Can men and women be just friends?

So why does this question spark such heated conversation?

Regardless of whether you say yay or nay rest assured that someone within shouting distance feels the complete opposite. The fact is everyone has had different experiences when it comes to close friends of the opposite sex, but some things remain constant.

For many of us, it is perfectly natural to feel a sexual attraction to those of the opposite sex; being labeled as a friend won’t change this. That being said, many people manage to make cross-sex friendships (CSF) work everyday.

In a poll of 60 students, 14 argued that men and women could not be close friends. Typically the argument was that at least one of the two individuals would inevitably fall in love or be unable to resist their physical desires.

For the most part, literature on the subject argues that yes, it is possible for men and women to be just friends. Disagree? Just remember, you’re not hopeless because you’ve hooked up with one or five of your close friends after drunken adventuring.

In a 2002 Psychology Today article on the subject, Linda Sapadin, a New York psychologist, states, “The belief that men and women can’t be friends comes from another era in which women were at home, men were in the workplace and the only way they could get together was for romance.”

Women and men no longer occupy such difference spheres in society. Where we were once separated between work and home, we now work together, attend school together and are forced to interact on a daily basis. It is inevitable that close bonds will form between members of the opposite sex, and apparently it is very possible to keep those bonds platonic.

A 2003 study by H. M. Reeder titled “The effect of gender role orientation on same and cross-sex friendships and the psychology of homosociality” reported that 100 per cent of university-aged men and 75 per cent of women reported having at least one close friend of the opposite sex.
What is interesting about these statistics is that two-thirds of the women that those men referred to as “close friends” did not share the same feelings of closeness.

So it appears that most of us have friends of the opposite sex, but the question is why? Maybe we secretly all want to sleep with our CSFs.

“Men are thought to be more likely to have a cross-sex friend than women because men (more than women) tend to view cross-sex friendships as a gateway to a sexual and/or romantic relationship,” the article states.

Another study published by the University of Edinburgh in 2006, “The challenge of sexual attraction with heterosexuals’ cross-sex friendships”, argues that “there are at least four unique challenges faced by individuals in CSFs: defining the relationship, managing sexual attraction, establishing equality, and managing the interference of others.”

Unfortunately these things may be easier said than done.

When was the last time you attempted to define a relationship with a friend of the opposite sex? How does one go about establishing equality? If this is the formula for successfully avoiding sex with a close friend it might explain the following survey results.

According to a 2004 online survey of thousands of women, while 83 per cent feel that it is possible for men and women to have platonic relationships (numbers that reflect our own survey), 40 per cent admitted to having sex with a close male friend.

These numbers reflect a belief in the possibility, but also an understanding of how difficult it can be to not cross that line with cross-sex friends.