In a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 150 men and women were surveyed about their cross-sex friendships. Sixty-two percent reported that sexual tension was present in their cross-sex friendships. This isn't terribly surprising. What is more interesting to me is that men frequently stated that sexual attraction was a prime reason for initiating a friendship, and that it could even deepen the friendship.
And, yes, the issue of jealousy and insecurity in our partners is also an important consideration, as are cultural and religious norms. In certain cultures and religions, men and women really aren't permitted to fraternize much, let alone be friends. I'm not here to judge these belief systems, just stating them.
As we advance more as a society, hopefully there will be more opportunities to foster deeper friendships between men and women. There are definitely advantages for both in these kind of non-sexual connections.
Sometimes a man will be more open about his feelings with a female friend then with his buddies. Sometimes a woman is happy to just "hang out" with a male friend and not have to talk so much about "feelings". These are simplified examples, yet the research does seem to support them.
My purpose in asking the question, "Can men and women be friends?" wasn't necessarily to answer it. However, I would LOVE to hear your experiences and thoughts about this issue. Please comment below and add to our informal data.
There truly IS no definitive answer. Or, to quote another of my Facebook survey participants, "It depends."
Dr. Adam Sheck