Can Men And Women Be Just Friends? The Truth About Platonic Relationships

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Can men and women be just friends platonic relationships
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Or are we just constantly crushing on each other?

Can men and women be friends? Like just friends — no strings attached? No romantic feelings? This question is an age-old one that, it seems, is difficult to answer, but I can give you the answer right now:

Yes. Men and women can be friends without any complications whatsoever. And it’s genuinely counterintuitive for society to pretend otherwise.

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Every television show, popular novel, and movie these days refuses to allow their male and female protagonists peace in a platonic relationship. There are Otis and Maeve in Sex Education, basically every possible relationship combination on Friends, Ron and Hermione in Harry Potter (and Harry and Ginny for that matter), Miles and Alaska in Looking for Alaska … I could go on.

Apart from these storylines being incredibly overdone to the point of monotony, they’re also unrealistic and harmful.

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I would be remiss not to at least mention the sexist connotations of the idea that men and women cannot be friends. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that much of this concept comes from how society undervalues women.

Rather than being equal to men in a way that makes casual companionship a possibility, the overtone of this cultural phenomenon is that women can only exist in the male sphere through romantic or sexual means.

Obviously, contemporary media representations of strong female characters aim to dispel this kind of misogynistic thinking. However, with the continued nonexistence of full-stop friendship between men and women in media, the residue of this way of thinking is enough to make for discomfort in media consumption.

This relentless relationship building is also harmful to male representations — they perpetuate the narrative that men are only really after “one thing”, which is unfair to half the population, making men seem uncomplicated, aggressive, and unworthy of tenderness.

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Apart from the obvious sexist significance of believing that men and women cannot be friends, this is also incredibly narrow-minded. Take into account how we treat children and young adults when they mingle across gender, for instance. Frankly, it’s embarrassing as a child to mention a new friend and immediately have your parents ask if that friend is a crush of yours. It’s intimidating. 

As a kid, if my parents, siblings, or friends teased me about a boy I was spending time with, I instantly became unsure of where I stood with that boy. It made me nervous and kept me gridlocked in friendships with other girls. That’s not to say that having female friends is bad, but it would’ve been nice to be able to branch out a little more.

It wasn’t until high school that I started really expanding my horizons to include male friends who I never even considered potential romantic interests. In fact, I’m so comfortable with these friends that we joke about being together, both on the same page about how put-off we are by that idea.

Now, as a college student, half of my friends are guys. Turns out, we have more in common than divides us. Some of them have girlfriends who don’t seem to mind that their boyfriends are so close to their female friends. It’s really great, seeing as we get to talk about various world issues and concerns from two different perspectives. And understanding other perspectives is conducive toward developing empathy and compassion.

In the end, gender lines are becoming a thing of the past, anyway. This distinction between male and female, femininity and masculinity, is no longer as viable a one to make.

Hopefully, that means that not as much weight will be put on gender in terms of friendship.

Sure, it’s okay to be romantically interested in one of your friends of a different gender, but these feelings also shouldn’t be taken for granted. Sooner or later, each of us has to figure out what kind of person we’d like to end up with romantically. Now, that doesn’t mean that anyone who doesn’t match that description gets the boot. Sometimes, you really are just better off as friends.

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Vanessa Wolosz is a writer who focuses on feminism, sustainability topics, art and media.

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