Can a Man and a Woman Be Friends?

Originally written in March 2012

There is no reason for a man to be interested in women (and for a woman to be interested in men) other than sex. Biologically and evolutionarily speaking, copulation is the only reason why there are two sexes around, and it is fundamentally the only thing for which the members of the two sexes are drawn to each other.

Propagation of genes is why we are. Whatever else we think life is about is a delusion born out of our genetic programming and a part of the grand scheme of nature the cold bitch. Not that these delusions are bad (for what choice do we have?), but to the best of human understanding that’s what life is.

A man and a woman can’t be friends in true sense of the word. Meaning, they can’t have a pure friendship. The forces governing same-sex friendships and those governing cross-sex friendships are significantly different. To give some hint of the difference in the dynamics: one doesn’t use the same criteria for evaluating people of both genders while choosing friends. The degree of influence one’s male and female company exert on one (other things being same) is not the same. And that evidences plentiful role sexuality plays in friendships involving opposite sexes. One is influenced and affected by a person of the opposite sex far more easily and deeply than by a person of the same sex.

Sexuality makes one biased towards the person of the opposite sex in every situation which has a possibility of it leading up to sex (which is almost always), no matter how remote the odds. And no, one doesn’t always have to have a conscious intention of sex while exercising the bias. It just happens that way, apparently because such behavior is hardwired in our biology. This purported end of the bias, sex, would not be the goal of pure friendship. This I say because friendship is a human concept serving human goals, as opposed to nature’s goals which is sex. For a relationship to qualify as friendship the minimum condition is that it must be founded on some social purpose. The purpose that originates from one’s human nature as opposed to the animal nature. Since the sexuality-induced gender bias is always present in a man-woman friendship, such friendship is always more or less impure, and as a consequence there are complications roughly proportional to impurity in friendship.

The complications in man-woman friendships arise because the biological intention (or animal purpose, sex) freeloads in the boat purported for social purposes (or human purposes). This is manifested in friendships in which the parties would not admit their sexual interest (be it active or latent), but their biology, through behavior, would from time to time betray them creating what is called awkward moments of sexual tension.

In modern age the reverse is also quite common, where the social goals freeload in the boat purported for biological interest. This is when the two persons have decided to come together as fuck-buddies and then try to pretend to themselves and to each other that they are friends (“friends with benefits”) and care about each other more than just for sex. The pretense probably is the result of guilt triggered by deep-seated values by which being fuck-buddies is wrong.

People of the opposite sex who become friends, then lovers, and then break up, find it hard to remain friends. They wonder: if we were friends before, why can’t we be friends again? Well, one reason can be that either both or one of them is not yet free of the romantic feelings for the other. If, however, that’s not the case then here’s why: they never were friends in the true sense. (And this reason is always there in cross-sex friendships to more or less extent, by the way.) Whether the two were conscious of it or not, it was always about sex. Romantic love, for that matter, is nothing but sexual desire of subtle nature. When they totally eliminated the possibility of sex by breaking up, their biology wouldn’t support them to be together as friends for there’s no reason left for it.

Exceptions to the above analysis

1. Asexuals
2. Gays
3. Unattractive people

In case of asexuals it’s easy to see why. Though I have never met an asexual person, so I can’t be totally sure, but here’s what I think: Since asexuals won’t have any appetite for sex they won’t exercise the bias towards the opposite gender. Neither have I known a gay person. But I think a gay person would exercise the bias towards the own gender and would be able to have pure friendship with the opposite gender. These two may be the cases of perfect exceptions.

The third case may be of imperfect exceptions. Say, if one’s friend of the opposite gender is so unattractive that there’s no possibility of one even imagining sex with him/her ever, then one may be able to keep the friendship totally free of sexuality-induced gender bias. However, since the taste in looks is a subjective matter we can’t tell with certainty which cases would fall under exceptions.

Barring the exceptions, the analysis stands true for all cases of man-women friendships.

Now I am at a peril of being accused as obnoxious cynic. All that said, there’s no reason to not believe that a man and a woman can be friends. If we tweak the definition of friendship a little bit to include the sexual component as a valid purpose then they can be friends very well. The gist, then, is that a man and a woman can’t be friends in the same fashion as men-men or women-women can. But that’s no reason to not enjoy the friendship, or whatever one may call it. I for one would still call it friendship.


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