Can Men be Friends with Men?

“Can men and women be friends?” is a question that burns in this sex-obsessed society, the Eternal Flame at the Tomb of the Unexamined Thinkpiece. Short answer: Yes. Slightly longer answer: Yes, but sometimes it can be complicated because all friendships can be complicated in their own special ways why is this hard. However, there aren’t as many page clicks in that, so we continue on.

Today, in what I can only assume he thought was a good idea, a fellow published a piece answering the above question in his own unique way. Basically his thesis is that you shouldn’t be friends with him if you’re a woman. (Or a man, really, but I’ll get to that.) No, really, that’s his thesis. He doesn’t even want to be friends with you! He wants to have sex with you, and if you won’t put out, you should give him the phone numbers of five other women you know who might.

And that’s… wow. That’s… that’s something. That’s a point of view, all right.

If you are a guy who believes you must want sex with all the women, or else you “aren’t manly enough,” have I got some news for you.

Gents, toxic masculinity is — wait for it — toxic. For you. And you were brought up in it and that was wrong. All those times you felt weird? Maybe about what the “cool guys” said, what your friends said, what YOU said? Like it was mean, or gross, or bad? Listen retroactively. Listen to that little, uncomfortable voice now. It makes you a good person, and you don’t need to apologize for that.

Toxic masculinity is pervasive in our culture. Every major institution colludes in it, and will only change its behavior when forced. Media aimed at you presented certain types of women as an all you can eat buffet IF AND ONLY IF you were masculine enough to get into the restaurant. You were groomed to believe self worth as a man was tied to a capitalist framework of “success,” as measured in access to sex with women. Of COURSE things were going to get disgusting and entitled real fucking quick.

But you can fight it! Right now. Today. Even if you’ve been really bad about this stuff in the past, even if you know you’re going to be apologizing (if not out loud, then at least in your head) for the rest of your life for all the swirling nastiness that used to occupy your head. You can do it. Self-development is key. Recognize that women owe you nothing and are not the magic tunnel to emotional intelligence and self-esteem. Recognize that nothing and no one can make you feel better about yourself. You have to do that.

But all of that, while important, is oft-trod ground at this point. Guy On The Internet Is A Misogynist Brick, film at eleven. What really made me boil over in that unthinkpiece was the bleak picture he painted of friendship between men and men. He was so demeaning about men friendships, about what they’re for and what makes a good friend. YOU DESERVE BETTER FRIENDSHIP FROM EACH OTHER, MY MENS.

I suspect and hope friendship amongst guys is not the wasteland of watching things in silence/occasional emotional flailing on a frantic emergency basis that pop culture leads me to believe in. But the thing is, guys are watching all of this, too! The worst is they think it’s funny and good to loudly trumpet their inability to support each other. Men being friends is a joke in pop culture. They are constantly shown as being incompetent at it. This wasn’t always as true, but it’s gotten worse in the last couple of decades. DO NOT BE FOOLED. BE KIND. TALK ABOUT THINGS. HAVE PILLOW FIGHTS AT SLUMBER PARTIES. (Seriously, I think guys trope about this because they’re jealous.)

We talk a lot about the disproportionate amount of emotional labor women are expected to do for the men in their lives. This is part of why! The idea that any kind of emotional intimacy and support is romantic, or proto-romantic, warps everything. And guys DO get around it. But it’s a million times harder than it has to be, and cuts people off from each other, and WE ALL DESERVE BETTER THAN THIS.