The sex part always gets in the way.

Harry: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: What I’m saying is — and this is not a come-on in any way, shape or form — is that men and women can’t be friends because the sex part always gets in the way.
Sally: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no sex involved.
Harry: No you don’t.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: No you don’t.
Sally: Yes I do.
Harry: You only think you do.
Sally: You say I’m having sex with these men without my knowledge?
Harry: No, what I’m saying is they all want to have sex with you.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: They do not.
Harry: Do too.
Sally: How do you know?
Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman that he finds attractive. He always wants to have sex with her.
Sally: So you’re saying that a man can be friends with a woman he finds unattractive?
Harry: No, you pretty much want to nail ’em too.
Sally: What if they don’t want to have sex with you?
Harry: Doesn’t matter because the sex thing is already out there so the friendship is ultimately doomed and that is the end of the story.
Sally: Well, I guess we’re not going to be friends then.
Harry: Guess not.

You all recognize this, right? Good. It’s flawed, because it’s from a movie where the two WEREN’T friends – well, not ultimately, anyway, they ended up being in love with each other, so, more than friends – but it’s an interesting argument. One that’s been going on for a very long time.

Can women and men be friends? Can they really? Or, as Harry thinks, is it completely out of the realm of possibility?

Well, according to Scientific American, the answer is…Harry was right. Men and women cannot be friends. Not just friends, anyway.

HIGH FIVE! One of these people wants to epuhemize with the other.

Shit. This is terrible news. What am I going to tell…well, hell. All my male friends. Who actually outnumber my female friends, because, ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been better with male friends than female ones. Not because I want to get in their pants (or, as far as I know, they want to get into mine), but because, due to deep and abiding childhood trauma, I have a lot of trouble trusting women. I’m not saying I don’t have SOME female friends. I do, and the ones I have, I love a great deal. I’m just saying that childhood issues take a long time to resolve, or possibly never get resolved, and what you’re comfortable with is what you’re comfortable with.

My best friend is male. We’ve known each other for…how long, now, BFF, fifteen years this year, right? Fifteen years in August? Damn, we didn’t even celebrate that. SORRY BFF! Fifteen years is…what…crystal? Huh. Did you need me to send you some crystal, BFF? I mean, I could. But I don’t know that you’d want it. I don’t think you’re sitting around sippin’ from crystal wineglasses. Or are you? I haven’t seen you in YEARS. (BFF, I hate that I haven’t seen you in years.) Maybe you’re all fancy now, I don’t know. (Please don’t be all fancy, what would we have in common?)

Here, BFF, light of my life, I found you this crystal skull. HAPPY 15 YEARS I LOVE YOU!!!

But Scientific American says we can’t be friends. And, why? Why can’t we be friends?

Because of science.

Researchers (where? I don’t know. The link is broken. That’s suspect. Also, I find it strange I can’t find this on the Scientific American site, but only on Yahoo and mentioned here and there on the interwebs. Is my Google broken, or is this all one big scam?) brought 88 pairs of same-sex undergraduate opposite-sex friendship pairs into the lab. They told them they couldn’t share the results with each other once they left, and they interviewed them separately, so as to minimize the potential bias.

What’d they ask them?

Sounds like they asked them, “So…I know you say this chick/fella’s just your friend, but you really want to bone him/her, right?”

The results were:

  • Men seemed to want to have sex with their female friends (so, Harry was right)
  • Yet, women seemed much less likely to want to have sex with their male friends
  • Men seemed to think their female friends were attracted to them, even when they weren’t
  • Women had NO IDEA their male friends wanted to sneakyfuck them
  • Men were willing to go after female friends whether or not they were in a relationship; women were more respectful of their male friends who were in relationships

This bothers me. Let me tell you why.

Although the university wasn’t named (SHADY) they said these people were undergraduates. So, using what we know (college students and undergraduates) let’s assume some things. They are probably ages 18-22, and they have probably known each other from 1-4 years.

Now, I don’t know how many of you went to college, I’m going to guess probably quite a few of you. What’s the first thing I think of when I think of college?


Yeah, these are trustworthy scientific study participants. One of these people is wearing no shirt, but also a KNAPSACK.

(I’m exaggerating, it’s not the FIRST thing, but it’s one of them. At  least one of the top five.)

These are 18-22 year olds who are extendedly away from home for the first time in a living situation with OTHER 18-22 year olds and sex is EVERYWHERE and NO ONE CARES IF YOU ARE HAVING IT. Of COURSE they want to screw their friends. OF COURSE THEY DO. Also, how good of friends can they be if they’ve only known each other for a brief period of time, and at that age? At that age, you have goldfish-memory.

I’d like this study done properly, with people who have been friends for longer and who are not hormone-riddled. Well, we’re all hormone-riddled our whole lives long, but you know what I mean. Not AS hormone-soaked. People in their, say, mid-to-late 20s, early 30s, who have been friends with people of the opposite sex for 5 years or more. Would the results be the same, I wonder?

This study just makes people reading it say, “MEN THINK WITH THEIR DICKS” and that bothers me. I’m not saying I haven’t said that at one point or another in my life when I’ve been frustrated by the actions of the opposite sex; of course I have. I don’t know if you’ll meet a woman alive who hasn’t. I just think men are a little more complex than that, and I think it’s a disservice to them to just dismiss them out of hand as being controlled by their cocks. I mean, we as women fight CONSTANTLY not to be defined as “emotional” or “flighty” or “hysterical” or “attracting bears due to our lady-menses” or I don’t know what else the hell, right? This isn’t that much different. We’re all PEOPLE. We are complex and we have a lot more going on than our XX or XY chromosome pairings.

Har de har har. Things like this make me want to stab someone.

OK. Rant over. Sorry, I have to stick up for my guys. Guys can be frustrating, sure. But so can women. We all can. It’s one of the things about humans. We do weird, stupid nonsensical things, whether or not we have an innie or an outie downstairs, you know?

Also – ALSO – another reason it’s shitty to be all “ALL MEN THINK ABOUT IT SEX” is…well, why do we assume women don’t think about sex? Shh, top-secret news: WE DO. We TOTALLY do. I don’t know the statistic or anything, but I’d assume women think about it just as much as men do. Sex is awesome and why would you NOT think about it, male OR female? This whole thing is ridiculous.

Apparently, the study went one step further and DID interview older people – just in a weirdly skewed way. They asked opposite-sex friends to list positives and negatives of their friendship. This is written in a very confusing manner – here, I’ll let you read this:

Variables related to romantic attraction (e.g., “our relationship could lead to romantic feelings”) were five times more likely to be listed as negative aspects of the friendship than as positive ones. However, the differences between men and women appeared here as well. 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.

So…men think being into your friends is good, while women don’t? Hmm.

Being romantically attracted to your friends – I’m going to tell you this right now? – SUCKS. And as I’m a woman, I guess I’m in the target demographic. So maybe this is why women list this as a negative; because we’re PRACTICAL.

The movies make it seem SO FUCKING EASY. You already KNOW each other, right? So one day, you just look at each other and you realize BAM, I’ve loved this person ALL ALONG, and now I get to have sex with them AND I know how they like their pizza PLUS I know all of their bad stuff AND I STILL LIKE THEM, plus vice-versa, and then you get married and all of your friends are all “I KNEW IT! I knew it all along. Those two. AW THOSE TWO.”

Give me a fucking break, please.

Only, it doesn’t usually (barely hardly ever) end up this way. Usually, one friend crushes on the other. And the other is not interested. Then the friendship limps along all awkwardly until it dies a sad panda death.

(You all remember Ken’s post about Duckie being a sneaky fucker, right? He was also “that guy”. That sad “I’m in love with my best friend BUT I CANNOT TELL HER” guy. Here, if you didn’t read it, go read it now, you can thank me later.)

But this happens regardless of sex. This happens to men who crush on their female friends, this happens to women who crush on their male friends, and this happens (most likely) to men who fall in love with their male friends and women who fall in love with their female friends. Once someone falls in love with someone who isn’t interested, there’s a power imbalance, and the whole thing falls to shit.

(Exception to this: sometimes you can get over the crush and regain the friendship. I have a friend who was a crush-object once. I managed to get over him and we’re still friends. It was rocky going for a while there, but we’re ok now. So, sometimes you end up ok.)

Now, don’t even tell me you know someone (or are someone) who fell in love with your best friend; I know it happens, and I’m so happy it does, and yay, you. I’m so not dismissing that sometimes this happens. Of course I’m not. However, people are predictable creatures; they see one example of something, and they think, “IT CAN HAPPEN TO ME!” like with winning the lottery or whatever, and it gives everyone hope that falling in love with their best friend CAN HAPPEN TO THEM and then they get all crushed when it doesn’t. It gives people unrealistic expectations, like those movies where the nerdy girl takes off her glasses and ZOMG SHE WAS BEAUTIFUL ALL ALONG YOU GUYS!!! (Tip: if you can’t tell someone’s beautiful just because they are wearing glasses, perhaps you need to get your OWN eyes checked, because that is stupid. It’s why I was always confused by the Superman movies.)

My thoughts on this? Yes. Men and women can be friends. No, not all men want to hump us like overeager puppies. It’s stupid to think they do. I don’t care what this weird and wonky “scientific study” says. I have plenty of male friends that I’m quite sure don’t want to have sex with me. (Guys, if you do, please don’t tell me. I like being oblivious of such things.) I mean, I have some male friends I’ve known since high school. If I’ve known them that long and they’ve NEVER made any sort of overtures toward me, what, are they biding their time? That’s ridiculous. That’s a lot of time to be biding.

Scientific American, I am saddened by this. I really am. This doesn’t seem very scientific. Or overly Merkan.

ANDREAS. You are our Science Fellow. What are your thoughts on this? From a scientific point of view? Or a male point of view. Or both, that’s fine. I’d be interested in both.

Oh, and because what my parents think of something is always of import:

  • Mom thinks all of my male friends are trying to get in my pants. EVERY ONE OF THEM. And also that I’m trying to get into theirs. My mother apparently thinks everyone in the world is a sex-crazed lunatic. She says things like “I don’t know if you should talk to your male friends so much; their significant others won’t like that.” Or, “It’s a good thing those friends of yours live so far away; otherwise, they’d come over and try to have all the sex with you. THAT’S WHAT THEY DO.” And then I roll my eyes so hard I dislocate them. Can you dislocate eyes? Mom is VERY RELIGIOUS and thinks everyone’s whorey. Including (sadly) her own daughter. Who is actually kind of the opposite of whorey, to tell you the truth. Don’t you have to be having sex to be whorey? I would think so. Or is it like religion, and you can be a non-practicing whore?
  • Dad thinks the same thing, only he thinks it’s fine. And then he says, “Don’t tell your mother.” Because she would be FURIOUS at him. So, apparently, per Dad, it’s ok if I slut it up with all my male friends, as long as I don’t tell him about it because EW WE DON’T TALK ABOUT SEX AMY. When I tell him I have no interest in having sex with my male friends and I honestly think that’s kind of bullshit to assume that men and women can’t be friends without them having all the sex, he says, “Well, I saw it on the news, so it must be true.” Apparently Fox News says men and women can’t be friends? So you know it must be true, then. BOTH FAIR AND BALANCED.

So my mom thinks all men are dogs and I’m a whore and my dad thinks men and women all want to be gettin’ it on and that’s ok as long as we don’t talk about it. I don’t…are we sure I’m not adopted? Quite sure? (Is this a generational thing? No, I’m quite serious. Are there less male/female friendships in older generations because it’s just a thing that wasn’t done back in the day, maybe, and that’s why my parents are so weird about it?)

Also, this piece on The Colbert Report about this report made me giggle. DAMMIT WORDPRESS why won’t you let me embed Comedy Central videos? You are annoying me.

Harry was wrong. Except for about when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible? That part’s ok. I’m down with that, Harry. I’m totally down with that.

About lucysfootball

I'm not the girl with the most cake. Someday. SOMEDAY. View all posts by lucysfootball

30 responses to “The sex part always gets in the way.

  • Charleen

    I didn’t fall in love with my best friend, although I did marry my high school sweetheart, which is another of those unlikely-ish things. These days, anyway. I imagine it was more likely a couple generations ago, when going to college wasn’t quite so common, what with all the hormone-driven opportunities to screw it up (so to speak).


  • Heather

    I always knew Harry was right–I have lots of male friends, and they’ve told me lots of things. I’m just lucky enough to have male friends who do not let their sexy thoughts get in the way of our friendships (and the majority of them have never told me whether or not they would “bone me” if the opportunity arose…AROSE! HA!). I’m okay with men being men, though, as long as they’re respectful about it. Hahaha!


  • Andreas Heinakroon

    I’ll comment on this when I get to a proper keyboard; I’ve got plenty to say.


  • elaine4queen

    The whole thing of just asking students is craptastic.

    I am 50 and I have male friends who I have known for decades.

    I think you should become a non practicing whore. There’s got to be some sort of comedy value in that.

    Also, I am friends with lesbians. Some of them fancy me and some don’t.


    • lucysfootball

      I think I already am a non-practicing whore. I mean, I believe very highly in having all the sex, only am just not having it…so I think that would be the very definition of non-practicing whoredom.

      I know, right? The student thing seems poorly-planned. Also, the questions they asked the older participants were stupid, too. I don’t like this study.

      I have some friends I’ve known since high school. Don’t want them. As far as I know, they don’t want me. We might all be broken, I don’t know.


  • sj

    I’m kinda torn on this. I mean, I don’t think that my guy friends (especially those in high school, the ones I’d grown up with that WEREN’T GAY) were into me, but it’s not like they’d ever tell me, is it?



  • Andreas Heinakroon

    Ok, I’m back, I’ve got my Bluetooth keyboard connected and I’ve got many things to say. So many things.

    First of all: non-practicing whore really cracked me up. I mean, how are you supposed to get money for rent?

    I believe there were far less male-female friendships back in the old days; it seems to be much more common nowadays. There are several possible reasons for this. One being that there were fewer people around back then, and you really needed to find a partner to bring up children with. Hence every single (or indeed non-single) person of the opposite sex was seen as a potential partner. Another theory is that people were much more religious then, and there’s a clear connection between being religious and being over-sexed*. So again people probably viewed anyone of the opposite sex as someone to do the horizontal jogging with.

    In todays society there seem to be much more common to have friends of either sex. That’s not to say that we don’t still have sexy thoughts about our friends; I’m sure many do, but few mention them. A bit like masturbation, really. But as long as there’s real friendship and not just an excuse to be around just to be able to ‘put on the move’ when convenient, I don’t see such thoughts as being all that threatening. Especially if you’re both a little older than 18-22 and passed that crazy hormonal phase. Falling in love with your friend is a different matter of course, but the odd sexual thought is probably nothing to worry about. And yes, I believe that’s as relevant for women as it is for men.

    So Harry was right: there’s always that sex thing. But he was also wrong: it doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends.

    * I would like to make it perfectly clear that I’m not calling your mother over-sexed. I don’t know her and I dont want to generalise. Or I might like to but I won’t.


    • lucysfootball

      How much do I love “so many things?” SO much.

      Hee! I’m so glad I threw in non-practicing whore at the last minute. I WIN! (I’m getting money for rent the old-fashioned way: working, with my clothes all on, thank you very much, until I want to cry. It’s probably not as much fun as whoring, but there are less chances I’ll get syphilis.)

      Mom’s not oversexed. Promise. We can talk about that privately if you want. But, nope. She’s exactly what she seems.

      “The horizontal jogging” = THE BEST THING EVER.

      Again, I don’t have random sexual thoughts about my friends, and I’m beginning to think I’m broken. Am I SUPPOSED to be having these thoughts? Dammit. *starts furiously thinking about her friends sexually* *gets squicked out* *stops*


      • Andreas Heinakroon

        I’m not saying that you HAVE to think about your friends sexually, I’m just saying that it probably happens to quite a lot of people, men and women alike. And that it doesn’t mean that you want to actually have sex with your friends. We have this social filter, where we are aware of our thoughs and urges and can choose to act on then or not. It’s one of the things that makes us different from many of the other animals. (It’s also the same thing that stops us from using those really funny but socially unacceptable jokes that keep popping up unannounced in our brains.)


        • lucysfootball

          Oh, ok, good. Because once I start thinking about them sexually, usually it means I’ve fallen for them, and then, well, the friendship’s progressed past a friendship into something else and then everything starts to fall apart, because I am utterly incapable of being a normal human once I’ve fallen in love with someone. (Also, I very seldom have sexual thoughts about real-life people unless I’m way into them. TV and movie people? Sure. Real-life people? I don’t know. My brain doesn’t do that, I guess.)

          Wait, I’m not supposed to use my socially unacceptable jokes? DAMN. Putting them away now. (I used one today on my mom. She was scandalized, and then she asked me if I was drunk. Then she laughed super-hard.)


          • Andreas Heinakroon

            I’m not talking about those slightly non-PC or scandalous jokes, I mean those completely sick jokes that makes you wonder if your brain is actually yours. Or if you’ve somehow turned into a psychopath without realising. *reads the disgust and horror on your faces* (Or perhaps that’s just me.)


            • lucysfootball

              I don’t know if I have those. I’d ask you for an example but then people would look at you weird and I never want anyone to look at you weird so don’t do that. I’ll just take your word for it.

              You’re not a psychopath. You’re my Andreas and you’re wonderful and your brain is just smarter than anyone else’s, is all.


    • lahikmajoe

      Ding Dong Joe wants me to tell all of you that he has lots of female friends. Lots.

      He has a philosophy about this, and he’s allowed me to pass it onto you. Why he likes the Lucy’s soccer ball blog is anyone’s guess. I think he knows there are a lot of sexy young laydeez who read this thing, and he’s hoping it’ll get him some action.

      Some horizontal jogging action. He likes a good euphemism as much as the next guy, ya know.

      Here’s how ol Ding Dong sees it: women are alright. That’s it.

      He’d probably be called a sexual addict in your modern parlance, but he knows he’s the sane one and the rest of you have gone round the pole.

      Look at what the horny Finn said above. Ding Dong Joe thinks that one has a brain on him. Back in earlier times, like 1973, there wasn’t the opportunity to have some bird for a friend.

      Even though there was the pill, Mr Ding Dong didn’t like those laydeez. They were too modern and didn’t have it going on.

      Making babies was his deal, yo. Propagating the species, and all.

      The result? Lots a little Ding Dongs. All comes out in the wash, dontchya think?


      • lucysfootball

        I am confused by this.

        First, how old, exactly, is Ding Dong Joe? Because if he was sexually active in 1973, he’s probably at least at least…almost 60?

        This puts a whole new spin on Ding Dong Joe. Like, mostly I just saw him as an annoyance and someone who would say things like “LOOK AT THEM TATAS YOWZA” but now he’s like a dirty old man and it’s so much more worrisome.

        Also, he WANTED to have all the babies? Really? I’d imagine him being exactly the opposite.

        If he started having babies in 1973, some of those babies are my age.

        This explains a lot about the men in my age range that I’m attracted to. They’re probably Ding Dong Joe’s kids. They’re genetically broken. This explains a LOT.

        (You let him move with you to your new flat, didn’t you? DAMMIT KEN. You were supposed to tell him you’d be right back and then…well…not come right back, ever.)


  • mandaray

    Thank you so much for rejecting generalizations like “all men are dogs” and “all men just think with their penises”. I hate shit like that. Yes, we’ve all had our better judgement overridden by Pantsfeelings occasionally–but the key words there are WE ALL. As in, women too! Not just men! As in, men are more than just the sum of their parts, and if we keep telling them that they’re just grunting neanderthals then we’re no better than guys telling us we’re overemotional bags of crazy simply because we’re ladies.

    Yeah, there are some guys I’ve met who obviously just think with their genitals. But they CHOOSE to be that way. They ENJOY it. And, I’m guessing that somewhere along the way–probably when they were growing up–that they were told such things as “all men are dogs” and “men only ever think about sex”. When you are expected to do something, often times, that’s exactly what you do.


    • lucysfootball

      It makes me stabby. A lot of my favorite people are men. And they are just as thoughtful and caring and intelligent as women – and they aren’t all hormone-addled all the time. No more so than I am, I suppose.

      Stupid generalizations make me insane. They’re childish and they’re the work of childish minds.


      • mandaray

        So much this. People look at me like I’m crazy when I say I’ve met men who don’t think about sex that much, or who are respectful and intelligent. They act like I just live in some kind of sparkly bubble of imagination–or worse, that the guys are lying to me in an effort to fuck me. IT IS SO FRUSTRATING.


        • lucysfootball

          They just either know the wrong kind of guys (possible) or they’re unimaginative and think all men must be the same, OF COURSE THEY MUST. Probably the second.


          • mandaray

            Yeah, I suspect it’s a lot of the second. Jokes like that are easy to make and can release some tension we feel after being rejected, or witnessing a guy behaving badly. But if you actually stop and think about your words, and the effect they can have…well, I’d hope most people would change their minds. Some wouldn’t. But I definitely have.


  • Michelle Hernandez (@willieburgscrap)

    I’m thinking Harry was full of crap and obviously trying to put the moves on Sally by saying something outrageous that would keep her talking to him. I believe sex is a natural that is hard wired to our bodies like wanting to eat if you see a delicious cupcake. It’s perfectly normal to periodically think about sex with a friend. I wouldn’t act on those thoughts because I come from a generation that complicates sex with emotion but I also wouldn’t wig out if I found out a male (or female) friend had the hots for me.
    I also don’t think a man is being a dog if he thinks about sex a lot. A dog is someone who lies and cheats to get sex. If you are open about your intentions and find willing partners then go on and get yours. As for non-practicing whore- spit take! That sounds like a good time- all the mental fun without any risk of STD or crazed ex lovers coming after you.
    I definitely think older generations have hang ups about sex and relationships. I’m Gen X and shocked silly by the casual “hook ups” I see on reality tv shows but younger people seem to take those behaviors as par for the course. Threesome with your besties after a kegger? Sure! There’s even a Katy Perry song about it! The kids have this better figured out than we do- they still get jealous and may act crazy but they are also open to the possibility that friendly relationships can last despite the sexual feelings they may occasionally feel for one another.


    • lucysfootball

      I’m with you – too many emotions for the casual thing. Too old for that, I guess. There was a time, many many moons ago, when I attempted to make that work, but I’m not hooked up that way, I guess. It seems like a waste to me.

      I don’t have random sexual feelings for my friends. Am I broken?


  • Samantha

    I fell in love with my best friend, and eventually a relationship came to pass. It was not sunshine and rainbows for the six years before the relationship, so yes, it can happen, but it’s not necessarily going to be easy (or quick).

    I agree on both sides: you can be friends with the opposite sex, but sometimes the other person can’t. I had a really good friend in high school and half of college, and we were really, really close friends. I liked him probably until freshman year in college, and then told him my feelings, and that I knew they weren’t reciprocated, and I got over it. However, every time I’d even talk about how awesome he was to anyone (because he really was, quite awesome) he would assume I started liking him again, and I would have to sit down and say, Stop avoiding me, I don’t like you, you’re just my good friend, STOP IT. I just find it funny that we became friends in the first place because he wouldn’t stop following me around summer camp and everyone thought he liked me. (And I didn’t. Joy.)

    ANYWAY, I think everyone has those thoughts sometimes, especially if you have a very attractive friend, and you might not necessarily think “ooo I’d like to bang them,” but more like “Hmmm, wonder what that would be like?” And then you dismiss the thought for one reason or another and all is well.

    I really like this post. And I also very much like Andreas’s science-y answer to this question. :D


    • lucysfootball

      Maybe my brain just shuts down those thoughts before I know I have them? I have a weird brain. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility. I mean, I don’t dream, either. Who knows what’s happening up there.

      Andreas’ answers are the best. I am very lucky to have the best Science Fellow in the whole world.


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