLY CREEPY. So, so creepy. #shudder

  17. I remember having a conversation about this with a straight man I knew, where he *really* thought it was impossible for straight men and women to be friends because he believed straight men would sleep with any woman if he was “desperate” enough. He tied it to “Ladder Theory,” in which women immediately place men on “would fuck” or “wouldn’t fuck” ladders in their mind – they can move up the ladder in terms of desirability or friend-a-bility but can’t get on the Official Fuckin’ Ladder if they weren’t sorted there originally. Men put women on only one ladder, meaning they’ll be willing to sleep with anyone eventually if better options aren’t available.
    So because of this, my friend just felt like it wouldn’t work to be “just” friends with a woman because he’d be attracted to her and that would apparently be too distracting? I’m not sure why he couldn’t just handle being attracted to someone who might not return his interest.
    I’m not sure if the fact that this guy actually believed what he was saying speaks worse of his opinion of women or his opinion of himself.

    • My ladders are Dudes Who Believe In Shit Like Ladder Theory and Dudes Who Don’t. If you’re on the Ladder Theory Ladder, you’re never getting off, because I will do my best to never speak to you again.

      • staranise said:

        Yeah, I have a definite File 13 policy on Dudes Who Think Whether or Not I Will Fuck Them Is a Referendum on Their Worthiness as Human Beings.

      • Those sound like pretty reasonable ladders to me!

  18. Dee said:

    kind-of-a-woman here, and I’ve had guy friends way before woman friends. today I am married, still have a ton of guy friends… towards at least one of whom I have pantsfeeling – mutually acknoweldged, mutually agreed not to act upon.

    There was actually a time a while ago, when I was sleeping at that friend’s place and we just stayed up and watched Community and cuddled until 1AM, and I was like, “From a narrative point of view, in any story I know, this is when we kiss. It would just happen.” But as I am not a character in a book, I can choose who I kiss, and I can choose not to kiss a hot guy when I know it would upset my partner and possibly ruin our friendship. Realizing that was kind of a huge visceral relief.

    (and just so we’re all on the same page, my partner knows and is fine with cuddling and sleepovers, yes? BOUNDARIES ARE AWESOME, because sometimes they mean you get cuddlebuddies and monogamy both!)

  19. Who are these “Men are like ___, Women are like ____, you should probably worry” articles serving? Who are they targeted at? Who profits when we frame things like this, argue caution and worry, and cut ourselves off from each other?

    They are serving the people who write them. It is all projection of their own painfully hobbled internal world onto everyone else with the goal of providing an explanation for their misery that doesn’t require any self examination or personal change.

    • JenniferP said:

      True, but this question is just so commonly published, researched, analyzed and comes so commonly to the same conclusion that “Men are insatiable bonerweasels, don’t get too close or actually, like, befriend them or anything! If you do, they’ll be secretly jerking off to you. They can’t help being that way!” that it feels like something larger is at work. This is where we get the whole offensive idea of the “friend zone” (Because friendship is somehow inferior to more sexualized kinds of relationships? Because friends aren’t people you like, they are people you have just failed to bang so far?)

      I mean, sometimes it does actually feel like that, like this poor lady, but the idea of male desire as some unmanageable force of nature is a pretty insidious narrative that we hear over and over in all kinds of ways. I think this is just one of them.

      • Vicki said:

        This is one where “ask the next question” is potentially enlightening. The next question here would be, why should I care if someone is secretly thinking about me while masturbating? Asking me for sexy photos, or telling me that they fantasize about me, may well be overstepping boundaries: but if I don’t know who someone is fantasizing about, I don’t know and it doesn’t matter, whether it’s me or their husband or a pop star.

        • Irene said:

          If you had to worry about who was secretly thinking about you That Way, no one could ever teach, act, bag groceries, or do ANYTHING in the public eye. Long as you keep it behind your eyeballs, I just do not care. (And given my history of crushes, wow, would I be a hypocrite if I did!)

      • cassandrakitty said:

        Also, why should I care if someone is secretly jerking off to a mental image of me? As long as the “secretly” part is maintained, I’m not sure why this would be a problem. Part of what bothers me about this whole thing is that it’s tied in to the idea that if a man wants to fuck a woman that’s a sign of disrespect, and if they actually did fuck that would diminish her in some way.

        • Yeah and men’s sexual fantasies are automagically kinkier and worse than women’s.

    • J. Preposterice said:

      see, my answer has always been “the patriarchy” & then people are all like ZOMG FEMINAZI (not HERE, obviously, the Awkward Army would never) which personally I think JUST PROVES MY POINT.

      • Copper said:

        Haha yeah, pretty much! If men and women are friends, best friends, then more men will realise that women are complex and wonderful people just like them, and The Man can’t be doing with that! But bring that up and it’s all You Feminists With Your Man-Hating Conspiracy To… um… spend more time with men you like???

        • J. Preposterice said:

          I know! And our conspiracy to behave like…men are reasonable adults and not out of control babywhiners? I mean, what is wrong with us? Don’t we know that men are supposed to be in charge, logical, masters of the world and also out of control penis-beast babies who need sex and sandwiches on demand? Jeez.

  20. spinks said:

    I didn’t realise how much of this is cultural until I had an Italian friend who commented how weird he found it that in the UK men tend to go out in groups with their male friends and women with their female friends. He was more used to mixed groups, from childhood, through college etc.

    • The Mysterious Folks Who Are Europeans may even go out to dinner with a single friend of the same – or opposite! – gender and spend the entire time chatting, making eye contact and sharing food. At the end of the night they hug and/or kiss; particularly close friends may leave walking arm-in-arm. AND IT’S PLATONIC! Madness.

      • Jake said:

        Just one of the many ways in which I feel like Europe Is Better. (Not that I don’t sometimes feel the opposite way). I also think this kind of non-sexual intimacy among friends of different genders is more common in Canada than in the US. The US has some nutsballs puritanical hangovers.

        • Dittany said:

          I experienced the All Ladies only Ladies All the Time only after having babies. It’s not so bad when it’s just us hanging out, but the segregated social events, with Mums-and-babies in one corner and Dads in the other? So many kinds of fucked up. So I sabotage.

  21. Penprp said:

    Heh. I kind of grew up EXPECTING men and women to be platonic friends, because my parents each had a bunch of friends of both genders. I mean,they had a bunch of couples they did friends-stuff with, but then my mom had a bunch of male friends from work, and my dad had a bunch of female friends from work, and it just… wasn’t a big deal. Mom worried about me because I didn’t have many female friends, more because she was worried about me buying into some of the societal misogyny that came along with my tomboy tendencies than anything. (She was right; I’ve gotten better as I got older.)

    In high school, I was fairly good friends with my best friend’s boyfriend, because both of us loved action movies and martial arts stuff and video games. We had other things in common with the best friend, but those things didn’t interest her so much, so he and I bonded over them. I still remember when one of the other girls in high school told my best friend, right in front of me, that Boyfriend was cheating on her with me. Best Friend actually laughed so hard she had to lean against the lockers.

    • Nerdlinger said:

      All of this is so awesome. I love it!

  22. Jessica said:

    Before someone jumps in with a story about how their girlfriend/boyfriend had a close friend of the opposite gender and eventually cheated on them with him/her…

    Yes, there are times when it’s not a good idea to maintain a friendship with someone of the opposite gender. There are times when it’s not good idea to maintain a friendship with someone of the same gender (or who is genderqueer, etc.). This might include: Friend has romantic feelings for you and they are Nice Guy/Gal-ing you in a clear attempt to try to make you feel obligated to reciprocate. Friend is overly needy, selfish, abusive, etc. (see many previous CA posts). Your friendship is causing your relationship with your romantic partner to suffer, or you are beginning to sneak around your romantic partner to be with your friend (this might be a sign of needing to lose the partner or the friend, depending on the situation). And so on.

    So yes, there are individual situations in which two people being friends is not possible or not a good idea. This is no way translates to a blanket statement about what all people should do!

    • I agree with the substance of your comment, but all the situations you describe can also arise with same-gender friendships as well, and “can people be friends?” is not a question commonly asked.

  23. Teaspoon said:

    Great post, Captain. I’m a straight cis woman in a monogamous relationship with friends of various genders and sexualities with relationships at various places on the monogamy-polygamy/amory spectrum. Popular media tells me that it’s okay for my close girl-comma-friends and I to be physically affectionate, to share intimate thoughts, and to hang out together any hour of the clock and in any state of dress or undress, all without any thought of sex between us.

    But somehow that’s not supposed to be possible with my guy-comma-friends? Bullshit, sez I. In the last couple of weeks, one of my girl-comma-friends asked, “Will it bother you if I’m wandering around here naked, getting ready to shower?” (No, I don’t have any body modesty to speak of.), and one of my guy-comma-friends that I happened to be sharing a sleeping car with on the train musing about whether he had anything suitable for pajamas in his luggage. (Makes no difference to me, I’m planning to climb into the top berth and shimmying out of my jeans unless that wierds you out, so do whatever makes you comfortable.) And everybody was comfortable, and there was no accidental intercourse.

    It is also possible in some situations (poly- or poly-accepting, for example) for mixed-gender friendships to survive confessed pantsfeelings, whether mutual or not, as long as everyone is respectful of everyone’s feelings and comfortable setting and honoring explicit boundaries. Which qualities make for better friends, anyway, in my experience.

    And I don’t remember if I’ve commented here before or not, but it’s not often if I have, so I would like to also say that I heart this blog with many less-than-threes.

  24. goldenpeanut said:

    “Why are people invested in acting as if men and women are […]”

    I cut out the rest of the sentence because really, you could finish that any way. When I read studies which examine gendered behavior, I don’t read into them that the author was invested in something. I interpret the motivation as “everyone always says this thing, I wonder if there is anything to it? I know, I’ll study it in as controlled circumstances as I can muster and see what I find.”

    Boys and girls grow up with almost completely difference experiences of the world. The messages, pressures, and expectations are very different depending on what gender you present. It doesn’t stop with boys and girls, either, adults also have different experiences depending on gender. I always wonder why anyone is surprised when a study finds that men and women exhibit different behaviors. I can ask the question at the top right back, “Why are people invested in acting as if men and women are never different in their behavior?”

    • velella said:

      I can’t speak for the way individual people you interact with react to studies, but there are potentially significant ethical implications for any study that seeks to demonstrate a meaningful difference between genders/sexes (most studies don’t differentiate these, I think). To pick an easy example, I’ve read several linguistic anthropology studies that attempt to show that men and women communicate “no” differently in various social contexts*. Suppose that conclusion is true. It could then be used to wrongly defend men who commit date rape by claiming that the men simply didn’t hear “no” even though the women communicated it; ergo neither party is to blame and we can all just go back to leading our happy issue-free lives. (I’ve also read at least one study disproving that exact argument*, but that is tangential to my point.)

      There may be no ethical or social reason to prevent a string-theorist from haring off into the hinterlands of particle physics, but when psychologists choose to study a particular aspect of human behavior it is incumbent upon them to first consider the potential social, legal, and ethical ramifications of their ideas, and second to be very, very careful in how they present their conclusions (e.g. proof of a difference does not constitute proof of a _biological_ difference, nor does it constitute proof of a social prerogative to enforce said difference**). Sadly, such studies are also subject to the whims of the media, which can easily distort interpretations of the data, further amplifying negative consequences.

      *I can provide citations for the studies if anyone would like, but I don’t happen to have them at the moment.

      **My personal pet peeve is when studies (or journalists) will discover a statistically significant difference and then conflate that with a practically significant difference. The Times once published an article about the effects of birth order on SAT scores, and the journalists spent paragraphs talking about the so-called serious educational consequences of being the youngest of several children. It turned out that the difference was 5 points. 5 points may be statistically significant if you study a large enough population, but it is still meaningless with regard to any possible application of the scores – acceptance rates for college, abstractions from SAT scores to IQ, performance in intellectual pursuits later in life, etc.

  25. Private Editor said:

    I love the essay and linked to it from FB, but I must admit that I got to the part about the hospital and came to a screeching halt so that my brain could run around in circles gibbering and flailing.

    I’m very glad you had such an awesome Team You to help you through that time.

    • Yeah. That disturbed me even more than the Bad Thing that originally brought CA to the hospital, somehow. We expect evildoers to do evil things. We don’t expect it from the people who are supposed to be helping you.

      Gaahhhh.

      • JenniferP said:

        Yeah, not to trigger people further, but the way the doctor asked was to get me on the table and then bring them all into the room and then say “You don’t mind if a few medical students observe, do you? It’s important for them to learn this.” OBSERVE MY EXTREME CRYING, YOU MEAN?

        Everyone who was supposed to treat me well around that entire experience (medical pros, my parents, the school) did not, but a couple of 18 year old college freshpeople saved my day forever.

        • Private Editor said:

          Ugh, god, WTF. I’m so sorry that happened to you.

          True friends are the best thing in the world. Also you. You’re pretty awesome, too.

        • One day I will hopefully train as a doctor. As such I am putting this in my Very Bad Never Allow This To Happen In Front Of You file. Eurgh, that’s horrific.

        • wonderbink said:

          I just Googled “rape kit” to find out what it actually entailed and now I think I’d like to hide under my snuggly blue blanket for a while.

  26. Thank you! I’m a straight female that happens to have more male friends than female friends and I seem to catch shit for that from time to time…usually from women who have decided that all men are the same cartoon sex-crazed stereotype. My job is a massively male dominated area and my personality is really tom-boy, so I find myself perfectly comfortable around male company. That’s not to say that I dislike women, or that I like every man I meet. It’s just the way things have worked out for me so far.

    My long-term partner (5 years and counting) also has a large number of female friends. Some are ones he grew up with, some he’s met while we were a couple. Us hooking up did not draw any line in the sand about who we may or may not hang out with. There was no “You’re cut off from making any new friends that happen to be sexually compatable with you.” argument, or discussion.

    We both admire and love our friends. I’ve had small crushes on many people I get to know, male and female alike. I’m sure he’s felt similar feelings. That doesn’t mean we actually want to bone our buddies. Even if he and I did not have a relationship, and our friends were not in relationships, it would not mean that either of us would go around boinking our friends.

    Friendships and romantic relationships are different creatures. They build in different ways for different reasons. While one may shift to the other or they can exist simutaniously, it bothers me that so many people find them all one in the same.

    • currently mulling over changing username said:

      One thing in my life that I really value is prioritizing friendships even when people are in relationships. It’s a personal red flag for me when someone gets a new partner and totally ditches out on all their friends.

      I’m embarrassed to say how recently I put this together, but when I date a male-identified person and am jealous of his female-identified friends and secretly worry he likes them more than me? Does not compute with my belief in prioritizing friendships. It’s not relevant right now, but in the future I am going to try my damnedest to keep that jealousy in check, because in my book, under all my insecurity, the fact that a male partner of mine would have close female friends he loves and respects and continues to value even when he is dating someone = GOOD SIGN.

      • Charsi said:

        He is dating you, not them, and they aren’t such a temptation for him to feel like he must run from them.

  27. gmg said:

    As a cis straight lady, I’ve had some friendships with dudes where there were some level of pantsfeelings involved and many other friendships with dudes where there were not. I think maybe part of the answer is to seek to reframe the question from “Can men and women be friends?” (asked in that incredulous “Of course they can’t!” tone, obvs — sigh) to “Can you handle your pantsfeelings like a grownup?”

  28. Redheadedgirl said:

    I had a friend we will call J. J is a boy I had pantfeelings for for a LONG TIME and I seemed to always work up the nerve to talk about them at the same time he would introduce me to his new girlfriend. J was the kind of friend who would bake you cookies and bring you milk when you were recovering from surgery. He was also hot. He was also not very good at boundry setting, and I was very good at boundery settling.

    We started hanging out in a very flirty manner, but he had this girlfriend about four hours away in grad school. But that didn’t stop us from seeing eachother every few days, drinking a lot, and even getting naken (but no sex). And then he went to Afghanistan, and I wrote him a lot (he said he was bored. I was being nice!) and he came back and was single and we hung out a lot and drank a lot and I finally (FINALLY) had the ovaries to be like “I like you. I think we should try seeing each other. When you’re at that place, consider it?” and he said that he was “uncomfortable moving from friends to more-than-friends” but we could still be friends, if that was on the table.

    I had built this into a whole thing in my head (i’d been pining after him off and on for YEARS at this point) and I said that no, we couldn’t be friends right then, maybe later. It’s been a year and later hasn’t come yet. I’m still trying to shake off the feeling of being good enough to hang out with, but also being unlovable and unfuckable (which is unfair, I suppose, but there it is). The point is, with him, I couldn’t be friends, and watching him date someone else would have killed me, so I walked away.

    I have dude friends. I have dude friends I would bang, if the stars were aligned in a different way, but not with that one. With J, I would have been settling and it would have been Nice Guyish behavior and we both deserved better than that. Well, I did.

  29. From reading the SA article and the study itself, it seems to me like this is way more about entitlement than it is about attraction. People are really good at telling themselves stories, especially when the same stories are constantly reflected back at them, and the prevailing cultural narrative is for men that they deserve attention, respect, affection, etc. from women and for women on the one hand that they owe those things to men and on the other that men are dangerous and not to be trusted. It makes sense to me that women would be less likely to acknowledge pantsfeelings for their male friends under those circumstances than men would for their female friends.

  30. katz said:

    Yay for cross-gender friendships! If not for them, who would I play miniatures games with? Whenever I hang out in an all-female group (at baby showers, that sort of thing), it’s always totally weird and I just sit in a corner and can’t think of anything to say that anyone else would want to talk about that. Been this way since I was a kid.

    It’s so weird to me that fun, happy friendships could get written off as not possible while even really dull, awkward relationships get a gold star, just because of the genders involved.

    • J. Preposterice said:

      *looks at the miniatures table she is building with her spouse*

      *looks at you*

      *raises eyebrows REALLY REALLY HIGH*

      • katz said:

        If you were/are in my city, you could play with me :) But the only other people around here who play minis are dudes.

    • Sarah N. said:

      Guuuurl (/woman/Katz/whatever you would like), I suggest we hook you up with some cool lady gamers. Something to get you out of this no-other-women-will-ever-relate-to-me funk you got going on. I suggest this for several reason:

      1. There are some awesome lady gamers (/girl gamers/whatever they would like) out there. Hanging out with awesome people is awesome. Also feminist party gaming nights are the best.
      2. Being in the gaming sphere with only cismen for allies can unfortunately, be really, really scary. Even if you are totally comfortable right now, it can be super handy to have some other women you can reach out to.
      3. Thinking that you can’t ever relate to people of your own gender isn’t fun. Thinking that women don’t play miniature games isn’t cool. You are perfectly free to tell me that I am wrong, but I don’t think this is a good place for anyone to be.

      Finding other women who play your games in RL can sometimes seem like the quest for the Holy Grail, but it is a quest that is often worth investing in.

      • katz said:

        Seriously? You got all that out of one sentence? Dafuq?

        • Sarah N. said:

          You say you don’t know any women to any game with – any at all. Even if you don’t like hanging out with women that much, which is fine to a degree, I do think it would be very worthwhile to find some. And you are free not to and tell me I’m wrong, but connecting with other women in a male-dominated sphere can be super fun and great for developing new relationships that open up new horizons within your sphere of interest.

          • katz said:

            I said I didn’t have any women to *miniatures* game with. I RP and board game with women all the time.

          • Sarah N. said:

            I apologize then. I read the original comment as broader than it was intended.

            On a somewhat related tangent, what miniature games do you play, if you don’t mind me asking? I only really do Warhammer 40K, but I always like hearing what other people are interested in.

        • J. Preposterice said:

          I think what Sarah was getting at is — what you said fell (I presume unintentionally) into a pattern that is fairly common, and pretty much totally sucky, and that is:

          ZOMG OTHER WOMEN ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN BORING GIRLY THINGS WTFFFFF MEN’S INTERESTS ARE SO MUCH BETTER.

          And I don’t think that was quite what you meant, but that’s how it came off (thus my eyebrow raising earlier). There’s a big difference between “I can’t find any local women who want to play miniatures games” and “all female groups” being “dull, awkward”. You see what I’m saying?

          • Sarah N. said:

            Yes, this is what I was getting at. Since Katz linked “I can’t find any local women who play miniature games” with “I am awkward in groups that are doing traditionally feminine activities like playing weird party games to celebrate a coming baby”, I was a bit concerned that that sucky pattern was being perpetuated. I think it is important to remember that one finds traditionally feminine activities awkward/unfun because they are awkward/unfun activities for you and attract individuals that do not have as much in common with you, not because they tend to attract more individuals who happen to be women.

  31. duckbilledplacelot said:

    Captain! I hope you perform your new blog at a beat poetry event sometime soon.

    INT. SMOKY CAFE – NIGHT

    A small stage sulks in front of very suspect-looking velvet CURTAINS.

    ANNOUNCER (OS)
    And now the CAPTAIN will perform
    “Can Men and Women Be Friends?”

    A lean MAN in a ratty suit enters and begins playing a large DJEMBE. The curtains bulge out in various spots, until finally a bedraggled Captain fights her way free. The djembe’s rhythm increases in speed and complexity as the Captain straightens her Dress Whites* and then carefully adjusts the MICROPHONE STAND.

    ****

    Etc.

    *Naval captain dress whites? I don’t know, insert your preferred fake-beat-poetry-performance-outfit here.

    • JenniferP said:

      I have read Hulk-ku at the Uptown Poetry Slam, so this could happen. No drums, though. I like to keep it simple.

      • duckbilledplacelot said:

        Whereas I am a big fan of committing to a bit, also maybe known as beating a dead horse (..but if you do it three times!!). And costumes…and, truth be told, men in shabby suits playing drums, so basically I created MY perfect your new blog. Maybe you could license it out? The New Vagina Monologues; or, rather, the Vagina-is-Immaterial-to-This-Material Monologue.

        • Ellex said:

          “The Vagina-is-Immaterial-to-this-Material Monologue” made me smile SO DAMN MUCH. That should be a thing. Somebody needs to do that.

          Thank you, I needed a happy-feel just at that moment.

      • BookLady said:

        Ahoy, Captain! If you read at Uptown Poetry Slam again, can you let us know, please? I’d like to go hear you, and other Chicago-folk probably would too.
        (Thanks!)

  32. kristinmh said:

    A) Yes, men and women can be friends.
    B) No, being a woman who is friends primarily with men does not make you a better person than a woman who is not.
    C) If you’re asking, “Who said that?” the answer is scroll up and read the comment by katz.

    I have to say, when I got married I did start to feel weird about hanging out with dudes other than my husband. I got over it, though. Not because ladies are icky and boring, but because I already had male friends I cared about and it seemed dumb to cut myself off out of a vague sense of propriety. Also Mr MH really didn’t care. If he did, I doubt he would ever have become Mr MH.

    • JenniferP said:

      “No, being a woman who is friends primarily with men does not make you a better person than a woman who is not.”

      100% AGREED. If you are primarily friends with men? Cool story, bro. If you are primarily friends with women? Cool story, bro. I’m sure you have your reasons & circumstances and I hope that’s working for you. People might have very good reason for feeling comfortable with one gender over another (for example, a history of trauma at the hands of men might make you less likely to trust and open up around men, and that’s okay). It’s not a bragging point either way.

    • caryatid said:

      i don’t know that i necessarily get that from katz, but, agreed: there is an overabundance of the attitude that women who act like men/hang out with men are better than “girly girls”, women, or typical ladies’ fare.

      not all women are super feminine, gossipy, into babies, whatever it is that makes “all-female” so unsavory. people are individuals for godsakes.

      there’s enough woman-hate in the world – we should all stand together and protect the right to be ourselves in whatever form it comes in, rather than get all morally superior. why can’t you just say “i went to a baby shower and didn’t mesh well with that group” or “i don’t enjoy baby showers”

      i’ve seen so much of this in the “fake geek girl” context. and you know what? people that feel the need to tell other people they are doing it wrong are just insecure motherfuckers. let’s all go back to first grade, shall we, and just worry about ourselves?

      • From the other side of that paint, I’d like to ask why women who have primarily male friendships get stuffed into the “She just must hate other women/herself” box. It’s considered normal for women to be friends with primarily ther women, but if it’s primarily men, she suddenly has to explain herself. ..mostly to other women.

        Yes. This is a sore point with me.

        Look at Katz’s post and how it was responded to. She mini-games with men because she hasn’t found any women to play with. How dare she? She must go on a quest to find another female mini-gamer. She’s not allowed to be satisfied with the friends she’s cultivated because her penis-to-vagina ratio is unsatisfactory to strangers she does not know.

        • J. Preposterice said:

          Of course she’s allowed to be satisfied with the friends she has.

          What people were responding to was how she phrased her dislike of all-female groups, which was overly generalized & therefore not so much “I play mini-games with men & don’t know any women who play” as “girls do dull awkward things and men do awesome ones”. I think that was not her intent, but it is how it came off to a lot of folks.

          The problem is nothing to do with having primarily male friends. It has to do with the _why_ of having primarily male friends.

          I have female friends who have primarily male friends for all sorts of reasons, mostly because of the types of social activities they prefer or the professions they work in. I would be shocked if anyone asked them to justify their friendships, and anyone who DID ask them would be acting like a jerk.

          On the other hand, the whole 2 women I know who brag about how they aren’t friends with other women because women are sooo boring and catty and blah blah blah? That is not at all the same thing. (No wonder the women I am thinking of don’t have female friends. There are an astonishingly small number of women who enjoy being friends with backstabbing misogynists, for some odd reason.)

          • H.Regalis said:

            Yeah, the latter is the case where I give people the side-eye. The misogyny–both external and internal–, is the “run far away from you” stuff. You have the majority of friends from gender A because you are a big rpg-er or you have the majority of the friends from gender B because you are an uber-crafter, that stuff doesn’t matter.

            The internalized misogyny stuff reminds me a lot of an issue of the zine Doris where the author talks about how in high school and her early 20s she was a girl who hated girls, and how she had almost exclusively male friends because of it.

      • turtle said:

        I’d also add that while it’s perfectly okay for something “super feminine” to not be your thing, it’s good to take a second look if your reason for not liking something is *because* it’s super feminine.

        Part of the bullshit sexist culture we live in is that interests/hobbies/activities that people think of as feminine are seen as silly/frivolous/stupid in a way that equivalent “masculine” hobbies are not. Being really into fashion or celebrity culture is no more or less frivolous than being really into sports, for example.

        The way the cultural programming goes is that
        1. all women (and no men) are supposed to like feminine things, and
        2. feminine is not as good as masculine.

        It’s good to push back against both parts of that statement.

        • J. Preposterice said:

          Yes. And by the same token, if you are a female person who has mostly male friends because you happen to have mostly male friends? Whatever, go on with your bad self.

          If you have mostly male friends because you dislike other women? Maybe take a good hard look at why that is.

        • Kaz said:

          Part of the bullshit sexist culture we live in is that interests/hobbies/activities that people think of as feminine are seen as silly/frivolous/stupid in a way that equivalent “masculine” hobbies are not.

          I took up knitting a while ago and was actually fascinated by how complex and creative it is. Like, the sheer number of different techniques and how they combine to create a different look is amazing! and there are some incredibly, incredibly gorgeous patterns out there, the likes of which I’ve never seen in shops. I was totally not expecting that.

          In retrospect, the fact that I was so surprised is pretty sad. But people think of knitting as, like, a grandmother sitting and knitting scratchy, ill-fitting socks for her grandkids (and never socks like this, this or this, either), and not something that could possibly be *gasp* INTERESTING. Can’t help but wonder how different things would be if knitting were coded male instead of female.

          In short: totally agreeing over here.

          • Myrin said:

            Funny you should mention that. Just last week I was riding the train sitting next to a man, probably in his thirties, who knitted one of the most beautiful scarfs (or at least I think it will be a scarf one day, but of course it could also be part of something totally different) I’ve ever seen. I’ve been wanting to take up knitting again for quite some time now but somehow haven’t gotten around to it yet so I was quite fascinated because I’m interested in the matter but also because, well, he was a young guy sitting in the train while knitting. I was ashamed that this actually fascinated/surprised me because man, it’s a wonderful hobby so why should a man not have it?
            Also, he seemed to be quite the avid knitter, because when he got off, he put his stuff away into what looked like a very professional knitting bag which had like ten differently coloured and super beautiful knitting needles in it.
            Still makes me happy when I think about it. :)

          • MuddieMae said:

            This is exactly how I feel about baking. It’s creative, it’s scientific, and it can be physically hard (especially hearty yeasted breads).

          • duaecat said:

            In the kind of sad category, my husbutt crochets. He crochets amazing things (See, tiny icon. He made that) I’ve had people come up to me and insist that I had to be the one who made it, because men can’t crochet or knit! It’s impossible!

            I always think “He uses his hands to hold the hook, what body part do you think you’re supposed to knit/crochet with!?”

    • Stardust said:

      C) If you’re asking, “Who said that?” the answer is scroll up and read the comment by katz.

      As far as I can see, katz didn’t say that. She said “Yay for cross-gender friendships! […] Whenever I hang out in an all-female group […], it’s always totally weird and I just sit in a corner and can’t think of anything to say that anyone else would want to talk about that. Been this way since I was a kid.”

      She didn’t say “Yaaay, look it me, I’m a way better woman than you with all your female friends are!!” but pointed out that there are people who feel more comfortable with people of another gender. I very much agree with your point B but it seems unfair to ascribe such an attitude to katz when that isn’t what she’s saying at all.

      • hrovitnir said:

        Yeah, I think people are being really harsh on Katz here. She said “Whenever I hang out in an all-female group […], it’s always totally weird-“. Not “whenever I hang out with women”.

        It’s certainly common for “tom boys” to internalise a certain amount of misogyny and/or special snowflakeness, but that doesn’t mean the feeling of alienation in these situations is any less real.

        It’s not that all women have the same interests, but there are social expectations that will influence how a solely female group will interact. As you may have guessed, I am/was the same way.

        My last two jobs, however, have been in female-dominated industries (small woman focussed sex toy shop warehouse and veterinary clinic) so I now have more female friends than male. Most of the women there tend to not be particularly stereotypically feminine, but I still find our work parties a bit weird because the environment of a 99% female bbq is *different* to a more mixed one – or a mostly male one, which is an environment I feel more comfortable with, but as I have become more feminist, also more irritating. :/

  33. derored said:

    Ok sorry, I’ve seen this a lot, but I’m still a little clueless, what’s “firth”?

    • JenniferP said:

      Your answer lies here.

      • derored said:

        Woo! Thanks! This explains more than just this question :)

      • Ellex said:

        While I got the Fitzwilliam Darcy meaning of “firthing” from the context pretty quickly, my brain sadly likes to head in the “St. Trinian’s School for Girls” direction instead. Which just makes the whole concept of firthing a bit weird, especially since Colin Firth’s character’s romantic interest in those films is a woman played by Rupert Everett, and their relationship is a bit…strange. And fraught.

        The mind is a dangerous place, y’all.

    • duckbilledplacelot said:

      AAAHHHH I knew all that time spent looking at pictures of Colin Firth would come in handy! H’ok: Firth or firthing is basically this:

      with a grande finale of:

      Or, in words (use your words), it refers to the behavior of the character Mr. Darcy, played to great effect by one(1) vry hot Colin Firth in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, in which Darcy/Firth first broods on his emotions for the protagonist from afar and then throws like three seasons worth of pent up, complex emotions onto the lady’s lap with not a little anger and entitlement and a total lack of understanding that she was not, in fact, privy to his secret seething conversations with himself.

      • JenniferP said:

        Please oh please let Colin Firth have a Google Alert on his name and know we call it that.

        Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is also a Firthing masterclass.

        • duckbilledplacelot said:

          One can only hope. I bet, at the very least, his publicist knows all about Firthing.

          Also, FYWP, cdrury=duckbilledplacelot; gah.

  34. Jeanette said:

    Love this. And I’ll also point out that that study didn’t even show what they wrote it showed on their website. If you examine the original data, you see that out of 90 respondents, the vast majority said they had no problems with attraction to friends and only 3 more men than women said they had romantic feelings for their opposite sex friends which wasn’t even a statistically significant result. The only statistically significant difference was in how that was interpreted- women were more likely to see attraction among friends as a negative thing, men were more likely to see it as a positive (or neutral).

    • Datdamwuf said:

      Thank you for checking out the study Jeanette, saved me some time today :). I always go to the source if it’s available and so often the media coverage is flat out wrong or warped to fit their agenda.

  35. SF said:

    About half of my closest friends throughout my life have been with males, and one of my closest friends nowadays is male. We’ve both told each other outright that we’ve never been attracted to one another like that… it’s more of a brother-sister relationship and it’s always been a comfort to me to have a “brother” who would do just about anything for me.

    My husband has several close friends who are female. Three of them have been his best friends since they were in high school. (We are all in our 30s now.) I love these women because they have always been SO good to my husband and are now so good to me too. And the best part is I can go to them for anything too and I know they have my best interests at heart.

    I think that sometimes people lose sight that everyone is unique and we all handle our lives and relationships in our own ways. Rules that apply to one person’s life don’t necessarily apply to anyone else’s.

  36. There is a person in my life who likes to tell me that the only reason a man would ever approach/speak to me would be if he was interested in me sexually. This freaks me the hell out on a variety of levels. So… what you’re saying is… it’s untrue? (Please tell me that’s what you’re saying.)

    • JenniferP said:

      I am saying that that is untrue (though may be true of specific people from time to time). I would seriously question that person’s motivation for telling you something like that.

      • zweisatz said:

        Yeah, isn’t it convenient that if a guy tells you how bad “all the other guys” are and that’s why you should never go near them that he’s basically cutting you of from other male acquaintances? Maybe he’ll also tell you that he is different and that’s why you should be the bestest friends? (And then whine behind you back that you put him in the friendzone.)

        Sounds like bullshit and manipulation.

        (I don’t want to say it’s necessarily a guy person lizzieonawhim is speaking of. But it came to mind how utterly convenient this would be for a manipulative male acquaintance.)

        • datdamwuf said:

          Ghosts of abusive husband past, by year 3 he was saying things like that, for example when he decided he didn’t like it when I’d go play foozball – he started saying the guys only wanted me to play so they could look at my ass. That kinda crap is to isolate.

      • I think the spam filter ate my reply again. :P

    • staranise said:

      Is the person who tells you this of the opposite gender to you? Because maybe then you can say that you totally lack sexual desire for them, and they will have to stop talking to you! :D?

      Because even men who SAY they only view women as sexual objects (which is really what they are saying) quite often talk to/interact with women they do not actually see as sexual. What with women frequently being employees, bosses, relatives, teachers, colleagues, and, yes, friends.

      (Truly sucky feeling; being female, having a guy say “Men will sleep with anyone, we don’t have standards,” propositioning him, and having him say, “Oh, but I’m not attracted to you.” That doesn’t get interpreted as “I was totally lying about not having standards!”, it gets interpreted as, “YOU ARE THE LEAST DESIRABLE WOMAN IN EXISTENCE.”)

      • Irene said:

        When I hear stuff about women only being sexual objects, I assume that the speaker is unconsciously ruling out huge swaths of women. Usually including me, for about ten different reasons, mostly my having reached the Age of Invisibility.

      • Oh god no! We’re related! *recoils in horror at the notion of even suggesting the possibility of — can’t even type it* And I’m disinclined to think he would have any motive to want me to be isolated from male friends and acquaintances; on the contrary, he tries to encourage me to go out and make more friends. I think the point of him saying this is that, unless outright stated otherwise, I tend to assume that guys *aren’t* sexually attracted to me (to avoid humiliating shenanigans, you understand), which results in a constant state of half-willful ignorance when they *are*. This leads to a number of hilarious encounters and occasional missed opportunities (although I’m generally not that broken up about it — attraction is fairly rare for me). I think the ideal situation would be for me to be both aware of and unfazed by male attention — and possibly to like it? But frankly the whole thing just weirds me out. And then add in the Nice Guy phenomenon and it’s just terrifying.

        No, I don’t think he’s trying to isolate me. But I do think he is A: internalizing some toxic ideas about relationships between men and women, and B: underestimating the sheer amount of NO that I feel towards the idea of dealing with that much male attention. I’d much rather pretend it simply isn’t happening, thank-you. :P

  37. Sarah N. said:

    I think the demographic for the survey is vital here (though truly, when isn’t it vital). It does not surprise me at all that straight cismen in their late teens to early twenties tend to think any woman they have pantsfeelings for and is nice to them must have pantsfeelings for them back. I’m sorry, young straight cismen with enough privilege to attend university, but you overwhelmingly suck. For some reason, they find it so hard to realize that the world isn’t all about them; even when they think they’ve got it, they usually haven’t. Most eventually outgrow it. Some escape it early. Some never do. In the meantime, we hear about a lot of them here in the Awkwardverse.

    I don’t think this means straight men and women can’t be friends but . . . it doesn’t surprise me. And is a helpful reminder that it is important to consider how our privilege shapes how we view our relationships with others.

  38. I used to live with a guy friend of mine. When I mentioned to people I was moving in with a guy who was not my boyfriend there was pearl clutching and scandalized “Does your boyfriend know?!”

    I was floored, what do you even say to that? “Oh shit I hadn’t thought of that!” “No, I was planning to make my roommate wear a dress every time my boyfriend was over, you know, every weekend when he comes to town and stays with me. That’s a reasonable thing to ask of your roommate, right?” “OH SHI- BRB!”?

    • ReanaZ said:

      I KNOW. This drives me crazy. The other weird thing is that whenever I say I’m living with a guy (oh, god, I live so much better with guys, on the whole, so I mostly do), the other thing people do is ask if he’s gay. Then, it is magically okay! (Not sure why; I’d have pretty much the same likelihood of accidentally tripping and falling on his cock, right?) The whole everything-wrong-about-that makes me want to lie when I actually do have a gay roommate. (Although I try to stick to saying, “Does that matter?” instead.)

    • staranise said:

      All I can think is that there must be some non-negligible number of women out there who say, “Oh, no, I’m keeping it a secret from him and actively working to keep him from clueing in!” or something, to keep it alive as a question.

      • I think it would be funny to say he doesn’t know, and then sit there proposing ever-more-ludicrous scenarios in which you would do ridiculous things to keep him from figuring it out. You would need an *epic* poker face to pull this off, though.

    • One of the questions on OKCupid is “Would you be OK with your partner living with someone of the opposite sex?” I mean, what? Is there some issue with being close to a person of the opposite sex for extended periods of time that ends with the two of them being, like, magically drawn together?

      • Xenophile said:

        I appreciate OKC’s inclusion of that question, because it’s a great filter for people I do NOT want to date.

        • Griffy Kate said:

          INORITE? So many of the questions on OKC are so overwhelmingly facile (Would you date someone who is not of your own race? Would you date someone who calls one of their exes their best friend?) that I just use them as Jerk Filters, and they are extremely useful in that regard. :D

          • krimskram said:

            Damn, just wrote a lengthy reply about how it is totally possible to be best friends with your ex.

            Until I realized that this is probably exactly what you are saying…

          • griffykate said:

            LOLYES. I used to be engaged to one of my best friends, so that is definitely exactly what I was saying. :)

          • kanel said:

            I have thought about this for a while now; thought about responding, then decided not to, then couldn’t let it go. Sooo, here we go:

            Are you really saying that you think someone who would want to avoid dating a person who is best friends with an ex is a jerk? Maybe they are not a good fit for you, but a jerk? Really? It’s something you put right next to not dating someone of a different race. Wow. This clearly rubs me the wrong way.

            I am struggling with the position of being the new partner (since a few months) of someone who is best friends and neighbors with his most recent ex, who was his romantic partner for 7 years and have now been friends for about a year. It feels like the ex is constantly there. In pictures on the walls, in conversation, in hairs left on my partner’s shirt and so on.

            This is really hard for me. I don’t know what it would have felt like if my previous partner hadn’t cheated on me with two exes and kept some other exes around just to feed his ego with their attraction and feelings for him. And all the while manipulating me to feel like this was just me having “trust issues”, making me feel like I was crazy up until I found out. I suspect it would have felt differently without all that.

            I know now that I shouldn’t have trusted or tried to trust my ex. I know I did not have any issues with trust at all, except perhaps trying too hard to trust even though feeling like something was wrong. I also know I need to be able to trust my current partner to be able to have a healthy relationship and I try my best to heal my wounded trust. Perhaps it is OK, though, that trust doesn’t come as easily as it used to. Perhaps it is OK that it takes time.

            Anyway, when I tentatively started dating again, after having ended the manipulative and abusive relationship and just healed for a bit, it would have been way easier if the first guy I’m dating after that was not best friends with his ex. It just makes things unnecessarily hard for both of us. So much to handle at once. If I had somehow, when dipping my toe back into dating again, been able to filter out this thing that pokes around in still pretty fresh wounds of emotional abuse, would that really make me a jerk? Wouldn’t that just save both me and potential partners some unnecessary pain?

      • A few years ago I was planning an extended hike and had contemplated subletting to a female friend (I am also female). Four of my best (straight, married) female friends ALL en-masse reacted with great horror and skepticism that I would be OK with my boyfriend and another woman sharing the house.

        THEN it was revealed that the potential subletter is a very fat woman, and they were all SUDDENLY FINE with it because obviously that’s different! (See someone else’s comment re: not every woman “counting” as a woman in this equation.)

        I’m still amazed. They’d all known my boyfriend for years — and at least 3 of the 4 would describe themselves as feminists — but they still bought into this premise that he’s inherently untrustable because he’s male.

  39. Ve said:

    Can I applaud you for how sensible this paragraph is:

    “Sometimes, inevitably, we become attracted to our friends. They are awesome people, we are awesome people, and like attracts like. I do not see why this is a gendered issue. Attraction causes tensions in straight-lady/gay-lady friendships, too, right? And straight-man/gay-man friendships?”

    Many friends of mine, men and women alike, straight and queer alike, those who assumingly are attracted to just men alike, have expressed an interest in hooking up with or dating me and it had bothered me for years. I felt like many people were my “friends” because they were hoping that if they did so long enough I’d sleep with them (keep in mind that I am someone who has dealt with a history of emotional and other such abuse, I’m naturally distrusting of people). This paragraph explains that all of those people didn’t have ulterior motives in befriending me.

    • krimskram said:

      For me, that’s rather an and/or thing. Person X is nice, so I’d like to be close to person X. If X likes to watch movies and kiss, I’d be into that. If X likes to watch movies only, I’d be into that as well. Being friends BECAUSE you fancy a kiss is Nice Guy behaviour. Being friends AND ALSO fancying a kiss is ok, as long as you act respectful about it.

      Also, my experience with female friends (I define male) is sometimes reverse: I got several friendships that started with some pantsfeeling, then we mutually decide to settle for friendship. So, according to the article, why would any True Man transform a sexual relationship into a friendship?
      … perhaps because we often get attracted to awesome people who stay awesome people even when the pantsfeeling went to sleep?

      • Ve said:

        “Being friends BECAUSE you fancy a kiss is Nice Guy behaviour. Being friends AND ALSO fancying a kiss is ok, as long as you act respectful about it.”

        Yeah, exactly. In my personal life, I’ve always been very distrusting of people for tons of reasons, I won’t get into that too much here. I’ve always felt like people just wanted to take advantage of me…at best take me for granted, at worst abuse me.

        Just a couple months ago, when a good friend of mine, who is married, straight, and female, openly expressed some pantsfeelings she had towards me, it made me wonder…would I want to hook up with me if I knew me? Enough friends have felt similarly, that I had to just stop and wonder.

        I personally don’t think I am oh-so-desirable…although my body is admittedly very sexually appealing for many people, I am “exotic-looking” and I am pretty well-liked as a person overall. But maybe, just maybe… I am just that awesome. And I guess that is okay lol

  40. Bittybird said:

    WTF. The title of the article is really weirdly selective, too–it doesn’t say “Can married people have single friends of the opposite sex”, it asks “Can married WOMEN have male single friends?” Which is weird because the journal article she’s writing about details a (subsample!) of people in which the ladies saw their platonic friends as platonic, and the guys sometimes saw their platonic friends less platonically. So…I don’t get it. Is the issue that a married women’s single friends are actually attracted to her? (and that this is bad but the reverse, a married man’s single friends being attracted to him, is not worth mentioning?) Because…so what? She doesn’t have to reciprocate, and they don’t have to act on it. In fact, the original article goes into all this hoo-haa about how men/women can’t really be “just friends” because somebody has feelings, but the sample IS drawn from people in platonic friendships–and there’s no reason to believe they may not happily stay platonic forever, even if one person is open to the idea of more. A little attraction does not equal friendship death.

    I get to express different sides of myself in different social groups (I’m fairly genderfluid), and in one group that is mostly male, I love getting to be “one of the guys” and have many fabulous platonic friendships. I love how I’ll go on roadtrips with them, and the fact that I’m a girl sharing floorspace with like ten men? Never even comes up. Complete non-issue. Now, I learned recently from a third party that a couple of guys in the group have expressed (not to me) that they’re actually attracted to me, which shook me up briefly because I have a bad habit of categorizing everyone in my life as a nonsexual being (being mostly asexual myself) and assuming everyone else does the same. For a second I was like “What?! Oh no! Who?”, and then I paused and said, “Actually, never mind.” It’s not my business–and it doesn’t change anything! Whoever it is has chosen not to act on it and to continue being my awesome friend. Nobody is “Nice Guy”ing me, and everyone knows I’m already happily involved in a romantic relationship. Doesn’t hurt me as long as they’re being cool about it, which they are. My friendship with everyone is still platonic and still very real, and very important to me.

  41. That In A Hat said:

    This is a topic that is very, very close to my heart, because my very best friend in the world is a guy, and…well, it comes up a lot.

    And with all the “boys and girls can’t just be friends” and things like my family practically shipping us (he remains the only guy I ever dated, about 14 years ago, in high school, briefly, and never even up to the kissing stage), and the bollocks like that, it got confusing. Because I love him. I love him a great deal. But not really with any pantsfeels. Heartfeels.

    And this became an issue about a year ago. The two of us share a house together (and at the time, shared it with another girl, a good friend). And he was in a relationship. It was not a Good Relationship, but it was A Relationship, and BFF is a bit of a romantic and very bad at being single. And in this Relationship, bit by bit, his GF was…I don’t know how else to put it, but weaning him away from his other friends. I didn’t realize until later that she didn’t like us much (and did things like crying for hours when he would try to go home), but it meant he was always mildly unhappy and cagey about talking with his friends about his GF or his GF about his friends. When a very small possibility of a job came up in another state for GF, she wanted him to move with her, leaving behind his family, friends, steady job, and two years of schooling. He said no. Things Got Bad.

    Watching this drove me crazy. He was my best friend and the whole mess was just sad, and it needed to stop. But trying to step in made it seem like, y’know, just being a girl edging in on someone’s relationship. But it wasn’t that. Right? Because, y’know, no pantsfeels. But at the same time, he’s one of the most important people in my life, and like a second brother to me, and I knew if he moved in with her (on the table) or even more if he married her (slightly on the table), we wouldn’t be able to see each other, because she was making that clear. And that’s…that’s enough to build a relationship on, right? And my life is better with him in it than not, and we’re a guy and a girl who get along like something out of an incredibly shippy movie and know each other better than ourselves half the time and make each other happy, and…

    So one very very long night, I told him that. I told him how important he was to me. And he told me how important I was to him. And we decided that, hell, maybe we should just try this relationship thing after all.

    So he ended it with the GF, and we decided to wait for a little while on that whole relationship thing because A) tacky and B) he hadn’t been single for more than two weeks in the past four years and could probably use some single time. But we figured, y’know, after things even out, we’ll try the whole dating thing.

    Several months later I met this girl he’d talked to and I was like, dude, DATE HER SHE’S AMAZING and he was all like, Oh thank God, there was no way we were going to work. We fit together like puzzle pieces, but when it came to the idea of a physical relationship or a romantic one, neither of us had the slightest clue how to proceed with each other. Trying to force it because, “Well, a boy and a girl who get along like that should be Together” was awful. And now he’s dating a wonderful woman who is also a great friend and way more what he needs in a romantic relationship than I am, and we’re better off than we were before.

    That is a freaking long, rambly, stupid story. But my point is–it was hard as hell telling him how much he meant to me. But we survived it. We Were Not Meant To Date. But we were still friends when it didn’t work out. Which hopefully, most good friendships can.

    • My Two Cents said:

      Not a “long, rambly, stupid story”–no! Awesome, and human, and real, and fascinating. :-) Yay for you two for working all that out. Yay for being complex human beings with thoughts and feelings and doubts and trust and intelligence.

      That’s what’s missing from all these dumb “human interest” stories like the idiocy that prompted this whole post. They simplify and boil everything down till it means nothing. Meanwhile, real people go on living their lives. The whole comment thread here is a marvelous example.

      I told my ex-husband (when he was my husband) that one of our friends would be much better suited for him than I was. He laughed. Time went by. We finally admitted the troubles we were having. Therapy, etc, blah blah; long story short, when we divorced, I said he should date her; he laughed again; now he is dating her, and VERY happy, and still pissed at me for leaving him. I’m hoping some day he can get past the hurt and anger, and we can be friends. Who knows? May never happen. But I instantly recognized she would be much better for him than I was. And I was right, hehe. :-)

      • Epiphyta said:

        When my ex told me he was dating a friend we met in college, I was genuinely happy for him: they were both really devout, she had a bunch of kids from her first marriage and he’d always wanted a big family, that whole “traditional gender roles are part of God’s Plan” thing worked for both of them.

        (They married a month after our divorce was final and then the custody battle got UGLY, but that was years ago and I’m mostly over it.)

        Point being, he is now happy — which is all I ever wanted for him, but couldn’t give him — and I am happy with The Brom, who sees no reason to freak out because my friends of longest duration are both guys. Yes, I have had sexytimes with both of them: it amounted to “What the hell is all the fuss about — oh, okay! That was fun! Let us go back to arguing about Batman!”

        And? They were the ones I went running to when I started to develop PANTSFEELINGS for The Brom and needed a reality check: “He respects you, he likes your kid, and he hasn’t done anything asshattish around us; go get some more data and ask him out.” So because I have amazing guyfriends, I have someone to snuggle AND people who understand why Mark Dacascos should have been cast as the Mandarin, and mourn with me for the awesome brawl with Robert Downey, Jr., that could have been.

  42. Sarah B said:

    I have had friends of the opposite gender ever since I left my all-girls secondary school. I have shared houses with them, rooms with them, even occasionally beds with them without anyone accidentally falling on anyone else’s private parts; or wanting to.

    I mean, they’re just people, right?

  43. thepaintedlady said:

    I think probably aside from being really reductive and damaging to cross-gender friendship, I think it’s probably also the reasoning behind (or at least justification for) homophobia. If hetero men and women can’t be friends, then gay men are OBVIOUSLY inappropriate friends for straight men. Since platonic friendships between men and women often (ahem) end in accidental sex, well, then, that same straight man could also end in accidental sex with a gay man, because people who think this way live in a world where no one – especially men – is held accountable for their own sexuality. Sex just happens! Like magic! And while it explains away inconvenient sexual encounters, it also justifies people being assholes to others they aren’t attracted to, because you never know when you might have sex with them!!!

  44. rinna2412 said:

    Don’t most people with friends of the gender they’re attracted to have the occasional pantsfeelings or even little crush on their friends? Why does every trend writer assume that just because someone feels attraction to someone else, it means that, a) the attraction must be acted on and b) said attraction is the most important part of the relationship?

  45. Trillian said:

    I find it really frustrating that, as a single straight woman, some people seem to think it is Not Okay for me to be friends with a non-single straight man!!! I have witnessed this attitude countless times, sometimes from the Significant Other, sometimes from other, non-involved, people, sometimes from the man himself. Because a 30 year old woman not in a relationship MUST be on the hunt for a husband right? Or men are only interested in sex, and even though we’ve been having all this not-sex for years, it’s only a matter of time? Recently, a guy friend got a girlfriend, and I met her, and I loved her, and I thought “yay, great addition to the social circle!!” But no, guy friend gradually dropped off the face of the planet. And I get the distinct impression that if I had a SO, I would instead have been invited on double dates.

    I might be a bit bitter about this…

  46. Charsi said:

    Even in my childhood, I was annoyed at the assumption that two people must have something romantic or sexual between them just because they are of the opposite gender.

  47. Gine said:

    Great site! The thing with articles like these is that they present sexual desire as if it’s this overpowering, impossible-to-overcome thing (doesn’t our culture love THAT old, rotten chestnut), when frankly, it’s often simply not that big a deal. Yes, it really sucks when you develop a genuine crush on a friend who doesn’t return your feelings, but simply being attracted to someone is hardly an insurmountable obstacle to friendship.

    I have a lot of guy friends, and I’m pretty sure at least a few of them would definitely be up for it if, one day, I turned to them and said, “So, shall we try the sexing?” But they know that’s not going to happen (I am the type of person who has only been sexually attracted to a handful of people in my entire life), still think I’m cool and want me in their lives, and aren’t, you know, wasting away pining for me or anything. It’s just Not A Big Deal.

    I still remember being at a church lock-in in high school with a big, mixed group of friends– we were all sitting in a stairwell, talking, and had covered up with a big blanket because it was cold. One of the chaperones walked by and immediately freaked out, demanding to see our hands, and we were all like, “Seriously? You think we’re sitting here, fully clothed, in a chilly church basement, having some kind of mutual masturbation orgy?” I’d known all those kids since I was five, we were like brothers and sisters. It was so silly.

  48. Excellent post, this is something I’ve thought about a lot. A (straight, female, in a relationship) friend of mine works from home – usually clients go to her flat, but sometimes she’ll meet them in a cafe or other public place. She was telling me how one (male) client of hers had been forbidden from coming to her house because his girlfriend wouldn’t allow it. I was like, “What does she think is going to happen? Does she literally think the only thing stopping her boyfriend from cheating on her is the fact he is never alone in a room with another woman? And so the minute he goes to some random woman’s house for an hour lesson, the two of them will end up shagging on the kitchen table? Because that’s just what straight men and women DO the moment they’re alone together, even when they’re both in relationships?”

    My friend didn’t have a problem with it, but I found it completely baffling. I can’t imagine being in a relationship where there was so little trust you didn’t allow your partner to have fricking meetings alone with the opposite sex. Not only is it an epic logicfail – to assume he wanted to bone my friend, she wanted to bone him, the minute they were alone together they would cheat on both their partners and do so – it’s eminently insulting to your partner. Jesus, if you think your partner is constantly about to cheat on you, that in itself is the problem, not the fact they may occasionally have reason to spend time alone with members of their preferred gender. It stems from the kind of received wisdom in the post above, but it’s tragic to think some people think of their romantic partners that way.

    • Charsi said:

      A guy even wanted to forbid his girlfriend to study full-time because she may have male classmates and leave him for them. Another wanted his to be a housewife not to have male coworkers.

      • ReanaZ said:

        A good friend of mine refuses to have close-door meetings with men, at work, in her office (with lots of windows) because it “would be disrespectful to her marriage.” Now, this is her personal choice and it’s way different than one partner forbidding the other from having cross-gender interactions. But it still blows my mind. Especially since she deals with confidential information. I don’t know how people get so bent out of shape about things like this that they let it materially interfere with innocuous interaction. But sigh. Not my choices.

        In more depressing news, this friend used to be friends with mostly men in college (a very conservative school), and when she got married, they all told her they couldn’t be friends anymore because it would be inappropriate.

        • Charsi said:

          I wonder how these male friends could see that friendship then… But I often hear men ask why a girl talks to other men if she has a boyfriend. Though I heard male feelings follow a different logic, and they must feel sexual attraction for any woman they find likeable as a person. One asked on a forum: ‘if a girl respects me, she MUST be sexually attracted to me as well, right?’

          • Suzy said:

            I…what??? This makes no sense to me. I’m getting married next year and I’ve quite a few male friends. I work with men. I genuinely can’t get my head around this idea that men and women “can’t be friends.” Though the situations described above sound more like controlling relationships with no trust.

  49. Xenophile said:

    A similar idea that needs to die: “Can butches and femmes be friends?” Gender essentialism is no less obnoxious among people of the same gender!

    • staranise said:

      You’re kidding, right? Please be kidding.

      • Xenophile said:

        Nope, it’s basically all the same nonsense, but among people with similar reproductive parts. “Beware of femmes, because they’ll friend zone you without giving you a chance!” and “You can’t be friends with butches because they’ll always hit on you.” Ugh ugh and ugh.

    • currently mulling over changing username said:

      Essentializing butches or femmes: 1000x blech.

      I get read as both butch and femme, usually depending on what the other person wants me to be. Sometimes I feel like there is a kind of latent scarcity mentality sexual tension in my (small town) ladygay friendships where we are like, “We are pretty much just friends but should we fuck anyway since who else are we going to fuck?” Which is its own can of beans where SURPRISE YOU CAN ALSO USE YOUR WORDS AND APPROPRIATE DISCRETION.

  50. twomoogles said:

    So, if one of those ‘I can’t have friends of the opposite sex!’ people had a same-sex best friend who came out as trans, what woud happen? Inquiring minds want to know. I realise most of these articles are written by people who aren’t even considering the existence of anything not hetero and cis, but it bugs me every time! (Along with the ‘I’m bisexual, so I can’t have any friends’ question.)

    I genuinely feel a lot of weird social issues and annoyances would be made much better if men and women spent more time together. I find people who only view the opposite sex in terms of ‘can I date/sleep with them’ are the most likely to be really gender-essentialist. Because they see people as Men or Women first, and not as just a person, just a friend. Gender is the *most* important quality.

    And don’t even get me started on the women who say things like ‘other women are such catty bitches!’ Even aside from the rampant sexism, aren’t they either saying that they are a catty bitch, or that they are the only non-catty bitch woman out there? The idea that somehow it’s *only women* who cause drama is absolutely prevalent, and in my experience, totally wrong. I know several drama-llamas and half of them are dudes.

    Also, being able to be friends with someone you’re some degree of attracted to is a pretty good skill to learn. Though maybe this also relates to how people process ‘being attracted’. Some people have a different category for ‘people I’m attracted to’ and ‘people I crush on’ and others don’t really seem to.

  51. I did not read the linked article*, but will subject y’all to my thoughts anyway.

    It seems like pretty common knowledge – at least in feminist circles – that if a guy doesn’t find a woman attractive, she’s functionally invisible to him.

    So I submit to you that – if there even is a difference between the way men and women feel about their mixed-gender friendships – it’s not that men have crushes on their female friends; it’s that men make friends with women they have crushes on.

    And especially if the demographic being studied was college guys…it just strikes me that dudes that age are way more likely to notice and approach someone they find cute than to notice and approach someone they don’t. They may not even be able to see the uncute women, or realize that an uncute woman might have intangible qualities that make her worthwhile to get to know.

    I’m not saying that all mixed-gender friendships begin because the guy initiated contact, or that a man will only ever initiate contact with a woman because he’s attracted to her. But I do think the whole “women are invisible unless I want to bone them” thing is a factor here, especially if we’re talking about guys in their late teens/early 20s.

    *If it features a video of a bunch of candid interviews with college-age mixed-gender friends in which the guys all point to their (thin able-bodied white conventionally attractive) female friends and go “Of course I would sleep with her, given the chance! Just look at her!!!” then I’ve seen it already and it filled me with HEAD-EXPLODY RAGE, so…yeah.

    • J. Preposterice said:

      “It seems like pretty common knowledge – at least in feminist circles – that if a guy doesn’t find a woman attractive, she’s functionally invisible to him.”

      Man, what the heck kind of feminists do you run with?

      I do know men who treat women they are not attracted to as functionally invisible.

      I call these men “dickbags” and I am not friends with them.

      I have lots of male friends.

    • ReanaZ said:

      “If a guy doesn’t find a woman attractive, she’s functionally invisible to him.”

      …I… I think you need better friends. Or at least better men around. That’s just fucking depressing.

      If a guy doesn’t find a woman attractive, she’s functionally invisible to him…IF HE IS AN ASSHOLE. Do these people exist? Yes. Is this ALL MEN? No. This is not common knowledge. This is equally sexist and problematic as “Married woman can’t be friends with straight men.” Please stop demonizing all men. There are plenty to treat people like people, regardless of either’s gender.

    • Stay Excellent said:

      “And especially if the demographic being studied was college guys…it just strikes me that dudes that age are way more likely to notice and approach someone they find cute than to notice and approach someone they don’t.”

      Probably. I think this happens regardless of gender, the definition of “cute” is so nebulous that it can mean anything from “looks hot” to “is participating in interesting activity” or “has logo of stuff I like”, takes only the approach and not the follow-up into account and(ignore this if I’m reading too much into it) again places the burden of the approaching on guys.

      “if a guy doesn’t find a woman attractive, she’s functionally invisible to him.”

      And that’s extending said premise to a ridiculous extreme.

      *On the note of that video: if you’re put on the spot on camera, in a relatively liberated environment, with a loaded question(would a “no” be perceived as an insult to her?), while sitting with someone that fulfills the generic attractive template(not their choice which people the camera crew picks), is it really that eyebrow-raising you default to the response of your gender role expects?

      Besides, you can find someone hot and not let your dong do the thinking for you. I have plenty of brodettes I would sleep with if they’d want to, but they don’t, and who really cares? Doesn’t affect the friendship in the slightest(at least not that I’m aware of). I’m sure the genderflip scenario is also true for plenty of dudes out there.

    • Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply all guys. And to be clear, I didn’t mean that guys like that will actively treat unattractive women badly (although the real assholes will, sure). I’m saying that a lot of guys just won’t notice that an unattractive woman exists unless he’s interacting with her (and even then she might not technically count as a “woman” to him).

      And I do have tons of guy friends; thank you for your concern, though.

      • ReanaZ said:

        And we’re just saying that’s blanket statement of crap with no backing. Also, I am not concerned about your lack of guy friends. I am concerned about you characterizing all guys (first post) and then “a lot of guys” (second post) with a broad statement as if it is universal truth, when in fact, it is a sexist characterization not based in broader reality. (Quite possibly rooted in your own experiences, which I am not trying to discount. But “Most men won’t even notice an unattractive women.” sounds like the gender-flipped side of “That woman was mean to me. ALL WOMEN ARE BITCHES, just trying to tear down nice guys like me.”

        As a feminist, I find this pretty offensive and problematic. As a non-conventionally attractive women with lots of male friends and even more male acquaintances, I find it ludicrous. As someone who doesn’t think the world revolves nearly as much around sex and attraction as some parties would have you think, it makes me eye-roll.

  52. I dunno … I doubt very much any man I’ve worked with or socialised with has had pants feelings about me. And bad luck if he has, because he was never going to get the chance to act on them. It hasn’t had any role in any friendships or workplace situations I’ve been in for the last quarter century. Sometimes I wonder (and this is my own bias of course) if the whole idea of most people being practically keyed up waiting for a sexual response to someone so much of the time isn’t a bit overstated.

  53. DameB said:

    I think, at least in part, this nonsense is due to the ridiculous overwhelming social narrative that women and men who are friends will always wind up together.

    My BFF for a long time was a guy — Kevin — and he and I had zero sexual attraction. None. Zip. Nada. We’ve never kissed, held hands, nothing. But everyone, and I mean everyone, my friends, my gramma, strangers on the street, assumed we’d eventually get together. Spoiler: We haven’t. We’re happily married to other people for 15+ years now.

    I blame “When Harry Met Sally” and a thousand other books and movies. After watching “If Lucy Fell,” my date had to drag me from the theater, literally kicking and screaming at the the screen, “I will not marry Kevin! You can’t make me!”

    And, on the other side, I can’t tell you how many guys I wound up breaking up with because they got insecure about my friendship with Kevin. They would get all shirty and jealous faced when I said I was going to grab dinner with him. They just had trouble wrapping their minds around the fact that we were just friends. One of my exes say that he just pretended Kevin was gay!

    There are so few non-romantic male-female relationships in our media that it’s almost shocking when you find one. I love “Warehouse 13″ for many reasons, but a central one is that Mika and Pete *will never get together*.

    • Canomia said:

      I know! I remember seeing A Cinderella Story, the one with Hillary Duff. It’s extremly standard love story with no chemistry between the couple at all but one thing made me so freaking happy; The friendship Duffs character had with a boy was never anything other than thing other than that. There were no pantsfeels. The boy comma friend wasn’t pining away secretly and hoping she’d pick him.

  54. “…and stop imagining “attraction” as this mystical force that exists outside of human decisionmaking.”

    Oh thank you thank you thank you for saying this!

    Or any human emotional drive, really. We get to make decisions about how we respond to things.

  55. Miriam said:

    This is so wonderful. When I was young my mom always taught me that it was men, not women, who would be my true friends, but only because of pantsfeelings. It took me a while to realize that I don’t need to ensnare men into hopeless crushes to get them to be friends with me. I just have to like, be a decent person who happens to be female.

  56. HM said:

    I think part of the problem with the idea men and women being friends is the social mess surrounding it. So many people have left comments about being pushed towards having a sexual/dating relationship with their friends. People assume that you’re only “friends” until you work up to dating. People push and gossip and whisper and give advise until you just can’t stand it anymore. Society makes male-female-friendships exhausting and stressful. Sometimes you’re in a situation where you can shrug it off, enjoy your friendship, get on with your life. But sometimes (I’m looking at you my hometown village!) being a young woman in a friendship with a young man where you are not dating gets you marked as a “slut.” Because obviously you guys are only in it for sex if you aren’t building a dating relationship! Worse if one of you starts dating someone else. Now you’re a cheating slut! Or a homewrecker! Or whatever.
    This can show as gossip and subtle snubs. It can also show as being denied jobs, or study opportunities, or having people be more likely to try to push you into sexual activity with them (since you’re easy anyway, it’s worth a shot right? bleh).
    I’m not saying this is the way it SHOULD be. Obviously it shouldn’t. It’s messed up in the way that society messes up sex and gender stuff. I’m just saying that for a lot of people it can get really complicated to have non-dating guy friends or girl friends. You get judged and you get treated differently. In high school girls with lots of guy friends were considered easy, and treated differently because of that. Guys with lots of girl friends were either considered assholes for “leading them on” or were called closet-homosexual.
    It’s not fair or right or good, but it’s the way things are for many people. We should be able to be friends with our friends, but sometimes you’re trapped in a community that makes it very unpleasant to try.
    And yes, we need to work to change this. But I can understand someone with no particular support in place choosing to go along with the messed up societal standards rather than marking themselves for all the shitty consequences if that’s the situation they’re in.

  57. Em said:

    I’m late to the party, as always, and haven’t read everything yet, but I have a question: Why are “pantsfeelings” and friendship always framed as mutually exclusive? I have both close male and female friends and have had my whole life. The usually-fleeting, periodic desire friends sometimes have for each other has never once ended a friendship. The lack of any such desire has also been a non-issue. I suppose part if it is that being a “millennial” the whole binary attraction set up the media always talks about never existed to begin with. Too many people in my social circle have identified as LGBTQ for me to ever think, as a woman, “gosh, I’m safe from that super scary desire when hanging with my gal pals.” People who like each other as friends will sometimes realize they also find each other attractive. It’s up to them whether they act on that in a physical and/or romantic way. And up to them as to whether/how they change how they define their friendship.

    The persistence of the “men-and-women-can’t-be-friends” myth confuses me in the face of popular television. TV is not a place I go for “realistic” representations of much of life, but this is an exception. TV shows tend to follow a relatively small group of people over a long period of time. Inevitably, different romantic permutations occur over the course of the series and yet the “main characters” stay friends throughout. THIS IS LIKE LIFE. God help me that I’m bringing this show up, but think about how many of the FRIENDS characters had pantsfeelings for each other at one point or another. They all stayed friends. In my experience, this is how long-lasting friend groups are. You shuffle around, but you all stay friends barring extreme douchiness. Knowing Joey would sleep with Phoebe if she were up for it never seemed to lessen their friendship. I just don’t get why it has to be a big deal.

    And to speak about it from a non-heterocentrist perspective: I’ve never known a gay person who was like, “oh nos, I can’t be friends with anyone my own sex ever again because pantsfeelings.” As soon as you acknowledge that not everyone in the world is heterosexual, the entire argument collapses in on itself automatically.

    Also, I need to give a shout out to my own bff who is a man(I’m a woman). We found each other on the playground at preschool when we could barely walk and we’ve been telling people who wanted us to separate (pre-15) or date (post-15) to shove it ever since. He’s one of my soul mates and that is a true fact.

    • ReanaZ said:

      RIght? Some of my best friends in the entire world I would jump in a hot minute… if they were a stranger at a party who started flirting me up. But they’re not. They’re my /friends/. And even if it wasn’t a bad idea for a million external reasons, the friendship is more valuable to me than the pantsfeelings. And it’s not even that I have them but don’t act on them. I just…vaguely have them and it’s not a big deal. I don’t exactly have to put a lot (read: really any) mental energy into not “acting on it.” I just focus on being awesome friends.

      • misspiggy said:

        Exactly! I’m more surprised if I don’t have pantsfeelings for a friend. I fancy 90% of the people I meet (men and women), and I’m always interested about the exceptions. After a couple of years of confusing teen crushes, I found a way to manage and enjoy it all, i.e. realising I didn’t have to try to marry everyone I was attracted to. Realising that other people are capable of managing pantsfeelings was also helpful.

        How can people get to the point of being married and not work these things out? Oh – maybe some people don’t get pantsfeelings as often, so have not had to learn helpful management techniques? (blushes)

  58. duaecat said:

    I will say, that when my now-husband moved in, all of a sudden all of the “Yep, BFFs! Totally just friends with you, girl! Yep. Friends. Not after your pantsfeelings! You can count of me for anything!” guy friends I had sent a barrage of African Violets and I have not heard from them since.

    I think the big thing is that a lot of guys feel entitled to a relationship, if they have pantsfeelings. “You did this to me. It’s your responsibility to date me now.” And there’s a lot of general rage when it doesn’t happen.

    It’s like a book I read where a man is trying to get home to his girlfriend. A sort of American Odysseus. And the entire book is him trying to get home, through fire and flood and lotus eaters and then he’s almost there, within yards of her house, and he gets killed. His girlfriend never finds out.

    I’ll admit, I was very angry with that book. I may or may not have tossed it across the room. I spent how many pages invested in this man accomplishing a goal, and the end is he fails? That’s it? I’ve been cheated! Because my assumption going in is that if I read a book about someone trying to accomplish a task, they’ll accomplish it! Luke will blow up that Death Star. Mulan will save China. Tony Stark will fly a nuke right up alien tailhole. Otherwise what’s the point?

    But that’s not human relationships. Dating is not the endgame, but if you think it is, and buy into that, and feel that ending has been promised you, then I can see why people would be disappointed when they end up ‘friendzoned.’

    • That In A Hat said:

      I think that makes a lot of sense. It kinda explains why I’m seriously gunshy about trying to date. I’ve had a few guys growing up (and even recently) in my friends stable who did have pantsfeels and confessed, and…well, A) prior to the confession I was usually clueless and B) whoops, sorry, don’t really feel that way.

      And it was…awkward. (In the most recent case, I think he may be a little passive-aggressively mad at me. He sent me very nice birthday/Christmas gifts, which now I guess was him trying to woo me from afar…I don’t even.)

      But it gets even worse, in the dating pool, when you meet via dating site, which these days seems like the only option. If you met on OK Cupid, Dating IS the endgame. So not clicking seems like even more of an injustice, especially if multiple dates happened.

      Argh, I can’t even.

      • annejumps said:

        The idea that a date/encounter is a Plot Point that Needs to Be Resolved is so pervasive. It’s taken reading Captain Awkward for me to really realize that no, yeah, sometimes dates/coffee meetups have no followup and that doesn’t mean I’m a Terrible Failure; nor does the fact that someone seemed interested mean I need to “give him a chance” no matter what I feel. The Geek Relationship Fallacies, especially the Facehugger Fallacy, were revelatory to me. And to tie this back to the post at hand, I’ve got a casual friend who’s been trying to date me and I’m just not feeling it, but a few years ago, pre-CA, I’d have probably tried to force myself into it because hey, at least he likes me.

        • The idea that a date/encounter is a Plot Point that Needs to Be Resolved is so pervasive.

          OMG YES! Thanks for articulating something I didn’t realise I thought (if that makes sense). Funny how we can think of our lives in terms of genre conventions, sometimes.

  59. Quinrue said:

    Thanks for this, I just don’t get those who don’t think a friendship can work between folks who might have some attraction between them. That is what boundaries are for! And yes, I also get so tired of the myth of attraction being some all-powerful thing, not its not. You can be attracted to someone and not act on it, just like any other feeling. Might it make a friendship too hard ever or for a brief period for you, sure that’s possible, but it doesn’t mean that people that can be attracted to each other can never be friends ever just because occasionally that happens to some people.

    I am so glad I had my parents example of being friends with folks where attraction was a possibility so it never seemed like a big deal to me and they never made a big deal about me hanging out with my friends who were mostly straight guys. I think the real problem here is most folks don’t have good boundaries or don’t even know what boundaries are or how to set them or that they can be set even when *attraction* might be present.

    • Guava said:

      Agreed. There is such a strong entitlement narrative in our culture that attraction needs to be confessed! And it will automatically be reciprocated! Um, no.

      Sometimes you have to actually listen to what the other person is saying, instead of reading secret messages of desire into everything they say or do (which don’t actually exist) and threading those fantasies into a belief that they led you on, and now that you have confessed your attraction, you are entitled to their love.

      It’s funny, because one of my parents has always believed that men and women can’t be friends…and my other parent has always used that as an example of how to identify a card-carrying misogynist.

  60. Suzy said:

    I remember being at a gaming convention years ago and my boyfriend at the time was off gaming, I had gone for a nap in the middle of the day because I’d been awake till an ungodly hour the night before. When I woke up, I put on a corset, and then ran up to my (male) friend’s room in the Bed and Breakfast we were staying in and asked them to lace me in. No one batted an eyelid. In fact we sat there drinking poteen (Irish version of “moonshine”) for a while and then went back to meet the others.
    Le gasp!
    There was nothing said, no one thought there was any problem!

  61. People might think friends turning into relationships happens more often than it does because they’re looking at in binary. In order words, you only have to start dating one friend in order to fall in the category of People Who Date Friends, regardless of how many other friends you managed to stay friends with and never date them. The percentages are likely skewed because of this.

    Also, OMFSM yes. And it becomes an entirely new level of ridiculous when the friend of the opposite gender is also an ex. So many people are like “You’re still friends with your ex? D:” and I’m like “Yes, and my current boyfriend is too – we’ve even all lived together!” and then there are strange faces and incredulity.

    I’ve also had a friend that I could hang out with when there was me, him and another friend. Sadly, now that the other friend has moved away, there are definite “I can’t hang out with you alone” vibes. I don’t even think his wife is the type to be upset about it – he’s just following societal expectations and I decided to just let it slide.

    • Vicki said:

      Two kinds of error, I think, the other one being the difference between “All cats are animals” and “all animals are cats.” Almost all the people I have dated have been friends of mine first; that doesn’t mean that I have dated most of my friends, or wanted to. It means that I’m far more prone to “meet person, get to know them, notice that they are attractive” than to “meet person, notice they are attractive, get to know them.”

  62. keleri said:

    My mom would freak out if we were going to a sleepover where BOYS WOULD BE PRESENT, or if sister’s boyfriend missed the last bus and couldn’t make it home he would be DRIVEN HOME, BY GOD, at 2 AM, or if other sister’s boyfriend was over she wanted me to go down and “interrupt” before “anything could happen” (what the HELL mom NO)–

    Anyway, when my mom started dating again a couple of years ago, suddenly her constant terror over my and my sisters’ outings had a possible reason– namely, she goes through the fellows like tissue paper but insists that they’re her platonic companions, and then lies to us about where she was or why she didn’t come home (we’re all adults now but it’s still slightly worrisome to have a family member mysteriously disappear).

    PROJECTIONNNNNNNNN. Ironically, I’ve never and (I think) one of my sisters has never had sex, despite all those BOYS-PRESENT sleepovers. Yeesh.

  63. Teija said:

    Hahaha I am sure this is totally unintentional, but canmenandwomenbefriends.com is blocked on my network for “potentially dangerous material.”

    Oh god, oh god, the truth is so scary!

  64. Guava said:

    This discussion dovetails nicely with a theory that I’ve long held that I call the “When Harry Met Sally Effect”. (Guess how long I’ve held this theory, LOL) That movie pissed me off so much because the message that I took away was that men and women really can’t be friends, and if they are best friends, that n”effect” because at the time, I felt like a number of my friends (male and female) all started making passes at their friends because they thought, hey? maybe this is how all love starts?

    I’ve had many mutually rewarding friendships with boys and men all of my life. Sometimes I have pantsfeelings for them, but more frequently, a friend is a friend is a friend. And also: just because I have pantsfeelings in the beginning doesn’t mean that we are Meant To Be as a couple.

    That movie made me so angry because, to me, it completely invalidated the idea that men and women CAN be friends without it turning into a romantic thing, and sometimes they should ONLY be friends and nothing more. It was also like its own kind of entitlement porn for the Nice Guys/Nice Girls who could point to it and say, “See? I held your hair when you threw up that time / acted as the lookout while you stalked your ex / and that means that on some level you probably secretly love me and I will wait for a time when you are vulnerable to strike!”

    In my adult life, meeting a man who has no female friends and who espouses the belief that “men and women can’t be friends” has ended up being a perfect red flag for identifying misogynists.

    To me that movie only helped to further the idea that no relationship between a man and a woman is worthwhile unless it leads to romance. UGH.

    • Shaenon said:

      “When Harry Met Sally” is like the Sears Catalog of bad romcom relationship advice.

      1. Men and women can’t be friends.
      2. If you take an immediate dislike to someone, it’s sexual attraction and that person is probably the One.
      3. Lady, you know who would be great for you? That guy who introduced himself by making a bunch of sexist comments that pissed you off.
      4. When you’re hurt and crying from a bad breakup, having sex with the friend who’s comforting you is an excellent idea.
      5. It’s normal for a man to start treating a woman like shit roughly 13 seconds after ejaculating into her. If it happens to you, don’t take it personally.
      6. The best way to resolve an argument is with a big public gesture.
      7. The harder, longer, and more painful the path to a marriage, the stronger it will be.

      • misspiggy said:

        Tee hee, also:
        8. Guys, are you potato-faced, unfashionable and a grump? Great news – with only a few silly voices at your disposal you will win a gorgeous elfin blonde without really trying!

        • Guava said:

          Misspiggy and Shaenon, you are both awesome, and I am in 100% agreement!

  65. Ellex said:

    I remember seeing that article about “can men and women be platonic friends” a few weeks ago and thinking “what a load of horsemuck”.

    I am very happy self-identifying as a neutral-gendered aromantic bisexual in a body with female sexual organs. I don’t know if that combination gives me an advantage or not, but I have no trouble having pantsfeelings for a person while also being completely uninterested in having a romantic relationship or casual sex with them, and also seeing that person as an individual completely separate from any pantsfeelings I may or may not have for them. I do think seeing myself as being neutral-gendered is an advantage in seeing other people as individuals rather than identifying them as their physical sex and trying to slot them into gender roles. People are so much more complex than that.

    However, I also tend to think that “gender” concepts are, to a certain extent, a lot of social stereotype bullshit. The characteristics that make up “feminine” and “masculine” are so arbitrary, can vary so dramatically from culture to culture, and I’ve met so few people who actually completely fit one or the other gender type, that “feminine” and “masculine” have lost all meaning for me outside of those stereotypes.

  66. solecism said:

    I feel like I could respond to lots of different stories and points in this thread…I’ll try to condense it into a single comment.

    I was definitely a tomboy who hung out with boys and generally felt more comfortable with boys or mixed groups growing up. It’s hard for me to say now how much of that was misogyny and how much was resisting binary gender norms with every fiber of my being (I now identify as trans* or genderqueer). I definitely had some of that exceptionalism attitude going on, along with sneering at traditionally girly activities. Except baking. Started that young and kept going.

    Admittedly, I felt awkward and uncomfortable in all-girl groups (and unwelcome). I dropped out of Brownies because I wanted to learn camping and firestarting and animal tracking and archery and, and, and…and my experience of Brownies was making fashionable sitting mats, eating cookies, singing and gossiping, and once camping in cabins with beds and electricity. I understand that other people had fabulous Girl Scout experiences, but I was disappointed and felt like a duck out of water.

    I gravitated to very male-dominated professions. Plus a STEM education up through graduate school. So again mostly surrounded by men and mostly comfortable in that environment. I’ve always had lots of male friends because they’re the ones more likely to share my interests.

    And I definitely felt like some of my relationships with men were because I was basically perceived as an honorary guy, or at least not a sexual being, a woman, an object of attraction. Sometimes this felt like a good thing, and other times it was hurtful. The instance that most stands out in my mind was freshman year of college, and a guy named Randy in my dorm, who so obviously categorized women as attractive/fuckable or as invisible nonpersons.

    In my 20s, I was floored when someone expressed the opinion that men and women couldn’t be platonic friends because there would always be pantsfeelings involved. I mean, I had all of these relationships with people that didn’t feel qualitatively different to me based on genders of the parties involved. And yet, over time, I did come to feel there were differences, sometimes because of unresolved sexual tensions, but mostly because I realized I had different levels of trust with men vs women on average.

    This is not to say that female friends have been nonexistent. To the contrary, my earliest or closest friends have generally been girls or women within a much wider mostly male social circle. As I have aged, I have made less effort to get to know men and tended to gravitate to older women to form new connections. Part of it is I no longer tolerate a lot of bullshit dudebro stuff. Much less patience for privileged assholes. I just don’t have much time or energy, I am already neglecting so many important connections in my life, and I prefer to dedicate my resources to awesome people rather than tolerating awful people for the sake of social order. I am finding more of a shared understanding and experience and empathy with people who generally identify as women, which means that I feel safer and more connected with less effort and heartache. But hey, when I meet an awesome guy, that’s great too. I just don’t go looking for that.

    And hey, I also started exploring my girly side and being less concerned about whether whatever I was doing conformed to gender norms or not, and more about whether I thought it was fun. And I have now hung out in all-women groups and been okay. It’s all good now.

  67. Canomia said:

    A few years ago I met a guy at a party, we danced and it was fun so we decided to hang out again. Our mutuall friends twin guys whoare my very ggood friends warned me about him. They called him a player, he wouldn’t want a serious relationship. I, didnt mind because I wasn’t looking for serious with him anyway. So we met a few times, made out a little, talked alot about interesting stuff. Then I realized that one of the twins that I had had a cruch on for a long time had also been crushing on me the whole time so we decided to try dateing.
    When I told the player-guy about this, and that we should stop the making out but not the awesome talking, he was not happy. First he didn’t understand how I could like someone shorter than me. Then he told me how he couldn’t be friends with women. His pantsfeelings just didn’t let him. That night we sat outside and talked for hours about everything. Real deep shit and he was ever so sad I wasn’t a guy so we could keep talking about stuff and stuff. It was all really sad.

  68. Leah said:

    How do these people think bisexual folks function? Jesus. If I had secret pantsfeelings for literally everyone I met in so much that I were “too [bi] to function” a la Mean Girls, I would be a very lonely person.

  69. My closest friends, growing-up, were guys. And, like you, I had the hand-wringing mother; the well-meaning, make-up-and-cosmo-magazine bearing aunties, and a preference for flannel and stompy shoes. If you want to go all post-structuralist, my behaviour could be considered a refusal of established performative gender roles. By acquiring “male” clothing preferences and “male” friends, I wasn’t presenting as “young woman” in any socially understandable way. Which bothered people. Which is stupid.
    I was also assaulted, after having a few too many and getting separated from the crowd by the wrong guy, at the wrong party. My guy friends held onto me, in their hilarious, awkward, straightforward, awesome ways, until I was whole again. My girl friends treated me like I had the plague. Anyway, my point is this: I agree with you that friendship has no gender. If my guy friends wanted to sleep with me, back in the day, they knew better than to act on it, and thankfully so did I. I’m really surprised that Scientific American would sensationalize data like this.

  70. I reconnected with an old college friend after almost ten years apart. I had a crush on her in college but she was also a good friend. I always valued the friendship and felt a relationship or an attempt at one could jeopardize what we had.

    Jump ahead ten years and we reconnect and fall back into a comfortable groove even more so than when we were younger. She was heading towards divorce and would seemingly be available to date.

    I was in a transition in life, rediscovering passions I had given up in the past and so was she. We were on this journey of change and self discovery together. We were given a second chance in life, we vowed no regrets any longer. We ended up meeting up and hanging out. After almost no contact in 10 years the first night we stay out until dawn. I thought she looked better than she had in college and was just as much fun. I fell into the trap of we are awesome together, if it is this good as friends how good could it be as more?

    The feelings were not mutual, there was something but there wasn’t everything. I just didn’t understand. It gets very complicated. It has been happy and sad. We have become incredibly close and even though I know it isn’t something likely my PANSTFEELINGS still exist. They get in the way of one of the best friendships I have ever had and I wonder sometimes, if I can’t get those feelings under control, is the friendship doomed? Can I still be the bigger person and remain friends if my heart is broken?

  71. Reblogged this on Reaux Your Boat and commented:
    Interesting thought..personally I have almost no straight male friends. I’ve always ended up falling for them.

  72. I know plenty of women whom I’m friends with and not attracted to, and plenty of adults I know are friends with other adults and never have feelings for each other. I don’t see what everyone else’s problem is.

  73. Samantha said:

    Thank you for this. So much. It’s so true. I have hardly any girl friends, especially close ones. Most of my friends are guys (and I have a boyfriend! Imagine that).

  74. segmation said:

    I think this is a rather large subject being “Can men and women be friends?”. It to me depends on the circumstance. Everyone’s circumstance is different.

    [Link redacted by Captain Awkward.]

    • JenniferP said:

      Hopefully that was the point – humans are individuals, and there is no overarching thing called “male desire” which necessarily complicates all friendships.

      • segmation said:

        I don’t know if I agree with you on the “male desire”.

        [Segmation, Captain Awkward here. If you are serious in participating in a discussion, stick around and contribute meaningfully. But slapping your link into every post is suspiciously close to spam and I do not like it. Links redacted.]

        • Commenter said:

          …super bowl snack ideas? That’s what I’m getting at that link, anyway.

          Snack Compatibility can be very important, of course.

          • JenniferP said:

            Yeeeeaaaahhhh….I just redacted some links. If Segmation is serious about participating in the discussion, s/he can contribute without adding a self-link at the end of every comment.

          • segmation said:

            That is true! [FUCKING SPAM LINK REDACTED AGAIN]

          • JenniferP said:

            Hi, you’re banned.

  75. The title of this reminded me of When Harry Met Sally, and it made me smile. Lovely article!

  76. LOVE this. One of my big frustrations is “even if you think you’re just friends, one of you always secretly wants to sleep with the other.” I say, so what? As long as he doesn’t get creepy about it, and as long as he’s not just pretending to be my friend in the hopes of sleeping with me (unlikely, since I’m clearly happily monogamous so it’s an obvious lost cause) what does it matter to me if my friend occasionally rotates me into his fantasy file? I’ve had friends who I knew I wouldn’t mind spending sexy time with if the situation was different, but it wasn’t, so whatever. Did not affect the friendship one little bit.

  77. Gabriela Teixeira said:

    Reblogged this on Etol Thoughts and commented:
    That’s a question I always had, maybe influenced by ‘When Harry Met Sally’ (which i absolutely love) and by my own occasional thoughts in the same line as described here, that goes like: “Hum… my friend is h… opps… an awesome person”, as well for also having received some ‘FELLINGSMAIL’ from great guy friends… So re-blogging because this was a subject that does really speaks to me.

  78. It depends on the people — like everything else in life. I’ve found that no, I can’t be friends with men. Mostly because (sorry if this seems like a brag but it’s not a brag, it’s a data point that is very, very relevant to the conversation) of what I look like. I’m 46 now, so it’s dying off, but it’s still there at a low level. When I was in my 20s and 30s, no way in hell was it possible. I think it’s a reason for the existence of what’s trivially insulted by the term “f*g hag.” It’s just nice and pleasant to be able to talk to a man or go to lunch without having to maintain the fence.

    If it IS possible, it’s possible because the woman maintains a very firm boundary. However, I will tell you right now that the second her existing relationship is in trouble, the male friend is going to try to move in if he think she is in any way attractive.

    Cynical? I call it realistic. Maybe it’s possible, but not if you pretend it’s not happening. And sometimes the work needed to maintain it is more energy than you want to invest.

    • JenniferP said:

      I totally believe you about your own experience! And I’m really glad that it is not even remotely my own experience.

      • It’s one of the main reasons why I’m not messing with my hair as it goes grey. I find that I like being talked to like a human and not a piece of meat by men, and not being side-eyed as The Enemy by women. Yes, I know it’s all “essentialist” and “genderist” and lots of other “-ists,” but that has been my life experience. It’s a right pain in the ass.

        Not only is it kind of cool because I’ve never gone grey before and I sort of want to see how it comes in, but I actually find that I like the effect it has on others. I know that I’m supposed to be panicking and grabbing dye boxes, but I’m afraid Miss Clairol doesn’t know what she’s talking about. I’m not invisible at middle age. It’s like I’m finally becoming visible, as a person who talks and says things, and not as potential arm candy or an executive accessory. It’s wonderful.

  79. smallgrl said:

    This is a never ending conversation, and a very interesting one at that. I am so in the camp of ‘it’s just a person’ – well, at least in my idealized world. Then I got into a relationship, and I did find myself a bit jealous of my partner’s female friendships. Not psycho-jealous, I just kind of felt ..left out. I could tell that he had friend-crushes, but the thing is that he wouldn’t just come out and say it. So he snuck around online flirting with them. It was not really about jealousy but about him not being accountable and honest about the way he felt and what he was doing. Or maybe he was really ‘looking around’ because we were on the outs.

    I guess the point is that he used the ‘she’s just a friend’ label so much that it became a sort of way of hiding some attraction or longing that he really had for them, even if he’d never ‘go there’. It still existed. It wasn’t the attraction itself that bothered me, more the fact that he would deny/hide it.

    I think it’s so important for people in all kinds of relationships to be honest to their partners: yes, I’m a little attracted to him/her (it’s natural, after all), but I’m choosing to be with you. Or, the part in your article about stepping away if you felt a strong attraction to someone who was attached makes perfect sense.

    Attraction is normal, and it’s so important to acknowledge it to yourself first! Then take any steps you need to take communicating to the friend/your partner so that it doesn’t get in the way. In my mind it’s not that complicated. But then again I guess not everyone is willing/able to communicate in this way.

  80. Pat said:

    My opinion on this question is it largely depends upon both people’s level of psychological development. At lower levels, men tend to sexualize their friendships with women and at lower levels women are oblivious to this. However, at higher levels where authenticity and boundaries are more important it is indeed very possible. Because of the polarity between the sexes, it is always a challenge, but that is part of what can make the friendship so rich. Just like there are no one-sided coins, this is a sword that cuts both ways. Further, some psychologists postulate that there is at least an unconscious aspect of sexual attraction in any friendship. Also, there are varying degrees of heterosexuality. Therefore, it is a complex question that should be explored on a case-by-case basis. If the two people in question are vastly different in age, maturity and especially psychological development, then the probability of exploitation rises exponentially. This is about what I see in my practice.

  81. The question of whether men and women can be friends has been such a source of frustration in so many of my relationships. I’m inclined to believe that it is possible, though it very often goes wrong, someone gets feelings that aren’t appropriate for a plutonic arrangement, and it’s all downhill from there. Trust, boundaries, and all that jazz need to be taken into consideration.

    I’m glad you had your male friends there to take care of you after you were assaulted. I personally would have had a difficult time allowing men near me after something so horrific.

  82. I loved this post so much. I could feel it, relate to it and realize how wonderful it is of you to write the whole thing. About 90% of my real friends are guys and they have always done every possible thing to make my life more wonderful and amazing. They have been there for me always. A L W A Y S….
    Thank you for writing this :) I mean it!

  83. some of my closest pals are men but there’s some difference between a guyfriend and the other lot…you have etched it out vividly…
    lovely post…am glad you had your menfriends to help you when u needed it the most

  84. Gabby H. said:

    Captain Awkward, you are new to me, and so is the word “PANTSFEELINGS.”

    I like all of these things.

    So, thank you for this post.

  85. Yes. 37 years and still counting …

  86. Coming from someone who’s been in a relationship for almost 6 years, I think that men and women can be friends but there must be a boundary. Friends is okay but I’m not really comfortable with my boyfriend having a close friend of the opposite gender. I’ll just be paranoid and over think stuff. But then again that could be different if my boyfriend became close friends with someone else before we got together. Just my 2 cents.

    • JenniferP said:

      Your two cents are so sad!

  87. lanrehussain said:

    One question my mama always ask me growing up and i can never find a right answer to it. I belief they can and they cannot depending on situation. Man and Woman can be friends only if they both have great relationship elsewhere but if not they are not friend because they care about each other but do not realise it or do not want to sour what they have at present.

    • JenniferP said:

      I don’t think you have to necessarily be in a happy romantic relationship to be friends with someone. I think your mama was incorrect about this!

  88. ibolotet said:

    I have had a male friend for 9 years now and for me it has never been anything more than best friends.We chat about like anything but attraction? Hell no! I have never felt that.Its pretty hard for the love of your life to understand it and i agree its a tricky issue.Stuff can be written, but each single one of these relationships are uniquely different.

  89. This is one of the best articles I’ve read on this topic. I can relate so much. I have four male best friends. I would literally die for them, they’re that amazing. We spend almost every waking moment together and none of us would have it any other way. Sure, they date, and so do I. That didn’t change anything. There’s never been any ‘attraction’ anywhere. It’s really a matter of outlook.

    Thank you for writing this.

  90. Of it’s possible although one being attracted to the other is a real likelihood. Nice blog btw!

  91. I think between a man and a women could not be real friendship because always at least one of them will fill some sexual attraction about the other one and when he or she will be refused, the friendship is finished. But it also depends on how you define the friendship.

    • JenniferP said:

      I think that assuming that there will always be attraction and if there is, that will somehow always ruin the friendship is just incorrect. Did you read the post?

    • Lily said:

      really? always?
      even if they’re both gay? not everyone falls in love with the opposite gender.
      And not everyone feels sexual attaction to anybody.

      Of course a heterosexual woman and a heterosexual man can be friends, too. I just wanted to say that assuming every woman is attracted to men and vice versa is not a good idea.

  92. i have lots of friends most of them are females they know what kind of person i am its all depend on what kind of relation u want

    • Captain, this exact same thing happened to me when I got Freshly Pressed. Don’t worry – they’ll all be gone tomorrow.

  93. Camila said:

    Fantastic post! I am glad to have finally come across a blog with some real content. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t go out onto the streets preaching against internet and technology, but let’s admit that the blogosphere can be very poor in good writing and thought, and your blog is an exception.

    I agree with basically everything you wrote and was very touched by the part about the sexual assault.

    I’d like to add my personal experience in the topic here. Maybe you’ll find strange, but I am get attracted to MOST, if not all, of my friends sooner or later, some girls included. It’s just so natural I think. Like you said, we’re awesome, they’re awesome, more or less the same interests etc… I think that it’s only natural that some kind of attraction appears between people. What would be unhealthy is if it never did.

    Keep up the good writing!
    Camila

  94. chymeera said:

    I love this article and I so agree with it. I was chatting with this I had met on the internet. In one of my emails, I mentioned that I had loads of guy friends (I work in technology, the ratio men to women is 80/20 at best!) and his reply to me was “oh, you are one of those women!” (I swear I could hear and see the sneer on his face). “What does that mean?” I replied, a little taken back. “Well, women who loads of guy friends are like sluts really. Not dating material” I stare at my computer screen in disbelief. Was he really saying that? “Just because I have lots of guy friends doesn’t mean that I have slept or even dated any of them. I just get along better with guys usually.” I replied trying to keep calm. “I couldn’t go out with someone like you” was his replied. “Well you know what? I couldn’t even be friends with someone like you” I said. So long loser! Any way, there are so many people who just can’t see past that gender thing and it is nice to see that not everybody is an idiot, so thank you for an educative and entertaining post.

  95. Felicia said:

    My vote is a big No! :0) Awesome post!
    —Felicia

  96. Felicia said:

    I guess I should add it’s a big no for me if I am attracted to him. The weirdness gets in the way.
    —Felicia

  97. Great write! It comes down to people’s maturity. I’ve had a couple friendships with guys where either they or I broached the subject of something more. If the feelings weren’t reciprocated, we just moved on and went back to normal. One of us may have had to take a little step back for a bit to heal the sting from the rejection, but we got over it.

  98. Stumbled onto this and am so glad I did. Thank you Captain! From my experience, all over the world there are strong and supportive men helping women in their lives get ahead or simply stay afloat.

  99. Marni said:

    I loved this post and the new website. I loved that you clearly state that even if a man and a woman are friends and one of them at some point in time finds the other attractive, it doesn’t have to ruin the friendship. I’ve had many male friends throughout my life. Some of whom I found attractive at some point. I’ve had many female friends throughout my life. Some of whom I’ve found attractive at some point. But, just as you said, I kept those pants-feelings *in* my pants.

    My ex-husband had almost exclusively female friends. It never bothered me. I could tell that he had deep emotional connections with people of the opposite gender, whom he loved very dearly. But that wasn’t a threat to our relationship. Some of whom, he had had a sexual relationship with in the past. But it was all in the past. You can have a good relationship with someone; a relationship that is loving, and supportive, and even intimate, without having sexual desire. And to those who would argue that those relationships are emotional cheating? Why? If you have that relationship with someone of the non-preferred gender who you aren’t attracted to, is that really any different?

  100. My husband and I discuss this at length. I am a guys’ girl. I sit on the couch and play video games, I let them talk about whatever dirty things they have going on without gagging, and sometimes join in. I have been one of the guys for so long that I don’t expect any male to find me sexually appealing, I almost don’t really expect it from my husband! That being said, I have been out of high school and college for years but still have guys that I talk to on a weekly basis that I have either grown up with or was close friends with in college. If it were to be the other way around and my husband was best friends with a lot of girls I would feel weird because I think men are attracted to women in general, just not me. Totally not a pity party on my end, I just genuinely see myself as a buddy to all, which I don’t mind. I do have the exact amount of female friends as male. But, I’m just cool like that.

  101. cassandrakitty said:

    I love this. The questions “can men and women be friends?” is deeply insulting to both men and women. Some people may not want friends of the opposite sex, in which case hey, that’s their choice, but it’s not that they can’t be friends with people of the opposite sex in the sense of not being capable of it. They just don’t want to.

    (The possible exception is people who are really sexist, since it’s hard to be friends with someone who you’ve already decided is not your equal and not worthy of your respect.)

    When attraction does come up I tend to vote for the direct approach, if it seems like that will work for the other person. As in, initiate a conversation about how recently there seem to be Feelings going on and maybe we should get that out in the open so that neither person is confused or pining for something that might never happen. It’s a great situation in which to use your words, if you think the other person is good at using their words too, or open to learning. I’ve found that not acknowledging the feelings tends to lead to confusion and hurt feelings in the long run, so it’s better to just get it out in the open. Of course that could backfire if Friend is a Nice Guy (or a Nice Girl, though they’re less common), since if you give one of those an inch they’ll take 50 miles and attempt to plant a flag on your ass to stake their claim. But if Friend is a reasonable person, talking thinks through often helps to prevent later problems.

  102. Bravo Jennifer, bravo! Nailed it!

  103. MYNDFUQ said:

    Not gonna lie, I’ve been immensely attracted to many of my lady friends. And although at times we mainly act just as friends, I wouldn’t mind doing an occasional hook up with them if we discussed the matters of course.

    But I do agree, it’s rather insulting when they classify male friendship as ‘men attention’.

    When did it become so one-sided? But I’m glad you brought up the point that we can still have feelings and stay as friends. I’m a heterosexual male, but I have guys whom I share a deep emotional connection with, and I’m never worried anything further will happen.

    You’re right, it’s part of being a human being~

    Great post.

  104. ldsrr91 said:

    Wow! Almost three hundred comments, talk about being a little late to the party?

    I am seriously considering going to Sweden this summer for a sex change operation. I figure if I get everything re-arranged and come back in the female form, then I will be all fixed up to be “right all the time,” (just like my wife) for the rest of my life.

    Only going to cost me $45K and some change.

    DS

    • JenniferP said:

      Wow, fuck you.

      Fuck you first for adding nothing to the discussion.

      Fuck you second for act like a sex change operation is good way to make sexist jokes.

      You are hereby disinvited from this party.

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