A new study Scientific American covered this week suggests that despite all proof that may exist in your own life, heterosexual men and women cannot be “just friends.” It also reveals many platonic relationships are only half platonic (and that the platonic half usually has a vagina).
If this sounds like a fake study by an 11th-grade boy, note that all the names on the paper are female-sounding, and right below them it says “University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.” It turns out after interviewing 88 pairs of undergraduate “friends” and a separate set of 37 year-olds, the scientists found men are much more likely to think the “relationship could lead to romantic feelings.” Adrien F. Ward of Scientific American writes:
This is not just a bit of confirmation for stereotypes about sex-hungry males and naïve females; it is direct proof that two people can experience the exact same relationship in radically different ways. Men seem to see myriad opportunities for romance in their supposedly platonic opposite-sex friendships. The women in these friendships, however, seem to have a completely different orientation—one that is actually platonic…
Males were significantly more likely than females to list romantic attraction as a benefit of opposite-sex friendships, and this discrepancy increased as men aged—males on the younger end of the spectrum were four times more likely than females to report romantic attraction as a benefit of opposite-sex friendships, whereas those on the older end of the spectrum were ten times more likely to do the same.
Fine. That makes sense, especially in undergraduate friendships. But it does seem like the researchers are using the word “friends” narrowly; as in a relationship with no potential whatsoever to digress into a drunk make-out session. In that case, is it safe to say “friendships” are most possible between people who are A) not attracted to each other and B) always sober?
I don’t know. Even after looking at the paper, I’m still not convinced the “just friends” question is a real question deserving scientific analysis and not just a flirtatious conversation-starter you ask a friend you kind of want to hook up with.