Lindsay Mould on platonic friendships
(The following is a response that I received to an email that I sent psychology expert Lindsay J. Mould on the question of platonic friendships. The question that I posed was, “I was wondering, are you a believer that a perfect platonic friendship (a male and female being best friends WITHOUT ANY sexual element) is possible and can be done? I am interested to know what you’d think about this, as many are disputing whether it is doable without any sexual desire or not.” It is written in British English, as Lindsay Mould is from the United Kingdom.)
Hmmmm well, good question. It very much depends on the friendship but I do think it’s entirely possible and I have a close male friend who I see as a brother and know it would never be more than platonic. From a psych perspective there are various things to consider from multiple approaches in psych:
1- it’s human instinct (midbrain type stuff- hypothalamus) to consider people of the opposite sex (assuming both parties are heterosexual) as a possible partner. This would be an automatic response. It’s higher order, cortex (grey matter stuff) that weighs up the situation and decides whether a sexual relationship would be a good idea or not. Throw things like alcohol in the mix and this higher order cortex control system is suppressed and so that’s why drunk people do ‘stupid’ stuff as they become less inhibited. They’re acting on animal instincts without a good censor on behaviour.
2- Once the friendship has established that friend is all it is there shouldn’t be an issue. People can be friends. Although, human relationship psychologists would point out that people’s feelings can change over time, especially if you really like someone. If one of other of the pair starts to develop feelings then ultimately this will negatively impact the relationship.
3- sociocultural psychologists would argue that gender is largely socially constructed anyway. The only real difference is anatomy related to reproduction. Even our hormones are more similar than we realise (e.g females have almost as much testosterone as males, and the same goes for oestrogen). And yet we divide so many elements of society by sex and assume the gender divide is clear and distinct between ‘male’ and ‘female’ This isn’t true either. Gendered behaviour doesn’t necessarily align with biological sex and is more of a continuum and having characteristics associated with ‘feminine’ and ones associated with ‘masculine’ is more psychologically healthy anyway. Essentially this argument would suggest that friendships shouldn’t be divided by your biological sex (m/f) and that the idea someone can’t be friends with someone with the opposite genitalia is ridiculous.
4- Cultural psychologists would say that the friendship would depend on where the people are from. Not all cultures would be able to get their head around a platonic relationship.
I could go on….! If you still want more, check out this article. It’s great but excuse the swearing!!