Can Men and Women Be Just Friends?

an essay for my english final assignment

I recently found an article that peaked my interest titled “Men and Women Can’t Be Just Friends”, by Adrian F. Ward. The title itself is pretty self-explanatory, here Ward stated that a pair of heterosexual opposite-sex friends can think that they are just friends (platonic) but the opportunity for romance is always lurking around the corner. To support this, he cited and reviewed a study that was done by Bleske-Rechek et.al (2012) towards 88 pairs of opposite-sex straight friends regarding potential romantic attraction in opposite-sex friendship. It concluded that men were more (and very) likely to be romantically attracted to their female friend and they also assumed that the friend feel the same way. I don’t think that’s entirely wrong, but there are some things I would like to point out.

First of all, the overall article is too general. The topic is about humanities and social-relation between people which are relative depending on the person who experienced that and of course, have no benchmark. To add, the research was only conducted towards 88 pair of opposite-sex friends. Even the population of male and female in Jakarta on 2016 between the age of 15 to 25, the age for the average human to fall in and out of love (Emery, L. R. 2016), are roughly 1.6 million (BPS-Statistics of DKI Jakarta Province. 2017). The sample clearly doesn’t even cover 10 % of Jakarta’s population, even less the world, so I think this study is not really reliable.

To be frank, I was not expecting the result of the research, about how differently men and women see opposite-sex friendship. The article also includes a survey regarding the positive and negative effects of opposite-sex friendship which shows that men are significantly more likely to list romantic attraction as a benefit of this kind of friendship. I have always thought that men are less sensitive and more thoughtless than most women but seeing the result of the survey changed my mind. This makes me think that I might have to reevaluate all of my friendship with guys.

This study amplified stereotypes about lustful males and simple-hearted females, additionally it is also a clear proof that two people of the opposite-sex, sharing an exact same relationship (in this case friendship), can have two completely different interpretations of the relationship. This is a parallel of the saying “men are from Mars and women from Venus”, the two sexes can think really differently mostly because of their genes, to be exact the gender determinant chromosome (X and Y chromosomes). The chromosomes play a significant part on “wiring” a human’s brain, with male having a pair of XY chromosome while female having XX chromosome. That distinction may be one of the main causes why male and female seem to have very dissimilar way of thinking, in this case about friendship and romance. (Wolpert, L. 2014).

An article by Sanghani, R. (2017) also invigorate that statement from a more non-scientific approach. Women generally value friendship more than men by keeping intense communication with each other even when apart via phone calls or texts, normalizing physical contacts, sharing deepest dreams, fear, secrets, saying “I love you” and showing affection to each other, etc. meanwhile men don’t usually do those. Men’ bonding and communication tend to happen only when they meet up physically, for example while hanging out, exercising, drinking, smoking, etc. And when a woman gets comfortable in a friendship with a man as it is with a woman, she’ll be more open and affectionate towards this male friend, which the male friend often misinterprets the sense of comfort as a romantic and/or sexual attraction therefore he expects the relationship to be more than friendship (this where the infamous so-called “friend zone” usually happens).

This research may be consistent with the real circumstances (if the subjects are really sensitive about their own and their friends’ feeling), but I personally haven’t feel like that. Maybe I’m just too thoughtless but I see all of my male friends as “just friends” in a platonic kind of way because I know them too well that I don’t even consider them male anymore, I just consider them as my friends.

A conclusion that I can pull from all of this is that men and women can be friends, if the woman take lead on the friendship itself and they both don’t think too much about it. To close it all out, I want to cite my favourite quote from Ward’s article, “So, can men and women be “just friends?” If we all thought like women, almost certainly. But if we all thought like men, we’d probably be facing a serious overpopulation crisis.”


References

  1. BPS-Statistics of DKI Jakarta Province. 2017, January 30. Total Population Based on Sex and Age Group in DKI Jakarta. Retrieved from https://jakarta.bps.go.id/
  2. Emery, L. R. 2016, May 12. This Is When Most People Fall in Love for The First Time. Retrieved from https://bustle.com/
  3. Sanghani, R. 2017, June 13. Men and women can never be friends — but sex has nothing to do with it. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/
  4. Wolpert, L. 2014, September 14. Yes, it’s official, men are from Mars and women from Venus, and here’s the science to prove it. Retrieved from https://www.telegraph.co.uk/